There is one thing that you must do when visiting China. You must walk the Great Wall. There are many different sections of the wall that you can choose to visit. Most tourists will visit Badaling, Mutianyu or Juyongjuang. These sections are very busy on most days and can be somewhat stressful. For a quieter walk along the wall you can visit Simitai, Shuiguan or Jinshanling. We walked from Simitai to West Jinshanling.
For our Great Wall tour, the boyfriend and I decided to go with a private tour. We aren't really into big tour groups and didn't want to be held to anyone else's schedule. I booked a private tour through Tour Travel China. Our guide picked us up from our hotel at 7:00 am and we were off for our three hour drive to the wall. We arrived at a parking lot with a brand new washroom facility. After a quick bathroom break and look at the map, we were off. Did you know that the wall is on top of a ridge? Yeah, you have to hike up there. That was probably the hardest part of the day.
Once we got to the top, I decided that it was totally worth the hike. Have you ever had a moment where you stop, look around and can't believe where you are. I've seen photos of the Great Wall my whole life. To actually be standing on top was completely unreal. I had to take a minute to let it all sink in.
Then it was time to hike. We walked from tower to tower, the wall undulating with the hills, fending off local ladies trying to sell their wares. In total we walked through 15 towers and covered about four miles. We ran into only three local tourists and about two dozen foreigners (Germans, Aussies, Brits). This section of the wall is beautiful and the lack of people made it really special for the boyfriend and I. Our guide exited five towers ahead of us to get the driver. The boyfriend and I hiked a few towers past where we were supposed to exit and enjoyed a completely empty wall.
After our long hike, our tour guide brought us to a local place for a table full of amazing food. Noodles, dumplings, chicken with cashews, steamed buns and vegetables. It was all homemade and delicious, the perfect thing replenish our calories. It also put me right to sleep for the three hour drive back to Beijing.
If you are planning a Great Wall trip, and you like to hike, you should definitely consider the Jinshanling section. Just be sure to book your trip ahead of time! Don't ever book a trip from someone offering Great Wall tours on the street. The tours sold by these people are generally just fronts to bring you to shops on the way to and from the wall. You'll waste half of your day looking at stuff you don't want to buy and spend very little time walking the wall.
Have you been to the Great Wall? Which section did you visit?