One of the most quintessential places to visit in China is the Great Wall located north of Beijing – it is everything that you expect and more. We went to the Great Wall one August morning to find it enveloped in a fine mist and completely to ourselves.
To get a similar experience, we recommend avoiding the overly touristy and Disney World-like Badaling (70 km NW of Beijing) and going to Simatai (110 km NE of Beijing), where you can follow the Great Wall to Jin Shan Ling. Compared to the Badaling portion of the wall, the Simatai – Jin Shan Ling portion is unrestored and offers a more authentic feel.
The best place to go to walk the Great Wall of China
Your driver will most likely try to persuade you to start at the opposite end (Jin Shan Ling), which sits 300 meters higher than Simatai (making your walk more downhill than up), but hold your ground for two reasons:
- its safer to go up the sharply inclined and unrestored parts of the wall
- everyone walks the other direction, so you will have the Wall completely to yourself for most of the hike.
Oh…one last tip…avoid the weekends.
For another account on what to avoid when setting out to visit the Great Wall, see Donna Hull’s excellent baby boomer travel blog, My Itchy Travel Feet.
Where to Eat and Sleep in Beijing
- At the end of the day, return to Beijing for a rest at Hotel Lu Song Yuan, a charming hotel set inside an old courtyard house.
- Later, treat yourself to the BEST Peking Duck at Beijing Da Dong (SE corner of Chang Hong Bridge and 3rd Ring Road; +86 65822892) They serve the best duck we ate in all of China. The skin is super crispy but not overdone and the meat is lean and tender. They serve it with cucumber, radish, scallion, plum sauce, sugar (for dipping the skin) and garlic (which adds complexity to the dish).
- At least once while you are in Beijing, try the Noodle Loft (No. 20 Dawang Road, Chaoyang District) for a totally unique noodle dining experience. The traditional noodle joint features an open kitchen where the handmade noodle dishes are made to order. Seriously delicious.
In addition to ourcultural travel guidebooks to China, we highly recommend several books that can be purchased directly from Amazon. These books helped form the foundation of our knowledge and serve as references that we return to again and again.