Great Wall - Simatai, Beijing
The 2000 edition (and probably still in the latest edition) of the Lonely Planet Guide to China included a section on walking the Wild Wall with one part of this being between Jinshanling to Simitai Village. An absolutely top experience which included some refurbished wall, and large sections of wall in its original state (including the odd part that has been washed away). Some parts are incredibly steep. I did this in the winter, and we barely saw another soul all day. The instructions were great until the end, where we got a bit lost trying to get find our way down to Simitai. You need to be relatively fit for this trip. It can be done as a very long day trip, but you'll need a reputable taxi (pay for the trip rather than by meter as it is a fair trek!)to do this, and have it drop you at Jinshanling and collect you from Simitai. Alternatively the people at Simitai were very friendly and you could probably find yourself a bed for the night.
Also worth noting that if you do it in winter, make sure you dress very warmly as it is very very cold.
I went to the great wall with arranged transport from my hostel. While it is possible to get to these locations cheeper with local transport, it is tricky.
When I went it was a great day, few tourists, and clear skies. I hiked with a few others from one part to the other. It was enjoyable to see the wall transition from remodeled to crumbling and back. There were a few people who follow you trying to sell you a few things, just remember the key phrase, 'bu yao' to tell them you don't want any, and they might go away.
I have second hand stories of people having a terrible time at Badaling. I didn't go there, but I can say that these two locations and ecspecially the hike is worth the time and money to get there.
Simatai is the place to be for the true ancient Great Wall without masstourism and tourist traps. The wall goes up on the thin mountain ridge looking like a dragons back. It`s in the original state without the newest renovations like in Badaling, which is more like a Disney Land. In Simatai the wall is broken, steps are missing and trees grow on the Towers. Some parts are so steep you need to go on your feet and hands! Be aware, there are no banisters stopping you from falling down the cliffs. Here you can enjoy the silence of this magnificent world heritage on your own. Ive been there with a friend on our own for a whole day - not one single soul came passing by. It was great!
A great trip to Simatai for two persons (60 kuai each) for a driver (Mr. John himself) in a jeep. to Simatai it is a 3h drive each way.
TieShuXieJie No. 66, XuanWu District. Phone: 83151553, 13901123938, 138012211089 or 13611326769.
His place is called ManGuoXiangHuoGuoDian.
The great wall is one of those things that you HAVE to experience first hand before you die.
We went to Simatai, which is a couple of hours north east of Beijing. The advantage of Simatai is that there are not too many tourists. The disadvantage is that it's really steep.
You must wear good shoes and be in reasonable shape if you want to see it properly.
Another bit of advice - don't take any photos until you get to the highest point, then take them on the way down. The view just gets better and better and you can see for miles.
Please see my Great Wall travelogue for photos and more impressions
Simatai has less people making for a more enjoyable outing. This section has access to about 15 turrets (to the east) on a steep ridge. The right side of the wall is an out and back hike but also has a cable car to take you to the top. This option always you to just hike back down. Access to this section is 40RMB. There is also a zip line to take the express way down which is a lot of fun. This cost is also 40RMB. The line takes you across a lake formed by a damn.
This is an incredible area with steep hikes on a reconstructed portion of the wall. I highly recommend a visit. Definitely possible to do on a long day trip from Beijing.
The Great Wall would have to be my favourite 'must see' in China. I cannot simply express how awe-inspiring a walk along this wall is. My best friend Liz, said so many times "This is so cool", that we banned her from talking unless she came up with different adjectives. Luckily the Wall is so amazing that she happily came up with new ways to express her awe for the full 4 hours we were on the wall.
I'd like to recommend that you give the most populated parts of the wall a miss...you know the ones close to Beijing. We drove for 3 hours each way to get to a remote part of the wall from Jin Shan Ling to Simatai and we had it virtually to ourselves (apart from some Ancient Mongolians who were apparently filming a Carona Beer commercial...Oh and a few Chinese Mexicans).
From Simatai you'll quickly reach unrestored and crumbling sections of considerable charisma giving views across the rich reds and golds in autumn. The section we walked was a little difficult physically as much of it had not been restored, but the experience was all the better for it.
Please see my Off the Beaten Track for more Great Wall information.
We decided to go to a section that's not been Disney-fied (e.g. Badaling). Be aware that Simatai is much more difficult to get to. If you have at least two persons in your party, hire a car from Beijing for the day. If you are adventurous, take the 980 bus from Beijing long distance bus terminal. It's 15 RMB one way. And then you still need to hire a car to go another 70KM. The payoff is that this section of the wall has not been restored, and dates from 600 years ago Ming Dynasty. A long chair lift and short tram makes it a little easier to get up to the wall. The view is spectacular. Very few other tourists, no vendors, just a few tauts trying to sell you photo books. Get there early if you want to do the 10 Km hike.
It is worth the 3 hours drive from Beijing to visit this part of the Great Wall. In this area the terrain is quite rugged and parts of the wall are very steep. The wall in this region is mostly in its original state and features of the Ming Dynasty can still be seen.
The section of the wall open to walking is from tower 2 - 12. There are tracks to climb up to tower 2 or 8 but the usual plan of attack is to use the cable car, then the funicular and then walk to tower 8. From here you can climb to tower 12 for a view of the Heavenly Ladder before heading downhill to tower 2 where the path will take you back to the visitors centre in about 20 minutes.
Alternatively you can make the descent in about 15 seconds by way of the Flying Fox - an extra cost of 40 CNY but worth every cent.
The other great thing about the Simatai section - hardly any people!!!
If you've never been to The Great Wall of China, surely you've seen pictures of it. When you visit The Great Wall, or rather, a section of it, for it is physically impossible to visit the entire Great Wall at one time (but it may be visually possible to see it all at once, from space), it may look just as it does in the pictures you've seen.
There are two sections of the Wall at Si'ma'tai, divided into the East and West sections, linked by a chain bridge. The towers in the East section go up to number 12 - anything beyond that is unrestored and thus access is restricted. The towers in the West go up to 18 and beyond ...
Lazy bums can choose to ride the cable cars up to the East 12 tower, and fork out RMB30 (single way) or RMB50 (return). Those who walk will need approximately 1.5 hours to get to East 12 tower, and lots of water and a comfortable pair of footwear. There are vendors selling drinks and ice lollies along the way, so you may get by even if you didn't bring your own.
At the lower part of the East section, there is a zipline and boatride novelty ride for those who have RMB35. They hook you up to a zipline and you go zipping through the air down to the landing area by the dam, after which you get onto a little boat that takes you to another landing area across the dam.
Simatai is a section of the Great Wall that has not been substantailly restored like Badalang. The path is quite steep in places and has some dramatic drops off to the side. Our small group of 7 met no other hikers until we reached the end ( this was Sep 03) We were accompanied for most of the distance by some local hawkers, trying to sell books, postcards and frozen water.I took my chances with the water. it was OK
walking for about 4 hours, not difficult and less tourist. The annoying thing there is they won't leave u alone, they may follow u for a hour or two, try to sell u whatever they have. REALLY ANNOYING.
We bought a day tour for RMB 380 each in the hotel lobby with a company called ”Dragon bus tours”. We had hoped to walk from Jinshanling to Simatai but our tour “only” included a 2 hour walk along Simatai. Most tourists seem to go to the part of the wall called Badaling btw. We were picked up at the hotel at 9 am. The drive to the Simatai section takes about 2 hours each way. We were very lucky with the weather and when we reached the wall the skies were blue. Getting to the wall is really a great moment. All of a sudden you can see the wall on the mountain tops stretching as far as you can see, like a never-ending snake. As it was early in the season so the cable car that usually takes people up to the wall wasn’t running. It took us about 20 minutes just to reach the wall but all of a sudden we had our feet on a part of world history. At Simatai you can choose if you want to go to the left (I guess this takes you to Jinshanling) or to the right where you have 15/16 watch towers before you reach the end and it rise up about 1000 meters above sea level. We chose to walk on the right part of the wall. As it was still only early spring, we saw bits of snow left on the wall and in the landscape itself. The wall was really steep in some places and sometimes the steps were narrow. Time constraints meant that I only got as far as tower 11, but the view just got better and better the higher I got. The combination of a great view and the scarcity of other tourists made it a truly special experience. On the one hand it is amazing to have walked on something that I have read so much about and see so many pictures of. On the other hand it is hard not to think about all the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into building this wall (in fact it is not one wall but many walls that has been built in different dynasties).
After walking on the wall we went down to the parking lot again. Here you’ll find lots of little shops and restaurant and we had lunch at one place. We just sat down and they brought out lots of food.
For the ticket, it's a bit tricky.
entrance for Si Ma Tai is 30 RMB. but if u plan to walk from there to Jin Shang Ling, u need to pass a bridge, it cost 5 RMB per person. Then on the half way, u need to get another ticket to Jin Shang Ling Great Wall, it cost 30 RMB again.
1. The Simatai
A. The Wall itself
Standing at the parking lot, you see the wall crawing on the rooster-crest-like mountain range. It is breathe taking view. After you go through the entrance, you soon come to a bridge on a stream, where you need to decide to take cable car or walk. Then there is zigzag walking way leading to the wall. On the road you see stream, the mandarin duck lake (a reservoir), a slide on the lake, and the suspension bridge that connect Jinshanling and Simatai at the foot of the mountain. When you come to the starting point (pretty high already), you already see the landscape of Jinshanling. When you start climbing, a local villager will begin to offer her/his help in exchange of selling some postcard or books. They are locals and normally will ask permission before they offer their service, though you have your guide. The beginning part seems very difficult. When you come to the 8th tower, you can see most of the landscape there, esp. Jinshuanling Great Wall. If you take cable car down, 8th tower is the place. After 10th, you begin see the cliff on both sides of the wall. There are 2 guards standing at the 13th tower to stop tourists to go further. 99% of the bricks, granite base is original.
The wall was built on a rock mountain. There are no so many vegetations here. But air at Simatai is clean and fresh. There are no foggy days. The sky there is always crystal clear. The height of the mountain enables you to have the most exciting view of landscape. You can really see far away.
C. Surrounding area
The road leading to Simatai is also the road to Cheng De Summer resort, a summer resort for Qing (1644-1911) emperor. Before your arrival at Simatai, you drive by Mi Yun reservoir, the biggest one in Beijing. You see huge fish at the fishing season. It is also the most important drinking water resource. There are many orchards in this area.
D. People at Simatai
They are less modernized, more friend, farmer like people. They will not play the one dollar one T-shirt trick on you. They sell home made dry fruit and pumpkin in autumn. If you live in the local family, they generally will treat as friend rather than customers. Their life is very much different from that of Beijing.
A. The Wall itself
The wall was built in less steep mountain with well preserved original appearance.
There are one Nippon made cable car (orange) on your left hand and an open cable car and a toboggan on your right hand. If you choose to walk up the steps are 950. Unlike Badaling, it is much less crowded and it has amore beautiful surroundings, quiet and serene.
The mountain here is not real high. Sometimes it is little bit foggy here. But this section is call garden of Beijing. You see lots of chestnut tree one the mountain with many squirrels jump along the brink of the wall. You can not see so far away partly because it is not the highest point, partly because the occasional fog.
There are a Hong Luo temple and a Yan Xi Lake nearby. This area is famous for its fish and fruit. Beijingners come from downtown to have their fish banquet here.
They more modernized and get used to deal with oversea tourist. They are very nice towards Chinese while they treat you as business partners.
Introduction to Chengde, Mountain Resort for Emperor
By the end of the 17th century the Qing emperors had established their capital at Beijing, and they began to look around for somewhere cool and green to retreat to when the dusty heat of summer set in. They found what they were looking for at Chengde, beyond the Great Wall.
Here they created a summer residence, exploiting mountains, woods and other existing natural features to which they added contrived landscapes to make settings for innumerable pavillions, palaces and temples. Construction took a total of 87 years. The buildings and gardens cover an area of 560 hectares, and are surrounded by a wall 10 km. long.
Outside the palace walls, to the north and west, a total of 11 temples were built. Many of them were built in Tibetan style. Divided into eight groups, they became known as the Eight Outer Temples. The main gates of these buildings pointed towards the palace, symbolising the unity of China's various ethnic groups under the central rule of the Qing emperors.
Wanna see a part of the Great Wall that is not so crowded? A 3 hours drive away from Beijing center is Simatai (120km northeast), where you can enter the Wall and then walk 10km west to Jinshanling (you might also do it vice versa). This walk is not so easy, but it's worth it. It takes about 4 hours. If you want to go there, hire a taxi driver to bring you to one place and pick you up 4 hours later at the other place. You might get the whole day for about 600 or 700RMB if you bargain hard.