wander the great wall

great wall of chinaThere is something inspiring about following a path that is over 2000 years old, especially when that trail travels along the Great Wall. Intrepid’s Alison Mead took a wander along the iconic wall to get a different perspective of China

“Our adventure started at the off-the-beaten-track village of Gubeikou, around 3 hours from Beijing. Accompanied by local guide Chen, complete with his t-shirt stating ‘feeling good’, our small group of six begin the steady climb over exposed ground to reach the wall.

Parts of the wall were completely ruined, other sections were overgrown, but all the way it was clear this was the mighty Great Wall of China. Round another corner, up over another tower and the views were spectacular, so much so that we forgot our weary feet and knees. And if we did remember our aches, Chen’s great story-telling quickly took our minds off any pain.

By mid-afternoon our path left the wall and for an hour we found ourselves trekking through terraced corn fields. Before long we popped back up onto the wall where we were met by a strategically positioned local villager, complete with chilled drinks and frozen ice-cream. Feeling ready for a break, we indulged in the ice-cream and cringed at the prices, but laughed at the cleverness of the locals.

The first day’s walk ended at the small village of Jinshanling. A perfect day with no other travellers seen, this is travel just the way we like it. After a hot shower at our comfy guesthouse, we savoured a cold beer, feasted on good Chinese fare and reminisced about our magical day on the wall.

By 7.30am the next morning we were back up on the wall to start the second day of trekking to Simatai with 29 towers to pass through. We attracted the attention of five local women eager to sell us books and souvenirs – they tagged along for 2 hours before giving up at tower 18, leaving us to wander on by ourselves and still not another traveller in sight. The wall around Jinshanling has been renovated and provided relatively easy walking, further on again the wall was in a state of disrepair. For me this was better than the renovated parts, to wander the Great Wall in its real state was fantastic. This section of the wall was harder in short bursts with parts so steep we were on hands and knees to make the climb, then it flattened out into meandering sections.

Just an hour from Simatai we saw the first of the Beijing day-trippers. We left the wall late afternoon with regret, all of us could easily have carried on for a few more days, but to leave on such a high has left longer lasting memories of this masterpiece of construction.

Of all the travel I have done over the years, this trek or wander along the Great Wall definitely rates as one of my all time favourites. Perfect for the traveller who has a good level of fitness and wants to experience the Great Wall well away from the crowds!”

Tour China with Intrepid on trips like these great small group adventures:
Wander the Great Wall – 5 days
A Taste of China Southbound – 9 days

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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3 comments

I was also on this trip with Alison and I would rate it the highlight of our holiday, also.

With a few weekend walks behind us before we went on holiday, we were fit to do the walks and were able to enjoy, without being tired.

The feeling I had, being given the chance to walk on, ” The Great Wall ” just blew me away.
The views and the history that you were taking in as you walked, will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Gladys Dent

Alan Bradbury / Reply

I was on that trip with Alison, I am fit 70 year old and found it a moderate hike. Great trip, probably the biggest highlight of the trip in China.

stephen farmer / Reply

I did the China Basics tour in late February staying overnight at Simatai , it was much colder then, but an absolutely fantastic experience – need to be reasonably fit but an inspiring experience!

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