How many of your friends can say that they slept on the Great Wall of China in the 21st century? (I realized I probably need to write the 21st century since a lot of Chinese soldiers spent a lot of late nights on the wall). The answer to this question is probably NONE! Many people don’t realize that this is something that is doable during your trip to China. The Great Wall of China is called the GREAT WALL because it is so magnificent and long. In Chinese, it is literally called the long wall. So instead of finding yourself lost in a sea of tourists elbowing your way up and down a small part of the wall, choose to hike up a less well known part. Best of all, set up a tent and spend the night under the stars (yes, actual stars in China) with the most beautiful view away from the city.
Last week, I made plans to travel to Beijing to meet up with China Hiking to hike up the General Xu part of the Great Wall. Unfamiliar with the law and hiking trails, I was so delighted to find China Hiking’s website with their wide selection of hiking/camping trips around different parts of the wall. To start off the day, I made my way around the crowded subway in Beijing to our meeting point at Lama Temple (Yonghegong) where I was greeted by my hiking guides and a group of other travelers. After exchanging our names and friendly greetings, we piled ourselves into a very comfortable and air-conditioned van for a 2-hour ride (if no traffic) to a local restaurant where we had a delicious lunch before our long hike.
Once we finished our lunch, we got back in our van and rode to the start of our trail. My experience was really different because normally you need to carry all your camping gear with you, but luckily we were able to have someone drop off our gear at our camping station. (Note: this won’t be the case for everyone) As we started our hike, I couldn’t help but admire the dirt trail, silent breeze of trees rustling, and the clear blue sky. All of which are very rare on a typical hiking trail in China since most trail are staircases, noisy with tourists, and smoggy.
As we made our way up the trail, our trail started to become more and more narrow. We eventually found ourselves walking through the bushes and trees only to find out that we were lost. Luckily, our guide found a new trail that led us to the wall, but I did get a few scratches on my legs and arms. As someone once told me, scratches are nature’s kisses.
You probably won’t get lost, but I strongly suggest wearing long pants and bringing a light jacket just in case.
Once we got up to the wall, I was mesmerized by the layers upon layers of mountain. It was absolutely breathtaking to be so high up on the wall.
The rest of the hike on the wall was climbing up and down steep rocky paths until we reached our camping ground. Once we got to our camping ground, we were greeted with a small van that drove up our packs and dinner, which meant gathering around to eat, laugh, and drink before we set up our tent and sleeping bags. Usually, on the hike, the guide sets up a campfire, but sadly, the night I chose to camp, it was too windy to start a campfire.
The next morning, we all woke up bright and early to pack up our things and hike back to a small village at the bottom of the mountain where our breakfast was waiting to welcome us.
I’m so happy I chose to hike with China Hiking. Although we ran into a few complications of getting lost and spending a windy night in a tent, I loved my experience. It was definitely an adventure I will cherish during my time in China. The view itself was worth getting eaten alive by branches.
Things you should pack (if you go in the spring):
- light jacket
- good shoes
- toilet paper!
- extra phone battery
- they provide all the camping gear, water, and food
Also, an extra tip: when you go pee by the wall, make sure there’s no drones flying near you…
A media discount was received for this post, but everything written in this post is my own honest opinion of my personal experience.