One of the ‘new seven wonders of the world’ is located ninety minutes away (on a clear road) from the Chinese capital Beijing, known as the Great Wall of China. Now as everyone knows it is impossible to walk the whole length of the wall in one day as it spans over 8,000km (and some of it is in need of major repair or has fallen apart) but a lot of visitors in this area will head to Mutianyu and this is where I headed to.
After an early start and the drive northwards, snow was falling down and the road was getting more icy in places (especially in the mountains as I was suppose to do part of the old wall where not many visitors go but I had to head to Mutianyu as the driver didn’t want to risk our safety). We arrived on the outskirts of the village to see a vast array of tourist shops, a huge ticket office (which I will explain) and lots of buses close by as well as a huge car park. Now, this area has lots of small mountains and a cable car to reach one of the watchtowers on the wall (known as Tower 14). To get to the cable car, it can be walked but there is a shuttle bus service to the cable car station. Hence a ticket office…..
After the short journey on the cable car, I arrived at Tower 14 with our guide Chenny. I was lucky to have Cheny Wu on the day as I did this trip a tour company known as Great Wall Hiking (more about the company below) and because of him with the conditions underfoot, he supplied me with crampons (which is a traction device that is attached to footwear to improve walking on ice). The Great Wall (especially on the downhill/uphill sections) had a layer of black ice and solid snow which made the going very hard. We were lucky with the weather conditions as the snowfall was coming down lightly, the temperature wasn’t too cold but there were a lot of clouds which made checking out the views of the surrounding area a bit limited.
Heading westwards we checked out many amazing watch towers which meant time to drink tea (which Cheny brought along) and take in the views. There weren’t many people on the day either (as it was winter) which meant there was plenty of space to walk along the top of the wall (we heard during the summer months the passageway has thousands of visitors so the enjoyment of visiting the Great Wall is not exactly high).
Whilst here I was told about the history, the Ming Dynasty (and the reason why the wall was built the way it is), but I also found out how to know if I was on a rebuilt part of the wall or part of the old wall. A lot of restoration took place over the last few decades in this area and I have to admit, I didn’t even know at times if we were walking on a new part or old part of the wall. However what was crossing my mind, due to the location and being built on top of the summit of mountains, is how the locals lugged the stones up to these places and then built an amazing wall, which was solid, steady and probably weighed tonnes and lasted for thousands of years.
We turned around before Tower 20 as the conditions weren’t ideal and the hike between Tower 19 & 20 was a long (and very steep one). However the view (despite the cloud) was a fantastic one and one which we will carry home and long live in my memories for many years to come. Visitors to the wall can’t go beyond this tower as it becomes a non-tourist zone (as the government calls it) and we had to turn around back to the cable car station. This section of the wall is about two miles (3.2km) long which took us a while to do due to the conditions and the amount of views I wanted to take in. This was a breathtaking experience and one which has to be on anyone’s list.
GREAT WALL HIKING
The easiest way to visit the Great Wall when visiting China is with a tour company and I took on the offer from Great Wall Hiking, a company based in the capital which is run by Gary Lee and has been taking thousands of visitors to the Great Wall since 2009. Great Wall Hiking offers a number of various hikes from day trips up to nine days long and can be easily booked through their website here. When I used the company, they did a pick up/drop off from my accommodation in the city, including the cable car journey up to Tower 14 (but the journey down wasn’t included), the shuttle bus and even lunch. As I was British, they provided Cheney Wu who is excellent at providing information in English and was very passionate about bringing people on hikes to this area. What I also liked about the company is that there is a non-commissioned shopping policy and I wasn’t taken to any shops (which is a big plus!). I loved every aspect of this tour and would like to thank Gary and his amazing team for giving me a lifetime of memories from my short hike.
Please note that while I was working with Great Wall Hiking, the reviews and experiences written about in this post are 100% genuine. I value my readers too much to lie to you. My blog would be nothing without you and your continued support!