• Tips to get to Jinshanling easily without much expenses There are many optoins to arrive in Jinshanling and some are more expensive than other. Here is one trick, up to date as July 2014 : From Beijing, get to Wangjing West (Bus) Station, accessible from the subway, with the line 13 and 15. Take the bus the 7.00am 望竟西 – 滦平 (Wangjing West – Luanping). This bus does only one stop before destination, and it is at Jinshanling Resting Area, so there is virtually no way you could eventually miss the stop if you pay attention. This bus make the trip every hour and cost only 19RMB (32RMB if you don’t have the transportation card; which cost 20RMB that you can get back by giving back your card at any Service center of any Subway station). Once arrive there, DO NOT look for a taxi, and DO NOT accept any ride offer beside the free shuttle. If you people ask you money to get you there, then refuse; it might cost you between 20 and 100RMB! It is actually really easy to get to Jinshanling from the Resting Area. If you have to hurry, you can try to walk there. Once you arrive at the resting area, follow the expressway from where you came by still staying inside the area, you will soon (50m further) notice the signage indicating you the road to reach the place. Walk down the road for 2-3kms after the toll gate, just underneath the expressway and you will arrive at the East Gate. Add 4-5 km to reach the West Gate. As July 2014, the entrance ticket will cost you 65RMB; so if we had to sum up all this you will spend : 19*2 + 65 (without cable-car) = 103RMB, way under what any tour will propose to you. Make the right choice ! One last thing: to go back to Beijing, make yourself visible for the bus, once you noticed it from the opposite side of the expressway ; the bus will stop literally for few seconds and you will have to wait one more hour to get the next one.
• Hike from Jian Kou to Mutianyu This hikes start in Xi Zha Zi village (village fee: 20y/pers, Feb. 2014), at the foot of Jian Kou Great wall-section. After buying the tickets take the first road left (Yi Dui – there should be staff around, who can confirm, that this is Yi Dui). Follow the road for a bit, until you see a blue sign to your left, saying this part of the Great Wall is closed. Take the path on the right of it (follow the red arrow! Do not take the left path, eventhough it is “a narrow dirt path” as mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide-book.) There will be more red arrows and dots along the way, eventually leading you to the Great Wall (Feb. 2014). You walk about a hour in medium-rough terrain where you will encounter some local villagers’ ladders which you will have to use in order to climb the wall (5y/pers. None of those in Feb. 2014). After arriving at the Great Wall, head left (east) towards Mutianyu, a hike that will take you about 2-3 hours. The first 1,5 hours is on the unrestored area of the wall, the rest on the restored area. Add 0,5-1 hour if you choose to walk the Ox Horn, which is a more rough part of the wall (you can also skip it by following the signs). The hike can be done in sneakers, but hiking shoes would be a much better choice. Don’t try to do the hike when it’s wet, because it has some very (!) steep and slippery parts. While it would be totally possible to do the hike the other way round (from Mutianyu to Jiankou), finding transportation (probably back to Huairou) would be much harder to find.
• Visit the Great Wall Museum Down the “Badaling Pedestrian Street” and up a hill behind the “Circle Vision Theater” is the under-appreciated Great Wall Museum. The walk-through exhibits provide a good overview of the wall’s multi-dynasty history, along with many artifacts from those time periods and photo-worthy models of watchtowers, scaling ladders, etc. The bathrooms are also probably the cleanest you’ll find at Badaling (there’s even a Western-style toilet). Best of all, admission is free! (closed on monday, 9am-4pm). Great wall circle-vision theater (40y/pers).
• Downhill on the toboggan run The Mutianyu section offers two chairlift lines which run to different parts of the Great Wall section, a more modern one with bubble cabins and a less modern one with two-seater chairs. If you feel up to it and the weather is clear, the return ticket for the less modern lift is also good for a ride down the toboggan run. Though if you prefer, tickets can easily be purchased separately for the toboggan ride of course – just walk up to the ticket office at the beginning of the ride, then off you go down the wall. Note that the tickets for the lifts cost the same but are not interchangeable. If you can’t read chinese check the picture on the ticket, and if you get wrong one with a picture of the bubble cabins, it’s not a problem to immediately get your money back and take it to the other ticket counter.
Bring a jacket against the wind or cold in the chillier seasons. In summer you will need lots of water, but there are plenty of vendors at the most visited sections. Be prepared for the possibility of sudden, short, but rather violent thunderstorms.
Do not leave any trace of your visit. Even if it is not an uncommon sight, resist the urge to add your name to the carvings in the wall, or take a piece home as a souvenir. If the wall should be damaged by your actions, the authorities may very well take action with fines and other punishments.
Hiking as a recreational sport is not well understood yet in China so the etiquette of crossing state and private land has not yet been established. Remember that the Wall is mostly mud and poorly supported stones, and that you are on your own if you’re outside the maintained areas. Even if you are not walking on the wall, you will find few trails to follow and at some parts, the area the Wall traverses are vertical, treacherous and very unsafe. Besides that, it is difficult to obtain clean drinking water and some areas may even have no water at all. Other areas will have manmade obstacles, like roads and motorways that have solid fencing. Villages where you could get supplies may be few and far between. Some may take you miles away from the Wall. Poor cartography is still a problem here since maps of less than 1:450,000 are not easy to get a hold of due to the military applications of such maps. Besides that, guides who know the areas along the Great Wall are few and far between. The last item to think about regarding hiking the Great Wall is that China has no system of mountain/wilderness rescue personnel. You will be on your own should something happen to you.
Scams – Beware of bus scams that may ruin your day. Also try to avoid organized tours to the Great Wall costing 100-150 Yuan. These are advertised by people handing out flyers around the Forbidden City in Beijing for example (the real bus service to the Great Wall only costs 20 Yuan!). Also, the driver might just stop and set you off before your destination.
Ming Tombs Many tour operators or private drivers will combine the wall and the Ming Tombs in a day trip. The Ming Tombs are nothing special and are quite plain. Tourists usually skip them unless they are Chinese history buffs.
Flora and fauna – Chinese wildlife is diverse, considering all of the different habitats available along the length of the Great Wall. From the rare Siberian tiger in the northeast to the protected and rare Giant Panda which lives in southern Gansu, Sichuan, and Shaanxi, you never know what you might see on a given day.
Wild mammals can be found in the north, such as the Manchurian weasel, brown and black bears, northern pika, and mandarin vole. Deer species include Sitka deer, roe deer and the long-sought-after spotted deer, which has many uses in Chinese medicine.
The birds of the region include various pheasants, black grouse, pine grosbeak, various woodpeckers, mandarin duck, and the fairy pitta, a rare migratory bird. Cranes are especially revered in China. Common, demoiselle, white-napes, hooded, and red-crowned cranes all breed in China.
You can find many tonic plants along the Great Wall, such as the rare ginseng (Panax ginseng). Chinese medicine has had many thousands of years to discover and use these tonic plants for the benefit of mankind.
Climate – Northern China has all four seasons and they arrive with a vengeance. Summer and winter temperatures normally reach extremes of over 40 degrees Celsius and -20 degrees Celsius respectively.
The Great Wall of China • Locations & Activities