Days 1-3: Beijing
Your trip starts today with your arrival in Beijing. No activities are planned, so arrive early if you can, as there is plenty to see. There will be a pre-tour briefing with your tour leader late in the afternoon. Please note that your Tour Leader will collect the Local Payment during your group meeting so be sure to take the 150 US dollars to the meeting along with your travel insurance details. Please bring new USD notes/bills in large denominations. Please see the noticeboard in the hotel reception for details.
Beijing is abundant in cultural and historical sites. The vast Forbidden City, built nearly 600 years ago and off limits to citizens for almost all that time, is a truly amazing place. The size might surprise you (it is huge!), but what makes it fascinating is that every square metre is interesting, ranging from intricately carved walkways to colourful, painted ceilings. There is also ample free time in the itinerary, allowing you to make your own discoveries and explorations. Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace are two other fine examples of extraordinary workmanship and architecture. In the evening, you have the chance to enjoy a performance of the unique Beijing Opera or Kongfu Show (optional).
Day 4: Great Wall at Huangyaguan
Early in the morning we depart to Huangyaguan, a 3-4 hour journey. We will have our lunch before hiking for 2-3 hours on the wall from Taipingzhai to Huangyaguan. The wall is completed unreconstructed at Huangyaguan section, so requires good negotiation and careful attention. It is quite solid and rough going scrambling through various scrubs and berry plants and scramble on the wall’s rubble. Originally built in 557 AD, the Huangyanguan Great Wall was repaired for the first time in Ming Dynasty with bricks and then restored again in 1985. It is 41 kilometres in length with its walls and towers built on mountain ridge with an average altitude of 738 metres. The name Huangyaguan translates to “Yellow Cliff Pass” and is named after the yellowish hills and rocks nearby. It is unique in that it has various different-shaped watchtowers.
There are not many tourists in this area, as it is a remote and seldom visited location. The most unique feature here is the Street of the Eight Diagrams, an architectural wonder of the Ming Dynasty lying just below the pass. A labyrinth set up to confuse and entrap invading armies, this fortification design is based on the ancient trigrams of the Book of Changes. UNESCO placed Huangyaguan Great Wall on the UN list of the World heritage. In May each year marathon runners from around the world come here to participate in one of the worlds most demanding courses, with exhausting ascents, steep descents and more than 3,700 steps. We only walk this section once, rather than completing the circuit twice as is required of the marathon runners. We will spend our night in the 2-star Huangyaguan Hotel, located at the Street of the Eight Diagrams.
Day 5: Great Wall at Gubeikou - Jinshanling
We drive for two hours to our next section of the wall, Gubeikou, from where we trek to Jingshanling (5- 6 hrs). Gubeikou is located 146 kilometres north of Beijing. It has the Panlong (Coiling Dragon) and Wohu (Crouching Tiger) mountains in the background and is linked to the Qingfeng (Green Wind) and Dicui ( Piled Verdure) peaks. The Chaohe River runs across the foot of the wall from north to south. In 1378 (the 11th year of Emperor Hongwu's reign in the Ming Dynasty), General Xu Da ordered this section of the Great Wall rebuilt. Gubeikou has seen probably more battles than any other part of the Great wall, including some of the most famous in Chinese history. On the southern slope of Gubeikou stands a temple dedicated to Yang Ye, a famous Great Wall garrison general of the Song Dynasty. There are quite a few temples in China dedicated to this general, but this one is perhaps the oldest. Our walk takes us eastward along the old city wall, passing numerous watchtowers and other parts of the wall that have not yet been restored.
Day 6: Great Wall at Jinshanling- Simatai
We drive to our next stop of the wall, Jinshanling, from where we walk to Simatai (4-5 hrs). Walking eastward along the old city wall, passing numerous watchtowers and walls that have not yet been restored, it should take about 4-5 hours. The evening is spent at our lodge at the foot of the wall at Simatai. Jinshanling is the name given to an 11-kilometre section of the wall situated on the Jinshan Mountains. The earliest bit of this structure was built in the 6th Century AD, but most of what you see now dates from the Ming Dynasty. This section of the wall has 67 watchtowers, each built in a different style of architecture. The walkway along the top is paved with square bricks providing a level surface wide enough to construct or erect batteries. Poems and tablet writings can be found on the Jinshanling Great Wall left from the time General Qi Jiguang directed building of this section of the Great Wall. Barrier walls were built leading to the enemy towers to protect the towers. Some of the towers were storerooms for food, hay and weapons.
Day 7: Great Wall at Simatai
Today we will walk Great Wall at Simatai, which is a moderate to difficult trek along a largely unrestored section of the wall. Simatai has earned the reputation as being one of the most beautiful sections of the Great Wall. 500 years old, it was built during the Ming Dynasty and towers over the nearby villages and farmland, as it winds its way like the spiny back of a dragon over the sharply clipped peaks of the mountains. Because this section has retained much of its original features, is quite precarious in parts for trekkers and special care must be taken. Beyond the perilous Simatai Ridge, the condition of the path deteriorated and for 100 metres between the fourteenth and fifteenth watchtowers there is an incline at an 80 degree angle with only a single parapet wall - probably the narrowest part of our trail. This section of the Wall is so steep that it has been dubbed the “Stairway to Heaven”.
After the trek, we then leave the wall and drive to a very small village, where we are guests of a local family in their simple abode. Here, you can relax and get a first-hand taste of rural life. Basic hot shower is available. Our hosts and most of the other villagers are still farmers, so don't be surprised if you are awaken to the sound of roosters crowing!
Day 8: Great Wall at Mutianyu
We'll start walking in the morning on Mutianyu Great Wall. After lunch we’ll drive back Beijing. Situated in the northern part of Huairou County some 70 kilometres north-east of Beijing, the restored 2,250 metre-long Mutianyu section of the wall has 22 watchtowers built at regular intervals which vary from being complex structures of more than one storey to simple beacons. These combined three towers ensured the defending forces could control any attempt at an invasion. Most parts of the Great Wall have outer defensive parapets to provide cover for the soldiers and a low parapet on the inner side (called Nu Qiang) to prevent soldiers or horses from falling. The construction of these sections was started in the mid-6th century during China's Northern Dynasties (386-581) and the main restoration took place during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The panoramic sweeping views are most impressive.
Day 9: Beijing. This is a leisure day for relax after a few days walking. Checkout time is usually around 12 noon; however you are free to leave at any time in the morning. Additional accommodation can be arranged on request.
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