Zig-zagging more than 3,852 miles (6,200 km) through deserts, plains, hills, and oceans, the Great Wall is a breathtaking wonder. Make your dream of hiking the Great Wall come true with this itinerary that is perfect for active travelers. Beginning and ending in Beijing, you will discover the classic hiking sections of the Great Wall from Huanghuacheng to Jinshanling, which offer breathtaking panoramas of the countryside. The trip concludes with a tour of Beijing, China's capital city that is steeped in history yet rapidly transforming into a modern wonder.

Highlights

  • Daily hikes along restored sections and wild parts of the Great Wall
  • Visit local villages and experience daily life in rural China
  • Explore the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City
  • Take a hutong tour via rickshaw in Beijing
  • Sample Peking duck in Beijing

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Beijing Beijing
Day 2 Great Wall Hiking - Huanghuacheng Huanghuacheng
Day 3 Great Wall Hiking - Mutianyu to Jiankou Huairou
Day 4 Great Wall Hiking - Jiankou to Gubeikou Gubeikou
Day 5 Great Wall Hiking - Jinshanling to Simatai West Gubeikou
Day 6 Great Wall Hiking - Simatai to and Gubei Water Town Gubeikou
Day 7 Beijing City Tour: Architectural Highlights Beijing
Day 8 Farewell from Beijing Beijing

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Beijing

Beijing's Forbidden City has 9,999 rooms
Beijing's Forbidden City has 9,999 rooms

Arrive in Beijing and transfer to the hotel on your own. Famed for its ancient sights, such as the iconic Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven, and the modern, including markets like the Silk Street Market and Wangfujing, the expansive capital city is the gateway to several portions of the Great Wall.

Enjoy a welcome dinner of Peking duck organized for your group at a local restaurant. No trip to Beijing is complete with sampling the slow-roasted duck, which is served with paper-thin pancakes, thinly sliced scallions and cucumbers and drizzled with hoisin sauce.

Day 2: Great Wall Hiking - Huanghuacheng

The restored Huanghuacheng Great Wall is a vigorous hike
The restored Huanghuacheng Great Wall is a vigorous hike

This morning, depart the capital and head into the countryside to the less crowded Huanghuacheng section of the Great Wall, a one-and-a-half-hour journey northeast of Beijing. Adjacent to a picturesque lake, Huanghuacheng (the name translates as 'Yellow Flower City') is a refurbished section of the wall that is punctuated with watchtowers. During the summer, the surrounding mountains are swathed in yellow as the local wild flowers come into bloom. The hike today is relatively challenging and with uneven topography, but the views are worth every step. You will spend the night in a guesthouse close to this section of the wall.

Driving time: 1.5 hours (one-way)
Driving distance: 53 miles (85 km)
Hiking time: 2.5-3 hours
Hiking distance: 3.7-5 miles (6-8 km)

Day 3: Great Wall Hiking - Mutianyu to Jiankou

Mutianyu Great Wall has a cable car, chair lift, and toboggan
Mutianyu Great Wall has a cable car, chair lift, and toboggan

The day begins with a short drive to Mutianyu, another restored part of the wall that boasts majestic views of the Chinese countryside. Snaking off across mountains and valleys into the distance, Mutianyu served as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. There are 22 watchtowers on this 7,381-foot (2,250 meter) section. You will trek on a moderate hike to Jiankou where you will enjoy the hospitality of a local guesthouse.

Driving time: 40 minutes
Driving distance: 17 miles (27 km)
Hiking time: 4-5 hours
Hiking distance: 6-7.5 miles (10-12 km)

Day 4: Great Wall Hiking - Jiankou to Gubeikou

Gubeikou is a 'wild' section of the Great Wall
Gubeikou is a 'wild' section of the Great Wall

Begin the day with a morning trek at Jiankou, a 'wild' section of the Great Wall. Located along a mountain edge, Jiankou's towers cling to the steepest of ridges, making for an exhilarating hike. Highlights of the day include the Nine-Eye Tower, an important command post during ancient wars. This area is the most photographed section of the Great Wall due to its arrow-like shape combined with steep mountains and stunning scenery. You will carefully hike along this unrestored portion before transferring in the afternoon to Gubeikou to spend the night.

Driving time: 40 minutes
Driving distance: 17 miles (27 km)
Hiking time: 4-5 hours
Hiking distance: 6-7.5 miles (10-12 km)

Day 5: Great Wall Hiking - Jinshanling to Simatai West

Jinshanling has dozens of watchtowers and unbeatable scenery
Jinshanling has dozens of watchtowers and unbeatable scenery

Today, you will walk the Jinshanling Great Wall section, from Zhuandoukou Tower to Eastern Five Window Tower. Renowned for being one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, Jinshanling dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). This section zig-zags its way through the Big and Small Jinshan Mountains and reaches nearly 23 feet (7 meters) high and nearly 20 feet (six meters) wide and incorporates five main passes, 67 watchtowers, and two beacon towers. The day concludes with a transfer by road to Gubeikou for the night.

Hiking time: 3-4 hours
Hiking distance: 5-6 miles (8-10 km)

Day 6: Great Wall Hiking - Simatai and Gubei Water Town

The Simatai section of the Great Wall is a few hours outside Beijing
The Simatai section of the Great Wall is a few hours outside Beijing

In the morning, you will transfer to visit Gubei Water Town. First, tour around the town where you can see traditional craft workshops like a brewery and cloth dyeing shop. Then, take sightseeing  boat trip from Yangui Wharf to Yuanyang Lake Wharf.

After getting off the boat, you will hike at the Simatai section of the Great Wall, a quieter section of the wall that affords weary hikers the option of ziplining off the wall after a challenging hike.

At the end of the day, you will transfer by car back to Beijing.

Hiking time: 2-3 hours
Hiking distance: 3.7 miles (6 km)
Driving time: 2 hours
Driving distance: 86 miles (138 km)

Day 7: Beijing City Tour: Architectural Highlights

The Forbidden City is a walled city filled with national treasures
The Forbidden City is a walled city filled with national treasures

The Beijing city tour begins with an early morning visit to the Temple of Heaven, where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped. As you wander around the temple, it's not uncommon to see local residents doing taichi outside the temple.

From here, you will visit the expansive Tiananmen Square where most of China's national ceremonies are held. From the square, you can walk to the palatial Forbidden City. This UNESCO-listed site is not only China's largest and best-preserved collection of ancient buildings but also the largest palace complex in the world. Prepare to be wowed by the sheer number of buildings with red walls and golden roofs. 

See how locals live via a rickshaw hutong (alleyway) tour and local family visit. Hutongs, comprised of siheyuans (courtyard homes), once made up the majority of Beijing’s old city planning. The rickshaw ride takes you on an immersive tour to get a wonderful glimpse into traditional Beijing culture while also witnessing the dramatic changes the city has undergone. 

The evening is free for you to enjoy as you wish. We recommend dinner and a show; options include Peking opera, the breathtaking acrobats, or a kung fu show.

Day 8: Farewell from Beijing

Visit iconic sights like Tian'anmen Square
Visit iconic sights like Tian'anmen Square

After a farewell breakfast, your trip ends. Transfer on your own to Beijing Capital International Airport or the new Beijing Daxing International Airport to your next destination.

Map

Map of Splendor of the Great Wall - 8 Days
Map of Splendor of the Great Wall - 8 Days
Alice
Written by Alice Fu, updated Feb 13, 2020