Beijing has several sections of the Great Wall within a relatively short distance. The best known sections of wall at Badaling and Mutianyu are also the most well-trodden parts. These sites offer pristine stretches of restored wall, perfect for capturing eye-catching photographs. These places also provide the convenience of being easily accessible by various means of transport and for people of all ages. If you don’t fancy the climb up to the wall at Mutianyu you can take the cable car.
If you are prepared to dig a little deeper in your journey to the Great Wall, however, there are rewards to be had. An easy bus journey on the 919 from Deshengmen (德胜门) can take you to the Beijing suburb of Yanqing in an hour and a half, just a little further down the road than Badaling. (There used to be a train but it has been closed to build a highway). In a village called Chenjiapu, ten minutes from the bus stop you can find Mr.Chen’s Great Wall Fresh.
He and his family run a guesthouse in the village and cook delicious local food so their guests can experience Chinese village life (农家乐). You can see the wall guarding over the village from the family courtyard. The wall here is a world away from Badaling. It is overgrown and crumbling, still in the condition it was left in when the last guards abandoned it.
A walk along the wall takes you back in time, with very few tourists visiting this section, you will be left alone with your thoughts and a deep sense of the history that the wall holds as you clamber along its winding route.
Some parts are very steep and narrow, as half the wall may have crumbled away, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but the views are worth the trials of reaching them.
There are options to walk for a couple of hours in loops that take you back to the village, or if you are a more serious hiker, you can plan longer trips, and Mr.Chen will be happy to collect you from further along the wall. Homemade organic food and a beer is waiting for you once you’ve finished your walk, and a room for the night if you don’t feel like rushing back to the city.
There aren’t many places where you can experience history like this first-hand with so few tourists around. And just a short journey from the heart of Beijing.
Mr. Chen’s website: http://www.greatwallfresh.com/