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walking stories  |   asia   |  china  | great wall summary | great wall storygreat wall: mike's story   
Great Wall of China at Simatai, near Beijing, north-east China


The Great Wall is without doubt the best known and most spectacular of the many attractions across the vast country of China.  It stretches for thousands of miles from the Pacific coast across the north of the country to the Gobi desert, and has stood for over two thousand years.  Whilst much of it is in bad shape, there are enough sections intact to provide many hiking opportunities, with shorter and longer routes.  However, it does run through remote mountainous territory, so getting to it can present difficulties, unless you go to the most popular section at Badaling, close to Beijing.  However this has the reputation of a tourist trap.  We decided to go to a little further, to Simatai, which we were told was less crowded and more authentic. 

  • I’ll remember most the long climb and the dramatic views from the watch towers.
  • The best bit was the sensation of being up there on this ancient and mighty wall, looking out over the mountains of China
  • The worst bit was the long coach journey - then breaking down on the way back!  
  • The funniest aspect was the haggling for t-shirts afterwards
  • I hadn't expected that it would be so difficult to get to the Wall, with few options to stay overnight
  • A word of warning therefore - plan where you are going to go beforehand
  • Another warning - the climb is very steep in places
  • But if you go to China make sure you visit the Wall!


Read the full walking story with lots of photos >

Read Mike's story of meeting a hawker on the Wall >


< Return to China Background Page with list of walks

Contributed by:  Andrew Llanwarne

Helping Dad climb up the Great Wall at Simatai

Helping Dad climb up the Great Wall at Simatai

Key Facts

Location Simatai, 110 km (66 miles) north-east of Beijing
When it was walked June 2005
Walk type High hills and mountains
Difficulty Requires lots of stamina if climbing all the way, but a cable car can be used to go most of the way up
Distance approx

Probably about 6 km (4 miles) for the section we walked from the car park. Longer hikes are possible starting at Jinshanling (10 km).

Height climbed approx 500m (1600 ft) very approximately
Time taken approx 2-3 hours, depends very much on fitness
Map used if any None
Source of info on walks Lonely Planet guide and speaking to people
Getting there nearly 4 hours by no 12 bus from Xuanwumen bus station, Beijing (weekends).  Tour buses easy to find in Beijing, but they concentrate on the Badaling section 70km NW of Beijing.
Places to stay Plenty of places in Beijing - harder to find anywhere close to the Wall, but new building could be for a hotel
Places to eat/ buy food Stalls and restaurant at Simatai