This afternoon we will enjoy the sights and sounds of China's capital. Todays sightseeing will include the Forbidden City with its innumerable courtyards and temples, and Tianamen square, the largest square in the world able to hold over a million people, the cities hutongs (narrow alleys) to see what is left of old Beijing and its traditions.
We leave the capital and head into the countryside to the Great Wall, a 3 hour journey to the north east of the city. We go to the less visited section at Mutian Yu where the Wall is an impressive sight, snaking off across mountains and valleys into the distance. As one of the best preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutian Yu section used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. There are 22 watchtowers on this 2,250-metre-long section; one of the most famous is Zheng Guan Tai, which consists of three inter-connected watchtowers. Approx walking time 5-6 hours. In Jiankou we stay at a guesthouse/homestay.
Today we trek to a section of the wall constructed of large white rocks, very noticeable from a distance, built in 1368 during the Ming dynasty. Due to its steep mountains and beautiful scenery Jiankou is a photographers dream, and is where most photos of the Wall are taken. This part of the Wall is unpreserved and wild and we will walk for approx 2-4 hours on a few sections of the Wall; we will bypass a few sections, as they are steep and difficult underfoot. In the afternoon we return to the road and are picked up by our vehicle and transferred to Gubeikou, approx 2.5 hours drive away, where we spend the night. In Gubeikou there will be the option to walk to a nearby section of the wall for sunset.
This section of the Wall stretches for more than 25 miles. There are 14 beacon towers, 143 watchtowers, 16 strategic passes and 3 citadels. Gubeikou has long been a town of military significance. Approx walking time 3-5 hours before returning to Gubeikou.
Today's walk involves scrambling and steep ascents to the top of ridges. The views from the top of these ridges are spectacular as we walk past numerous watchtowers and beacon towers. Parts of today's walk are on a broken section of the Wall, and during one section of today's walk we will descend from the Wall, in order to bypass a restricted military area, before rejoining the wall and carrying onto Jinshanling. Approx walking time 5-7 hours.
The Wall here was rebuilt in 1572, during the Ming dynasty, and has been restored but is still reasonably quiet if we start early; it is the starting point for our walk. There are many watchtowers on this stretch looking out across the gullies and ravines of the rugged landscape. The Wall is steep in places and its condition worsens in the middle section - you need to be happy walking on uneven and stony surfaces with some drops off to the side. The section at Simitai is currently being repaired and so is inaccessible. The views are excellent, watching the Wall stretch away across the rugged hills.We will walk along the wall as far as we can before driving to Miyun approx 1.5 hours drive away. Approx walking time 4-5 hours.
This morning we drive approximately 2 hours to Taipingzhai, where we walk past various forms of watch towers, and the largest tower of the Great Wall 'Phoenix Tower'. The most unusual feature here is the street of eight diagrams, a labyrinth set up to stop invaders. Huangyaguan Great Wall also holds an annual international marathon race. Approx walking time 3-4 hours. We also visit the East Qing Tombs and the impressive Sacred Way. The Qing Royalty spent their living summers in Chengde, and it seems that they chose this spot for their 'final' journey. Altogether there are five Emperors, 14 Empresses and 136 imperial concubines/princesses buried in the main site, with further tombs in the surrounding mountains. The infamous Empress Dowager Cixi is one of those buried here. We spend tonight at a local farmer's guesthouse/homestay and have the opportunity to see how families live in this area.
We transfer by road to Beijing approx 4 hours, where the remainder of the day is free, before being transferred to the airport for our late evening flight to London for those on the group flight.