Current as of: December 5, 2023 - 06:26
4 out of 7 - Moderate / Challenging
Stepping out across the peaceful semi-ruin of a section of the Great Wall is like walking in the footsteps of the past. Far from the tourist crowds we are able to get a great sense of the scale and majesty of this remarkable piece of engineering without rushing through in a big group. We trek along various contrasting sections of the wall, both dilapidated and rebuilt stretches. The old portions have a romantic feel, but the new ones may look odd to people who are used to seeing their ancient monuments in a poor state, though since the wall was constructed over a 2000 year period, the new sections are just a continuation of that process. We will get closer to day-to-day life in rural China before returning to Beijing, a city steeped in history yet plunging headlong into modernity.
This trip is classified as grade 4 – moderate/challenging.
6 days walking, with full and half-day walks with vehicle support, and low altitude throughout; maximum 1044m.
Please note that the Chinese authorities can occasionally close off sections of the Great Wall at short notice, in which case your leader will try to offer an alternative walk.
We strongly recommend that you thoroughly read the Exodus grading system as outlined in the Walking & Trekking Brochure before booking this trip. You will need to be confident in your physical ability to attempt this trek.
Daily distances are not long but some sections are narrow and overgrown and there are some sections where you will need to use your hands. The wall has deteriorated due to earthquakes and heavy rain in recent years and some parts may vary from trek to trek. There are a couple of hilly days and most days will involve some up and down. Some of the restored areas have very steep steps and therefore may not be suitable for inexperienced walkers or those with a significant aversion to heights.
Parts of the wall we walk on are generally in good condition, between about 5 and 7 metres high and approx. 4 to 5 metres wide but a lot of sections can be steep, and are in poor condition with loose rocks and flagstones.
We spend 5 nights in varying basic hotels and in basic guesthouses/homestays, as the sections of wall we visit are well away from tourist style hotels. You should be prepared for these conditions and bad roads on this trip in order to get away from the usual crowds in China.
Adult min age: 16
Min group size: 5
Max group size: 16
After arriving into Beijing, the afternoon is free to relax after the overnight flight. There is a welcome dinner organised for the group allowing us to sample one of the cities most famous dishes: Beijing duck. Vegetarians, do not fear – there will be an array of different dishes on a lazy Susan to choose from.
Dong Fang Hotel or similar
This morning we leave the capital and head into the countryside to the Great Wall, a 2-2.5 hour journey to the north west of the city. We reach the lesser-visited section at Huanghuacheng, which has an incredibly picturesque location by a lake. The name Huanhuacheng translates as ‘Yellow Flower City’, as during the summer the surrounding mountains are swathed in yellow as the local wild flowers come into bloom. The walk today is relatively challenging and with uneven topography, but the views are worth every effort! We will spend the night in a guesthouse close to this section of the wall.
Huanghuacheng Guesthouse or similar
Today we take a short drive (1-1.5 hours) to Mutianyu. At this lesser-visited section, the Wall is an impressive sight indeed, snaking off across mountains and valleys into the distance. As one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. There are 22 watchtowers (20 of which are open to the public) on this 2,250-metre-long section. We trek to Jiankou and then transfer a short distance to enjoy the hospitality of a local guesthouse.
Hai Yan Guesthouse or similar
The Jiankou wild wall section was built along a mountain edge and remains completely wild, with towers clinging impossibly to the steepest of ridges. Highlights of the day include “Spiderman Wall”, or “Sanshibadeng” in Chinese; an optional short vertical climb to the top of the wall for a panoramic view (those who are not a fan of climbing/heights can walk around and regroup at the viewpoint). This area is the most photographed section of the Great Wall due to the unique construction style combined with stunning scenery. We walk along this portion for approx. 4 km before transferring to Gubeikou where we walk or about another 4 km.
Mr Liu’s Guesthouse or similar
Today we walk the length of the Jinshanling Great Wall section (from Zhuandoukou Tower to Eastern Five Window Tower), which is renowned for being the best-preserved part of the Great Wall and dates from the Ming Dysnasty (1368-1644). This section reaches seven metres high and six metres wide and incorporates five main passes, sixty-seven watchtowers and two beacon towers as it zig-zags its way through the Big and Small Jinshan Mountains (the Big and Small Jinshan Watchtowers are the highlight). The construction is of huge bricks, each weighing around 12 kilograms (26 pounds) and this section features various structures which were used for an array of functions ranging from weapon stores to soldiers’ bedrooms.
At the end of the day, we descend to a village and transfer by road to Gubeikou for the night.
Mr Liu’s Guesthouse or similar
Today we hike along Gubeikou’s Panlongshan Section. This portion keeps the original essence of the wall and will transport us back to the time of the Han Dynasty. We will pass many watchtowers until we reach the unique 24 Window Tower (3 level tower). Once here, we will have a late picnic lunch on the watchtower, and then double back on ourselves for about half the way, following the stone steps past a communal playground to meet our driver who will transfer us back to the guesthouse.
Mr Liu’s Guesthouse or similar
Today you will discover the part of Gubeikou’s Great Wall known as, Majiagou Hill. Gubeikou’s GW was first built in the 6th century and has not been reconstructed since 1644. It is somewhat dilapidated but it still retains its original beauty. Your steep ascent will start from the northern gate and once you reach the top watchtower you will enjoy some great views of Crouching Tiger Great Walll. We retrace our steps back to today’s starting point and drive to Niangniang Daoist Temple for a visit before continuing to Beijing (approx. 3 hours).
Dong Fang Hotel or similar
We take a morning walking tour of the city’s hutongs (narrow alleys) to see what is left of old Beijing and its traditions. We also visit Tian’anmen Square; the largest in the world and able to hold over a million people. Later in the day, we visit the Forbidden City with its innumerable courtyards and temples.
This evening, recommended optional activities include the amazing Beijing opera or a Kung Fu show, or you may prefer to opt for a foot reflexology treatment to sooth your weary feet! The leader will also arrange a farewell dinner (optional).
Beijing is a fantastic place to explore at your own pace; if you wish to add on any additional time please speak to your sales consultant at the time of booking.
Dong Fang Hotel or similar
Fly to London.
Our trips ends today in Beijing after breakfast.
Extend your adventure with our perfectly designed Xi’an extension. The ancient city of Xi’an is best known for the Terracotta Warriors; an international symbol of China’s long and storied history. While the historical ruins, museums and cultural relics are major draws for the many, the city also offers excellent cuisine, vibrant night markets and the chance to cycle along the imposing city walls.
This extension offers an opportunity to see it all. You will take an overnight train from Beijing and enjoy two full days in Xi’an, with plenty of time to see the major sights. You will be met off your overnight train from Beijing by a local guide, who will accompany you on the Terracotta Warrior visit and city tour. In the evening, you have free time to relax or explore Xi’an’s exciting night markets and sample the delicious local cuisine. The detailed itinerary can be found here.
Please ask your sales representative for more details.
Ascents, descents and distances
All ascents, descents and distances listed above have been measured by our local partners or tour leaders, in many cases with satellite-based mapping software. Please note, different GPS measuring devices can give differing results, particularly on winding paths or in mountainous terrain. Measurements stated throughout these trips notes are given to help you understand the types of terrain and distances you will encounter. Timings stated will vary depending on the pace of your group.
You will spend 3 nights in a well located comfortable hotel in Beijing and 5 nights in basic guesthouses whilst on trek. Please be aware that accommodation options are limited on trek and the guesthouses are basic mountain accommodations but rooms are twin share and have en suite bathrooms. The bathrooms are equipped with Western toilets and there is hot water (although erratic and somewhat unreliable). It can get cold in the mountains and the guesthouses have no central heating but sleeping bags are not required as blankets are provided and the guesthouses usually have a few electric heaters, which are available upon request. There is electricity but there can occasionally be power cuts so a torch may come in handy. The itinerary is designed so that we spend three nights in Gubeikou, which is the better standard of the guesthouses on this trek.
Single supplement from £ 260
All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 6 dinners are included. Food is cheap in China and you can avoid the spicier regional food if you wish. The cuisine on this trip is fantastically varied with lots of new flavours and ‘things’ to try.
Gastronomically the trip can be divided into two parts: ‘tourist hotels’ and ‘local hotels’. In tourist hotels the breakfast is normally a buffet, with a huge spread of Chinese and western food, including coffee, juice, breads, cakes, fruit, eggs, bacon and a wide variety of noodle and stir fried dishes. Dinners are normally taken in the hotel or local restaurants, serving rice with assorted vegetables, pork, fish, chicken and duck dishes with flavours roughly approximating those you would find in a Chinese restaurant in the UK. In the local hotels, breakfast includes rice porridge, dumplings, eggs, noodles, etc, however, we tend to augment this with fruit and cakes where available. Dinners are taken in local restaurants where the food is heavily flavoured with ginger, garlic bamboo shoots and chilli. Lunches are taken in local village restaurants and will normally consist of noodle soup or stir fried vegetable noodles. Expect an audience most lunches as the locals crowd around to watch the ‘big noses’ trying to master the use of chopsticks!
Vegetarians are well catered for but please inform us before departure of any special dietary requests. Please note that in China the availability of certain specialized products for restricted diets, e.g. gluten-free or dairy-free, is minimal or non-existent and we strongly recommend you bring these specialized dietary items from home. Strict vegetarians may find the diet rather limited to stir fried vegetables and eggs as all the soups are made with meat stock.
On walking sections our support vehicle will carry bags from hotel to hotel, so you only need to carry a day pack on your walks. This trek has no human or animal porterage since the walking is low altitude and walking paths are always close to roads – we put the luggage in the vehicle. Road travel will be by private minibus. Most roads are excellent, but some of them may have potholes and you should be prepared for a bumpy ride in places. Most of the driving days are not long, usually no more than four hours.
The north of China has warm (25 deg C), quite humid summers, and cold dry winters. If you travel between June and August, it will be hot more or less everywhere, except in the mountains. Some rain must be expected, possibly heavy. If you travel in September/October, you will probably get less rain and the temperatures will be fairly warm (around 20 deg C) everywhere. The winter months in China are cold, so if travelling in March/April be prepared for temperatures to drop, below (10 deg C), at night, but with almost guaranteed dry sightseeing.
Travelling flight inclusive from London: 10 days
The group flight from London is an overnight flight departing the day before Day 1 of the itinerary.
Flights from London
We normally use the scheduled services of Air China or British Airways (depending on availability). As flight timings and schedules change regularly we recommend you call one of our specialist sales staff or your agent to confirm up‐to‐date timings. Please note timings may change at a later date and cannot be confirmed until approximately two weeks before departure.
Travelling land only: 9 days starting in Beijing and ending in Beijing
Your trip normally starts at our accommodation in Beijing in the afternoon of Day 1 of the itinerary. Details of how to reach the start point are provided in the Final Joining Instructions – sent approximately two weeks before departure. Accommodation check‐in times are normally from around 3 pm.
As advice about luggage allowances for both hand and hold luggage is subject to change, we suggest you check the airline’s website for the latest information prior to your departure. The usual, standard check-in baggage weight allowance is 20kg.
Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.
Location start: Beijing
Location end: Beijing
The Flight Inclusive price is based on a London departure, but we are happy to tailor this to your local or regional airport. Please ask about flights from local or regional airports.
If booking regional flights other than with Exodus, you must allow a minimum connecting time (in addition to the international check-in time) of 1 hour at Gatwick, and 1.5 hours at Heathrow; this is longer than the official minimum, but baggage handling is known to be subject to delays.
Warm hat/gloves for spring (March/April)
Long walking trousers
Lightweight or leather boots that give proper ankle support
Small rucksack (about 30 litres)
Sunhat and suncream (at least 30+) during the summer
Small first aid kit (with diarrhoea treatment, painkillers, rehydration sachets, insect repellent (with DEET), plasters and a blister treatment kit)
A large towel (you will be provided with small towels at each hotel/guesthouse)
Plastic bottles are a big issue in many countries where recycling isn’t yet widely available; they often end up in landfill or get burned. Both processes are harmful to the environment and we would like to reduce our impact here. For your trip, we provide an alternative to single-use plastic bottles to reduce the plastic used. This means that safe drinking water will be available throughout; all you need to do is bring a bottle to refill along the way. Please add this to your packing list.
Trekking poles may be helpful for the steeper sections, and earplugs if you have trouble sleeping.
Nearly all nationalities require a visa to enter China, which must be obtained prior to departure. Please note, visa requirements often change and it is your responsibility to obtain any required visas for this trip. Therefore, we recommend that you check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your chosen destination(s), including any countries you may be transiting or transferring through.
Some local governments provide guidance on what visas their citizens need. To help, we’ve gathered a selection of useful links below.
The Chinese authorities now require a letter from Exodus, confirming all your accommodation details. Along with this, you need to supply a copy of your flight details, which are on your invoice if you have booked directly through Exodus. For further information see here. It is also essential we have a clear copy of the details page of your passport. This is required to book certain ground services in China and we cannot confirm your details with our local partners until it has been received. This must be emailed as an electronic scan to firstname.lastname@example.org a minimum of eight weeks prior to your trip.
Important: All visa applicants aged between 14 and 70 need to visit one of the Chinese Visa Application Service Centres in person (appointment required) where biometric data will be taken as part of the visa application process.
For assistance with obtaining visas please call Travcour on 020 8543 1846 or visit their website: http://www.travcour.com/page/tour-packs/exodus.php
There are no required vaccinations. However, you may want to consider vaccinations for hepatitis A, polio, tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, tick-borne encephalitis and tuberculosis. Please confirm with your doctor or travel clinic. You will also need a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you’re arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission or transiting for more than 12 hours through a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
Additionally, if you’re visiting Hong Kong on your trip, please be aware that dengue fever is a known risk. This is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available; therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten: apply insect repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers.
Ticks are known to be present in this region and can carry lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis and other diseases. Please take care to protect yourself. You can read more about ticks here.
China's time zone: Asia/Shanghai (UTC +08:00)
WiFi, Apps and Websites in China
In China, certain websites and phone apps are blocked, including Google (and therefore Gmail accounts), Facebook and Whatsapp. You may get coverage of these from time to time but for the most part, they will not work during your stay. Alternative web search engines such as Bing are, however, available. The locals commonly use an all-in-one app called ‘WeChat’ for messaging, voice and video-calls, photo-sharing and language support. If staying connected while you are away is important to you then you may want to download WeChat before you go (and ask those who you want to stay in touch with to do the same).
China's currency: Chinese yuan (also known as renminbi) (CNY)
China is well serviced by ATMs which are available in all of the major towns and cities. Most but not all ATMs will take British/ European style cards, but your leader will be able to advise you. Credit cards are accepted in hotels and large establishments such as shopping malls but are not recommended for day to day spending. Many restaurants throughout China use WeChat Pay, an electronic payment made through the application on your mobile phone/device.
Some hotels in China require a refundable deposit of between 200-400CNY per room, to be paid upon check in, to cover items from the minibar etc. This can usually be paid in cash or on credit card, and will be refunded in full upon departure providing no items have been consumed.
Opera: CNY265 (approx. £30/US$39)
Kungfu Show: CNY265 (approx. £30/US$39)
Cable car at Great Wall: CNY91 (approx. £10/US$14) one way; CNY116 return (approx. £13/US$17)
This is entirely at your own discretion however; we suggest that you allow a few pounds for tips for the local guides and staff. In China, with the increase in tourism, tipping has become customary. The local staff will probably expect some gratuity and we suggest you allow for this. The leader may suggest to the group that they donate a sum of CNY235 (approx £25/US$34) per person towards a kitty on arrival. This money is then used for tipping of local guides, hotel porters, drivers etc. It is basically to ensure that the hassle is taken out of various activities for you. If you do not wish to contribute to a central pool for tips you are of course free to do so. At any time during the trip your leader will be happy to show you an account of how the kitty is being distributed.
If you feel that your leader has performed well over the course of your trip, you may want to show your appreciation of their services. The sum you choose to give is entirely personal, but as a guide, £2-3/US$3-5 per person per day would be a reasonable starting point. The ‘tipping kitty’ explained above is entirely separate from any contribution to the tour leader. Our local staff are paid well and fairly for their work with Exodus.
We work hard to create trips that have a positive impact on the people and places we visit and look after the planet we explore. Learn more about our sustainable travel ethos and practice here and find out about the work of the Exodus Travels Foundation here.
Some sustainable travel highlights of this trip include:
How this trip helps improve life for local communities.
How this trip helps protect and conserve local landscapes and nature.
How we seek to keep the carbon footprint of this trip low.
Tips for sustainable travel on this trip
Your safe participation
When booking this trip, you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability, please call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary.
Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely take part in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity.
By booking this trip you agree to our Booking Conditions which clearly state that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these rare instances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred.
When you’re ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque.
You will receive your booking confirmation letter and invoice, which includes extra information and guidance about your travel arrangements.
Full joining instructions, including local emergency numbers and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately two to three weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier, please contact our office or your travel agent.
Trip Note validity
These Trip Notes are valid from the “Current as” date on page one. They will occasionally be updated after booking and before departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary, customers will be written to separately. They will also receive a link to the most up-to-date Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions before travelling.
The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons – climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best-possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.
Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582, issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA – The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all money paid to us for your trip is fully protected.