A hiking and camping trip on the Great Wall of China – Jiankou

A hiking and camping trip on the Great Wall – Jiankou

A definite bucket list item. I booked a 3 day hiking trip up the Chinese Wall. However, as there were not sufficient people joining the hike, the trip got rescheduled to two days. How hard could it be right? Guess again for an office person like me. 👩🏻‍💻 I underestimated the steepness of hiking up a mountain combined with a burning sun and high humidity, while carrying a 10 kilo backpack, because yes, the plan was to sleep on the wall too! But man, was it worth it! Let me start at the beginning.

Picture: Chinese Wall watchtower  Picture: Tent in watchtower 

Day 1

The trip I booked was a hike going from West Jiankou to East Jiankou to Mutianyu. The Jiankou part of the Great Wall in China has been untouched for many years. There are trees overgrowing most parts of the wall and even in the watchtowers nature took over. The trip entailed two days hiking and one night camping on the Jiankou wall. Sounded fun and relatively do-able on the website.

We were expected at the meetingpoint (Lama temple in Beijing) around 9am on a Sunday. Our guide was very welcoming and introduced all the hikers to each other. We were with a group of 6 on this hike. Off we went! In a minivan the driver took us to the start of our adventure.

Picture: Campfire on the Chinese Wall Picture: Sunrise on the Chinese Wall

Once arrived, we geared up. We got a backpack containing a tent, a mat, a sleeping bag and added personal belongings and water. A lot of water. The path is narrow and overgrown, which was my first surprise: was not expecting to go this much back to basic! After only half an hour hiking up-hill while trying to avoid spiderwebs (and the actual spiders) I started to feel my legs… But hey, just take it one step at the time. Fortunately, our guide was very knowledgeable and talked on the way up about the trees and plants and the history of the wall. Also, he of course knew every great viewing point onto the wall, and showed us. After about a 3,5 hour hike, we reached the wall. What an amazing site! The view is really overwhelming. It is one of those places where you feel so small in the world.

Picture: Jiankou watchtower  Picture: Jiankou view

We hiked up to the highest point of Jiankou to take in the view. After that, it was only a few watchtowers down hill hike to reach the watchtower were we were going to spend the night. We were right on time to make ourselves comfortable for watching the sunset. Amazing. The warm beams slowly made room for a more chilly, but not too chilly, breeze.

You have a free choice where to set up your tent: in the watchtower or on the wall. After setting up the tents, it was time to eat, drink, make a fire, burn marshmallows over the fire while drinking a good wine and tell exaggerated stories. In short: a good night!

Picture: Jiankou sunset Picture: Jiankou sunset

Time for bed. I immediately fell asleep at around 11pm, but got a rude awakening not a half an hour later: I had company. There was an animal, about 20 cm long roaming around my tent, and was actually chilling about 15 cm away from me. We were separated by a thin layer of plastic. After the creature left, I could not fall asleep anymore. At night, the woods are pretty loud and the ground, despite of the mat, pretty hard. But supposedly, sleeping on a hard bed should be good for your back.

Day 2

I woke up early at 5:15am to watch the sunrise.  On top of a watchtower I looked out over kilometers of dark green mountains and the Great Wall zig-zagging over the mountain tops. The sun was shining its first beams over the mountains and lighted up the sky in beautiful colors to announce daytime. I was the only one awake to witness this moment and felt like there was nobody around in miles. Apart from our group, that may actually have been true. Birds were beginning their morning songs and the mosquitoes started to celebrate life too. On me.

Picture: Watchtower inside Picture: Watchtower inside

Finally got an hour of sleep just before we packed up and headed down and were picked up by our driver who drove us to a village for some good Chinese breakfast. Lovely. It was vital to eat well, as you need the energy for the day. A couple of hours hiking awaited us.

This path was a little less overgrown and you could see that the path is used regularly by hikers. Still, we haven’t seen anybody on our path. Perfect. This time, we did not have to carry heavy backpacks, but still, not an easy climb up, as your legs are already tired. After a while though, I found that you kind of get into it. Walking got easier, even though the muscle ache got worse.

Picture: Jiankou wall Picture: Jiankou wall

When we arrived to today’s part of the wall, we climbed on top of a watchtower. Once again, an amazing view greeted us. On one side you could see the Chinese knot in the distance: a place where 3 walls met each other.

This section of the wall was getting more and more touristy when we got closer and closer to Mutianyu. We made it past some mad bee hyves without getting stung and got to a part of the wall that has been restored. On that part, there were drink tents and the wall has been well maintained. Although it is nice to see how the wall looked when it was built, I must say that the unrestored part has it’s charme too.

Picture: Restored part of the Chinese Wall Picture: Restored part of the Chinese Wall

A hike down the restored part of the wall down to our driver took me 1,5 hours and 5 mosquito bites! The driver took us to a nice Chinese restaurant to get us a well deserved dinner and afterwards took us back to our hotels.

All in all, a memory that lasts a lifetime. I did it! Walked and slept (well sort of slept) on the Great Chinese Wall! Definitely worth it.

Tour operator

China Hiking: ChinaHiking.cn

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