Last year I was already in Beijing, but, thanks to visa-free transit, I got a chance to see the Great Wall again. It seemed like a good exercise to bring myself in fresh vacation mood. Small hike – what can be better to switch from boring everyday office routine? This time I’ve decided to go to Jinshanling part of the Great Wall, which is located ~150km from Beijing. However, please note, that officially this is not allowed during visa-free transit. This part of the wall was closed from June to October 2017, so probably I was one of the first [thousands] people visiting the Wall.
How to get there
The wall is easily accessible by public transport. First of all, one needs to get to Dongzhimen – usually that’s the last Airport Express stop. Then take 13th yellow line to Wangjing west (望京西站) and exit into exit B. After you get outside, cross the bridge and turn left. Moving along the fence you’ll reach the station and the bus. By the way, I do recommend to take a small bite of local street food there – hot meat is exactly what you want in cold January morning. And it’s just ~6 CNY!
Talking about costs, total price for the bus is 32 CNY: 19 for Beijing section and 13 for Hebei section. I do recommend to buy Beijing transport card which will save you half the price. Hence you pay 9.5 + 13 CNY. However the payment process will be a bit more complicated. First you pay 13 in cash to the guy near the bus and then use the card when you enter AND exit the bus.
The whole way takes about 2 hours, so I recommend to start as early as possible. Bus may make one extra stop before the wall, so keep an eye on the road. You’ll need to exit after big tunnel. Keep in mind that GPS in China works quite bad – for me it took more than an hour to catch satellites.
Finally, when you arrive in this middle of nowhere you need to get to the Wall itself. Some people write that there is a free shuttle, however I didn’t find any. Thus, you have just two options – walking or taking taxi. If you choose latter – bargain and bargain more! I was able to get price down to 35 CNY.
This part of the wall is quite big, there are at least three entrances. Main gate, East gate and West gate. East gate is the closest entrance to the highway. I took a walk from Main gate to the East one. Either due to low popularity, or low season or recent opening – but there were no people. Naturally no one except myself. The weather was pretty refreshing, around -4 to 0 Celsius. Official entry fee is 55 CNY, also you can get free map, refill your bottle and enjoy civilization. After tourist office there will be no such possibilities, except buying overpriced snacks from local old people on the wall itself.
Let’s go! The recent renovation can be noticed instantly. There is some quiet traditional music in background, clean and neat road – everything looks very fresh. I wonder how would it look like after a year. Walk from the entrance to the first tower takes about 15 minutes. Even though I was the only tourist here, I met some local old lady selling overpriced hot tea and her brother’s photobook. Today I will see similar sellers many-many times on the wall itself. And since I’m the only one here, it’s quite complicated to get rid of them.
Hiking the Great Wall
This part of the Great Wall is built on very-very hilly relief. Every two towers or so you switch from going up to going down and vice versa. Sometimes when I tried to imagine how the builders felt, I was really terrified. Even while walking on the renovated wall there are places where you need to climb and help yourself with your hands.
Nevertheless, the whole hike from Main gate to the East entrance took me a bit more than 2 hours. While official timing is ~4 hours, even though I’m not the very sporty person. Big part of the wall is renovated, however the closer you get to the east entrance, the more ruins you see. In some places there are even complete holes without any kind of fence around.
What I disliked most here is the way how they build CCTV. There are very ugly green metal bars with mounted camera almost in every tower. And, of course, this is very noticeable. The contrast between ancient bricks and modern metal bars really destroys the magic atmosphere here.
In theory, there should have been a free shuttle from East gate back to the Main entrance, however I found none. So I decided to walk back to the highway. Somewhere around 40.682927, 117.262098 I found neat point on maps.me named “back entrance path”. Sounds like a free backdoor entrance, I wish I knew it before I arrived here.
The walk served my aim perfectly – my mind completely switched from being at home to infinite hills and climbing up the wall. Getting there and back was quite easy. Visiting Jinshanling can be a really great way to spend a transit day in Beijing far away from the crowds. This part of the wall should be especially awesome in autumn, when foliage is all over the place. In January, unfortunately, it was quite gray around.