Stretching 3,914 miles (6,300 km) from coast to desert, the Great Wall of China is one of the few manmade structures that can be seen from space. Walking the Great Wall of China offers an opportunity to experience the ancient traditions and mythology of China as well as the amazing experience of the Great Wall itself.
If you decide to walk the Great Wall of China then you will take on an adventurous challenge of physical stamina mixed with fascinating cultural and historical exploration. There are amazing sights to enjoy as the Great Wall snakes its way through the mountains, wooded valleys and rocky gorges. You become immersed in a sense of history difficult to grasp until you have had the opportunity to experience it.
While in China, it’s a great opportunity to explore the exciting city of Beijing too. This amazing city is home to over 13 million people and will be a huge contrast after the natural scenery and remote tranquillity days spent walking the Great Wall.
Typical day-to-day Great Wall of China itinerary
In order to maximise your enjoyment of your trip to China and walking the Great Wall we recommend a trip duration of at least 10 days.
There are many tour guide operators or charities you could choose to travel with and each will offer a different itinerary. The itinerary below is an example only and may vary.
Great Wall itinerary Day 1 – Flight to Beijing
Great Wall itinerary Day 2 – Rest day in Beijing
After arriving in Beijing and checking into your hotel, take some time to take a city tour and visit the Forbidden City. Your Great Wall guides should give you an evening briefing, outlining how the trip will run and to give a general plan of events over the coming days. Check out the gourmet Chinese restaurants offering the very best in Chinese cuisine.
Great Wall itinerary Day 3 – Beijing to Huangyaguan
In the morning of day three the excitement begins as you are transported from Beijing to Huangyaguan where you will get your first glimpse of the Great Wall itself. As you see the Wall snake along the ridgeline of the Yanshan Mountains it’s amazing to think that all 3,914 miles (6,300 km) was constructed by hand. Your walk on the Great Wall starts with a downhill section on the Taipingzhai, until reaching the small town of Huangyaguan and your first nights’ accommodation.
Great Wall itinerary Day 4 – Huangyaguan to Mountain Village
You wake up to the beautiful views of Huangyaguan, situated in a valley in the heart of the Yanshan Mountains. After breakfast, the day’s walk starts up the steep wall steps towards what appears to be a sheer cliff face. A steep climb of over 200 steps follows on what is called ‘Heaven's Ladder’. After regaining your breath you can take in the stunning views from the top of the ridge and continue walking as the wall now follows the contours of the mountain. After a few hours walking the wall then drops down into a valley where you will be warmly welcomed and bedded down in the houses of a local village, a real cultural experience.
Great Wall itinerary Day 5 – Village to Jinshanlin
After waking and thanking the villagers for their hospitality and a sumptuous breakfast, it’s time to continue your walk along the wall, enjoying the sweeping landscapes and history lessons from your guides along the way. You reach a section of the wall that cannot be walked as it is in a state of decay and the stones are loose and unstable. From here you will descend on some steep farm tracks, passing walnut and fruit trees, to reach your awaiting transport to take you to your accommodation at Jinshanlin and a welcome feast of traditional Chinese dishes.
Great Wall itinerary Day 6 – Gubeiko to Jinshanlin
In the morning a quick 20-minute bus ride takes you to the village of Gubeiko. The day's walking starts gentle along a magnificent section of the ancient wall, dating back to the Qing Dynasty, which was the last dynasty to rule over this vast land. The walking route then leaves the wall to pass around a Chinese military base before rejoining the wall to walk to the village of Jinshanlin and your comfortable cabins for the night.
Great Wall itinerary Day 7 – Jinshanlin to Simatei
The villagers of Jinshanlin provide a hearty breakfast as well as sending you on your way with a packed lunch. Day 7 sees some stunning sections of the wall in a very well-preserved state. The morning starts with a final steep climb into the mountains with amazing scenery of rolling purple hills as far as you can see. Your walk continues along the wall as it clings to the mountain rocks until reaching Simatei and a welcome night of rest in a hotel.
Great Wall itinerary Day 8 – Simatei to Mutianyu
From your hotel, a bus will transfer you to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. A one-hour climb brings you to a very well-restored section of the wall which you can explore in either direction before returning to your transport and a hotel at Mutianyu.
Great Wall itinerary Day 9 – Mutianyu to Juyongguan
Transport from Mutianyu brings you to your final days walk on the Great Wall and the final day of what has been an amazing trip. At Juyongguan the wall follows the rolling hills offering spectacular views of areas where ancient Chinese warriors once fought. After an enjoyable day of walking, transport takes you back to Beijing for an evening celebration meal.
Great Wall itinerary Day 10 – Rest day in Beijing
Take a day to explore Beijing and do some last-minute shopping.
Great Wall itinerary Day 11 – Fly out of Beijing
How to get there
An adventurous and budget way to walk the Great Wall of China is to simply book a flight to Beijing and then find some guides to take you.
We recommend booking your expedition via a reputable Great Wall tour operator, as this brings benefits including:
- Well-planned itineraries with good on-route accommodation, food and sightseeing opportunities.
- Sleeping overnight in lodges with dinner and breakfast provided.
- Well-trained and knowledgeable guides.
- Knowledgeable staff who you can ask questions due to their first hand knowledge of the walk.
When booking your walk always make sure you know what is and what is NOT included in the price for example visa fees, airport taxes and travel insurance.
Cost considerations of a Great Wall trek
When booking your trip make sure the price of the trip includes the following:
- Return flights
- Any applicable departure tax
- All transport costs
- All accommodation
- All meals
- English-speaking doctor
- Local English-speaking trek leader and full support crew
- Luggage transfers
- All group camping equipment and basic medical kits
Who can walk the Great Wall of China?
The walk can be challenging and has an overall grading of reasonably strenuous activity but anyone who is reasonably fit and is looking for a challenge can walk the Great Wall of China. The main thing to consider is that your body is trained and prepared to cope with activity on consecutive days as this challenge has few rest days, therefore giving your body less time to recuperate.
Regardless of your level of fitness, it is always good advice to have a full medical check-up before deciding whether or not to tackle the Great Wall of China. Also when you are planning your trip ensure you have had at least one rest day after flying to Beijing to recover from any jet lag or travel fatigue.
Medical considerations for visiting the Great Wall
Always consult your doctor for a list of all the medical requirements for a trip to China and a walk along the Great Wall. It is not recommend that you drink tap water anywhere in China.
Why not walk the Great Wall of China for a charity? Get sponsored for your trip and raise lots of cash for a worthy cause. Not only will you have walked one of the most amazing trails in the world but you'll have helped other people too... the feeling of achievement will be fantastic!
As well as raising money for a worthwhile cause, if you do decide to go with a charity the good news is they take all the hassle out of organising the trip. You don’t need to worry about booking your flights or accommodation and all the other stuff – all you need to worry about is getting in shape.
Picture credit: Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock.com