During our stay in Beijing we visited the Great Wall of China, as expected! However, we fancied a trip away from the hustle and bustle of Beijing. Not so easy to find on one of the Wonders of the World…or so we thought! Read on to find out how we had the Great Wall of China to ourselves!
Don’t Take a Group Tour
If you want unimpeded views, free of other pesky tourists you will certainly struggle if you have taken a bus there with 40 of said tourists. Opt for the DIY method which is almost always easier than it appears and makes for a more interesting adventure!
Don’t Go in High Season
This is a fairly obvious one! The Great Wall of China draws 10 million visitors per year, making it a world favourite tourist attraction.
Summer is the busiest time to visit China, however also be wary that Chinese New Year falls at the beginning of February. New Year is a notoriously busy period due to all the Chinese travelling home. It’s also worth noting that weekends and public holidays will be much busier!
Winter is the least popular time to visit the wall as it can be snowy, icy and pretty cold.
That does mean that you’re more likely to have it all to yourself though!
We went in January, so very much the low season. It was a bit cold, but we experienced brilliant sunshine and very favourable temperatures for the time of year.
Don’t Go to a Touristy Section
Given that the wall is super popular, you can still encounter hundreds of people. Even if you go in the Winter time! The more popular sections like Badaling are busy all year due to its proximity to Beijing. This section therefore boasts very well established tours and transit options.
If you go to a more remote section, bingo: you will almost certainly have more privacy.
Jinshanling: How to Get There
We decided to go to Jinshanling! Jinshanling is a partially restored section of the wall, around 80 miles outside of Beijing in Luanping County. It is in the mountains so boasts stunning views and has plenty of beacon & watch towers to explore. Plus it has a cable car to the highest point. Which serves as a fun extra or a valuable option for those needing more accessible entry.
To help us, we managed to find this blog which was unbelievably helpful in our planning; providing invaluable information regarding opening times and transport.
There are several options but for Low Season you must take a public bus. Here’s a direct quote from the webpage we used:
You may take a coach to Luanping from Wangjing West Subway Station, and get off at Jinshanling Service Area. Duration is about 100 minutes and ticket price is CNY 32 per person. Then, take a free shuttle bus to either gate of the scenic area. You can also hike from the Service Area to the scenic area; the distance is about 1.3 miles.
This info was great and really helped but…
We still had trouble finding the bus resulting in us missing the bus twice (it comes every 40 minutes).
Instructions to get to the bus stop
I can’t remember what letter subway exit you need but make sure you walk over a bridge, from which you will be able to see lots of buses! As you step outside the station you will need to take a left. The first right turn that is obviously a bus station / stop is the one you need.
It isn’t far down. By keeping right and walking towards the queue areas you will be able to find the stop for a coach to Luanping. You won’t see any latin words, just Chinese characters. However, we found it quite easy to work out which one said Luanping by comparing to our phone translation. There won’t be any mention of Jinshanling on signage but make sure you check with the bus officials that it is going there just in case!
You will also need to bring a form of ID, as it will be checked before getting on the bus.
Missing Shuttle Bus!
When we arrived at Jinshangling Service Area we couldn’t find the shuttle bus. We asked the local bus official and she insisted it did not exist at this time of year.
We pondered for a while about what to do. A persistent taxi driver (or more appropriately: random bloke in a car) offered to drive us for 100CYN each way.
This seemed a little steep especially for a destination supposedly only 1.3 miles away. We considered walking, but struggled to find the correct road and were reluctant to risk it given we had lost so much time already.
We finally paid the £6 daily fee for some internet to assess the situation. When google said the walk would take over 2 hours we decided to pay the price and get the taxi!
It turned out that google was mis-informed (who knew?) and the walk would have only taken around 45 minutes, by our estimation. We considered walking back but our driver was waiting for us so we felt we should go back with him.
It might be that this is just a summer shuttle or it could be totally dis-continued – either way, factor in that extra money and expect to have to taxi it if you don’t fancy walking!
To be honest, there isn’t really any new information in this post! All is readily available online to be honest – but I hope these extra tips will be of some use if you want to know how to have the Great Wall of China to yourself!
What you think?
Let me know in the comments section!
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