A walking trip that really gets off the beaten track in rural China exploring some of the most interesting and spectacular sections of China's iconic Great Wall. Starting at the Dragon's Head, where the Wall meets the sea, our hikes conclude among the beautiful rolling hills near Jinshanling with its numerous beacon towers.
Explore Tour Leader
2 nights simple guesthouse
4 nights comfortable hotel
4 nights simple hotel
1 nights simple overnight train
10 - 16
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
The trip starts today in Beijing, China's political and cultural centre. The city has been the capital for most of the period since Kublai Khan made it the capital of his mighty Asian Empire in the late 1200s. All clocks in this vast country are set by Beijing time despite the westernmost regions being some 5000 km away.
Your Leader plans to meet everyone in the hotel reception for a welcome meeting at 5 pm. For those that wish, there is the chance to go out together as a group for dinner afterwards. There are no other activities planned for today. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up the next morning.
If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into either Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) or Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX) . Due to the frequent traffic congestion in the city you should allow up to one-and-a-half hours for this journey.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to head out on foot and explore Beijing's central district with its many parks, temples and restaurants. Although Beijing is a massive city our hotel is centrally located within walking distance of Tiananmen Square (40 minutes) and the Temple of Heaven (15 mins).
Xiao Xiang Hotel (or similar)
Our trip begins today with a drive to the impressive expanse of Tiananmen Square, the heart of Beijing, covering some 40 hectares and enclosed on all sides by memorials to the past and present. After visiting the square we will cross to the magnificent Forbidden City, the one-time home of the Ming and the Manchu (Qing) emperors and a treasure trove of eastern wares. So named, because for 500 years it was off limits to all but a privileged few, the Forbidden City is the largest and best preserved collection of ancient buildings in China, covering an area of 720,000 square metres and containing an incredible array of some 800 buildings. After our visit the rest of the day is free to continue exploring as you wish, perhaps taking the opportunity to explore the alleyways or 'Hutongs' that make up the older and rapidly disappearing residential quarters of this fascinating city. Then there are the numerous parks and markets, selling everything from live frogs to deep fried bluebottles and scorpions! This evening there may also be the opportunity to experience the unique atmosphere of a traditional Beijing Opera performance or acrobatic display (optional).
Leaving Beijing early this morning we drive for about 4 to 5 hours to Shanhaiguan. It is here that the Great Wall reaches the Bohai Sea at a point called Laolongtou or the 'Old Dragon's Head' - named after the legendary carved dragon's head that once faced the ocean. The city was a garrison town with a large square fort (which still exists) with huge gateways facing the four compass points. The east gate is an impressive structure known as 'First pass under Heaven'. It has these words inscribed at the top signifying the ancient Chinese perceived division of the world into 'civilised China' and the 'barbarians'. After visiting Old Dragon's Head we then drive to the First Pass where we have our first opportunity to walk on the Wall and visit the Great Wall Museum.
Over the next six nights we stay in local guesthouses and hotels that we have given a comfort level of simple. The rooms are twin-bedded and en-suite but some service levels may be less efficient than you are used to, and electricity and plumbing can be erratic at times.
Today's 4 kilometre walk is expected to take around two-and-a-half hours.
Bo Yi Hotel (or similar)
On most mornings we plan an early start to make the most of each day, in rythm with local rural life.Today we walk out of town to join an old section of the wall to the impressive Jiaoshan Pass where it heads into the mountains for the first time. The walk returns the same way. The fitter amongst the group may wish to continue up to a high point for spectacular views (weather permitting). We may encounter sections where the route passes gorse bushes and trousers are recommended. Terrain today is generally stable but we will encounter rocks, some concrete slops, a short vertical metal ladder and there are some large steps along the route that would challenge any dodgy knees.
This afternoon we take the scenic drive to Panjiakou reservoir where the wall now crosses beneath the waters.
Today's 4.5 kilometre walk is expected to take around two-and-a-half hours.
Sahe Jinyu Gangwan Hotel (or similar)
This morning we take a boat excursion on the reservoir at Panjiakou. The surrounding scenery is stunning - with the Wall following undulating ridges across the rugged hills before plummeting into the water at two points, Panjiakou and Xifengkou. Joining our vehicle again we drive for about 2.5 hours to Luowenyou where we are able to walk for approximately five kilometres on a rugged and quite steep section of the wall with glorious views across the surrounding area. On the ascent we will be scrambling at times and on the descending sections the terrain changes into more gravel covered surfaces and sometimes overgrown with trees. From Luowenyou we continue by bus (1.5hrs) to our hotel in the grounds of the Eastern Qing Tombs near Zunhua.
Today's 8.5 kilometre walk is expected to take around five to six hours.
Qing Feng Hotel (or similar)
Making a reasonably early start this morning, we hope to have this lovely site to ourselves. The Eastern Qing Tombs are the largest and most complete of the Imperial Tombs in China with 5 emperors, 15 empresses and 136 concubines all buried here. In addition the surrounding mountains contain the tombs of hundreds of lesser nobles such as princes and dukes. We are able to enter a few of the beautifully carved tombs which mostly date back to the 17th and 18th Centuries. That of Emperor Qianlong covers almost
half a square kilometre.
Leaving the tombs we drive to a point on the Great Wall where there is access, and walk for 2-3 hours into Huangyaguan. This section of the wall is more restored, with a generally stable, concrete terrain and some hand rails. It can be relatively quiet and offers some great views - the first part of the walk is an ascent up to a prominent tower before descending down to another tower near the river. From here we cross the river and walk into the town and our hotel for the night.
Today's 3.5 kilometre walk is expected to take around two to three hours.
Huangyaguan Hotel (or similar)
This morning we drive for 2.5 hours from Huangyaguan to Gubeikou. On arrival we walk through the small village of local farm houses, a great opportunity to see life in rural China up close. From here we will walk up on to the wall along a mountain path. This section of the wall takes us past 16 beacon towers and we get to see a part of the wall in the distance that is restricted and not usually seen. We leave the wall at Jinshanling and head to the hotel where we spend the next two nights.
Today's 10 kilometre walk is expected to take around five to six hours.
Rui Xiu Shan Zhuang Guesthouse (or similar)
Today we aim to walk on one of the most stunning sections of the Wall between Jinshanling and Simatai - both locations where the wall has been refurbished. The walk between these two places is on partially ruined sections, with some quite steep ascents and many steps to be climbed. In 2010 Simitai was closed to the public, so we'll walk as far as we're allowed towards Simitai before returning to Jinshaling. We pass 18 watch-towers on this walk - these provide the only shade along the route and give us an excuse to pause and admire the breath-taking views.
Today's 6 kilometre walk is expected to take around five hours.
Today we return to Beijing. We should arrive back into the city by early afternoon with late afternoon free for further personal exploration. You may wish to take an excursion to the Summer Palace or the Temple of Heaven in Tiantan Park (both optional).
We take an overnight train from Beijing to Xian, berths are usually in 1st class 'soft sleeper' lockable compartments for 4 which have 2 sets of bunks. Hot meals and snacks are usually sold to your berth on overnight journeys. In times of large demand we may have to travel in 2nd class 'hard sleeper' which consists of open plan carriages with blocks of 6 beds in 2 triple bunks leading off the corridor. WC and washbasins are provided for shared use at the end of each carriage and clean bedding is provided. We try to ensure the group of Xian Extension passengers is accommodated in the same carriage and compartments although this will not always be possible, therefore at times you will be sharing with fellow travellers of different nationalities. The Tour Leader will try to accommodate the group as best they can, keeping travel companions together, and will brief you before the journey. The majority of hotels in China offer check in from 12noon. On days where we will arrive on a sleeper train the Tour Leader will try and arrange an early check in for the group, however this may not be possible.
The Xian extension is not accompanied by an Explore Leader. You will not be accompanied on the overnight train and on arrival in Xian you will be met by a local guide who accompanies all the included sightseeing activities and will be able to provide information on places to eat and optional activities.
Overnight Train from Beijing to Xian
Simple Overnight Train
You will be met on arrival this morning in Xian train station. Our stay in Xian reveals the extraordinary continuity of Chinese civilisation. Xian (Changan) served 11 dynasties and was the very starting point of the Silk Road between Central Asia and Europe. Its ancient monuments include, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (64m, a 7-storey high structure with a superb view over the city) and the Great Mosque, a wonderful 15th century working mosque within the old muslim Hui District, which we include in our sightseeing tour.
Union Alliance Atravis Hotel (or similar)
Today we visit one of the highlights of any trip to China - the magnificent Terracotta Warriors and Horses who guard the Qin Shi Huangdi Tomb. There are literally thousands of lifesize warriors, dating from 200BC. This dramatic find of the 1970s is considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the century. Late afternoon is free in Xian with the option to visit the extensive and impressive National (Shaanxi) Museum.
Our tour ends this morning after breakfast.
Total distance : 20 miles
China has primarily a temperate climate, with a wide spectrum of extremes due to its huge area. Summer months are hot and rainy though in the south the climate is tropical and we can experience rain at any time of the year, often falling in sharp tropical rain-storms which are heavy but short lived. Winter is colder and drier, temperatures in Beijing can be as low as -12c.
3 Pin Flat
Beijing - Opera 150 CNY; Acrobatic performance 260 CNY ; Summer Palace 40 CNY entrance fee plus 200 CNY private transfer; Temple of Heaven 35 CNY entrance fee; Hutong tour (including lunch) 160 CNY; Kung Fu show 260 CNY Please note that it may not be possible to do all of the optionals.
Lightweight raingear year round and some warmer clothes in April and October.
We recommend you bring lightweight walking boots with ankle support, make sure that your boots are worn-in and comfortable before the start of the trip. Also trainers or sandals for relaxing and general wear. We suggest that on international flights you either carry your walking boots in your hand luggage or wear them - should your luggage be lost or delayed, your own boots are the one thing that will be irreplaceable.
One main piece of baggage and a daysac for personal items. Remember that you'll have to carry your own luggage, so don't overload yourself.
A Mandarin phrase book may be helpful. You may wish to bring a trekking pole with a rubber tip and a torch. You may also find rehydration salts useful in the summer months. We advise you bring a water bottle for day to day use.
Our trek along the Great Wall is in a remote area off the beaten tourist track. Our accommodation is in local hotels and guesthouses. Rooms are twin-bedded and en-suite but plumbing and electricity supplies can be somewhat erratic. Although the welcome is warm, service levels may be less efficient than you may be used to. For this reason we have graded all nights outside of Beijing as 'Simple' accommodation. Our choice in these areas is limited and we do use the best available accommodation. Any shortcomings are more than made up for by the experience of small town China and enjoying some spectacular locations close to the Great Wall. We take an overnight train from Beijing to Xian, berths are usually in 1st class 'soft sleeper' lockable compartments for 4 which have 2 sets of bunks. Hot meals and snacks are usually sold to your berth on overnight journeys. In times of large demand we may have to travel in 2nd class 'hard sleeper' which consists of open plan carriages with blocks of 6 beds in 2 triple bunks leading off the corridor. WC and washbasins are provided for shared use at the end of each carriage and clean bedding is provided. We try to ensure the group of Xian Extension passengers is accommodated in the same carriage and compartments although this will not always be possible, therefore at times you will be sharing with fellow travellers of different nationalities. The Tour Leader will try to accommodate the group as best they can, keeping travel companions together, and will brief you before the journey. The majority of hotels in China offer check in from 12noon. On days where we will arrive on a sleeper train the Tour Leader will try and arrange an early check in for the group, however this may not be possible.
The included breakfasts in rural China will be local style with rice porridge, eggs, dumplings, noodles etc. In Beijing there will be western options for breakfast as well as Chinese. Rice and noodles are a staple and usually provided at every meal time. For anybody with a restricted diet - such as gluten- or dairy-free - please note that these products are generally not available in China and we strongly recommend you bring specialised foods from home. In any case please always inform us of any special dietary requirements before departure. Generally vegetarians are well catered for but you may find a more restricted choice as many soups are made with meat stock.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
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China: A visa is required by all nationalities. A single entry visa should be arranged in advance of travelling. From 1st November 2018, British Passport Holders will be required to present themselves in person at the Chinese Visa Processing Centre in London, Manchester, Edinburgh or Belfast on the day of application, to provide biometric information (fingerprints). Appointments can be booked and forms completed via www.visaforchina.org In order to apply for your Chinese visa you will need to submit supporting documents from our local supplier confirming your itinerary and travel arrangements, which we will obtain on your behalf. So that we can provide this for you, and to ensure all local arrangements are in place, we require a copy of your passport no later than 8 weeks before you are due to start your trip. Once we have your passport copy we shall process and pass on the documents you require 6-8 weeks before your trip, please be mindful of this when applying for your visa. If you require the supporting documents earlier than this, please contact Explore so we can arrange this. Passengers wishing to extend their stay in China should be aware that current visa regulations only allow foreigners to stay in the country for up to 30 days. Please consider this when planning your trip. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
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Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
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Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
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You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
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Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, infectious hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus and polio. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Travellers may wish to take immunisation against Japanese Encephalitis. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.