Great Wall Tips

I’ve been to the Great Wall of China several times, and my trip to the JianKou was by far the most memorable of all the trips. Word to the wise- this trip is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of climbing, weaving, and trekking through wild and overgrown parts of the Great Wall.  The trip planned below will take one day but there is a hostel located at the end and you can make it a two-day journey if you please. These are five landmarks that will mark your way; your starting landmark will be Jiu Yan Lou.

  1. Jiu Yan Lou (Nine Eye Tower) Drop-Off
  2. Tian Lou (Sky Stair)
  3. Bei Jing Jie (Beijing Knot)
  4. Jian Kou Spot
  5. Nan Ji Li Village (西栅子村南吉利) Pick-Up

My trip was planned the day before starting my journey, so if you’re looking for a last minute trip to the Great Wall- look no further. We got you.


Before you go.


Arrange transportation.

There are several bus routes that run to your starting location but I’d recommend hiring a private driver for a 1-day trip and it’s your choice for a 2-day trip. The main benefit of hiring a driver is that you won’t feel like you’re racing the clock. The bus runs on a tight schedule, any delays or detours will mean that you might miss the bus to return to the city.

You can check out these guys for booking a car.  You can also try our contact in Beijing , Patrick’s driver service to compare prices – we often use him for transport of various groups/requests.

It’ll take about 2 hours to get to you Jiu Yan Lou from Tiananmen Square so plan accordingly to wherever your hotel is located in the city. I recommend aiming to arrive at your starting destination by 8am. You have a long trek ahead of you so the earlier you start the better.

If you’re planning on staying two days, you’ll probably need to book a room at the tiny Nan Ji Li Village (unless you want to try your hand at wild camping…).


Buy Supplies.

Bring enough food and water that will last you the duration of your trip. A quick trip to the convenient store around your hotel in Beijing will provide more than enough supplies to last your trip. If you’re looking for packaged food of a more international variety a quick Internet search for Carrefour, BHG, or April Gourmet will yield good results.

There may be vendors on the Wall selling food and drink but in my personal experience it’s best not to count on them being around. I’ve done the Jiankou trip twice, first time I came across 5 vendors throughout the day and the second time there was only a single vendor at the end of the trip. So pack as if you can’t buy anything when you’re up there.

The only bathroom while you’re up there is the great outdoors so make sure you bring a few packs of tissue paper and wet-wipes.



Dress Appropriately.

Spring and fall are very comfortable during the day but temperatures can drop extremely quickly when the sun goes down. Short sleeves and shorts under a breathable jacket and long pants will prove sufficient for your journey. You will also have to trek through some brush and overgrowth so long sleeves are awesome.

Summer is ridiculously hot. Bring lots of sunscreen, extra t-shirts, and maybe even a headband will make your journey more comfortable.

Winter is ridiculously cold and windy. Dress as if you’re going skiing- helmet not needed.

If you’re in need of athletic wear, check out Decathlon, it’s your one-stop shop for all of your hiking needs.


Bring a Map

I highly recommend bringing a cellular device with data capabilities. You won’t be able to make phone calls while you’re up at Jiankou but you will be able to access your phone’s GPS functions. It will also function as a compass should you get lost.


The Day Of

So you’ve arrived at the starting destination. Bellies full of breakfast and ready to go, there is an entrance fee of 100RMB and you’re driver will drop you off at entrance gate to the Wall. Climb a couple dozen sets of stairs and congratulations (!), you’re on the Great Wall of China! It’s pretty hard to get lost on the Great Wall as it mostly only goes in two directions. During your Jiankou journey, you’ll want to head in the eastern direction. You will start by walking south from the Nine Eye Tower and upon reaching the Sky Stairs you’ll be heading east from there.

There are signs throughout the wall that will direct you in the right direction. Just remember the 5 landmarks that you have and tick them off as you go.

There may be some locals up there that will have roadblocks and charge you a minor road fee (10rmb). These fees are unavoidable, just ask them if you’re heading in the right direction and the fee will be easier to stomach.

You should reach Nan Ji Li Village by 6pm, where your driver should be waiting to take you back into town.

To join with small group tours on the weekend and more info on specific routes:

If you’ve got a free evening in Beijing, check out our Old Beijing Dinner tour – with over 15 dishes sampled in a local hutong neighborhood, you’ll get an excellent idea of what the local dining scene in Beijing is all about. 

Meet a Shanghai Foodie Guide: Christopher
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