The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling and Hike to Simatai (金山岭)
Built from 1570, Jinshanling’s main purpose is as the starting point for the 10km hike along the Great Wall to Simatai. If you don’t intend to do this trek then there’s little point coming here. At a fast pace, the trek will take just over two hours, though many people would be more comfortable doing it in around four hours. The wall along this route is crumbling in parts and there are a few steep ascents that are a bit sketchy but nothing particularly daunting. If you are fit you won’t struggle at all. If you are less fit, you will need to take regular breaks.
But, really, of more annoyance are the touts who buzz around you all through the walk – they will often follow you hawking their wares for a good 100 meters. Nevertheless, this is the best way to experience the Great Wall of China. The surrounding landscape and the wall itself are stunning.
Note that you will also have to pay the entrance fee for the Simatai section of the wall (¥40) once you reach it. They also hit you up for ¥5 to cross a suspension bridge once in the Simatai section (you have no choice but to go over it).
Admission: ¥50 entrance and ¥30 one-way for the cable car (¥50 return). Open: 8am-5pm.
Directions: Take a bus to Miyun (密云) (numbers 970 or 980) from Dongzhimen long-distance bus station. From there you’ll have to haggle with the mini-bus drivers. They’ll tell you it’s further away than it is. ¥60-¥70 one way is a good price and you can fit up to six people in the minivans.