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. Extend your holiday travelling on an overnight train to Xian, the start of the Silk Road and home to the incredible Terracotta Warriors. Beijing - Visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City Panjiakou - Take a boat trip where the Wall crosses the water Jinshanling - Spectacularly scenic hike on the Wall across beautiful rolling hills
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 to receive a complimentary 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).
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 we drive 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.
Today we walk out of town along an old section of the wall to the impressive Jiaoshan Pass where it heads into the mountains for the first time. The fitter amongst the group may wish to continue up to a high point for spectacular views (weather permitting). This afternoon we take the scenic drive to Panjiakou where the wall crosses water.
This morning we take a boat excursion on the reservoir at Panjiakou. The surrounding scenery is stunning - 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 head for 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. From Luowenyou we continue to our hotel in the grounds of the Eastern Qing Tombs near Zunhua.
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 very 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 we drive 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. Total walking about 6hrs.
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 for a second night. 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. (approx 4-5 hours walking).
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. The Xian extension is not accompanied by an local Leader. 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 local places to eat and optional activities.
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 overview of 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.
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.
11 Break Fast(s)
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