Far from the maddening crowds.
Living in Beijing, I often feel that I am in a land of extremes. The sky above the city is Armageddon-gray one afternoon and shock blue the next. A delicious meal can cost ten yuan or several hundred. And let’s not forget the traffic – what is normally a 15-minute taxi ride can become an hour-long crawl without warning.
Extremes also characterize tourism in China. There are spectacular sites all over this massive country, but you have to pick your spots if you want to catch each one just right – or you may end up feeling let down. I try to avoid those common symptoms of the recent tourism boom: overcrowding and overdevelopment.
These thoughts were on my mind after I recently went hiking at two unrestored sections of the Great Wall. The first, in the popular Jiankou section north of Beijing, juts out of the mountains proudly, its famous white stones gleaming as they twist around the rugged landscape. The second section, further east in Douyu Valley, has a more humble character, and in certain parts it almost disappears into the foliage.
Both sites were stunning and made for a day well spent outside the city. On the Jiankou path, however, it was hard not to notice the garbage littering the trail, the music blaring out of the cell phones of other hikers, and the man selling fake bottled water as he attempted to charge hikers for the use of his ladder.
By contrast, the section of the Wall in Douyu Valley was absolutely pristine. No litter and no noise. In fact, my group did not encounter another soul once we left the road. As our minibus made its way back to the city after a long hike, with a purple and orange sunset unfolding outside the window, I knew which of the two sections I’d be coming back to.
Douyu Valley is located in Miyun County, 115 kilometers northeast of Beijing.
Contact WildChina to plan your own customized hike away from the crowds – at the Great Wall and beyond.