Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Solo Journey to The Great Wall of China

「不到長城非好漢」: Who never climbed The Great Wall cannot be deemed a Man - 毛澤東 Mao Zedong -

I guess one way to interpret this quote is “You’ve brought your butt all the way across to China, there’s no reason in hell you’re not going to see and climb The Great Wall?!” Kidding aside, this marvelous architectural treasure is China’s most recognizable landmark. There’s no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to finally be able to see this mighty structure that I have admired for so many years.

great wall
Mutianyu Section - The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications that is the product of thousand years of arduous labor and exquisite planning and construction that is also considered to be one of the most celebrated engineering feats of ancient civilization that still stands tall up to present. It stretches along Hebei in the northeast to the wetlands of Lup Nur of northwest China. Construction of the wall ran through different leaders, and one of them is Qin Shi Huang, the man who was the brain behind The Terracotta Warriors in Xian.

The Wall runs through the southern border of Inner Mongolia that serves as barrier of the empire against the intrusions of the invading nomadic tribes of the Mongolian grasslands. This strategy was proved to be unsuccessful since the Wall is not actually continuous and Mongol invaders had no problem breaching the fort. Made of stones, brick, earth, wood and other materials, The Great Wall snakes through more than 20, 000 kilometers, though it has been said that almost 50 percent of the original ancient structure has already disappeared, if not, impossible to reach, the Chinese government is struggling to preserve different sections for tourists to visit such as Badaling.

solo travel china
so many steps!

There are different sections of the Great Wall that have been made open to tourists, among the few popular are Badaling, the most accessible, also the most crowded area of the wall, while Jinshaling and Simatai features some areas that are not restored yet. Mutianyu, which I picked, was less touristy compared to Badaling and was also quite easy to reach.

great wall beijing

Situated in Huairou County, about 70 kilometers northeast of Beijing, one would be able to locate the less touristy but nonetheless amazing Mutianyu Great Wall (慕田峪). This section of the wall was built during the 6th century of the Northern Qi Dynasty and has served as the northern barrier protecting the capital and imperial tombs. The winding “Tail Wall” stretches for about 2,250 meters and connects with Jiankou in the west and Lianhuachi in the east. This is the best-preserved portion of The Great Wall, so you could really see and appreciate how it must have been like hundreds of years ago.

"Entrance" to Mutianyu section

Though some might say that getting to the Great Wall of Mutianyu was quite tricky, I actually had no problems there, though it might be quite difficult coming during winter so it was probably a good thing that I picked to go during summer. From Dongzhimen station, there are different bus terminals that would take you to areas that near the Wall. As per my research, there are three buses, but two of them would still require you to rent a van and expense per person would reach 50 to 200 CNY. I took Bus 867 that only runs for two schedules and both are in the morning so I made a note to myself to wake up extra early that day. Of course, the trip going back to Dongzhimen is also organized so I had to limit my time on the wall. Nevertheless, the round trip bus fare only cost me 14 CNY, compared to taking organized tours which can run up to 300 CNY per person!

great wall mutianyu
that kilig moment when I finally realized I was already at The Great Wall, such a priceless experience

I was famished by the time we reached the entrance point. Good thing there are few eateries around the area, I actually ate at Subway! From the ticket office to the main entrance to cable car and toboggan ride, you will pass along stalls that sell cheap souvenirs. Yup, cheap because you could actually haggle for the same price that you can find within the wholesale markets in downtown Beijing.

great wall china
they also sell some refreshments around The Great Wall, some of these are beers and wine, used-up cans are lined up here for everyone to see

There are different methods on how you could go up to the wall. First one is something that would require much effort, which is ascending through more than 4,000 steps. If you have a bad knee or probably just too lazy to exert effort, then you have a choice of either taking cable car trip or taking the two-rider chairlift going up then the cool toboggan going down. I came during summer and didn’t want to hike my way up since some locals told me it would take me two-hours to do (not sure until now if that is true) so I wanted to preserve my energy on the actual tour of the wall, so I bought cable car two-way tickets for 80 CNY.

great wall solo
I could wake up having good vibes everyday if this is the view I get on my window

The cable car ride was nothing spectacular, but that’s not what I came for. The scenery was more than I expected. I was just astounded to gaze at the 180 degree view of this massive piece of ancient Chinese architecture – from where I was sitting, it looked like this very long snake slithering its way over the peaks of the mountains.

travel blog china
OOTD for Great Wall: black shirt, violet pants and slippers? hahaha

Gorgeous views are also expected to be seen at the wall at any time of the year, the thought of going there during winter and autumn just excites me the most! Summertime is also not bad, the green colors from the trees gives the wall that soothing charm. It would have been lovely to hike my way to that winding road to the different sections of the wall.

mountain china

Did you know that the Great Wall of China stretches to over eight provinces in China and also cannot be seen by lunar astronauts from the moon contrary to popular belief? Yup, turns out it was just your classic urban myth.

great wall travel
Yes, quite impossible to see The Great Wall from outer space

True enough, Mutianyu really offer tourists the tranquility that you can probably not find in its touristy sections. I just couldn’t believe I am walking on something that has been made hundred of years ago, I felt like a traveled through time and have seen China’s history and how its culture evolved through the years. I have been to similar fortresses but The Great Wall is one of a kind with its power and grandeur. I took my time to take it all in and appreciate this marvel.

great wall solo
Love at first sight! <3

solo travel china
selfie sa Great Wall!!! my solo journey around China ends here :(

My daytrip to The Great Wall was such a meaningful part of my travel to China, it was not just about seeing this grand wonder but also the feeling of making it through China for twelve days alone was very rewarding and truly a proud moment for me. I guess this was one of the times where I felt that I am already taking myself to the next level as a traveler. Going to this trip for twelve days made me take risks and challenged me to rely in my own strengths and improve from my mistakes. There would have never been a perfect conclusion to my solo adventure than to see and experience The Great Wall.

china great wall travel
The Great Wall of China

Day 1: Datong
City Tour

Day 2: Datong
Yungang Grottoes

Hanging Monastery

Day 3: Pingyao
City Tour

Day 4: Pingyao
City Tour and Attractions

Day 5: Pingyao

Day 6: Xi'An
City Tour

Day 7: Xi'An
Yangling Mausoleum

Day 8: Xi'An
Terracotta Army

Day 9: Beijing
Qianmen Street/798 Art District

Day 10: Beijing

Forbidden City

Day 11: Beijing
Summer Palace

Day 12: Beijing
Great Wall

Railway Train Experience
Standing, Hard Seats, Sleepers

12 Day Trip
Itinerary & Budget

More of China here


  1. Wow you spent 12 days in China! How do you manage to get away from work for so long? By the way, how much is the total budget (excluding ticket and Philippine travel tax)? I want to go to China!

    1. 12 Days still felt too short, China is too big, too many places to see! I accumulated CDOs so ok lang matagal mag leave :) I think around 20-23k, I shall post my itinerary plus expenses next week! Makakapunta ka rin! :)

    2. Thanks Mariane! Looking forward to your itinerary and budget details.

  2. Hi Mariane, I have round trip tickets to China and my travel dates are on March 20-27 but I haven't applied for a tourist Chinese visa yet. Still waiting for my friend's invitation letter. How did you apply for a tourist visa, if I may ask?


    1. Hello, kindly see details here
      Will you be traveling solo? You can either submit it yourself or have it processed by an agency

  3. Mukhang ang init sa Great Wall pag-summer but nonetheless still charming as it is. Ang maganda sa Mutyaniu is konti lang ang tao lagi and at times ikaw lang ang nag-hihike kaya saya mag photoshoot! Next target ko is to visit the wall in Autumn season. I bet the wall will be so beautiful with Autumn colors!

    1. I knooooow tirik na tirik yung araw and black pa suot ko, feel ko naabsorb ko lahat ng init sa mundo haha. Nung time na punta ko medyo matao sa entrance though pag napalayo na lakad mo mabibilang mo na lang nakakasabay mo maglakad. I know saya sana mag photoshoot din kaya next time dapat may kasama na ako, haha #painsofsolotravel Game punta tayo ng Autumn!!! haha ganda siguro iba iba yung characteristic ni Great Wall pag iba iba rin seasons

  4. ganda ng view when you went there, better than the time we were there.

  5. Love all your posts. It's been interesting to read about your travels. Just wanted to know whether we can purchase the return tickets for bus 867 beforehand or the day of travel?

  6. Another nice and not so touristy section of the Great Wall is in Huangya Pass, near Beijing. It offers the same magnificent views but with a bit of privacy.

  7. is there a visa going there , where didi u get it, how much visa , what are the requirements, what is the cheap airline going there

    1. Hi yup, but i think there might be some deal with the CN government with regards to the visa..? we can't say for sure but I had to request for a visa then. I booked thru Cebu Pacific. You can read more tips here, I detailed my 12 day itinerary during my first trip to China

  8. Hi! Super happy I found your blog! I'd really like to go to China but since I can't find anyone to go with me, thinking about solo travel. Hindi ba nakakatakot mag solo travel sa China?

    1. Hi there, I have to be honest I was really freaking out during my flight to China. I was worried that 1) I wouldn't be very safe since I was alone 2) Couldn't speak Chinese 3) I was out of my comfort zone.. but I bit the bullet anyway and had so much fun and learned a lot!! My biggest tip to you is to do some research so you wouldn't get lost. I didnt have a smartphone then so I just took the taxi whenever I got lost (especially in the provinces). China is relatively safe but just be alert and aware of your surroundings :) Hope you push through with your plans


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