Camping on the Great Wall

Do you like camping in the great outdoors? Have you ever visited the Great Wall of China, or did you visit and there were loads of tourists? Luckily, there’s a way to satisfy your camping urges while also fulfilling your desire to experience the Great Wall in peace.

Construction of the Great Wall began in 220 BC and was periodically updated for thousands of years, particularly during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), until its length exceeded 21 thousand kilometres. Nowadays the Great Wall is a symbol of China’s enduring history and strength, with thousands of tourists visiting its most well-known and easily accessible parts every day. However, a quick journey from Beijing to DaFuTuo offers the opportunity to experience the Wall in all its glory, without masses of tourists taking away from the experience.

Getting to DaFuTuo from Nanjing is relatively painless. First, you’ll need to get into contact with Great Wall Fresh, a family-owned business that provides you with accommodation (if you only want to hike the Wall) or camping gear, food and drinks, and hiking tours if you prefer having a guide. Then, you’ll need to take the high-speed train from Nanjing to Beijing, which only lasts from 3 to 5 hours. Once in Beijing, you take the 919 Express coach from the Deshengmen Bus Station towards Yanqin; it comes every 8 minutes and lasts about an hour-and-a-half. From DaFuTuo station, a member of the Chen family (Great Wall Fresh owners) will either personally pick you up or arrange for a taxi to take you to the charming village of Chenjiapu, which takes another 20 minutes. Once you’ve arrived at the Great Wall Fresh farm, the Chen family provides you with a large, tasty, and mostly-vegetarian meal that is made with fresh ingredients from their own garden, which you can eat outside in an idyllic orchard setting with a table set up. At this point, you can plan your hiking route and itinerary!

There are two hiking options on the Great Wall from Chenjiapu: the easy path, which takes around 3 hours and loops back down to the village, or the hard path, which takes a little longer but still loops down to the village. Both routes largely consist of hiking parts of the Wall that are in disrepair, which can be a bit scary but is also quite rewarding, especially for seeing how nature has reconquered the ancient infrastructure of the Wall. The Chens will drive you up to the beginning of the path and set you up with all the necessary gear (tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat) and tell you where to go. It takes a gruelling 40-minute hike to get to the Wall, at which point you decide which route you’d like to take and find a camping spot. Our group chose to do the hard path, so we set out along the part of the Wall that was refurbished until we found a good camping spot. I would advise choosing a place that offers protection from the wind, such as any of the towers.

The spectacular view from our camping spot

The spectacular view from our camping spot

After choosing a suitable place to camp later that night, we began our journey through the more difficult terrain of the Wall. Be careful to watch your footing through this part and make sure you have appropriate footwear!

Nature begins to take over the Great Wall

Nature begins to take over the Great Wall

The perilous journey up to one of the oldest original towers on the Wall

The perilous journey up to one of the oldest original towers on the Wall

Not once did we see another tourist or traveller along the Wall, making for an incredibly peaceful adventure. Along the way, we stopped numerous times to admire the views and the wildlife, such as listening to the birds, watching the butterflies, and coming across cute skittish lizards. Finally, it was time to return to our campsite so we could relax, have some drinks, and catch the sunset in time.

Playing some card games and waiting for the sunset at our campsite (featuring two star EF employees: Myles Quinn and Bobby Zhang)

Playing some card games and waiting for the sunset at our campsite (featuring two star EF employees: Myles Quinn and Bobby Zhang)

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Absolutely breathtaking views

Absolutely breathtaking views

At night it began to get a little cold, so make sure to pack some warm layers. As for sleeping, the wind was the only disturbance, although it was more than manageable. Waking up the next morning to the amazing scenery made any annoyances worth it. We made our way back down to the farm within an hour, where we were once again treated to a fresh lunch cooked up by the Chens. In the afternoon they drove us to the Yanqing bus station, and we were back in Nanjing by nightfall! Camping on the Great Wall of China is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that must be done while you are in China.

None of this would have been possible without the amazing service and hospitality provided by Great Wall Fresh, and if you’d like to experience the same amazing adventure, please visit their website for more information: http://www.greatwallfresh.com

After walking the great wall you’ll need to relax, you should check out our blog on Blind Massages.

Or if you’re interested in becoming part of the EF Nanjing team click here.