Camping on the Great Wall of China will forever stay as one of the most incredible things we have ever done. As far as I can remember I’ve been hearing about this incredible feat of architecture, one of the most famous constructions in the world, but little did I know that one day I’d be able to camp on top.
During our journey from Hong Kong to France overland, we went camping on the Great Wall of China independently, without any guide. We decided to write this guide to help you do the same.
In this article you’ll find everything you need to know to go camping on the Great Wall of China :
- Is it legal to go?
- Which equipment do you need?
- How to get the required equipment?
- Where to go camping on the Great Wall of China?
- How to get to the starting point?
- Our experience at the Great Wall of China
- Tips to have a great experience
Headed towards Mongolia? You might wanna know the cheapest way to get to Ulaanbaatar from Beijing!
Let’s start with a little teaser:
Camping on the Great Wall of China, is it legal ?
To be honest with you I have no idea if it’s actually legal or not. What I know is that many tour agencies offer the possibility of camping on the Great Wall of China. There’s no sign prohibiting camping up there and the following day during our hike, we met local Chinese who also did the same. I guess it’s kind of a grey area, where camping is tolerated as long as you respect a few unwritten rules.
During our adventures traveling in China, we camped multiple times in other places around the country and we never ran into trouble.
However you’d better avoid the most touristic areas of the Great Wall of China if you want to camp.
Which equipment do you need ?
If you go camping on the Great Wall during the warmer months of the year, a sleeping bag and a mattress would be already enough. There are several ruins you can sleep in that will shelter you from the wind and a light rain.
However you might want to have a tent to be well protected from the elements, and have more privacy from other animals and insects.
How to get the required equipment ?
Assuming you don’t have the required equipment in your backpack, you would need to buy or rent it.
If you want to buy equipment, I’ll strongly suggest going to a Decathlon store in Beijing. They offer tents, mattresses and sleeping bags at an affordable price for good quality. You might pay around 30 to 40$ for everything.
If, like us, you prefer to rent here’s what we did and how much it cost us :
We rented a 3-person tent for 80RMB, 3 sleeping pads for 10RMB each and one sleeping bag for 30RMB. The price included a 3-day rental, which seems to be the standard for this shop. They don’t speak any English, and we had to pay a deposit of 500RMB.
In total we paid 140RMB, which is the equivalent of slightly less than 20$. We were 3 adults + a two-year-old kid camping around the end of June.
Here is the address :
The name of the shop is Sanfo.
The Great Wall of China is higher in altitude than Beijing, therefore it can be much colder. Keep that in mind, especially if you plan on camping on the Great Wall of China during the winter ! It might be snowing up there.
Where to go camping on the Great Wall of China?
The Great Wall of China stretches for thousands of kilometers. Therefore there are many different locations to camp. The farther you are from Beijing, the less touristic the Wall usually is. But be aware that most parts of the Wall are in disrepair and some might not be suitable for camping. On the other hand, you won’t be able to camp at the most touristic areas such as Badaling, Mutianyu or Jinshanling, the guards won’t let you put your tent up there, even at night.
Therefore, to go camping on the Great Wall of China, you need a place still in an acceptable condition and not too touristic so the authorities don’t bother patrolling. Multiple places near Beijing fit that description such as Gubeikou and Jiankou. The guy at the shop suggested us to go to Hebei province, but that is a long journey from Beijing.
Do you like hiking? Check out our article on how to hike the highest mountain in Taiwan, the Yushan mountain!
In the end, we chose to go to Jiankou so the rest of the article will focus on this part of the wall.
The advantage of Jiankou is that it’s the closest spot from Beijing. It’s also known to be one of the most scenic areas of the Great Wall.
How to get to the village of Xizhazi, the start of the hike to the Jiankou part of the Great Wall of China ?
Step 1 : Go to Dongzhimen
The best way to start is to get to the Dongzhimen metro station from wherever you are in Beijing. You will find a bus station there.
Step 2 : Bus 916快 (1 hours and 20 minutes)
From the Dongzhimen Public Transport Hub, take “916快”(RMB12) Remember not 916, but 916快(=916 express) as 916 will take you about 1 hour more. Fare is 12RMB. It will be 50% cheaper if you have a Beijing transportation card, otherwise you need to bring the exact fare, no change will be given.
After 14 stops and around 1hr 20 mins, exit at Yang Jia Yuan 楊家園
Step 3 : Walk 10 minutes, or take a taxi/bus for a short ride
Walk 10 minutes and arrive at Yu Jia Yuan 于家园 bus stop. To get there, you have to keep going the same way as the bus you just went down for 300 meters, and then turn right at the first main intersection. The bus stop is on the right hand side 250 meters later. This is how it looks like on Baidu Map. A taxi should be really cheap, definitely less than 1US$, or you can take the bus H62.
If you need to buy provisions or eat it would be a good idea to do it here.
Step 4 : Bus H25 at 11:30 and 16:30, or take a taxi (~1 hour)
From 于家园一区 Yu Jia Yuan Yi Qu, take bus H25 (RMB8) to Xizhazi 西栅子 (note that there are only 2 buses a day: 11:30, 16:30) The ride takes about 1 hour.
There are 3 stops around Xizhazi village. Xizhazi dong (East), Xizhazi and Xizhazi xi (West) in sequence. If you choose to hike up from the middle part of the Jiankou Wall e.g. Zheng Bei Lou, you can get off at Xizhazi.
Since there are only 2 buses at this stop, you may not find much information about the time of the bus.
In case of snowing, the bus service of H25 may be cancelled. You can call the district bus station at 69619132 for more information, but they definitely won’t speak any English.
There are some private cars waiting around the H25 bus stop to pick tourists up. A good fare should be around RMB80-100 to Xizhazi.
In total, it should take 2 hours and a half by bus from Dongzhimen and 20RMB (less than 3$US).
Hiking from Xizhazi to Jiankou
Jiankou is the name of a village located down from the wall. This part of the wall is confusingly also called Jiankou. Therefore we headed for the village of Jiankou, which was a big mistake. To get from the village to the Wall was an adventure that we will surely remember for ages. It took us almost 4 hours to get up there, and at time we thought we would never make it. Bear in mind that we were carrying provisions for a day and I was carrying a 2 year-old baby.
The best solution is to head to the other side of the mountain, to a village named Xizhazi. Public transportation is even more limited on this side, since there’s only a few buses a day, but you can hike to the wall in about 30 minutes on a straightforward path.
Camping in Jiankou
Once you are on the Great Wall of China, you can start to hike or camp anywhere you think is suitable.
Referring to the aforementioned map, if you took the left path to Jiankou, you’ll need to hike up after reaching the wall to get to a tower. That’s exactly where we camped that day.
Be aware, the hike from Jiankou to the Zhengbei Tower is hard, and involves some rock climbing sections. Therefore, I’d recommend you to directly hike from Xizhazi to the Zhengbei Tower if you don’t feel confident.
The Zhengbei Tower also offered a great camping spot, even though it might be more popular.
What about YOU? Let us know if that’s on your bucket list, or Share your experience camping on the Great Wall of China!