Great Wall of China at Huanghua

Admission:

Free; Lake Scenic Area: RMB 34

Hours:

24 hours daily; Lake Scenic Area: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

How to get there:

Bus 916 or Express Bus 916 (RMB 12, about an hour; jiǔyīliù lùkuài, 916路快) from Donzhimen Transport Station (Dōngzhímén Shūniǔzhàn, 东直门枢纽站) take you to Huairou (Huáiróu, 怀柔). After getting off at Mingzhu Square (Míngzhū Guǎngchǎng, 明珠广场), take a minibus (RMB 10) or a taxi (about RMB 40) to the wall (Huánghuā Chángchéng, 黄花长城). For a taxi, be sure to negotiate the price before leaving. The last bus from Huairou back to the city leaves at 5:30 p.m., so don't dally. The last slow bus leaves at 7 p.m.

Once known as the "wild wall" for the extent to which nature had reclaimed it, the Great Wall at Huanghua (Huánghuā Chángchéng, 黄花长城) was partly renovated in 2005. However, it's still a long way from becoming anything like the super-touristy Badaling and, as such, Huanghua makes a great alternative Great Wall hike for those willing to do a bit of climbing.

Like other sections of the Great Wall near Beijing, Huanghua snakes along mountain ridges, rising and falling with the peaks. On the site's western end, the wall meets a lake, and on its eastern side, a reservoir. Many of the wall's rising sections are composed of slick, flat stones without steps, while others feature steep, crumbling steps, making caution the order of the day.

This section of the Great Wall, built by a Ming Dynasty general, was initially reported to be poorly constructed and over-funded. Furious, the emperor had the general beheaded. Later, reports to the contrary—in fact praising the construction—left egg on the emperor's face, but they came too late to help the poor general. Returned to imperial favor, he was given a proper tomb burial and a stele to honor him.

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