If anyone knows me, I am much more of a “traveler” than a tourist. My favorite thing about traveling is knowing people that are local so you can get a local flavor for the city or country that you’re traveling in. I like the underground spots, the best restaurants, the cool non-tourist things.
That said The Great Wall of China was one of the most epic touristy things I’ve done in my life. So vast, so high, and the toboggan was the treat at the end of an intense hike. We went into it taking a stab at how do it properly and here are my tips on a great Great Wall experience.
1. Hire a driver to take you there and back. You can typically get one for around 600 Yuan which is roughly $85ish depending on the exchange rate. Our driver took us to Mu Tian Yu, one of the two tourist parts of the wall.
2. Get there early, and by early I mean 7am. Trust me it’s worth it. We got there at 8:30 which was great, but it would have been even better to get there at 7am for two reasons. One, It gets gnarly hot around 9-10am so getting there at 7 gives you a good amount of time in the cooler air. Two, the tourist busses show up around 9:30-10am and it gets littered with them. Makes for some lesser exciting pictures.
3. Buy a cable car ticket one way. It will save your legs for the wall hike which gets grueling. The ticket will cost you 60 Yuan, about $9USD.
4. Buy a toboggan sled ride ticket to come down the mountain. About another 60Yuan($9USD). You won’t be sorry.
5. Take the cable car up first. If your facing the wall as you come up, go left up the wall first. You can hike really high, and past the “tourist” area. The view is epic, and if you do it first, the temperature is cooler. You can get some great pics without tourists bombing your shots.
6. When you get off the cable car and get onto the wall, take a moment. Get present to where you are. It’s breathtaking. It’s epic. It’s something that not very many people get to experience. You are blessed.
7. Prepare for steps that are half the size of normal steps. It makes hiking awkward. I’m not quite sure why the Chinese love these steps. They’re harder to walk up and down.
8. You will be hustled by vendors that want to sell you water, Gatorade, beer and other trinkets. You can negotiate them down to half of what they ask you for initially. Get them down, then start to walk away. They will cave to your price.
9. Once you get to the top, you’ll see a “Non-Tourist” area. We went a little ways up, but for the sake of time, we didn’t go too far. I wanted to venture further.
10. At the top, there are some super steep stairs, when coming down, step sideways and put your weight into the wall so your center of gravity is balanced.
11. Depending on how much time you have you can keep going further, but either way, take the toboggan sled down the mountain. It is super fun and makes you feel like a kid trying out for Cool Runnings. They’re super easy to use. Its super fast to get down the mountain. This was one of my favorite parts. It’s a moment of bliss. (The video below will give you a little taste of it)
Obviously this is just one way of doing it, but coming from a point of view where we had no advice going into it, these are some good little bits of info that would have been helpful making decisions when we got there not knowing anything.