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There are conflicting reports of whether or not it is legal or permissible to sleep overnight on the Great Wall. Some tour companies say you are going to be sleeping ON the wall when in reality you sleep NEAR the wall. As you plan your trip, do the research to be sure you get the trip and experience you are paying for and expecting!
Beijing is such an amazing travel destination and it is great when visitors can really do unique things and fully get involved with the history and culture. The Great Wall is one of the biggest attractions and easily accessible from the city, but a lot of travelers can get stuck going to the really touristy sections and not see any of the natural beauty.
Jinshanling Great Wall is the perfect section to let travlelers escape the city surroundings and really get a scenic view of this massive monument. It is about a 2 - 2.5 hour drive from Beijing, but it is nice to see the scenery along the way and view the countryside. The best part of this section is that visitors and hikers can stay overnight on the actual Wall and really get an intimate experience. Staying out overnight on the Wall is not only a really unique and special thing to do, but it means that the photography opportunities will be endless. Generally, the only other people seen on this section of the Wall are photographers setting up cameras at the crack of dawn to capture the sunrise. The sun rising over the Wall set among green hills really is the view of a lifetime.
From Jinshanling, it is convenient to hike the Wall to the Simatai section, grab lunch there and then head back to Beijing. It is a prefect 2 day trip. Simatai is another beautiful section, partially restored and offers amazing scenery. The hike between the two sections is prefect after a night`s camp out on the Wall. It takes anywhere from 2.5 - 5 hours depending on the pace and time stopping for photos! The difficulty is moderate but doable for most people if they just take their time and wear the proper foot wear. The hike is a mix of up and down hill slopes with a few steep stairs in each watchtower (about 30 watchtowers total between the 2 sections).
Staying out overnight on the Wall is such a unique experience for all travelers - great for adventure travelers or exciting for families with younger kids. It does take a bit of scheduling and planning which can be done with the help of a good travel company in Beijing. Companies offer overnight trips to the Wall, but just make sure to choose the right one. A good company will offer transportation to and from Beijing, meals, sleeping gear, entrance fees for the Wall and possibly a stop to another attraction convenient along the way. Most importantly though, a good company will not make stops that entail factory shopping - beware as a lot of operators do this to unsuspecting travelers wasting their time (and they will be making commissions). If the price seems to good to be true, it probably is and you will make up for it with poor service or time-wasting scams like shopping.
If you select a quality company, they can also help with special arrangements such as busing between Jinshanling and Simatai, opposed to hiking, This is good for families or groups who have individuals unable to do a longer hike etc. Reliable agencies can also offer additional accommodation at the base of the Wall in a hotel if someone in the group does not want to stay overnight under the stars. Remember, these types of service extras should be at no extra cost.Getting to the Great Wall outside of Beijing and arranging sleeping gear, meals etc. for an overnight stay isn`t feasible for travelers so it is OK to plan with a travel company as long as you know they offer quality and reliability. Ask questions, read the information and request some reviews from other travelers. When planned right, overnight on the Great Wall is an unforgettable experience that will make the trip of a lifetime!