It was three years ago that we went camping on the Great Wall of China. It is an experience that I think about often for two reasons, because:
1. It was a unique and once in a life time trip that was absolutely amazing.
2. It rained overnight and we were only able to actually enjoy being on the Great Wall for about 45 minutes before it got dark. We missed out on a 4 hour hike that cost us a total of $1,000.
We went on a trip to the Great Wall with Wanna Travel. They organize fun trips all over China for expats as well tourists. Considering the cheap prices in China, this company is quite expensive. However, it can be worth it if you don’t want to have the burden of getting around China by yourself. We have done trips with Wanna Travel as well as solo and or course, the solo trips were made difficult due to the language barrier.
If you have the time and motivation, I recommend going to the Great Wall on your own or with a different tour group that lets you spend more time on the wall. But this is a great option for expats who are in a time crunch.
The actual cost for this is currently 1,000 CNY ($150) however the pick up and drop off are in Beijing so you need to get your own tickets there. In our case, we took the speed train for $100 per person, each way. This is only slightly cheaper than flights and takes the same amount of time if you consider going through security and baggage lines.
When going on this trip with Wanna Travel, the program includes other activities as well as visiting the wall. These include a visit to the Forbidden City and eating authentic Beijing duck. In my opinion they try to squeeze too much in and don’t leave enough time for the wall. They also don’t take you to any popular touristy areas of the wall, which has its pros and cons.
In China when something goes wrong, expats refer to it as having a ‘China day’. It’s basically the slightly more racist version of Murphy’s law. During our visit to the Great Wall, we had quite the China day and arrived at the wall just 30 minutes before sunset on a cloudy day. We ran up and took photos, it was beautiful and then we had to rush to set up tents before nightfall.
There was no one else anywhere near us, so we got to BBQ and spend the night in tents right by the wall. When we had to use the bathroom, we’d climb the wall and go either on it for number 1 or on the other side for number 2. According to canine laws, we all “owned” the Great Wall by the end of the trip. All evidence was washed away overnight when the rain began.
The next morning we woke up soaked and frozen. We were supposed to have three or four hours to explore and hike the wall, but it was too dangerous in the rain. Even the path down the hill was a workout and we were all covered in mud from the many falls that we experienced on our way down. It was not the ideal situation and we were very disappointed.
You can visit the Great Wall of China without a tour group. You have to go to one of the the viewing locations where you can see the reconstructed wall, wait in line and buy souvenirs. It is great to combine this type of experience with one like ours. There are other companies that will take you hiking and camping along the wall. There are also certain stretches of the Wall where you can do this on your own with the right permit. Since we haven’t done this, I can’t tell you much more about this.
If you do end up considering Wanna Travel, you should check the weather forecast to make sure you don’t have a wasted trip like we did. Even though everything that could have gone wrong, did, we still had a great time! We just wish we had gotten to hike the Wall and spend more time there. We also would have made sure to go to a proper tourist Wall viewing spot as well. But how many people can say that they peed on the Great Wall of China, huh? Those Huns would have been proud!