The Great Wall of China really must be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s a work out, and an architectural feat of magnitude impossible to match!
Beigou Village is a little over an hour outside of Beijing but also home to one of the most gorgeous portions of the (restored) Great Wall of China, the Mutianyu. In recent years, the local government has limited the number and types of vehicles that can bring tourists to this portion of the Wall so, although still occasionally crowded (especially on weekends) it is manageable and something that I’m certain I won’t forget in this lifetime.
The Brickyard Eco Retreat (http://brickyardatmutianyu.com/) is absolutely stunning and I don’t think I could recommend anything further. Started some 20 years ago, other “hotels” have started to pop up but this is where you want to be: a quiet oasis, with lovely rooms with two-story glass walls looking out, some toward the Great Wall (room 1-4 is stunning and on the end!). As part of the oasis theme, the rooms have no TV, or telephone, but they do have a fairly strong wifi connections just in case you can’t stay disconnected for too long.
If the Brickyard doesn’t seem to be your thing, they have sister properties called the Commune by the Great Wall (the most expensive) and the Schoolhouse (which has cooking classes if there are enough participants interested).
And for those who don’t want to walk, or take the shuttle provided by the Brickyard, I do know that there is a small hotel at the base of the tourist entry point to Mutianyu. I couldn’t find any details on line, but I know it exists, so it may be a tour-group only property, or one that only exists in Chinese, but if you really don’t want to stay at the Brickyard – which would be a mistake – I’m sure you can figure it out.
Sadly, this is where we fall short. The restaurant on the property is fine, and perhaps even good, but for the price of what you are paying for, it is obvious that we are paying for location and the utter lack of availability anywhere else. So, reader, come prepared for a lovely stay but also having to stay here for a decent meal. The menu doesn’t change so if you have limited interests or your diet is limited (like this vegetarian) it won’t be the most engaging meal but it does the trick. And the hotel does have some local craft beers from Beijing available so that was a nice “perk” (albeit expensive). (I can tell you that I did venture to another place for dinner and it was pretty dire so avoid the onsite recommendation, regardless of what food type you like. And they close around 18.00 which I still can’t get over!)
Really, is there anything else other than the Great Wall of China? I think not! The Brickyard has a map of trails for the adventurous, or they can drive you to the tourist drop-off site with ticket windows and you go up that way. There are 2 options from the drop off site: you can walk up a bunch of steps or you can take the chairlift (talk about breathtaking!). But if you are willing, and have good shoes, and are slightly in shape, I highly recommend “Trail 8” from the Brickyard. It’s a beast, and you will be winded by the time you make it to the Wall (in under 2 hours), but you will also be at the highest peak available and the walk “down” is all the more enjoyable. And the views down through the valley are like little I’ve seen. Stunning.
You can’t go to China, or Beijing, without going to the Great Wall of China. You just can’t. Sure, you can do day tours from Beijing but what I did, and what I would recommend, is that after a few days in Beijing of non-stop walking and touring, you give yourself a little bit of a respite, spend a night or two in Beigou, and really get to know the Great Wall of China.