Archives For Jiankou & Xizhazi Village

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Hi John,

Thanks again for a great day.

Pictures attached of the blocked tower (20th) – I think it’s the one where the hike transfers from ‘Wild’ to ‘Restored’ and we had to edge out along a small ledge and climb over the blockage into the watchtower from there – but there was quite a drop below.

In the last image you can see behind the woman a lower part of the wall, to the right of the picture which is where we climbed over (about 1 meter in heigh).

Hope this helps!


Update 5th of May, 2016.



The Mutianyu authority started to build blockage from Jiankou to Mutianyu on 30th March. The entrance at Watch Tower 20 was closed off. It is still manageable if you are willing to climb over the 60cm-high wall next to the entrance. The hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu now is becoming increasingly popular. It’s a pity that the doorway was blocked.


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We went in early August, but it’s not so hot in this village called Xizhazi (西柵子村). Wear a pair of long pants (because of the shrubs) and good pair of walking/hiking shoes (because of loose stones every where) when hiking up to the Great Wall. Do not climb the Great Wall when it rains!

There’re several entrances to the hike, and it only takes a few minutes to reach from the village. You’ll know you’re at the start of the trail when you see a giant sign (in Chinese & English) saying one should not climb the Great Wall, etc. The total time to & from the Great Wall is about 2 hours. Plan more time if you actually want to be on the Great Wall.

This village is in Huairou district located at the foot of Jiankou Great. There was an entrance cost to the village for 20 Yuan per person. We stayed at HF Hostel  (we strongly recommend it). It was only 100 Yuan per night for the two of us. (Price includes 3 meals; need to ask for drinking water if you don’t mind drinking their water. They raise their own chicken for eggs and grow their own vegetables & corn. The owner Mr. Zhao makes an excellent grill trout – so fresh! If you clean out your plates, they’ll think they don’t feed you enough.) Tourists go there all year round. Weekdays have much less tourists. Remember to bring toilet paper & be polite!

We also took a walk in a lavender farm which is located on the west side of village.

Xizhazi Village 西栅子村

john  —  April 30, 2012

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Situated at the foot of Jiankou Great Wall, Xizhazi Village is the base of Jiankou Great Wall where visitors can stop for a rest. If you do a day trip to Jiankou, it’s not necessary to stay overnight. If you want to experience the sunrise and sunset, this village is the best location.

Most the local farmers have newly-built guesthouses, and they are basic and simple. Simple but fabulous home-made local Chinese food is available at these guesthouses. Jiankou is becoming a popular destination among local Chinese, so you have to reserve an accommodation if you go there at weekend, otherwise just go straight. The local farmers can not speak any English and it’s recommended to employ an English-speaking guide in Beijing.

Standard twin room with private facility will cost RMB 150-200. Multi-shared rooms (3-4 people) will cost RMB 180 each room and the local heated brick bed (Kang) will cost RMB 20 as well. A pulic toilet and shower is available for multi-shared accommodation.


Most of the farmhouses in the village receive guests. They also offer authentic “peasant dishes” including all sorts of wild vegetables, free range eggs, pan-fried green onion cakes, cornmeal dumpling with vegetable stuffing, millet gruel and all sorts of barbecue.

How to get there

 By bus:

Take bus No.916 at Dongzhimen bus hub (subway line 2 is available) in Beijing and get off at Yingbinlu Station(迎宾路)) in Huairou, then transfer bus 862 and get off at Yujiayuan (于家园). The bus runs only twice a day between Huairou and Xizhazi. The leaving time is: from Yujiayuan to xizhazi: 11:30am, 4:30pm; from xizhazi to yujiayuan: 6:30am, 1:15pm. The one way duration is around 70 mins.


  By car:

Take Jingcheng (Beijing – Chengde) Expressway, pass Yanxi Roundabout, Shentangyu Village, turn left at Badaohe Bridge and drive along until you reach Xizhazi Village.

Jiankou Zhengbeilou Tower

john  —  April 24, 2012
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After checking out the Beijing Knot on the previous day, today’s mission was to hike from the village, to the Zhengbeilou tower then to the Mutianyu (restored) section of the Great Wall.  After another hour long hike up the mountain, we could see the impressive Jiankou section of the wall.

From the Zhengbeilou tower the view was more impressive.

In the picture above, you can see the wall leading up to the tower from the west is nearly gone replaced by a steep slope.  The tower itself is still in decent shape and thus you can climb inside and enjoy the view from the roof.

The great wall continues east and that is the path we take.

The Wall as viewed from inside one of the Watchtowers.

Continue Reading…

Surviving Jiankou

john  —  April 6, 2012

There are at least 5 major sections of the Great Wall near Beijing and each section of the wall is different in character and in the type of tourist it appeals to. For example you have Badaling which is easily accessible, immaculately restored and extremely crowded and then you have sections like Gubiekou that are hard to reach, largely in ruins and fairly isolated.

After visiting the more well known sections of the Great Wall such as Simatai, Gubeikou and Badaling, I was ready for some hard core wall hiking. I was ready for Jiankou.

Why jiankou

The Jiankou section of the Great Wall is extremely difficult and dangerous to climb in some sections, joins the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, has incredible scenery, is very hard to access and a must do for any serious Great Wall enthusiast. Basically walking the Jiankou section is an adventure that no other section of the Great Wall can provide.

Jiankou is a Ming Dynasty section of the Great Wall and built in 1368 along steep mountain ridges and tall cliffs. In these areas where the wall has been destroyed by natural degradation, the only way up or down the wall is over crumbling ruins with very steep or vertical surfaces.

The plan

The Jiankou section of the Great Wall stretches from the Nine Eye Tower (Jiu Yan Lou) in the north to Zheng Bei Lou in the south east and has around 22 towers. I heard that Jiankou does not take more than a few hours walk so my plan was to hike from the Nine Eye Tower past Zhengbeilou towards the Mutianyu section. If I could not reach the Mutianyu section by 4 or 5pm, I’d stop at that time, leave the wall and make my way back to Beijing.

This plan sounded nice in theory but did not work in practice.

Getting there

The starting point for hiking Jiankou is a small village called Xi zha zi 5 that is around 75-80 kilometers north of Beijing and hard to reach. To get to the village you first catch the subway to Dongzhimen station on line two then catch the 916 express bus at Dongzhimen Wai long distance bus station. The bust station is right next to exit B at Dongzhimen station and hard to miss.

The 916 express bus takes around 90 minutes ands terminates at a small city called Huairou where you get off at the last stop. From Huairou you catch a taxi to the village and the taxi ride takes just over one hour.

At Huairou you’ll be mobbed by black (unofficial) taxi drivers as soon as you step of the bus who will all want to take you to the Great Wall. They will probably offer to take you to the village for around 200rmb which is way too much. A fair price is around 100 to 120rmb so don’t pay more. I ended up paying 80rmb after half an hour of haggling and the taxi was a small old rust bucket with a tiny fuel efficient engine.

The drive from Huairou to the village is through the mountains and very enjoyable with gorgeous scenery. The taxi driver Mr Ma told me there was no way I’d make the hike from Nine Eye Tower to Mutianyu so we agreed that either he or one of his buddies would pick me up in the afternoon near the Zhengbeilou.

From the Village to the wall

The village is small and only has a population of around 300 people who are mostly farmers. Walking through the village is a great way to see a side of China that most tourist never experience. Once you pass through the village, there are a number of paths you can take and only one of the paths heads towards Nine Eye Tower.

I had to ask for directions three times to find right path. The locals are friendly so if you are not sure, ask for “jiu yan lou” or just point at the wall which is clearly visible I the distance look lost. Looking lost was not hard to do and worked for me.

Once you are on the path, the way to go is clear and you will have no problem reaching the wall. The path goes through very heavy scrub and reaches the wall north of Beijing Knot after 30 minutes of walking.

The wall itself

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The wall was nothing like what I expected and these three words sum the wall up perfectly. Overgrown, dangerous and awesome.

I estimate that at least 80% of the wall was intact with the battlements and the road/path between the battlements in surprisingly good condition. The main areas where the battlements and the road were in ruins or had been destroyed was in the very steep sections south of the Beijing Knot.


Walking the intact sections of the wall would have been very easy if those sections were not overgrown. I’m not talking about a few weeds and the occasional shrub. I am talking about serious overgrowth with very thick shrubs, grass, weeds and small trees. Walking the wall in these parts was like walking through a jungle with the sky blocked by foliage and no sense of direction. The path through the jungle was very narrow an in some parts you had to squeeze through entangled shoots and branches.

I’ve seen the wall restored and in immaculate condition, in complete ruins and in various states of disrepair but I have never seen a relatively intact wall like the Jiankou section that was so overgrown and covered in vegetation. This part of the wall does not need restoration. It needs weeding. Badly.


I always thought that Jiankou’s reputation for being dangerous was exaggerated but I was very wrong. The northern section of Jiankou from the Nine Eye Tower to the Beijing Knot is safe and easy to walk. The section from Beijing knot to Zhengbeilou is extremely dangerous with three areas where the wall has been destroyed and you have to use hand and foot holds to climb up. Like rock climbing with out the safety rope. One of these sections is especially dangerous and so steep that the surface of the wall is basically vertical.

Being stupid and reckless, I climbed all the dangerous sections, even the vertical section. I was half way up vertical section and running out of hand and footholds when it finally occurred to me the dangerous the wall was in and how stupid I was to try and climb it. At this stage climbing back down was much more dangerous than continuing so I ignored the drop below, stopped thinking about how the bricks and rocks I was clinging to were laid over 600 years ago, resisted the urge to panic and kept climbing.

The drop from these steep sections can be over 6 meters and the bottom is rock and brick so if you fall, you are going to break something and will definitely not be walking away. Jiankou is an extremely isolated section of the wall and I only saw two other people that day. If you hurt yourself there, you may not get help for a long time and the nearest hospital is hours away. People have died climbing Jiankou so be aware of the danger and be careful.

Getting home

Walking and climbing Jiankou took much longer than expected so I could not even reach Zhengbeilou. In the end I ran out of time and had to leave the wall at Lian Kou at around 4:15pm. The walk from the wall down the mountain to the pick up point took around 45 minutes.

I called Mr Ma on the walk back to let him know I was on my way and he said one of his buddies would be there. Great. Reached the pick up point and there was no driver so I called Mr Ma again who said no one was coming to pick me up, hung up on me and refused to take any more calls. Wow. So what do you do when you are stuck in the middle of no where with the sun setting? Start walking, stick your thumb out and hope for a lift.

After around an hour of walking I managed to catch a lift with a very friendly family from Beijing who were great. They dropped me off at a bus stop on a some main road and I caught a bus an hour later to Huairou. By that time were no more buses to Beijing so I found a taxi and negotiated a lift to the nearest Beijing subway station for 80rmb. I eventually arrived back at the hostel at 11pm. An exciting end to an exciting day.

The future

Zhengbeilou is one of the most popular sections of the Great Wall for photography and with an altitude of 991 meters, the scenery and views are fantastic. My next Great Wall trip will be to walk from Zhengbeilou all the way to Mutianyu which will be a great walk.

(Blog posted by China Travel Go on December 19, 2011 by Brendon. You can see the original article by following this link to China Travel Go)

The Heroes of the Jiankou

john  —  March 31, 2012

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The Great Wall of China is one of Beijing’s most popular tourist attractions and one of its most dangerous. Of all the sections of the Great Wall of China near Beijing, the Jiankou section is one of the most spectacular and rewarding sections to visit and the most dangerous. Every year dozens of tourists are stranded, injured or even killed at Jiankou because of rugged and difficult terrain or bad weather.

The Heroes of Jiankou

When ever a tourist at Jiankou is in need of help, it is fire fighters of the Huairou District Detachment of the Beijing Fire and Rescue Service who come to their aid. Huairou is a small city around 90 minutes north of Beijing and is the gateway to Jiankou and many other parts of the Great Wall of China. Roughly 66% of the rescue missions carried out by the Huairou detachment are at Jiankou and they even have a dedicated 6 man mountain rescue team for Jiankou.

Standing in there you will know how small are you and how great thing people can do.

With 35 rescue missions on Jiankou alone in 2010 and over 52 rescues in 2011, the fire fighters of Huairou are kept busy. Tourists to Jiankou are often unprepared with inappropriate footwear and clothing. Many tourists will often wear sandals where heavy hiking boots are a minimum and wearing shorts and t-shirts where temperatures can drop below zero in late Autumn and early Spring. Many tourists will also be ill prepared and carrying just water with no hiking equipment, food or emergency supplies.

When you are hiking through desolate and rugged mountainous terrain on steep slippery paths with long vertical drops, it is common sense to take precautions and be prepared. This common sense applies to the Jiankou section of the Great Wall which is in the mountains where hiking can be very dangerous especially when the weather quickly turns bad.


Not only are unprepared tourists putting themselves at risk and ruining what should be an incredible travel experience, they are also putting the lives of the Huairou fire fighters at risk. The men from Hauirou have a dangerous job and many of their rescue missions involve climbing up and down cliff faces and traversing parts of the wall that are very unstable and prone to collapse. Often they will put their lives at risk hauling or carrying injured tourists in these conditions while trying to keep their bodies steady without aggravating injuries.

The silly part is over 90% of these dangerous rescue missions could easily be avoided.

How to visit the Jiankou Section of the Great Wall of China?

Footwear and clothing – Make sure you are wearing hiking shoes or boots with proper ankle support. Twisting an ankle may not be life threatening but having to be carried down the mountain to the nearest vehicle access point which can be hours away is not fun. Check on the weather and dress appropriately. Keep in mind that weather conditions can change quickly. I love hiking and climbing the wall in just shorts and singlet but always pack warm clothing in my daypack if there is any chance of the weather turning bad.

Food and drink – One of the best meals you’ll have while in China is lunch perched on the Great Wall. The mountain views are incredible, the settings are unique and the wilderness is awesome. So make sure you pack plenty of food and water and enough so if you do get stuck on the wall over night, you will not go thirsty or hungry.

Be fit – You need to be fit to visit Jiankou. The hike from the drop off point to the wall is at least 45 minutes through thick scrub and steep hills. Once you reach the wall, you will be in for at least 3-4 hours of very intense and strenuous hiking and climbing. If you are not fit, you are not going to make the trip, you’ll have a horrible time and you may be placing your self and others in danger. Keep in mind that people die at Jiankou. This does not mean you cannot visit the Great Wall of China, just choose a more suitable section such as Mutianyu or Badaling.

Try not to go alone – I have to admit I am often on the wall alone which is not good because if something goes wrong, I have no one to help me. For example if I fell down on one of the steeper sections and broke a leg, the nearest road could be hours away and I may have to wait on the wall for over a day before being found by some one. Don’t let being alone stop you from visiting Jiankou but if possible, go with other people.

If you want to visit Jiankou, this article will tell you how Surviving Jiankou Great Wall of China

(Blog posted by China Travel Go on Feburary 1st, 2012 by Brendon. You can see the original article by following this link to China Travel Go)