Address: 110km Northeast of Beijing
Phone number: +86 (0)10 6903 5025, 6903 5030
Built during the Ming Dynasty, Simatai hasn’t been renovated in recent history. It is known for being a harder climb than some of the other sections. Steep inclines and high winds test visitors on the hike from one watchtower to the next.
On the east side, there are 12 towers which are open to visitors. Walking to the end of this stretch of the wall and back should take about two hours. A cable car, which operates between 8:00am and 4:30pm as long as it’s not too windy or cold, takes visitors up to the 8th tower.
To the west, it’s possible to walk all the way to the Jinshanling (金山岭) and Gubeikou (古北口) sections of The Great Wall. At a brisk pace, this takes about 4 to 5 hours.
As is the case for many major tourist attractions, the hawkers at Simatai can be incredibly persistent. While walking up the path that leads to the wall, they attach themselves to visitors like burrs on cloth. Don’t forget that they are there to do business and they will use whatever means they have to earn money.
For those that want to see the wall at sunset or sunrise, there are several places to stay nearby. If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay try Simatai Great Wall International Youth Hostel. It’s just a walk across the parking lot from the ticket booth.
How to Get There:
It’s about a 3 hour drive from Beijing to Simatai.
Tourist Buses leave from Xuanwumen (玄武门) at 8:00am on holidays and weekends and arrive back at about 6:00pm. 95 yuan includes the ride there and back and the entrance tickets. If you’re lucky, the tour guide will speak a little English. Check the "tourist buses" article for more information.
A cab ride reportedly costs about 400 to 500 yuan one way.
Many hotels and hostels offer a tour that will drop you off at Jin Shan Ling and pick you up at Simatai. These sections of the wall are excellent, as there are not too many tourists, the wall is original, but in good condition, and the views are amazing. Take note that the hike from Jin Shan Ling to Simatai is quite exhausting, especially in the heat of the summer. It takes about 4-5 hours, and is almost entirely uphill. Thankfully, if you’re feeling a bit ill, there is a shortcut that will cut about two hours off the hike. The tours cost around 150 yuan per person, not including the entrance tickets, which are another 90. Try to find one of the "no shopping" tours that are designed for foreigners, as the many Chinese tours will make useless stops at tea factories, shopping malls, etc.
Photos by Ethan Olson, June 2007