Peter, I would like to hike on the Great Wall in China for two or three weeks, either in the fall 2009 or spring 2010. I would also like to see the buried soldiers. I am a healthy, active, 75-year-old female, but I do not want to carry a 60-pound pack around all day long.
–Sylvia, Mead, Wash.
There are plenty of companies offering hikes on the Great Wall that don’t require tents, climbing gear, or heavy backpacks. The best time to go is between March and November, when temperatures are not too cold. Tour Beijing offers multi-day trips to hike the sections of the wall that are near Beijing. Each day, you’ll spend between two and five hours on a different part of the wall, and each night, you’ll stay in a different hotel. Conveniently, each day, the company delivers your luggage to the next hotel. So you only have to hike with what you need for one day.
If you want to take a longer trip, try a company such as Walking Softly Adventures. Its nine-day tour, from October 13–23, includes seven days of hiking on the Laolongtou, Dongjiakou, Simatai, and Jinshanling sections of the wall. Simple village hotel accommodations, English-speaking guides, and meals are included in the price. Two levels of hiking are offered: moderate for hikers of average fitness, and a more difficult option for those who really want to challenge themselves. The best part is that the hikes begin right at the front door of your hotel (or just a short shuttle ride away), and you need only bring a day pack with you.
Most Great Wall tours don’t make a stop to visit the buried soldiers, known as the “Terracotta Army.” However, it is easy to book a separate, one-day tour once you get to China, either through your hotel concierge or the local tourism bureau. Make sure you go with a reputable company (such as Tour Beijing), and that you only pay between $20 and $40. Beware of swindlers who congregate in places like the Forbidden City and offer you tour tickets for upwards of $100.