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Cycle the Great Wall of China

n/a days
Grade 3

About the challenge

The Great Wall of China is our constant companion for the week as it stretches for 6000km in a snaking line across China; we have time to appreciate the small section we are following as it meanders across the mountains. It conjures up a sense of history which is difficult to grasp until you have had the opportunity to experience it. With several climbs to tax us along the route we will certainly feel our legs but the sheer privilege of seeing this land and its people will outweigh any aches and pains. This challenge is physically demanding, it has been graded moderate but expect a tough day or two in the saddle. It does offer fabulous scenery and a fascinating insight into a rich culture and history as a reward for all your hard work.

The itinerary

Day 1: Depart London for Beijing

Day 2: Arrive Beijing International Airport
Drive approx 2 hrs

Transfer to our hotel in Huangyaguan, where we can freshen up, sort out our bikes and relax! There will be a full trip briefing in the evening. Night hotel.

Day 3: Huangyaguan – Beizhuang
Cycle approx 95km / 9 – 10 hours

Huangyaguan is a small town situated in a beautiful valley in the heart of the Yanshan Mountains, with wonderful views of the Great Wall of China, which we’ll see frequently throughout today’s ride. Leaving the town behind us, we are soon on quiet roads which lead us into open valleys planted with fruit trees. Our route is gently undulating this morning, giving our legs a good warm-up. Passing a beautiful lake, we roll through villages, farmland and orchards until a steeper, longer climb takes us to our lunch-stop. After a rest we have a wonderful descent, but it’s not long before we start going uphill again! Our climbs this afternoon are a little more strenuous, but the views of the mountains get better and better! After a stiff and fairly long climb, we cross the province border and enjoy some great mountain views, then a long twisting downhill section. Our route continues to undulate, with a lovely descent through a steep-sided gorge; crossing the river, we reach our accommodation and can relax! Night hotel.

Day 4: Beizhuang – Jinshanlin
Cycle approx 92km / 8 – 10 hours

Today sees us tackling steeper and longer hills, but the views of the Great Wall and surrounding mountains get better and better! We start on predominantly flat roads, though they quickly become more hilly as we head out through beautiful valleys with wonderful views to each side. We see the Great Wall in the distance several times as we pass through small villages. The Wall crosses our road as we tackle a long, fairly steady climb; we stop for lunch a little further on. Well rested, we continue our climb – the last section growing steeper – and then start our long descent. On the way down we pass through a village which looks as though it hasn’t changed for centuries, so take it easy and have a good look around! On the approach to Jinshanlin we pass under a large archway and then have a gentle climb to our hotel. The Great Wall at Jinshanlin offers spectacular views; if you’re not too tired this evening it’s an easy half-hour walk to see it. Night hotel.

Day 5: Jinshanlin – Tianmenshan Cycle approx 78km / 7 – 9 hours

Our morning sees us cycling over predominantly flat or descending road; the views of the Great Wall as we cycle through the Jinshanlin – Gubeiko region are wonderful. Passing through small villages and towns which give us a wonderful insight into rural life in this region, we have lunch and rest in preparation for a hillier afternoon! After a short climb we enjoy a long sweeping descent into a very picturesque gorge; following the valley we pass fishing lakes and can see the Great Wall perched up on the ridge to our left. Crossing the bridge, our road starts to climb, and we can admire the views of the turrets above the rocky face of the gorge. The gradient grows steeper at the end, but we are rewarded with wonderful views over the valley with its high rock walls and endless mountain views. It’s a lovely downhill ride to our hotel, situated near the No 1 Waterfall, a popular tourist spot and a scenic place for a wander if you wish (optional; entrance fee applies).

Day 6: Tianmenshan – Mutianyu
Cycle approx 82km / 7 – 9 hours

A spectacular morning’s cycling awaits us! Climbing and descending through mountain gorges, with short tunnels taking us through the rock walls, we are surrounded by incredible panoramas of seemingly endless mountain ridges – every hair-pin bend brings us a new view! After lunch, and a wonderful descent with views of the Great Wall before us, we head through the busy modern town of Huairou – a contrast to the remote villages we’ve passed through and a good insight into contemporary China. Our roads are a little busier than normal as we approach Mutianyu, where probably the best-preserved section of the entire Great Wall, complete with 22 watch towers, awaits us.

Day 7: Mutianyu to Xiawan
Cycle approx 100km / 9 – 11 hours

Today sees our big climb, but there’s an afternoon of descending to make up for it! Leaving Mutianyu behind us, our road undulates with short ups and downs through villages and lovely scenery. As we start our long climb (approx 20km) the road cuts through an impressive section of the Great Wall; a little further on we enjoy spectacular views over the Wall and the lake below us. The climb gets steeper as we get higher – this is a true challenge! At the top there are wonderful views of the surrounding valleys and mountains; we stop for lunch shortly after. Our afternoon’s ride is basically one long varied descent, with a few flattish or short uphill sections thrown in to remind us to use our legs! We pass through villages and cross rivers and valleys, enjoying the scenery and the freewheeling!

Day 8: Xiawan - Yanqing
Cycle approx 90km / 9 – 11 hours

Today’s ride takes us from the mountains to the lowland plain that surrounds Beijing. Our ride starts in a narrow valley and soon we’re winding our way up through the mountains on a long but relatively gentle climb. Our road follows the course of the Black River and the views of the river, wooded valleys and steep gorges are truly stunning. The descent that follows is steep initially and then eases off, punctuated by short rises into villages. We enjoy a rare flat section as we ride parallel to the White River, and have lunch by a lake. We ride uphill to a dam, then roll along for a while and climb again; a fast, exciting long descent ends our afternoon. Exhilarated, we ride carefully through the town of Yanqing to our hotel. Night hotel.

Day 9: Yanqing – Juyongguan
Cycle approx 31km / 2 – 3 hours; Drive approx 2 hours

Our flattish morning’s ride takes us south, passing the restored Great Wall at Badaling; a popular destination for day-trippers from Beijing, these roads hosted the 2008 Olympic Cycling Road Race. We enjoy a long descent to Juyongguan, an equally impressive but quieter section of Great Wall. A short climb takes us through an archway and we finish at a large watchtower, surrounded by the Great Wall – a wonderful end to our cycle challenge with plenty of photo opportunities! We load up our bikes into the waiting vehicles and transfer to Beijing – a frenetic city which forms a real contrast to the China we have experienced by bike! Time permitting, we’ll spend the afternoon with a tour of the Forbidden City and Tianenman Square. Night hotel. (Dinner not included)

Day 10: Free day in Beijing

Today is free to explore the city, sightsee or shop before meeting up again for our Celebration Meal in the evening. (Lunch and Dinner not included)

Day 11: Depart Beijing

We transfer to the airport for our flight back to London – arrive same day.

Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.

Detailed information

What's Included?

All accommodation is included as well as all flights and transport; all meals except three as specified in the itinerary, and entrance to any sites visited as part of the itinerary. A bike is also included. Experienced Discover Adventure leaders/mechanics and doctor (depending on final group size) are also included, along with a local support crew of guides, cooks and drivers.

What's Excluded?

It does not include personal travel insurance, airline fuel supplement if charged by the airline (capped at £200 by Discover Adventure), three meals as specified, tips for local crew, or international departure tax. It also does not include any entrance fees to any optional sites or attractions. Remember to allow extra for drinks, souvenirs, snacks and other personal expenses. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.

Flight Information

Group flights leave from London Heathrow or Gatwick, (we regret that we are unable to book connecting flights), and are booked through Discover Adventure Ltd under ATOL licence 5636. By travelling with Discover Adventure you are protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are most likely to fly with Emirates or Cathay Pacific Airlines, however, we don’t always fly with the same airline so this is a guideline only. You will usually receive confirmed flight details several months before departure. Our itineraries are always based on current flight schedules and are therefore subject to change by the airline. If you prefer to book your own flights please ask us for a land-only cost.


The hotels we use range from good quality international-style to simple hostels: they are basic but clean and friendly but please do not expect the same standards as you would in a tourist hotel in the UK!


All food is included other than three meals. The food is good and there is plenty of it; meals are Chinese-style not western.

Dietary Requirements

Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home – we will be in rural areas and among people of a different culture who may not understand your requirements, however willing they are to help. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities and you are free to explore and try other culinary experiences! There is always something to suit every budget.

Trip Support

Discover Adventure Crew

Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.

All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are.The number of crew and support vehicles looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but an average-sized group in China would be led by two leaders (at least one of which will be an experienced bike mechanic) and a doctor. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: cyclist ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.

Local Support Crew

Our local support crew is made up of local guides, drivers and cooks. Your local guide knows the local area well, and is a great source of knowledge about local customs and lifestyles. Drivers and cooks do not always speak English but are very friendly and approachable. The Discover Adventure crew work closely with the local crew to ensure your trip runs smoothly and safely. Your leader will arrange a collection of tips for the local support crew at the end of your ride. Tipping is not obligatory, but once you see how hard they work on your behalf you will be happy to donate something! All our local crew are paid wages, but bear in mind that the average wage in this country is far below what you would spend on a normal night out.


Support vehicles are with the group wherever possible. All luggage, spares, food, water is carried by them.Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should also bring a small daypack or large waist-pack for items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening.

Trip Safety

Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency satellite, extensive medical kit and other safety apparatus where necessary. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate.Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.

Preparing for the challenge

Cycling Information

Terrain Distances

Distances vary from roughly 80 to 100km per day, with a shorter final day of 30km. Cycling is predominantly on good tarmac roads, though some sections are in a worse state of repair with pot-holes. The cycling is varied, with most days of an undulating nature, with short climbs and descents; other days have long, more strenuous climbs and long fast descents. There is very little flat! We are travelling through remote areas and weather may have an impact on road conditions. Traffic is usually light and we will cycle at our own pace, but when we pass through any built-up areas we go through as a group. We will always take safety into consideration and reserve the right to change the itinerary on that basis. We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage.


We will be using 21-speed mountain bikes fitted with semi slick tyres. It is imperative that you supply your own helmet and wear it at all times while cycling, with straps done up.


Temperatures can vary widely, though generally it should be warm and sunny; rain is always a possibility and snow is also not unsual. Cold winds are common when high up on the mountains and it can become blustery.

Clothing & Equipment

We are travelling through remote mountains where we could be exposed to bad weather at any time. The information above gives you an idea of the climate, but be prepared for all weathers and temperatures. Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.

Fitness Levels

Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race. For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.

Passport & Visa

A valid ten-year passport is essential; it should be valid for at least six months after departure from China. A visa is essential for all nationalities, costing approx £35 at time of writing. We will provide you with more information about entry visas in the lead-up to your trip.


We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. A Yellow Fever certificate is essential only if coming from an infected area.You should always check with your GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.

Cultural Differences

For most people, the main attraction of travelling to a different country is to see new sights and enjoy new experiences. Sometimes those new experiences can make life harder or more inconvenient than you may like, such as toilet hygiene or different food, or simply a different attitude to solving problems. This is all part of the challenge you are signing up for! We are very privileged to live in a country with a high standard of living, and travelling exposes us to different challenges – all of which help broaden our horizons. We can guarantee that coming face-to-face with experiences outside your normal ‘comfort zone’ will help you bond with your fellow cyclists and provide you with plenty of things to laugh about! A sense of humour and sense of adventure are two of the most important things to bring with you!

Worldwide Sustainable Tourism

Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through. AITO, our Trade Association, has recognised the work we do in this area and has awarded us 5 stars as a Responsible Tour Operator.

Discover Adventure Projects

We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.

Carbon Offsetting

We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them.Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with TCV and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at or call 01302 388883.