While the Great Wall of China is a must-see monument, most such trips are made at spots where busloads of tourists are dropped off every morning. Yet there are a few places unmarked by restoration or tourism, and surprisingly few people go there.
The rare, serene experience of discovering the “wild wall” this way, unmolested by modern human hands that could never improve upon its ancient, ruinous splendor is simply magnificent. The Simatai-Jinshanling section of the wall is one such place; the Xiangshui Lake scenic area also has two beautiful, solitary stretches of untouched wall, as well as a restored section. To get there, instead of walking ahead to the main gate, turn right or left; both directions will lead further into the village where original sections of the wall await. There are even companies that offer horseback riding along spots of the Wild Wall, and two hotels where you can have completely private access.
Red Capital Ranch is Beijing’s first eco-tourism resort, with ten ancient restored villas set on 50 acres offering views and private access to the Wall. Commune by the Great Wall is another resort, with an amazing collection of individual villas surrounding a path that leads to part of the wall available only to its guests. It was here that I shared a champagne toast with my fellow travelers atop the rugged Wild Wall, with no one else in sight, and bid farewell to China. It was a setting that would make any movie director proud.