China // Hebei and Tianjin //

The Great Wall beyond Shanhaiguan

Follow the remains of the Great Wall south and after 4km you’ll reach Lao Long Tou (老龙头, lăolóng tóu; Old Dragon Head, after a large stone dragon’s head that used to look out to sea here), the point at which the wall hits the coast – literally jutting out into the water. A miniature fortress with a two-storey temple in the centre stands right at the end of the wall. Unfortunately everything here has been so reconstructed it all looks brand new, and is surrounded by a rash of tourist development. The rather dirty beaches either side of the wall are popular bathing spots.

Some 6.5km northeast of town is Mengjiangnü Miao (孟姜女庙, mèngjiāngnǚ miào), a temple dedicated to a legendary woman whose husband was press-ganged into one of the Great Wall construction squads. He died from exhaustion, and she set out to search for his body to give him a decent burial, weeping as she walked along the wall. So great was her grief, it is said, that the wall crumbled in sympathy, revealing the bones of her husband and many others who had died in its construction. The temple is small and elegant, with good views of the mountains and the sea. Statues of the lady herself and her attendants sit looking rather prim inside.

A couple of kilometres to the north of Shanhaiguan, it’s possible to hike along the worn remains of the Great Wall all the way to the mountains. Head north along Bei Dajie and out of town, and after about 10km you’ll come to a reconstructed section known as Jiao Shan (角山, jiăo shān), passing the ruins of two forts – stone foundations and earthen humps – along the way. A steep path from the reconstructed section takes you through some dramatic scenery into the Yunshan mountains, or you can cheat and take the cable car (¥30 one-way, ¥50 return).