Shifosicun, China

Photo: Commune by the Great Wall

You’re finally planning a trip to China. It took a while for you to take the plunge. So what’s on the top of your list? The big cities, like Beijing and Shanghai? The Terracotta Army in Xi’an? The karst landscape in Guilin? The giant pandas in Chengdu? You’d love to see each one of them, but something tops them all. It’s the Great Wall of China. So go there first.

The Great Wall is the longest wall and one of the most famous landmarks in the world. It took multiple dynasties and more than 2,000 years to build. It winds through deserts and grasslands, plateaus and mountains in North China. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It can even be seen from space.

It’s not surprising that this is one of the most popular destinations in China. There are tours to restored sections, ancient battle sites, massive forts, and wild hiking trails. You’re looking for a different approach, though. You want direct access.

Photo: Commune by the Great Wall

There’s a resort in the Yanqing District that has its own trails. They lead to an unrestored (read: quieter) section of the Great Wall. The hike only takes about 10 minutes. It winds through the forested hills northwest of Beijing. While it allows you to stay at one of the most unique resorts in China.

Commune by the Great Wall is a collection of 40 villas that were designed by 12 Asian architects. The Bamboo Wall House features a tea room encircled by lean bamboos. The Cantilever House has a yard on its roof. The Forest House looks like a bird’s nest suspended in the trees. The Split House has a creek running under its glass floor. Each villa is different. Each villa features individually designed bedrooms and shared living rooms. Plus each villa feels completely secluded in the forest.

Despite their isolation, the villas have access to traditional resort amenities. The Courtyard Restaurant serves Cantonese and Sichuan dishes. The Terrace Lounge and the seasonal Poolside Cafe offer casual, al fresco meals. The Pink Bar is your chance to try Chinese wines. Then the three-level Commune Spa smells like sandalwood, has 15 suites, and hosts tai chi classes. You’ll check them out after you find the trails to the Great Wall, of course.


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