05/12/2014 02:49 pm ET Updated Jul 12, 2014

The (Great) Wall Less Traveled...Hiking the Huangya Pass in Tianjin's Ji County, China


If you happen to be visiting the Beijing area, you probably have The Great Wall of China on your to-do list.

Of course you do. It's THE Great Wall!

The trouble is, which wall do you see? People don't talk about that so much.

In fact, the first time we planned a jaunt to "The Wall," we were surprised to discover that it doesn't actually least it doesn't as one continuous structure.

Rather, there are many sections of the wall scattered across 5,500 miles of northern China, each engineered under various dynasties over a period of almost 2000 years, beginning in 220 B.C. and ending around 1644 A.D..

The point is, there's an awful lot of wall to choose from!

One such section that doesn't belong in the Great Wall of celebrity fame is the Huangya Pass (or Huangyaguan) in Ji County, which is located about 126 km (78 miles) north of Tianjin or about 96 km (59 miles) east of Beijing. For reasons not entirely clear, most people visit Huangyaguan from Tianjin.

Huangya Pass Great Wall.  View from one of the watch towers.

For reasons quite clear, visitors often claim they prefer the Huangyaguan experience over the more frequented Great Wall sections such as Badaling. Why?

Because there are far fewer visitors, of course!

Also? The scenery is spectacular. "Huangyaguan" translates to "Yellow Cliff Pass" and now that we've visited, we can see why.  Perhaps this isn't even the intended meaning, but the flora and mountains practically glow with an ocher warmth that is truly breathtaking. The scenery also makes up for the fact that much of Huangyaguan does not exhibit its original stonework, as it was extensively restored in the 1980s.

Originally built during the Northern Qi Dynasty in the mid-sixth century, Huangyanguan is said to stretch 42 kilometers (26 miles), but the portion we hiked (from the Taiping Mountain Stronghold entrance to the Huangya Fortress) was only about seven kilometers. And while that may not sound like a lot, those steps on the wall can get steep!

Huangya Pass Ji Country (61)

The hike is well worth it. And at the end, you'll be rewarded with the Huangya Fortress where an extremely photogenic outdoor market offers a bounty of dried fruits and nuts, many varieties of which we've never seen elsewhere. But no worries if you're unsure of what to purchase. The ladies will cheerfully offer you samples until you buy something. The average price for a half kilo (a little over a pound) is only 20 RMB (about 3 USD) so it's almost impossible to go wrong!

Huangya Pass Ji Country (20)

Marketplace at Huangya Fortress

Entrance Ticket: 50 RMB per adult

For more photos of the Huangya Pass Great Wall, or tips for "Livable Travel" in the South Pacific and China, please visit Tonga Time!

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