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The hills around Beijing are dotted with fascinating sights, the foremost, of course, being the Great Wall. Many of the sights listed in this chapter can be seen in a single excursion, which can include other sights just on the outskirts of the city. Nearly all organized tours include a stop at the Ming Tombs on the way to the Great Wall at Ba Da Ling and Juyong Guan. Tanzhe Si and Jietai Si are readily combined as an agreeable day trip, and the intriguing Tian Yi Mu is on the road to the quiet courtyard houses of Cuan Di Xia.

Surprisingly, the most enjoyable way to reach many of these sights is by public transportation. Although slower than an organized tour, public bus or train travel is flexible, doesn't drag you to dubious attractions, and costs a fraction of the overpriced tours offered by hotels. If you're short on time, an option is to hire a taxi for the day. An entertaining (if slightly rushed) choice is to join a Chinese bus tour. Air-conditioned buses for these tours leave when full, early in the morning from various metro stations, and make stops at two or three sites. Your last resort should be hiring a car through your hotel or a tour agency for a ludicrous fee.

When heading out of town, avoid weekend mornings, when traffic can be gridlocked. Attempting to return on Sunday afternoon is also frustrating. Even on weekdays, allow at least half a day, and usually a full day, to explore the sights listed in this section. Have a picnic and take your time.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.