Beijing's best season is set to make its grand entrance. The stifling temperatures are making way for crisp air. Autumn, with its festivals, is the time when farmers give thanks for the year's harvest, and when the countryside is at its most colorful. To see the season's beauty for yourself, here are the pick of spots for a change from inner-city sight-seeing.
*Simatai Great Wall
Considered by many the most authentic and fascinating part of the Great Wall, Simatai is definitely not for those feeling out-of-shape or unadventurous. Located northeast of Beijing near Gubeikou Town in Miyun County, Simatai retains much of its original 500-year-old features, and has 35 watchtowers. It offers a hazardous passage for those who dare to walk along it, making it a challenge that is irresistible to dedicated hikers in quest of adventure.
Azure sky, green Yunyang Lake at the foot of the wall, and colorful foliage are other attractions. Wild dates, hawthorns and kiwifruits cover the mountains.
Bus: No. 12 tourist bus from either the Xuan Wu Men or Dong Si Shi Tiao stops.
Car: Jingcheng Expressway to Tanghe Bridge (about 120 km from Beijing). Exit expressway and turn right, drive a further 8 kilometers.
*Black Dragon Pond
Heilongtan (Black Dragon Pool, pictured), in Shicheng, Miyun District, is famed for its 18 pools of various shapes, and 220-meter waterfalls. The scenic spot is now holding the golden autumn picking festival, where orchards of walnuts, chestnuts, apples, hawthorns, persimmons and pears are ripe for picking. Pears, the signature local produce of Miyun, have borne quite a harvest. Hong Xiao pear and sugar pear are two special kinds of pears produced in Miyun, renowned for their sweet taste, thin skin and long storage time.
Bus: On Saturday and Sunday there are special tourist lines to Black Dragon Pond at Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station Driving: Jingcheng Expressway, getting off at Miyun exit.
*Yunmengshan National Park
Yunmengshan is the top choice for visitors to enjoy the most gorgeous foliage in Beijing. Containing a wild botanical garden on the western shores of the Miyun Reservoir, the autumn of Yunmengshan National Forest Park is amazingly beautiful with red and yellow leaves, colorful chrysanthemums and red hawthorn all over the mountains and plains.
Bus: No. 936 starting at Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station
Car: Sanyuanqiao--Jingshun Lu--Huairou
The shores of Xiangshui Lake are home to an ocean of fruits. Covering an area of 10 square kilometers, the orchards there have welcomed a harvest of dates, grapes, pears and walnuts weighing more than 100 tons. Pay 30 yuan per person and enjoy a whole day of picking.
The area has the Great Wall, ancient caves, streams and rivers, fountains and pools and a waterfall. Attractions include the Lianyun Cave and Totem Pavilion.
Bus: 916 at Dongzhimen
Car: Head to Huairou, then Mutianyu. Xiangshui Lake is 8 kilometers west of Mutianyu roundabout.