Ninety kilometers northwest of Beijing lies a collection of 174 caves tucked into a stony hill. Dubbed Guyaju, the name translatedto English means Ancient Cliff Dwellings. Its proximity to the capital makes it a great destination for a day trip. With rooms as big as 20sqm and as small as cubbie spaces, kids will no doubt enjoy exploring this intriguing structure.
It is estimated that these caves were created during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) by the ethnic minority Xiyi, but little is known about these inhabitants and mystery about the caves in general remains. Supposedly, the dwellers lived on the upper levels while the lower caves housed animals. Further information may be deduced from observing these rooms up close and personal.
Upon climbing the stairs, visitors should note the markers where two gates once stood. The first gate provided protection at night, while the second one protected the village’s supply of fresh water: a natural spring. Given its location in the hill, the village would have been nearly impossibleto attack from the rear. And from the front, it remained protected by the aforementioned gates, as well as a ravine.
Visitors are restricted to the lower caves, but they can peek at a typicalthree-room cave dwelling on the upper level. When using the narrow stairs and footholds, climbers should exercise extra caution with small children. On the way up, there are plenty of spots to sit down and rest, including a few benches and lots of stairs. Visitors should pack plenty of drinks and snacks for the visit, as there are no vendors in the area. Upon reaching the top, climbers are rewarded with a view of the expansive Guanting Reservoir and the surrounding scenic area.
Visiting the cliff dwellings should take no more than two hours, so visitors can pair the visit with a second destination, such as Longqing Gorge, before the day is done. Before leaving Guyaju area, hungry hikers should head to Huaiqing Farmyard for a home-cooked meal and some respite. The owners are willing to whip up countryside dishes at any hour and offer overnight accommodation for weary travelers.
In the winter, Longqing Gorge is a mini-Harbin with its Ice Sculpture Arts Festival. But in the warmer months, it is a great place to take in the naturally beautiful surroundings. Hop on board a boat as it snakes down the waters of Longqing Gorge. Often referred to as "Little Three Gorges," Longqing Gorge is reminiscent of the Yangtze River and Guilin’s unique mountains. A highlight for kids is the long chain of escalators, dressed up as a dragon, which scale to the top of northern China’s largest dam. Adventure-seekers can enjoy horseback riding and bungee jumping. Contact 6919 1020 or check www.bjlongqingxia.com.cn/e_index01.asp.
Adapted from the blog "A Great Day-Trip Only 90km Away" by Christopher Lay on www.beijing-kids.com.
Daily 8am-5.30pm. RMB 40, RMB 20 students, free for kids under 1.2m. Parking: RMB 10 bus, RMB 5 car. Dongmenying Village, Zhangshanying Town, Yanqing County (6911 0333)
By bus: Bus 919 from Deshengmen(德胜门) to Yanqing Nancaiyuan (延庆南菜园); Transfer to Bus 920 to Guyaju (古崖居).
By car: From Madian Qiao on Bei Sanhuan, take Badaling expressway to Yanqing, follow Jingzhang Lu to Dongmenying Village (东门营村), then follow signs for about 2km.
Approx distance: 90km
Huaiqing Farmyard 槐庆农家院
Offers home-cooked meals and accommodation.
Daily 24 hours. Located 1km south of Guyaju. RMB 80/room, RMB 25/meal, RMB 10/breakfast. (137 0103 0670) 古崖居南1千米路边
Longqing Gorge 龙庆峡
Winter 8am-9pm, Summer 8am-9pm. RMB 40 door, RMB 60 boat, half price (students), free for kids under 1.2m. Longqing Xia, Yanqing County (6919 1020) 延庆县龙庆峡
By bus: From Deshengmen, take Bus 919 (RMB 12, 90 minutes) to Yanqing Station. From there, take a Bus 920 to the Longqingxia Station.
By car: From Madian Qiao on Bei Sanhuan, take Badaling Expresswayto the Yanqing Exit (one hour). Follow the signs to the gate (30 minutes).
Approx distance: 85km