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Side Trips from Beijing

The wonders of Beijing aren’t confined to the city center. Venturing into the outskirts and beyond, you’ll discover a wealth of sights that provide a further look at imperial might, offer natural delights and some refreshing relief from city crowds, and even deliver a whiff of adventure.

Of course, the Great Wall is a good starting point for any exploration, and while it isn’t (as the old propagandist myth goes) visible to the naked eye from space, it’s nonetheless an awesome sight. It might have failed to prevent the Manchus from invading, but few more soaring testimonies to human endeavor are more visually rewarding. You needn’t stop there, though. Imperial tombs and Buddhist temples also surround the capital, with remarkable mausoleum complexes to the east near Changping and the west at Zunhua and a satisfying swath of temples in the western suburbs. A bit farther afield, a half day’s travel by train brings you to Chengde, where emperors left behind lavish summer pavilions, pagodas, and gardens. Beijing might be one of the most intriguing cities on earth, and you’ll soon discover the fascination extends well beyond the city limits.

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