Chinese: 老牛湾
Pinyin: Lǎo niú wān
English: Old cow bay
Coordinates: 39°38'3"N 111°26'22"E

The main line of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall meets the Yellow River at Laoniuwan, a location that boasts some of the most beautiful scenes of the entire Great Wall.

Laoniuwan is remotely located and difficult to reach, especially by public transportation. But getting there is rewarding because of the gorgeous scenery.

The wall in this area was originally covered with shaped sandstone. Much of the stone has been removed by locals, but a lot of it remains, especially in the more isolated places. In other places, the stones are mostly or entirely gone and often the wall is badly deteriorated.

One characteristic of the Laoniuwan area is the large, round beacon towers surrounded by circular walls. There are many of them, and they are typically positioned south of the Great Wall, but they are not always located close to the wall.

Round beacon tower at Laoniuwan
Photo by Andreas Lehman

Also to be found in the area are several brick towers like those found further east. One of them is dramatically placed at the edge of a high cliff overlooking the river. This tower is known as River View Tower (望河樓, Wàng hé lóu).

A section of wall has been rebuilt here. It is about 225 meters (740 feet) long and is built in a mixture of styles found at various other Great Wall locations but unfortunately far different from what was originally built in the Laoniuwan area.

Laoniuwan is an excellent starting point for a lengthy walk along the Great Wall. Starting at the Yellow river, you can walk eastward for many days along a nearly continuous wall. The terrain can be challenging at times, often because of steep ravines that have resulted from erosion.

Location summary: Laoniuwan is about 425 kilometers (264 miles) west of downtown Beijing. It is about 23 kilometers (14 miles) north of Pianguan and about 165 kilometers (103 miles) west of Datong.

Driving directions: From Datong, drive south on G55 for about 84.5 kilometers (52.5 miles) from the ring road. Turn right (west) onto Shouzhou Branch Line and drive 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) to Shuocheng. Drive north on S212 for about 21 kilometers (13 miles) to Pinglu. Take S304 west for 60 kilometers (37 miles). Turn left and drive on G209, S304, and S249 for about 36 kilometers (22 miles) to Wanjiazhaizhen. From here, Laoniuwan is about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) north along the Yellow River.

Where the Great Wall meets the Yellow River: