Recently having travelled to the Great Wall of China, I share some of my own tips about where to go, how to get there and ultimately enjoy your adventure to its fullest!
Walking along the legendary Great Wall of China was a remarkable, once in a lifetime experience! Although, at certain times of the year, the crowds on this epic ancient mountain-pass can be quite overwhelming, and the way there can be rather confusing… possibly taking away from the fun authentic experience that you may have travelled a long way for!
I recently learned this first-hand, so I have thoughtfully compiled a short list of tips to help you navigate your journey into the stunning Chinese countryside to discover some of the best sections of the Great Wall with ease and plan the memories you’ve always wanted.
Despite being named the Great Wall of China, it’s not one single unit. Many different sections comprise this great architectural wonder’s thousands of miles. Each of them can offer you something unique depending on the type experience you want.
From the ease and awe of Mutianyu to the rugged beauty of Jiankou, here is a short guide on how to travel to some of the best Great Wall (s) of China.
1. Fun and effortless: The Mutianyu Great Wall
Originally built in the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-557AD) and refortified in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to help guard a strategic pass, Mutianyu is one of the most popular sections of the Wall. It is fairly accessible from the Chinese Capital of Beijing and due to its regular upkeep, exhibits the glory of its historic beginnings. A good choice for those who have accessibility concerns or would prefer to explore a part of the Wall that is safe and easy to walk along. This part of the Wall also offers cable car access as well as an optional self-driven toboggan ride down–highly recommended–weeeee!
Getting there: From Beijing, take the 916 Express bus (CNY 12) from Dongzihemen Bus Station until Huairou North Avenue (Huairou Beidajie) Station (approximately 60-70 minutes). Then, transfer to bus line h23, h24, h35 or h36 to the Mutianyu Roundabout, where you will arrive 450 meters from the ticket office.
Tip: Of course, you can always choose to take a taxi from Beijing, although be sure to negotiate the rate with the taxi driver in advance! A reasonable fare for a round-trip to Mutianyu should be around CNY 400-500 (64-80 USD).
2. Very popular, but for good reason: The Badaling Great Wall
This is the best-preserved section of the wall, the most-complete and the most popular (especially during the summer). A great choice for first-time travelers to China, the views from this part of the wall are absolutely breathtaking! Just keep in mind that it is very popular, especially during peak season, so if following the crowd is not your cup of tea, you should look into visiting another section such as Jiankou, or come during the spring, winter or fall when the crowds have waned.
Getting there: Take the non-stop Bus 877 (CNY 12) from Deshengmen (about a 10-minute walk from Jishuitan subway station, Exit B2), this will take you directly to the Badaling pulley car lower station which is also a short walk to the entrance. Note: the last departure from Deshengmen is at 12:30pm!
Tip: A good choice if you bring your kids in tote, this section is hassle-free to get to by public transport and there is cable car access upon arrival.
3. Rugged and beautiful: The Jiankou Great Wall
For a more adventurous Great Wall experience, travel to the Jiankou section, known for being one of the wildest parts of the Wall. This section is also the most photographed due the incredible mountain ranges from which its name is derived. Jiankou means arrow nock, inspired by the shape of the surrounding mountains that resemble an arrow head. Lush and green in the summer months but equally as stunning in the winter and spring, Jiankou is an experienced hiker’s paradise.
Getting there: Take Bus 936 at Dongzhimen Wai Station and stop at Yujiayuan Station. Then transfer to Bus H25 to Xizhazi Station (a village) where you can begin your day-long hike (6.2 miles along the wall) from Jiankou to the Mutianyu section (above).
Tip: Start your adventure early in the morning and be sure to bring water, snacks, a buddy and good hiking gear!
Important: The terrain on Jiankou can be very rough and dangerous at times, with loose rocks and very steep climbs. Take your time and enjoy the amazing views! This section is not recommended for children or senior citizens.