Where to see the Great Wall of China
Hello again, you great big long wall, you.
I was at Mutianyu, a village about an hour and a half from Beijing, visiting the Great Wall for the second time. Unlike the first time I went up the Wall, Mutianyu proved to be a much easier climb.
There are three places where you can visit the Great Wall from Beijing- Badaling, Mutianyu and Jinshanling. Where you should go depends on what you’re looking for and how far you’re willing to push yourself.
This is the point closest to Beijing, making it the easiest to get to and with that, the most crowded. Many tour companies bring their groups to Badaling, so if you come here, be prepared to have 20 people behind you in your Great Wall photos. Note that Badaling has been extensively restored, so if getting an ‘authentic’ experience is important to you, go to another part of the Wall. Having said that, the scenery in Badaling is beautiful and you’ll be able to get some lovely shots of the Wall snaking over the hills in the distance. The best time to come would be weekdays and the worst would be during Golden Week when the whole of China goes on holiday.
Distance from Beijing: 44 miles/70km
Admission fee: 45Y. If you want to take the cable car, add 60Y (return)
Opening hours: 6am-10pm summer, 7am-6pm winter
Ideal for: Those who don’t have the time, or don’t want to go too far to visit the Great Wall.
Mutianyu is a little farther but the drive on the way is very pleasant- you’ll pass tree-lined roads and small villages and schools. Mutianyu also has fewer tourists and vendors so it’s less commercialised than Badaling. There’s a cable car here too, but it’s only an option, a fact my friend and I were unaware of when we went there. We were practically forced to take the cable car by the ticket collector but there’s no need for that if you’d rather walk up to the Wall. The downside to Mutianyu is that the Wall isn’t as beautiful as it is in Badaling and Jinshanling.
Distance from Beijing: 56 miles/90km
Admission fee: 45Y, add another 80Y for the cable car (return)
Opening hours: 6.30am-6pm
Ideal for: Those who want to get away from the tourists.
This is the most challenging of the three. When visiting Jinshanling, try to incorporate a hike along the Wall to a village called Simatai, six miles/10 km away. This is the most unrestored and most impressive part of the Wall. I did the Jinshanling-Simatai hike in 2005 and would recommend it to anyone who loves a challenge.
The Wall gets very steep as it nears Simatai, so be ready to crawl up on all fours at some point or another. And yes, you will be rewarded for all that hard work: the views here are gorgeous, with the Wall undulating for miles until it disappears into the horizon. If your hike is part of an excursion organised by your hotel, your van will pick you up from Simatai. Otherwise, you can take a bus or taxi back to Beijing.
Distance from Beijing: 80 miles/130km
Admission fee: 40Y
Opening hours: 8am-4.50pm
Ideal for: Anyone who likes to work up a sweat. I’ve seen people in their 60s complete the hike so you don’t have to be below a certain age but you should be reasonably fit. Bring good walking shoes.
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