Make Your First Trip to the Great Wall a Success in 8 Easy Steps
Travelling to the Great Wall of China for the first time can be exciting and daunting, all at the same time. The number of things to prepare, plan and research in advance can easily overwhelm first-time visitors. Here we offer valuable advice to help you get started on planning the ultimate trip to the Great Wall.
Step 1. Choose the Right Section of the Great Wall to Visit
One of the best things about the Great Wall? It’s diverse. The downside, however, is that no one section will suit every type of visitor. It is therefore crucial that you do your research before you arrive. Eager to minimize travel time? Badaling may be your best bet. Determined to avoid crowds? You’ll probably prefer Mutianyu or Jinshanling.
Step 2. Decide Your Travel Dates
The Great Wall is gorgeous year-round, but some seasons are more conducive to hiking than others. During the summer, hot weather can increase the risk of dehydration or heat exhaustion. In rain or snow, traversing difficult terrain could be inconvenient or even dangerous. Generally, it’s safest to visit during spring (April and May) or autumn (September and October).
Step 3. Check the Forecast
Don’t rely on general climate patterns; weather can vary considerably even during ‘ideal’ seasons. Take a close look at the forecast the day of your journey — and dress accordingly.
Step 4. Combine a Great Wall Tour With Other Fun Activities
There’s more to Great Wall exploration than the Wall itself. Depending on which section you visit, you could ride a cable car, a chairlift, or even a toboggan. Alternate activities are ideal for groups with older children, who will be delighted by the sheer variety of ways to experience Great Wall scenery. You’ll find plenty of family-friendly activities at Mutianyu.
Step 5. Book a Reliable Tour Service
Your tour guide can make or break your visit to the Great Wall. Look for a company that is upfront about all aspects of the trip, including timeline and cost. The best tour companies employ long-time residents who thoroughly understand the area and the culture.
Step 6. Wear Comfortable Shoes
Your Great Wall adventure may lead to dozens of Instagram-worthy photos, but looking cute shouldn’t be your priority. Expect to spend an entire day on your feet, even if you avoid rugged sections. Pack hiking shoes or, at minimum, a comfortable pair of sneakers.
Step 7. Dress for Success
In addition to walking shoes, you’ll want to wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing — and bring extra layers in a backpack if necessary. During the summer, breathable clothing is absolutely essential. Sunburns are common, so wear a hat and bring extra sunscreen to reapply throughout the day.
Step 8. Visit Early to Avoid Crowds
If you choose to visit a busier section of the Great Wall, you aren’t necessarily doomed to getting lost in the crowd. The earlier you arrive, the fewer tourists you’ll encounter. Be prepared to wake up before dawn to leave plenty of time for travel.