You never forget the first time you stand at the Great Wall of China, one of the world’s most outstanding spectacles, and a place so unique it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
If you visit the most touristy and easy accessible Badaling Great Wall, especially in holiday seasons, you may find yourself in an awkward situation: The scenery is fantastic, but it’s hard to concentrate on it as you are SQUEEZED in a big crowd!
There is only one Great Wall, but there are quite a few separate sections for you to explore in Beijing. Your choice depends on whether you prefer seeing the wall in its original state or a restored section? Does it bother you that you will be with thousands of other sightseers or prefer relative solitude? Would you like to go to a trekking tour, camp overnight on the wall or even fly over the wall by helicopter?
Each section of the Great Wall would take up a large part of your day to get to and return from, including the visit. It’s very necessary to research which part of the Great Wall is the best to visit in terms of your interests, budget, how much time you have and so on, and find out how to avoid large crowds, who may ruin your whole Great Wall experience! Here’s some advice:
Full Day options: Jinshanling, Jiankou, Huanghuacheng and Gubeikou
Easiest winter walks: Mutianyu, Badaling, Juyongguan.
Most interesting: Jiankou, Jinshanling, Simatai.
Most people see the Great Wall at fully restored Badaling - the most popular and easily accessible section of the Great Wall. With complete facilities including guardrails, restaurants, cable cars, viewing telescopes and pulley, Badaling is nearly covered by all tour groups as part of Beijing trip. Very often, one of the first sights you’ll see at Badaling is a long row of souvenir stalls after getting off the bus.
The difference between Badaling and Wild Great Wall is: Badaling has many ”mosts”: most famous, most visited, most well restored, and most crowded; While with more wild scenery and steep way they offered, Jinshanling, Jiankou, Gubeikou are more suitable for a day trip or weekend excursion.
Badaling is often described as noisy and the most crowded section of the Great Wall compared with Mutianyu, Jiankou, Jinshanling and others. However, if you walk on south west part of Badaling, you can still enjoy the silence of Wall as most people walk towards north east part of it.
As a good alternative for overcrowded Badaling, Mutianyu is well developed but often quiet, very green, not full of the tour buses and stops along the way. Taking pictures at Mutianyu is much easier compared with Badaling.
If you don’t like too much of climbing at Jinshanling / Gubeikou, Mutianyu is right for you. Using cable car / chair lift can help you avoid the steep climb to access to Mutianyu. You may surprise your kids with fun but not scary toboggan ride down for a fast return to the entrance. Kids would really love it. On a clear day, you’ll see very long stretches of the Wall. If you have only one day, Mutianyu would be sufficient.
Jiankou Great Wall is much more wild and isolated compared with Jinshanling or Mutianyu. At Jiankou, the wall is broken, steps are missing, trees grows on the towers. If you are adventurous, like trekking through the wilderness, make a day trip to Jiankou. You won’t regret your decision. Hiking from Jiankou to Mutianyu will let you explore the unrestored one and fully restored one, such a amazing experience. Remember Jiankou can be very dangerous when it’s rainning or snowing, so take care!
Jinshanling to Simatai West
Jinshanling Great Wall will offer you wonderful hiking experience because of the views, the surrounding landscape, distinguishing features of the Wall. You will enjoy the entire hike from Jinshanling to Simatai west without crowds. You can hike either east or west from the entrance. Simatai is to the east. Gubeikou is to the west.
As Simatai East is closed, the origional hike from Jinshanling to Simatai can be done only halfway. You can still walk to tower 22 (Simatai West). The difficulty of Jinshanling hike is moderate, but always safe.
Getting to Jinshanling is a little bit difficult unless you book a tour or hire a taxi. If you decide to overnight in either Simatai or Jinshanling, local famer’s guesthouses are available or you can camp overnight on the Wall. At Jinshanling you’ll enjoy sunset or sunrise on a clear day.
Hiking from Gubeikou to Jinshanling is simply an ideal day trip or weekend excursion. Gubeikou is an awesome place where you’ll experience uncrowded adventurous hike and the power of nature.
Part of Gubeikou is closed as it goes through military area. You need to bypass the military section, while it’s not easy to find the right way up, as there are no signs for the detour. Watch out for the sharp spines of the nearby plants, which may hurt you or snag your clothes in spring and summer.
Huanghuacheng is largely restored, remote but more easily accessible. Getting to huanghuacheng is a little difficult, as there is no direct bus that goes from Beijing. Still this is the place for you if you like beautiful scenery, mountains, lakes and peacefulness of it. You could easily spend a whole day by walking from Huanghuacheng to Xishuiyu.
The distance between Beijing and the Great Wall
- Beijing (about 103 km) The Jiankou Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 150 km) The Gubeikou Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 157 km) The Jinshanling Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 149 km) The Simatai Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 81 km) The Mutianyu Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 80 km) The Huahaucheng Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 59 km) The Juyongguan Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 69 km) The Badaling Great Wall.
The distance between Beijing airport and the Great Wall
- Beijing airport (about 66 km) Mutianyu Great Wall, 1 hour by road;
- Beijing airport (about 68 km) Juyongguan Great Wall, 1 hour by road;
- Beijing airport (about 78 km) Badaling Great Wall, 1.5 hours by road;
- Beijing airport (about 90 km) Jiankou Great Wall, 2 hours by road;
- Beijing airport (about 77 km) Huanghuacheng Great Wall, 2 hours by road;
- Beijing airport (about 144 km) Jinshanling Great Wall, 2.5 hours by road;
- Beijing airport (about 139 km) Gubeikou Great Wall , 2.5 hours by road;
- Beijing airport (about 139 km) Simatai Great Wall , 2.5 hours by road.
Great Wall Map in Beijing Region (right-click to enlarge or print)