Besides being the gateway to East Asia, China offers numerous breathtaking options for exploration. Famed bustling cities, tranquil ancient temples, authentic Chinese cuisine, spiritual healing customs as well as great man-made and natural features are just a few of the attractions the Orient country supplies. Off all these attractions, The Great Wall is arguably the embodiment of China’s history and culture. No wonder it is one of the Greatest wonders of the world, and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage.
Due to its popularity, the wall is always jam packed with both foreigners and locals, especially during the holidays. The huge crowd, however, should not discourage you from visiting interesting spots of the wall such as the Badaling.
The wall itself is quite extensive covering an estimated 3100 miles consisting of several separate sections. What people refer to as the Great Wall of China is the area close to Beijing. This section is the most integrated and well preserved. It is however not practical to visit the entire wall, since visiting some parts can take an entire day. So which part of the wall is the best for you to visit? The answer to this question varies from person to person. You must, therefore, do your research and plan carefully the areas you wish to explore. Answering the following questions can help you determine where to travel.
What to consider when deciding which part of the wall to tour
• Do you want to view the wall in its original un-restored state or you prefer seeing the restored wall?
• Would you prefer, going alone or in a full group?
• Do you intend to trek daily, camp overnight on the wall, or fly over the point of interest in a helicopter?
• The amount of time you have is it one hour, two hours or the entire day?
• How long is your vacation?
• What is your budget for the trip?
• Will you wish to take photos?
• Will you require the services of a tour guide?
• From which area in Beijing will you be traveling?
Your answers will help identify the most exciting and rewarding sections of the wall worth visiting. For instance, if you only have a few hours per day, the Badaling, Juyongguan, Mutianyu and Shuiguan sections would be convenient for you. However, if you have an entire day in your hands, the Huanghuacheng, Jinshanling, Gubeikou and Jiankou areas will suffice. Similarly, in case your trip is during winter, nothing will be more satisfying than visiting the Badaling, Mutianyu, and Juyongguan.
A reveler looking for a captivating Wall touring experience will find the Simatai, Jiankou Jinshanling sections interesting. In case you are interested in capturing fascinating sunset and sunrise images of the wall, areas like the Jinshanling, Simatai, and Jiankou offer breathtaking viewpoints. Other sections ideal for photo shoots includes the Huanghuacheng, Mutianyu.
Badaling is the most famous, most visited and most restored section of the Great Wall. Nearly all tour groups and guides include this thrilling section as part of their Beijing trip package. It is easily accessible and conveniently equipped with useful facilities like restaurants, guardrails, cable cars, pulleys, viewing telescopes as well as a long row of souvenir market stalls. In comparison to the Wild Great Wall sections like the Jinshanling, Gubeikou, Jiankou, and Mutianyu, however, Badaling offers less wild scenery and landscapes. Furthermore, it is noisier. Still, it is possible to enjoy a quiet time at the Badaling, by walking towards its southwestern part, which is less crowded, as most revelers and guides prefer walking towards its northeastern side.
If you have an entire day and prefer a less crowded section of the Great Wall, Mutianyu is a perfect choice. It offers a better alternative to the noisy and jammed Badaling, in that it is greener, quieter and has very few tour buses. Mutianyu is well established and boasts of features like the Toboggan ride, cable cars or chair lifts which make visiting the Mutianyu an unforgettable experience. Thanks to the cable cars, you can avoid the tiring steep climbing, experienced when visiting the Gubeikou or Jinshanling sections of the Great Wall. If the weather is favorable, you are likely to view magical stretches of the wall and even take photos of the scenery effortlessly as you ascend the wall. Once you are through with your exploration, the fun does not end there. The Toboggan offers a thrilling, fast ride descent back to the entrance. For more details about Mutianyu, you can check out the Mutianyu travel guide.
In comparison to Mutianyu or Jinshanling, Jiankou is more wild and secluded. It has a few broken sections, missing steps, while the towers have native plants and trees growing on them. If you are into hiking in the wild, or you find the prospect of trekking in the wilderness adventurous, Jiankou will be a turn-on for you. A word of caution, though, the section can get extremely dangerous when it snows or rains. Traveling to Jiankou offers the rare opportunity for you to explore both the unrestored and the fully restored sections of the Great Wall. From Jiankou, a hiker can easily reach Mutianyu after which he or she can enjoy an exciting downhill ride of the famous Toboggan.
Jinshanling to Simatai West (East Gate)
One of the hallmarks of a Jinshanling to Simatai West (East Gate) hiking expedition is the breathtaking view. That is precisely what the Jinshanling Great Wall offers. It has magical pristine landscapes, an unmatched sunrise, and sunset view, as well as unique features guaranteed to amaze you. The hike from Jinshanling to Simatai West has petite traffic, meaning it is not noisy, and you can move freely. From the Jinshanling entrance, you can either trek east towards Simatai or to Gubeikou in the west. However, if you decide to go east, you can only do so halfway up to tower 22 towards the East Gate or Simatai West, since the Simatai East is closed. Hiking along the wall has very few challenges. You only must make prior arrangements of booking a tour or hiring a taxi. The good thing is that both the Jinshanling and Simatai are safe, and you can camp on either wall or spend the night in any of the local farmer’s guesthouses.
If you need a quiet, less-crowded section that gives a full feel of nature, your search stops at Gubeikou. It is an exciting place for a weekend excursion or a day trip in that it offers the perfect setup of a wild trail adventure. You must, however, be careful. The wall goes through a military zone, making some parts of the wall to be off-limits. Unfortunately, there is no signage to point out the detour from the army area. One more thing you need to be wary of when touring the wall during spring or summer are the sharp spines from the surrounding plants, which can scratch you or even rip your garments.
If you enjoy striking sceneries, alluring mountains, and calm lakes, you will find a tour of the Huanghuacheng reassuring. You might just find yourself wishing the day doesn’t end while walking along the Huanghuacheng to Xishuiyu. Just like Badaling, Huanghuacheng is a well-restored wall. It is, however, remote and accessing it can be challenging if you are traveling from Beijing, since from the city, there are no direct buses.
Our client Randy’s Wonderful Huanghaucheng Hike
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, 1.5 hourS by road;
- Beijing airport (about 68 km) Juyongguan Great Wall, 1.5 hourS by road;
- Beijing airport (about 78 km) Badaling Great Wall, 1.5 -2 hours by road;
- Beijing airport (about 90 km) Jiankou Great Wall, 2.5 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.