If you visit Badaling Great Wall, the most touristy and easy accessible section, especially in holiday seasons, you may find yourself in an awkward situation: The scenery is fantastic, but it’s hard to concentrate on it because you are squeezed in a big crowd!¬†Make sure¬†to avoid the¬†crowds who may ruin your whole Great Wall experience! You need to¬†know which part of the Great Wall is the best to visit.¬†
There are quite a few separate sections of the Great Wall to¬†expore¬†in Beijing. Each section would take up a large part of your day to get to and return from, including the visit. You really have to research which one you want to explore in terms of your interests, budget, how much time you¬†have and so on. I’ve been to¬†more than 10¬†sections so far, so I can give 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 Badaling. It’s the most popular and¬†easily accessible section of Great Wall. Badaling is¬†well restored,¬†with complete facilities including guardrails, restaurants, cable cars, viewing telescopes and pulley. One of the first sights you’ll see after getting off the bus is a long row of souvenir stalls.¬†Most people go to Badaling because it is closest to downtown Beijing.¬†
The difference between Badaling and Wild Great Wall are: Badaling is the most touristy and easy accessible section; while Jinshanling, Jiankou, Gubeikou etc more suitable for hiking with more wild scenery and steep way they offered. Nearly all tour groups¬†cover¬† Badaling as part of Beijing tour. It is¬†often described as noisy and the most crowded section of the Great Wall compared with Mutianyu, Jiankou, Jinshanling¬†and others.¬†If you have enough time and prefer exploring the¬†more scenic and less touristy Great Wall, I recommend Jiankou, Jinshanling, Gubeikou and other sections.
A¬†good alternative for Badaling¬†is Mutianyu if you want to avoid big crowds.¬†Mutianyu is well developed like Badaling 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. It’s a steep climb to¬†access the Wall, I recommend using the cable car to avoid the intial climb up. You may surprise your kids with fun but not scary toboggan ride down¬†for a fast return to¬†the entrance.¬†Kids would 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 qualifies as such a wild Great Wall experiences.¬†Here the Wall¬†is broken, steps are missing, trees grows on the towers. If you are adventurous, like trekking through the wilderness, I recommend¬†you to make a daytrip Jiankou. Hiking from Jiankou¬†to Mutianyu will let you check the unrestored and restored scetions of the Wall. Remember Jiankou¬†can be very dangerous when it’s rainning or snowing, so take care!
Jinshanling to Simatai West
Huanghuacheng is largerly restored, remote but more easily accessible. Getting to huanghuacheng is a little difficult, as there is no direct bus that goes here from Beijing, but 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 here. There are two hiking routes to choose from- the western one and the eastern one.¬†