The Great Wall is an essential stop on any trip to China. The Great Wall stretches across several provinces of northern China but Beijing is usually considered the main gateway to the Great Wall since there are several world famous sections of the Great Wall in the suburbs of Beijing, including Badaling, Mutianyu, Jiankou, Jinshanling, and Simatai. These sections were built during the Ming dynasty between the 14th and 17th centuries and have been well preserved.
Of all the sections of the Great Wall near Beijing, Badaling is the most famous and closest to downtown. As a result, Badaling is the destination of choice for many large tour groups and is often incredibly crowded. We never recommend that our clients visit Badaling Great Wall.
Mutianyu Great Wall, which is about 70km or one and a half hour drive in normal traffic from downtown, is just as close as Badaling but offers a much preferable experience. Mutianyu offers wonderful Great Wall views with much fewer tourists and makes a great choice for a half-day trip. You can even take a thrilling toboggan ride down the side of the Wall on the way back down! We usually combine Mutianyu Great Wall with a trip to the Ming Tombs to make a perfect one-day tour.
Jinshanling, located on the border between Beijing and Hebei Province, is about 150 km northeast of downtown. It usually takes about two and a half hours to drive there. Despite the longer drive, Jinshanling is among the most stunning sections of the Great Wall. We recommend visitors allow a whole day to visit Jinshanling. Another popular option is to sleep on the Great Wall or in the village nearby, and then climb the Great Wall early the next day to see the breathtaking sunrise. Camping on the Great Wall will give you the chance to experience the life of the soldiers who patrolled the Wall hundreds of years ago.
The Jiankou and Simatai sections are both famous for their steep climbs. If you are visiting these two sections, be prepared for a serious hike — you may even need to climb on your hands and knees!
There are several fantastic Great Wall hiking routes on the outskirts of Beijing. You can do a half-day hike from Jinshanling to Jinshanling East which doesn’t require too much effort but still affords panoramic views of the Great Wall as it stretches out across the mountains. You can also spend a whole day hiking from Gubeikou to Jinshanling, which will take you past older, unrestored sections of the Wall, along with lofty watchtowers. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and pay attention to loose stones!
There are also some famous sections of the Great Wall outside Beijing, such as Shanhaiguan Great Wall in the city of Qinhuangdao, which marks the most easterly starting point of the Great Wall.
October and November are the best times to visit the Great Wall, since at that time the leaves are turning color, making for some incredible photo opportunities. The weather in April and May is temperate making it a great time to visit. July and August are generally too hot for hiking. Winter in Beijing is very cold but a visit to the Great Wall after it snows is a magical experience.
If you are planning a trip to the Great Wall, please feel free to contact our travel agents for more information and travel advice.