The partially restored Simatai Great Wall has retained much of its original appearance and was once known for its steep and dangerous climbs, although the most dangerous parts are no longer open to visitors. Even so, Simatai is famous for its extraordinary views and steep climbs, making it a great choice for the more adventurous.
Located 120 km northeast of Beijing, the Great Wall at Simatai is around 2 hours from downtown Beijing. Due to the long drive, it is best to schedule a whole day for a visit to Simatai Great Wall.
The Simatai section of the Great Wall is 5.4 kilometers long and separated into eastern and western parts by a small reservoir. The western part, which is connected to Jinshanling Great Wall, is gently sloped and has 20 well-preserved watchtowers. The eastern part is much steeper and demands a higher level of fitness to climb. Currently, only the section between Tower 2 and Tower 7 of the eastern part is officially open to visitors.
All visitors must arrive at the parking lot of Gubei Water Town first. At the parking lot, there are free shuttle buses that can directly take you to the entrance of the Great Wall at 10:00am, 12:00pm, and 2:00pm. The last shuttle bus back to the parking lot is at 4:30pm. For visitors who have bought the Gubei Water Town ticket, you can walk through the water town to/from the Wall for around 30 minutes.
Gubei Water Town is a touristy replica of Wuzhen Water Town in Hangzhou that was built in 2014 and features boutique hotels and hot spring spas. While it is certainly beautiful, it does lack a sense of history. If you plan to walk around Gubei Water Town, you can buy a combo ticket that includes the Great Wall and the water town at the ticket window. If you want to skip Gubei Water Town and only visit Simatai Great Wall, you need to reserve your tickets online at least one day prior to your visit. Otherwise, you may not be able to get a ticket at the ticket window since only a limited number of people are allowed to visit the Simatai Great Wall each day, and those limits are further reduced in windy or rainy conditions.
Once you get to the Simatai Great Wall (remember to keep your ticket, as you will be asked to show it at the exit when you leave), you can walk around 40 minutes to get onto the Wall at Tower 2, or you can take the cable car which takes you to a track on the mountain range that leads to Tower 5 and Tower 8. Note that this 500-meter track involves many uneven and steep steps and takes around 15 minutes to walk up.
For casual visitors, we suggest taking the cable car up to the Wall at Tower 5 and exploring the section nearby. After finishing your visit, you can go down either by cable car, or descend to Tower 2 and then walk back to the entrance.
The section between Tower 7 and 10 is steep and not officially open to visitors, but you can still climb it. Beyond Tower 10 is closed to visitors due to the steep, dangerous terrain, so you will not be able to to climb the Heavenly Ladder and the Sky Bridge, the two most dangerous parts of Simatai Great Wall. The Heavenly Ladder refers to the 100-meter-long section that leads to Tower 15, i.e., the Fairy Tower (Xian Nu Lou). With an 80-degree slope, this part is almost vertical and only half a meter wide at its narrowest point. The Sky Bridge is the 0.4-meter wide walkway between the Fairy Tower and the Wangjing Tower, i.e., Tower 16, the summit of Simatai Great Wall. This narrow walkway has a sidewall on one side and a steep cliff on the other side.
Simatai also offers a unique night tour experience, as the wall is beautifully lit up at night and the section between Towers 5 and 6 is open for tourists in the evening. If you have bought the Water Town ticket, you can stay in the town until 6:00pm (5:30pm in winter) and then buy the night tour ticket to enter the Simatai Great Wall. It is advisable to get onto the Wall before sunset to enjoy views of the sunset before taking a short walk on the illuminated Great Wall at night.
There are hot spring spas in Gubei Water Town that can be relaxing after the Great Wall tour. The water town also features some hotels for you to stay overnight. Hotels and spas in this town are pretty expensive, however.
Since Simatai Great Wall is quite steep in places and most parts have no side walls or handrails, it is not suitable for small children, people with mobility issues, or those with a fear of heights. In addition, remember to wear comfortable, sturdy shoes (preferably boots with ankle support) and bring weather-appropriate clothing. Remember to bring water, as there is none for sale along the wall.
Note that there is no restroom along the wall; the nearest toilet is near the cable car station and the check-in entrance. You should avoid visiting Simatai Great Wall after a snowfall or when it is raining, as the steep inclines may be slippery and dangerous. In addition, the cable car and the Great Wall itself may be closed in the event of heavy rain or strong winds.
Opening hours: 8:00am-4:30pm
Ticket-selling times: 9:00am-2:30pm
Entrance fee for Simatai Great Wall: 40 CNY
Entrance fee for Gubei Water Town: 150 CNY
Cable car: 90 CNY (one way) / 160 CNY (round trip)
Average time for this activity: 1 day
There are buses leaving at certain times between Dongzhimen station and Simatai, which costs around 50 CNY per person one way. As there are no signs to show you where to wait for the bus at Dongzhimen, you need to ask to find the bus. For visitors with a limited schedule, we suggest you take an organized tour to save time and make navigation easier.
Visitors need to go to the official website of Simatai Great Wall here to reserve a ticket. Tickets can must be reserved at least one day and a maximum of ten days in advance.
In order to reserve a ticket, you need a Chinese mobile phone number to receive the confirmation text. The visiting times offered are 10am, 12pm, and 2pm. After you have successfully reserved a ticket and have arrived at Wall, you need to show the confirmation text and the passport you used to reserve the ticket to the staff at the ticket office.
We recommend arriving at the Great Wall an hour before your reserved visiting time slot to queue and pick up your tickets.