When I was younger, I would spend my days devouring old battered copies of National Geographic magazines. It was during those times where I first saw a photo of the Great Wall of China. While its length was beyond what my young mind could fathom at that time, I vaguely remember sitting down and being absolutely in awe at this impressive architectural feature. Noted as one of the top wonders of the world, a visit to the Great Wall of China is a must when in the region. Sprawling over 21,196 kilometers across barren deserts, mountains, plateaus, and grasslands, this ancient wonder of the world is nothing short of impressive.
Due to its popularity, it is very easy to pay a visit to the Great Wall of China and find yourself shuffling along with a million other people (no exaggeration here!) trying to snap a great photo. While the entire wall stretches along multiple provinces, Beijing is considered as the main gateway to the Great Wall of China. Due to this reason, the parts of the wall closest to the city like Badaling is often really crowded as it usually the first stop of most large tour groups. To help you make the most out of your visit to the Great Wall of China, here’s a bit more information on which section you should visit, when to go, as well as popular tours around the Great Wall.
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Great Wall of China: When to Go
Generally speaking, whatever you do, I would avoid visiting the Great Wall during weekends, or long holidays. Avoiding this time is generally a good way to make sure you don’t find yourself completely squished alongside heavy crowds. Weather-wise, October and November are the best times to visit due to the slightly cooler weather and autumn colored leaves. While Winters can be terribly cold, seeing the snowcapped peaks of the wall snake before you is nothing short of spectacular. February is also a month that we recommend avoiding due to the popular Chinese New Year celebration which usually brings about a new level of frenzy. Now before I really get started, take a look at the photo below. Would you really want to see The Great Wall with that many people? Ummm…I doubt it. If you want to find out which parts to avoid and which sections to visit, keep on reading!
Great Wall of China Sections: Which Ones to Visit
Planning your trip and which deciding which section of the wall to visit can make or break your trip. To help break things down, here are the most popular sections of the wall and our recommendations on each one.
Badaling Great Wall
- Most Accessible from Beijing
- Has a Cable Car
- Has a Great Wall Museum
- Well Restored
- Popular amongst Chinese Tourists
- Wheel Chair Access
- Hiking Options: Has a 4-hour hike from Badaling North to Watch Tower 1
Mutianyu Great Wall
- Second Most Accessible from Beijing
- Well Restored Wall
- Easily Accessible by Public Transport
- Has a Cable car and Toboggan ride
- Hiking Options: 3-4 hours from Mutianyu to Jiankou
While these parts of the Wall are the most frequented, we recommend avoiding Badaling due to the crowds. If you only have a day, head to Mutianyu instead. On the bright side, due to its accessibility, these two sections of the wall are also the most well restored.
Huanghuacheng Great Wall
- Quite remote
- Hardly any tourists
- Lake Views
- Hiking Option: Challenging Hiking to Zhuangdaokou
Jinshanling Great Wall
- Semi-Restored Walls
- Beautiful hilly landscapes
- 150km Northeast of Downtown Beijing
- Hiking Option: Great Hiking Route (Steep climbs to Simatai)
Jiankou Great Wall
- Unrestored Crumbly Wall
- Great Place for Adventure Hikers & Photographers
- Remote Mountainous Views
- Full of challenging hikes (which are very steep)
Gubeikou Great Wall
- Wild Wall (only partially restored)
- Site of loads of historical battles
- Hiking Options: West End of Panlongshan Great Wall and ends at the famous 24-eye Watchtower
If you only have one full day to explore the Great Wall of China, Jinshanling is a good option as it is still rather accessible. Huanghuacheng, on the other hand, is renowned for its incredible lakeside views, offering another point of view. Similarly, Gubeiko is one of the best sections of the Great Wall of China where you can experience wild walls, hiking, and even camping (weather permitted). More on camping in the Great Wall of China later on this article.
Popular Great Wall of China Tours
Naturally, being that visiting the Great Wall of China is such a popular activity, there are million tour options out there. While we generally like to explore a place on our own, we’ve found the private and personalized tours of The China Guide to be fantastic. Whether it’s a one-day tour or an overnight camping expedition on the Gubeikou Wall, these guides organize seamlessly run tours which are customizable to suit your needs. Here are a few Great Wall China Tours that we recommend.
Jinshanling Great Wall Hike
The Jinshanling to Simatai route is said to be one of the most epic treks along the Great Wall of China taking you through both restored and unrestored sections of the wall. While the hike is relatively easy, there are a few challenging steep climbs along the way.
Camping on the Great Wall
Out of all the Tours that China Guide offers, this particular one has to be our top favorite. I mean, how many people can really say that they pitched a tent and camped alongside the Great Wall of China? You will have the option of either camping by the Gubeikou Great Wall or sleep in the local village of Jinshanling. The tour includes all camping equipment (tents, sleeping bags, fresh coffee, and a hearty breakfast) Now all you have to do is imagine the view you’ll have as you watch the sun rise over the Great Wall.
Experience Beijing and the Great Wall in One Day
During this tour, you can experience and see the Great Wall of China in the Mutianyu section where you can take photos, walk, toboggan, or even ride the cable car. After that, you will be taken to a traditional Chinese restaurant for lunch where you can enjoy some local delicacies before exploring the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.
Great Wall Helicopter and Photography Tour
Last but not least, I’ve saved the coolest for last. For avid photographers, they have a special tour taking you to the most photogenic spots of the Wall. You will be visiting sections in Jiankou, Mutianyu, and Gubeikou. The helicopter ride will also allow you to shoot bird’s eye view photos of the wall. You can choose between 15-minute to 30-minute flights.
If you opt to do it yourself rather than book a customized tour, make sure you figure out your transportation first as this is the hardest part. While there are bus routes available in most places, they are rather complicated. If you are traveling in a group, another option would be hiring a taxi or a private driver. As mentioned, while we prefer DIY trips, when it comes to seeing something which has a large cultural and historic importance, sometimes getting a guide who can explain things to you is worth the extra costs. Hopefully, this article has given you a few ideas on how to plan your trip to The Great Wall of China.
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Great Wall of China Tour Discount
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