Great Wall is the most popular tourist sight in China. World heritage-listed since 1987 and New Seven Wonders of the World voting-winner in 2007 without a doubt is also the most crowded tourist attraction in the World.
This must-see place visits from 10 to 50 million tourists every year (hard to find reliable data – Chinese government doesn’t like to be honest in any field, tourism is not an exception). It gives the average of 27k to 137k people daily!!!
In the light of these information arises one basic question – is it possible to visit this place and enjoy it?
It sounds like another wonder, but the answer is yes 🙂 If you will plan it properly and follow my tips, everything is possible.
The most popular starting point for visiting Great Wall is Beijing.
This is where you’ll be considering to organize a trip to the Wall. Planning my stay in the capital, till the last moment I couldn’t decide if I really want it. Having in mind photos with overcrowded construction of the Wall I was not sure it’s worth my time. But I did some deep search of the situation and I decided to try. And you know what? It was amazing experience!
Below you have a lists of information, which convinced me and helped to organize a good trip:
- The Great Wall is recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats ever. It has spectacular history behind and catchiness, which cannot be deny even by tourists like me – who are not looking for “must-see” places.
- The Wall is not a continuous line and there are many different sections which can be visited. According to most recent studies, the total length of the Wall with trenches and natural defensive barriers is 8851,8 km. It’s important to realize this, because (although there are few the most popular places within the Wall) these thousands of visits per day do not refer to one place. It gave me the hope that there has to be no crowded parts! 🙂
- The number of tourists depends on the season, holidays and special events. If you want to increase your chances of getting around the crowds, do not choose holidays or weekends, when the number of domestic tourists is dramatically growing. I was in China during spring season and we visited the Wall during working day. That was a good tactic.
- From Beijing you can reach few different parts of the Wall – take my advice which one to choose. Below you can find the map with several parts of the Wall reachable from Beijing and my opinion about them.
Read short descriptions of marked destinations to learn which is the optimal solution.
My choice is the best for travelers based in Beijing, who are looking for something more than just a picture for Facebook, but on the other hand want to visit a Wall during one-day trip. Like in many decision-making processes, I used the method of elimination:
SIMATAI, JINSHANLING, GUBEIKOU – this sights can be interesting in term of low traffic, but they are located far away from Beijing (around 3 hours only one way). Apart from that, the Gubeikou Great Wall it’s difficult to access and entrance to Simatai is limited and needs reservation in advance. If you have your private car (which means bigger budget), you can consider Jinshanling part of the wall, but I will advise you to wake up really early. Going by bus is possible, but will take a lot of time and it’s tiresome. For a one-day trip I think it’s not worth. Travelling has to be a pleasure.
BADALING, JUYONGGUAN – this are the most famous and most easiest to reach parts of the Wall. The way from Beijing takes around an hour. You can get there directly taking public bus, tourist bus or book an organized tour as well. It’s also the best-preserved and most complete section. All of it makes it the most crowded spot over the Wall. If you are not in good physical condition, you are travelling with old people or children, probably this is the only option for you. But it was definitely not what I was looking for.
JIANKOU – By contrast, Jiankou Great Wall is one of the most wild and dangerous section. It’s possible to visit and it’s beautiful part, but it’s hard to do it during one day. Beside the distance from Beijing, climbing this section needs a lot of energy and time. In some parts you will need mountaineering equipment.
HUANGHUACHENG – this sight is famous from its location by the lakeside. Climbing this section is not challenging, but I will not recommend it because it’s serious disrepair. I read the reviews that getting to the Wall itself is easy, but for the best views and some great photos over mountains, you have to climb steep stretches that can get tricky.
By this elimination, one place remains – Mutianyu Great Wall, which I visited, I really enjoyed and I recommend to everybody who wants to skip the crowds, but visit the Wall during 1 day.
MUTIANYU – is located around 75 km from the center of Beijing and it takes around 1,5 hour to get there. It makes it easy to visit during one day and come back without planning night in the village. You can go there by public transport or you can book private trip – in this case try to find an offer only for a transport. You don’t need a guide (who anyway will be with you only in the bus) or a dinner – everything is well marked and there are restaurants near the entrance.
Bear in mind that this section is also very popular and many people choose it, but it’s not as overcrowded as Badaling or Juyongguan.
Apart from that I have for you another tip how to enjoy it better:
- Upon your arrival take a cable car to reach the Wall as fast as possible.
- Don’t worry if you will see crowds on the entrance.
- When you will enter the Wall turn to the west (to the direction of Jiankou Great Wall section) and try to go as fast as possible to the western ending of this section. One way should be around 2 km (remember that then you have to come back).
- With every passing meter you will leave behind other tourists (most of the people walk 10-15 min and go back) until you are finally alone! This will be unforgettable experience.
Last but not least – the Mutianyu Great Wall is one of the best-preserved and the surrounding natural scenery in this section is breath-taking. Have a look:
Time: May 2017
4 thoughts on “Great Wall of China – how to enjoy it and which part to choose”
Thank you for sharing this helpful article, I have been to the Great Wall myself and I totally agree with Magda that it is worth to see Jiankou and Mutianyu. 🙂
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Hi Magda! Thanks to your article we are going to visit Mutianyu part of the wall. Many thanks for your summary, it’s very hepful! I wanted to ask one thing – we have an option to pay for a lunch there or take our own food(?). How it can look on the place?
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Caroline, thank you for your kind words 🙂 For sure bring some snacks with you, but pay for lunch in advance only if you want to integrate with the group you are joining. If this is not important for you, you will find a lot of bars and restaurants on site, so you don’t need to book nothing in advance and probably overpay the agency for it. Have a nice journey!
Andreas, I’m very happy to hear that! 🙂 Thank you for your nice comment!