Despite popular belief, the Great Wall is not, in fact, visible from space, but it sure is massive. One of the most famous landmarks in China, the Great Wall stretches for 573 km (356 miles) but is most popularly visited from Beijing, the capital.
With such an expansive size, you might think it’s rather easy to visit the Great Wall? Well, you’re half right, as many of it’s most popular sections are located right on the edge of Beijing. Granted, “popular” also goes hand in hand with “crowded.” In turn, the least visited and more peaceful sections are also the hardest to visit, as they are less preserved, offer few amenities, and are further from the city.
The great thing about the Great Wall – well there area lot of great things about it but we’ll stick with just 1 for now – is that it offers a different experience for everyone. Want to hike it like warriors did ages ago? Check. Want a comfortable stroll and dinner afterwards? Check.
To help you out a bit, we’ve broken down 6 ways to visit the Great Wall of China.
If you’ve got a short stay in Beijing and don’t mind the crowds, then a visit to the Badaling section is in order. There are numerous Badaling Great Wall tours available for those who want an easy trip to the wall, usually with lunch included. Plus, you can easily package a visit to Badaling with a full day Beijing tour or one of the city’s other great landmarks, such as the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, or Ming Tombs.
A little less crowded than Badaling, Mutianyu is another section of the wall that’s easily accessible from Beijing. If you’re traveling during peak season, Mutianyu is a great alternative to Badaling, as it offers more scenic sites and small crowds. A Mutianyu Great Wall tour can also include a guided visit to the restored battlements and towers.
Another famous section near Beijing, Juyongguan offers the most secluded tour of the wall without heading to far north from the city. Beyond dodging the crowds, Juyongguan offers travelers two different ways to experience the wall. Those looking for an easy walk can start at the eastern section, while those who want more of a challenge can take the western stairs.
If you have a free day you can visit all three sections with a single Great Wall tour.
To easily bypass all the crowds, head to Simatai, which boast scenic sights and grand views. It also offers a more pure introduction to the Great Wall, having only been reinforced for preservation, unlike the former three which have gone through more thorough renovations. It is generally paired with a trip to Gubei Water Town, which is perfect for a day trip from Beijing on it’s own.
Where Simatai offers grand views, Jinshanling gets to the heart of the Great Wall’s purpose: war. Here you’ll discover ancient battlements, shooting holes, and watchtowers, all of which were built to withstand a full scale invasion. You can hike both Simatai and Jinshanling with a Great Wall hiking tour in just one day.
The Hermit’s Favorite
The most picture perfect section of the Great Wall due to the surrounding mountains, Jiankou is also considered the most dangerous. As such, it is much less visited than the other’s mentioned above. That being said, it is not too challenging for seasoned hikers, and can easily be hiked with a guide (always remember the buddy system). Visitors to this section can take a Great Wall hiking tour from Jiankou all the way to Mutianyu, hitting both the most picturesque and popular sections in one go as you pass along what’s known as the “Beijing Knot.” Make sure to bring your camera to capture the stunning towers, including Zhengbeilou – the highest point of this section – and Potala.
Unlike all the other sections mentioned here, Bubeikou has never been reconstructed, and it shows. Here you can see the Great Wall in it’s purest state, ravaged by war, the elements, and time itself. As such, it offers the most unique experience, letting you wander across ancient battlefields and through ruined towers. Photographers will delight at the seclusion of this section, and even novices can join in on the fun with a Great Wall photography tour, which also includes a visit to Jinshanling.
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