No trip to Beijing would be complete without a Great Wall tour. Winding along the mountain ridges north of the capital city, the Great Wall of China stands as one of the world's most iconic wonders, largest historical sites, and greatest feats of engineering, showcasing the genius of the Ming Dynasty.
Visitors to Beijing may be surprised by the breadth of options they have for a visit to the Great Wall, as this UNESCO World Heritage site is actually composed of several sections. Badaling, by far the most popular segment, is easily accessible with or without a tour guide and services travelers making the rounds of top attractions like the Forbidden City and the Ming Tombs, while the Juyongguan and Mutianyu sections both feature restored segments of wall with relatively fewer visitors. Still restored but well off the beaten path is the section at Huangyaguan Pass, closer to the city of Tianjin than Beijing.
For adventurous travelers, the allure of the "Wild Wall" is hard to resist. In the vicinity of Beijing, hikers can traverse an historic segment of the wall between Jinshanling and Simatai in a single day. Other remote sections, like Huanghuacheng, Jiankou and Gubeikou, appeal to hikers and photographers seeking fresh air, stellar views, and photo ops free of other tourists. Multi-day guided hikes offer the opportunity to see more of the wall for a deeper experience.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Summers tend to be hot and wet, while winters can get icy; dress accordingly.
- While the Badaling section has some wheelchair accessibility, flatter, less-visited areas such as Shanhaiguan on the east coast and Jiayuguan in the western desert are best for wheelchair users.
- The Mutianyu section is recommended for seniors and kids, as the wall's watchtowers can be accessed from a cable car.
- Upgrade to a private tour for a more intimate experience, or book a tour with a local guide to get an insider's perspective.
How to Get to the Great Wall of China
Although bus and train lines run near the Great Wall, the easiest ways to travel include guided tours and chartered taxis from downtown Beijing, as public transportation options can get hectic and confuse travelers with little knowledge of Chinese. Visitors coming from Shanghai or Hong Kong can maximize their time by taking a flight or traveling by train.
When to Get There
No matter where you visit along the wall, crowds will be thicker on holidays, particularly at the portions closer to Beijing. The peak season runs roughly from April through November. Tours in the early morning are generally less crowded, and as bonus, these options offer the chance to see the sunrise.