Northern China has all four seasons and they arrive with a vengeance. Summer and winter temperatures normally reach extremes of over 40 degrees Celsius (105+ °F) and -20 degrees Celsius (-4 °F) respectively.
The most popular sites can be visited in one day starting from Beijing.
* '''Badaling''' and '''Juyongguan''' are nearest Beijing, and these two are among the most crowded sections of the Great Wall. On the weekdays, Badaling is less crowded and it is the easiest to reach affordably (i.e., without hiring a taxi)
. From the southwest corner of Tian'anmen Square, take the number 5 bus (starts running at 5:10am) (¥2 public bus or ¥1 if you have Yikatong card) to the last stop (Deshengmen) or subway line 2 to Jishuitan Station. Walk east on the north side of the road to the bus station. Take bus number 877 or 879 (¥12 one way, ¥4.80 one-way with Yikatong card]], air conditioned coach bus) to Badaling (takes 1.5 hours.) The last bus from Beijing to Badaling leaves at around 12:30, the last bus from Badaling to Beijing at around 16:30. Arrive early if you desire a seat. Note: Bus 877 to Badaling is about 400m east of the station (exit A). You have to walk from Exit A around 5 minutes past all bus stops until you reach the Deshengmen arrow tower on your left. Bus 877 leaves exactly North (behind) of the tower. The station is right behind the stop for bus 919. Just follow the crowd. Be very wary of men in blue jackets posing as transit workers. They will walk all the way up to the bus door (and in front of real transit workers) and say there are no more buses, that it is the wrong bus, or that they are overpriced, etc. and try to get unknowing passengers to take their overpriced taxi and/or shuttle. The real transit workers around the area will be of no help (as they may be taking a cut), so you must ask the ticket giver directly on the bus if it is the correct bus. ¥12. Many tourists get stuck at the station where bus 919 leaves and are approached by the scammers there. You have to actually get past the bus 919 to get to the station for 877. Alternatively, take the train from Beijing North Station which has the subway station. The train costs ¥6 with the IC card one-way for hard seat (the seat is nicer than most airplanes, with plenty of leg room). The train is a much better option than a bus since it takes less time, doesn't get stuck in traffic, leaves from a relatively central subway station and the seating is much more comfortable. The train departs from Beijing North Station, the entrance to the waiting area is on the surface with the "Entrance" sign, and the train schedule is posted nearby. The train you need starts with S following by a 2xx number, such as S205. If you use the IC cards there are no tickets, you just touch your card and get in (you'll have to touch the card on the exit again). The schedule posted on [http://www.seat61.com/China.htm seat61.com] seems to be pretty safe. This allows you time to visit the wall at your own leisure, bypassing the need to go to the Ming Tombs and random stores. The train has very large viewing windows, allowing you breathtaking views of the scenery and the Great Wall even before you arrive at Badaling. If you don't have the IC card, tickets must be purchased the same day of travel only from the Beijing North Station. Tickets may be purchased as early as 6:30am. In peak seasons tickets may sell for the next train so you may need to wait. There is no specific time printed on the ticket so you may use the ticket for any train that day. If you can't find empty seats you can hang out in the nearly empty dining car, which has a couple of comfortable booths with tables. Upon arrival at Badaling station (the station will be announced in English with repeating "Great Wall" many times so you won't miss it) you'll need to make a left turn and walk 800 m to the great wall entrance. Badaling entrance fee is ¥40 or ¥45 with a postcard. Audio tour service ¥15/40 for Chinese/English + ¥200 deposit.
The hike is still a challenge with plenty of '''very''' steep hills, so don't get disappointed if you took the cable car up and see a huge crowd - once you get a bit into the wall the crowd thins quickly, and even on a weekend you can find yourself alone on a whole section of the wall. On weekdays, there are much less vendors chasing you on the wall; they stay in the little town area. In addition, there are sun bears that you can feed carrots to for ¥3 in the little town.
Because several English-language guidebooks now recommend Mutianyu over Badaling as less crowded and less overdeveloped, a few tour companies (notably G Adventures and Intrepid Travel) have switched to Mutianyu as their preferred Great Wall segment for their China tours. If at all possible, try to book an escorted group tour with a Mutianyu visit as an integral component. That will provide the most convenient and seamless experience, since small tourist motorcoaches with the appropriate paperwork can take you directly from a Beijing hotel to a small parking lot very close to the cable car base station. The driver will wait with the motorcoach while your tour guide takes your group up to the Great Wall, then when you are all done, you get back on the motorcoach and go directly back to Beijing.
Other than that, Mutianyu is generally easiest to reach via taxi. The only direct public bus to the Mutinyau Great Wall section is a special service of the 867, which only runs during the tourist season (15 Mar-15 Nov). As of May 2012, it departs at 07:00 and 08:30 from the Dongzhimen outer bus station which you can get to by turning left out of the main bus station (arrive at Donzhimen subway, take "H" exit) and going for a 10 minute walk round the other side until you see a parking lot full of buses on your left (don't cross the street). To make it clear the 867 is not numbered when you come up the stairs from the subway. It is a totally separate bus terminal outside the main building. This is where the 867 leaves from, it is not easy to find and you will be hawked heavily by private taxis and mini buses. As of July 2014, route 867 had a very aggressive driver verbally forcing all tourists off at stop around 12km from Mutianyu to waiting hoards of hire minivans. Bus 867 stop sign at Mutianyu has been removed by scammers, and bus comes at 14:00 with same driver but number blanked off front, again angrily refusing to return to Dongzhimen, and drove back to stop 12km from Mutianyu avoiding all in between stops to again force tourists off. Be very wary of this route.
The special service of bus 867 to Mutianyu had been cancelled since June 2014. If you still want to get to Mutianyu by bus, it is still possible-you will need to take the bus 867, get off at the Honglousi, the final stop of it, and wait for a special bus service at the return stop of Honglousi (which is opposite the road from the place you get off). The special bus service costs ¥4 each way (¥1.6 with metrocard) and will only depart at 10:00 and 12:00 from Honglousi, and 14:00 and 15:00 from Mutianyu. It costs ¥16 each way (¥6.4 with metrocard) and takes at least 2.5 hr.
Also it's possible to use 936 and 916 that runs after that time (every 10-15 minutes) that will take you only to the city of Huairou which is 17 km (11 mi) away from the Wall and around 60 km (37 mi) from central Beijing. This is the faster (1 hour) but slightly more complicated option. From there you have to take a taxi (¥80 for a taxi but you can bargain to 50RMB which is not bad with a large group) for the final 25-30 minutes to the Wall. Note that the stop where you should get off occurs soon after the Huairou tourist center. It is just a regular bus stop but there are rows of minivans and taxis waiting to take people to the wall. The easiest option is stay on 916 until the final stop, and then hire a minivan from there.
Be aware that it is possible that taxi drivers in league with the bus driver (who may be on the bus from Dongzhimen) will try and get you to come off the bus at the wrong stop in order to ensure that you take their taxi (fees until ¥400!). Also beware of people that offer to help you at Dongzhimen, that are in league with the taxi drivers and will point you to the wrong bus (980, for example), and you will end up having to backtrack to Huairou and pay double for the taxi (Great Wall Trek China Expeditions is known to do this). There are also scammers who dress up like they work for the bus system as ticket collectors. For bus 916 there should be no ticket collectors, just ignore anyone but the bus driver, and put 12RMB into the box by the bus door.
For the return journey, the 867 leaves at 14:00 and 16:00 from parking lot 3 - the same place it dropped you off at Mutianyu if you caught it in the morning. Note that on Sunday the 16:00 bus might be really crowded. It is an official looking bus with a number on it so don't be fooled by any other drivers (e.g. minibuses) who try and steal your business. Also, do not be fooled by any taxi drivers who say "no bus!". Post with bus schedule is usually hidden behind minivan or any big car parked in front of it in western part of parking lot to confuse visitors. For those making it back to Huairou, there are usually drivers walking around saying "Huairou."
Entrance fee is ¥45, ¥25 for students only with ID containing a photo. In addition, the cable car to the wall costs more than the wall entrance: ¥65 for adults (one way), or ¥80 for a round trip (¥45 for children).
Do not miss the stone museum just past the main ticket office on the right, which features beautiful caves with lighted rock art. Entry is free.
The last buses to Beijing Dongzhimen from Huairou city are the 936 at 17:00 while the service of the 916 ends at 19:00. Without the Beijing transportation card (that you can purchase at any metro station) the price is ¥16 but with the electronic card expect to pay less than ¥5. See the details about the card on in the [[Beijing]] "Get around" section.
If you miss the bus, there is accommodation to be found near the shops in Huairou. There is a tourist information office that remains open during normal office hours, though it may seem closed due to lack of visitors. They will be able to help you find accommodation that is licensed to take foreigners, should you need it. The nearby "Yanxi Nightless Valley" area is full of small forest resorts, where you can pay around ¥100 for a fresh, farmed trout. Stay in the valley the night before, then hire a taxi out direct to one of the nearby Great Wall sections in the morning.
Arrived at Shuishangcheng, you can access to the reservoir trough an entrance gate (¥45 each), where you can see the wall. However, to climb on the wall, you can also go to the parking in front of East entrance, then take a small trail at the left of the toilets (without passing the entrance gate so): you'll be able to access the wall without paying the entrance fee! Isn't it wonderful?
* '''Gubeikou''', '''Jinshanling''' and '''Simatai''' are a bit farther from Beijing than other sections, but the extra time it takes to get there is rewarded with a very significant reduction in crowding and tourist traps. Services are also limited, however; make sure you bring your own supply of water and extra film. The most authentic part of the Wall (at least portions closest to Beijing) is at '''Simatai'''; the Wall here is of original construction unlike Badaling. These three locations are 130 km (80 mi) northeast of central Beijing.
For people who wish to visit Jinshanling only for a day trip, it is worth mentioning that there is a 'One day Travel Package' available. It costs ¥120 in total for the round-trip bus ticket, admission fee, cable way, and the tourist car at the scenic spot. Tickets can be purchased at Dongzhimen bus terminus/东直门长途汽车站. Be wary of bus scams. There will be "harmless looking" middle-age woman/man who will approach you at the bus terminus pretending to be helpful and say that the direct bus service is cancelled due to bad weather and then advise you to take a public bus to Miyun bus terminus which you'll then be force to take a private transport to Jinshanling. Note: as of September there are no package like this available there. You can also take a normal bus (line 980) from Dongzhimen, it will take you to Miyun for ¥30. At Miyun bus 51 takes you to Simatai (another ¥30), bus 25 goes to Gubeikou. Don't believe the friendly ladies in Dongzhimen who tell you to get of at the fifth stop of line 980. There's no transfer to other lines there, only expensive taxis. Instead ask people in the bus where you best get off. Finally, you can get to Jinshanling from Gubeikou with a taxi. Alternatively, you could also rent a taxi in Miyun for the rest of the day, which will cost you around ¥450 after negotiation. The entire trip will take about 3 hours, but it takes you through small villages and magnificant landscapes. To get to the Jingsanling wall from Beijing by a direct and public 'local tourist' bus, take the metro to Wang Jing West station. Leave the building by the pedestrian bridge that is crossing the highway. Exit C or D. Walk down on the left side and walk for about 400 meters to reach the bus station. You will also find a bus station on the right side of the bridge. That is a different one. Get in line for the bus (see the great wall signs) and purchases your ticket from the conductor for 32 Yuan (13 if you have a transportation card). It leaves at 8am and returns to Beijing on 3am from the service center, where you got dropped off. The journey takes about 2,5 hours. Calculate about 40-60 min to get from Beijing centre Wang Jing West station. Total cost: 68yn incl your subway fare excl. entrance fee from around 65yn. This can’t beat a organized tour and you will have plenty of time to explore the area. Note: when there are less then 20 passengers you have to take the long distance bus from the same bus station to Luan Ping (the other waiting line) and get off at the service centre to take the free shuttle bus to the scenic spot.
* '''Jiankou''' Many published photos of the Great Wall are from this area. 'Jiankou', is translated as 'Arrow Nock' in English, because the shape of the mountain is like an arrow, with the collapsed ridge opening as its arrow nock.
* '''Hike from Jinshanling to Simatai''' The majority of the Wall east of Jinshanling is also unrestored. The hike from Jinshangling to Simatai is roughly 10 km (6 mi). It is a significant hike in distance but more so in the elevation change, but you will be rewarded with spectacular views and a good day of exercise. Expect to spend anywhere from 2.5 hours to 6 hours on the wall, depending on your fitness level, ambition and frequency of photo ops. When you are half way between the two sections, there are hardly any tourists. In fact, more foreign tourists are seen doing this thorough hike than domestic Chinese tourists. Comfortable shoes and clothes are needed, as you will be hiking on moving bricks sometimes combined with steep climbs. Water and snacks should be in your backpack. But you will find some local vendors selling water and sometimes snacks on the wall. When you descend down from Simatai, there is a zip line available for ¥40. It's roughly 400m, and is over a river. It will take you down to the other side of the river, and includes a short boat ride back to catch your ground transport. During the middle of this hike, collectors will charge you again because you are entering another part of the Wall. If you are going between sections, there is little you can do about it other than turn back. As of '''July 2015''' it is no longer allowed to go east from Jinshanling to Simatai. A guard is posted two towers east of the Five Window Tower in Jinshanling to turn hikers back should they try
. * '''Tips to get to Jinshanling easily without much expense''' There are many options to arrive in Jinshanling and some are more expensive than others. Here is one trick, up to date as '''July 2015''' : From Beijing, get to Wangjing West Station, accessible from subway lines 13 and 15. Go out of Exit C and then turn right, cross the street and turn right again. There is a big red sign that says something in English about Jianshanling Tourist Bus or something like that. Exit D also works. But head out straight, cross the road, and take a left. The big red sign will be to the right, and probably above your head. (39°59'38.5"N 116°26'39.9"E) Take the bus at 07:00, 7:30 or 8:00 (I for sure took the one at 8) 望竟西 - 滦平 (Wangjing West - Luanping). This bus does only one stop before destination (Luanping), and it is at Jinshanling Resting Area, so there is virtually no way you could eventually miss the stop if you pay attention. This bus make the trip every hour and cost only ¥22.5RMB (13 in cash and 9.5 swiped from the subway card) (¥32 if you don't have the transportation card; which cost ¥20 that you can get back by giving back your card at any Service center of any Subway station). Once you arrive there, DO NOT look for a taxi, and DO NOT accept any ride offer beside the free shuttle. If people ask you for money to get you there, then refuse; it might cost you between ¥20-100! It is actually really easy to get to Jinshanling from the Resting Area. If you have to hurry, you can try to walk there. Once you arrive at the resting area, follow the expressway from where you came by still staying inside the area, you will soon (50m further) notice the signage indicating you the road to reach the place. Walk down the road for 2-3kms after the toll gate, just underneath the expressway and you will arrive at the East Gate. Add 4-5 km to reach the West Gate. As '''July 2014''', the entrance ticket will cost you ¥65; so if we had to sum up all this you will spend : 22.5*2 + 65 (without cable-car) = '''¥110''', way under what any tour will propose to you. Make the right choice ! One last thing: to go back to Beijing, make yourself visible for the bus; It will make a very quick U-Turn right in from of the tiny visitor's center at the resting area. The bus will stop literally for few seconds and you will have to wait one more hour to get the next one.
* '''See the sunset and sunrise in Jinshanling''' Follow the same way than the section above to reach Jinshanling. When you arrive at the service station, you should get offers to find accommodation. Prices seem to go from 50 to 80 rmb per person, don't hesitate to bargain. If not follow the road on the south east side of the station (left of the tunnel), it turns right and passes under the highway. After 5-8mn walk you will find guesthouses. To climb the wall, after 5pm, you should be able to sneak at the East Gate (10mn walk along the road) and avoid the 65rmb fee. You can also ask your host to drive you to the main entrance if you are in a hurry for sunset, he may ask you 20-30rmb to drive and wait, and they still ask for a ticket after 5pm, even when it is supposed to be closed. Take the same way back and go on the East Gate in the morning for sunrise for best views. Ask your host to know how to sneak in. There might be a small path on East of the East gate. If you end up in Hua Lou Gou village, there might be a path on West of the West gate to.
* '''Hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu''' This hikes start in Xi Zha Zi village (village fee: ¥20 as of Feb 2014), at the foot of Jiankou Great Wall section. After buying the tickets take the first road left (Yi Dui - there should be staff around, who can confirm, that this is Yi Dui). Follow the road for a bit, until you see a blue sign to your left, saying this part of the Great Wall is closed. Take the path on the right of it (follow the red arrow! Do not take the left path, even though it is "a narrow dirt path" as mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide-book.) There will be more red arrows and dots along the way, eventually leading you to the Great Wall (Feb. 2014). You walk about a hour in medium-rough terrain where you will encounter some local villagers' ladders which you will have to use in order to climb the wall (¥5, none of those in Feb. 2014). After arriving at the Great Wall, head left (east) towards Mutianyu, a hike that will take you about 2-3 hours. The first 1,5 hours is on the unrestored area of the wall, the rest on the restored area. Add 0,5-1 hour if you choose to walk the Ox Horn, which is a more rough part of the wall (you can also skip it by following the signs). The hike can be done in sneakers, but hiking shoes would be a much better choice. Don't try to do the hike when it's wet, because it has some very (!) steep and slippery parts. While it would be totally possible to do the hike the other way round (from Mutianyu to Jiankou), finding transportation (probably back to Huairou) would be much harder to find.