Open main menu

Wikitravel β

Great Wall of China

Revision as of 20:46, 18 February 2016 by IBcaldera (talk | contribs) (Reverted edits by (Talk) to last version by

The Great Wall of China (长城 Chángchéng) stretches westward across the provinces and municipalities of Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Ningxia Autonomous Region to Gansu in the west.


The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling

The Great Wall of China can be visited at many places along its length of several thousand kilometers. Its condition ranges from excellent to ruined, and ease of accessibility varies straightforward to quite difficult. Note that different sections also each have their own admission fees, e.g. if you want to hike from Jinshaling to Simatai then you probably have to pay twice.


Great Wall of China at Badaling

The Great Wall, as we know it, is actually a series of several walls built at different times by different emperors. The categories below are non-exhaustive, and all refer to wall systems rather than single monolithic walls.

  • First Great wall - built by the Qin Dynasty 221-207 BC
  • Second Great Wall - built by the Han Dynasty 205-127 BC
  • Third Great Wall - built by the Jin Dynasty 1200 AD
  • Fourth Great Wall - built by the Ming Dynasty 1367-1644

First Great Wall

First Great Wall was ordered built in 214 BC by Qin Shih Huangti after he had finished consolidating his rule and creating a unified China for the first time. The wall was designed to stop raids by the Xiongnu raiders from the north. 500,000 laborers were used during the 32-year building period to create the First Great Wall.

Although the wall worked at keeping out enemies, it did nothing to stop internal pressures which lead to a regime change in 206 BC and the new leadership of the Han Dynasty. The first Han emperor, Gaozu, was quick to see the benefits of the wall against the raiders and ordered more wall to stretch out as far as Zhaoxiang, Gansu.

Second Great Wall

Over 70 years later, the Han Dynasty were still fighting the raiders since the Great Wall had been left to deteriorate and the raiders had breached it in several places. In 130 BC, Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty embarked on a program of extending, rebuilding and fortifying the original First Great Wall. After the emperor finished adding more regions under his rule in 127 BC, he ordered a major expansion program that created the Second Great Wall, outposts in Zhangye, Wuwei, Jiuquan, Dunhuang and Yumenguan in Gansu and Lopnor and other outposts in Xinjiang. The Great Wall was extended down the Hexi Corridor through which the Silk Road traders would travel on the way to and from the West.

When the Han Dynasty fell apart into the three kingdoms of the Wei, Shu and Wu, the northern Wei kingdom decided to continue maintaining the Great Wall so that they could keep out the Rouran and Qidan nomads from the northern plains. Despite the constant maintenance, the Wall kept being breached by the Rouran nomads. Additional walls were built inside and outside of the Great Wall by the different kingdoms. Eventually the Wei kingdom merged with the unifying Sui kingdom and was overthrown by the Tang Dynasty in 618 AD.

Nothing more was done to the Great Wall until the reign of the Liao and Song dynasties. The Liao Dynasty controlled the north while the Song Dynasty controlled the south. The Liao were troubled mainly by a tribe in the northeast region of China called the Nuzhen (known as Manchu in Mandarin) so they built defensive walls along the Heilong and Songhua rivers. These failed to stop the raiders from coming south.

Third Great Wall

In 1115, the Nuzhen established the Jin Dynasty and since they were from the north themselves, understood that the Mongols were right behind them. The Jin emperor ordered the construction of a Third Great Wall to be built in Heilongjiang Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The walls built had the characteristics of having ditches running along the walls full length.

Despite the impressive fortifications built, the Mongols overthrew the Jin in 1276 and established the Yuan Dynasty. During the Yuan dynasties rule, the Wall fell into deep disrepair and in 1368, the Chinese Ming Dynasty walked right in and took control.

The Ming Dynasty, after getting rid of the Mongols, determined that they would never be taken again by outsiders. The first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Hongwu, re-established manning of the Great Wall, fortresses and garrisons were built along the wall, and the fort at Jiayuguan was built in 1372 at the western end of the wall. The second Ming emperor, Yongle, turned his focus outward from the empire and sent out explorers and diplomats into the big, wide world.

Fourth Great Wall

It was not until the battle of Tumu against the Mongols that renewed interest in reinforcing the Great Wall occurred. Between 1569 and 1583, the most well-known parts of the Great Wall were built, the Fourth Great Wall. The reinforced wall managed to repel Mongols several times.

The Manchu retook China in 1644 and formed the Qing Dynasty. From this point on, the Wall slowly started to fade away while stone and rocks were taken from the Wall for building projects and homes. The Cultural Revolution definitely took its toll out on the wall when local people and local governments were encouraged to help dismantle the Great Wall.

It was not until 1984 that President Deng Xiaoping started a restoration and protection project of the Great Wall. In 1987, the Great Wall was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.


The geography of Northern China ranges from mountainous in northeast Liaoning and Hebei provinces, through the grasslands of Ningxia, semi-arid desert of China's loess plateau, and borders the sand dunes of the Tengger desert of Inner Mongolia. It is the area around Hebei and Beijing that most people associate with the Great Wall, but most of the Great Wall lies in the desert regions of the country.

Flora and fauna

Chinese wildlife is diverse, considering all of the different habitats available along the length of the Great Wall. From the rare Siberian tiger in the northeast to the protected and rare Giant Panda which lives in southern Gansu, Sichuan, and Shaanxi, you never know what you might see on a given day.

Wild mammals can be found in the north, such as the Manchurian weasel, brown and black bears, northern pika, and mandarin vole. Deer species include Sitka deer, roe deer and the long-sought-after spotted deer, which has many uses in Chinese medicine.

The birds of the region include various pheasants, black grouse, pine grosbeak, various woodpeckers, mandarin duck, and the fairy pitta, a rare migratory bird. Cranes are especially revered in China. Common, demoiselle, white-napes, hooded, and red-crowned cranes all breed in China.

You can find many tonic plants along the Great Wall, such as the rare ginseng (Panax ginseng). Chinese medicine has had many thousands of years to discover and use these tonic plants for the benefit of mankind.


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.


As the Great Wall of China is rather on the long side, there are a large number of places to visit it. The following list is divided by province/municipality.


Great Wall at Simatai

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 lie all the way up to the bus door (and in front of real transit workers) by saying there are no more buses, 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 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.

Make sure you wear the proper shoes such as tennis shoes or sneakers. The stones the wall is made of have been polished by millions of tourists like you, and are very slippery. If you wear flip-flops, you'd be looking for a disaster. Walking barefoot or in a thin sole shoes would be very uncomfortable because the stones get very hot in the sunshine.

Don't take the ¥100 tours that people offer you outside the Forbidden City or at Tian'anmen Square - you only get 2 hours at the Wall, and then you go to the Ming Tombs (read: big hill) and have to eat lunch; in addition, they can cancel the bus on you, they don't leave until the bus is full, and you have to stay with your tour group (with the loud mega phone and all) in order to get back to the city. Full walk path is: tower/path closed <> Guizhou pavilion for the stele <> (cable car/?closed) <> tower <> path to exit / great wall museum <> (sliding car, ?stairs) <> 6th tower <> 8th tower (top; cable car nearby ~100 m) <> tower <> 10th tower in the north (stairs) <> tower/path closed.

The cable car before the entrance costs ¥85 one-way (they can also sell you the Great Wall entrance ticket at the booth). As well as taking out a good bit of uphill, it puts you right into a quiet area of the wall. Once you get off the cable car a left turn will lead you to the regular entrance. But a right turn will provide a pleasant walk along the wall for a while until the path becomes closed.

It takes c. 2-3h to do the whole wall depending on your fitness/weather/crowd.

In winter, expect to lose 5°C between Beijing and the Wall. This plus the wind from the mountain, you will cherish every layer of clothes you can have. The vendors will be here to sell everything you may have forgotten, although the price is not reasonable. For the good part : the crowd is then much lighter, and almost nobody go after the first peak. The winter sun and, if you're lucky, the snow will give you amazing views on the walls.

  • Mutianyu (Chinese: 慕田峪; pinyin: Mùtiányù) is slightly further than Badaling, equally well restored, significantly less crowded, and has greener and more scenic surroundings. Historically, most tour groups did not go here, so this is a generally a better option than Badaling. Mutianyu has a cable car gondola to get onto and off the wall (though walking via stairs is also possible) and a toboggan ride down! Misplaced, but fun.

Because several English-language guidebooks now recommend Mutianyu over Badaling as less crowded and less overdeveloped, a few tour companies (notably G Adventures) 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). The total price is 158RMB for admission, shuttle bus to the ski lift both ways, ski lift and toboggan ride, as of July 2015. This option is overall the best, you should save your walking energy for on top of the wall, which is very long.

Alternatively the 20-30 min. climb uphill through steps in the forest is free. However the climb is fairly steep, and does not offer views until you reach the great wall itself. If you're not afraid of walking through some shrubbery, and you've got some grip on your shoes, continue on past the restored section and head to the highest local watchtower. You will be greatly rewarded for your effort!

There are two different cable cars in Mutianyu which are operated by different companies. One is a cable car to get to a high part of the great wall, the other is a chair lift to another point on the wall where you can toboggan down. They start at roughly the same point at the entrance to the area, however they operate in different directions. A recommended itinerary if you would like to try both is to buy the entrance ticket (¥45), a one way ticket up the cable car (¥65) which takes you to one section of the great wall, walk on the wall for about 1km in the direction of the second cable car, and take the toboggan down back to the entrance (¥45). Return tickets are significantly cheaper than buying a single trip, however, the two tickets cannot be combined, i.e. you cannot buy a return ticket going up one cable car and coming down the other.

Note that the walk on top of the Great Wall involves significant amount of climbing steps, which vary from short steps a large part of the way, to some sections with quite steep steps.

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.

The Schoolhouse (a restaurant and lodging company in Mutianyu) also offers a schoolbus that goes to and from the Kempinski Hotel in Liagmaqiao area of Beijing to their restaurant that is a 10-minute walk from the Wall on Saturdays and Sundays. It departs Beijing at 09:00 and the Schoolhouse at 16:30. The cost is ¥110 for a one-way trip or ¥132 for a same day round trip. Reservations must be made online at The Schoolhouse website by 18:00 on the Thursday before you want to take it. If you are worried about taking a public bus but don't want to pay for a whole tour, this can be a good reliable option.

  • Huanghuacheng one of the most well built sections of the Great Wall that caused the beheading of Lord Cai, the builder, for mismanagement and waste

It's far less crowded than Badaling and Mutianyu.... mostly before more difficult to access and less renovated To get there, go first to Hairou (see the Mutianyu description there above to go there) bus station (bus 916), then take the bus (number 936) to "Shuishangcheng" (litterally "Wall above water", other name of Huanghuacheng Great Wall). To get the second bus stop, turn left out of Hairou bus station up to next light crossing, turn left again (about 300 m) until you get to the bus station. The bus are not very frequent (every hour). Huanhuacheng-Shuishangcheng is the last stop. to go back to Hairou, the bus leaves every hour (10:30, 11:30....) up to 5:30pm. It says there is a direct bus from Dongzhimen to Shuangshangcheng on the WE, but it will leave only if enough people (more than 10). Difficult to count on it so. 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 lie 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.

There are many famous sections of Jiankou Great Wall, such as 'The Nine-Eye Tower', an important command post during the ancient wars. It has three layers, and there are nine holes which look like nine eyes on each side. 'The Beijing Knot' is the meeting point for three walls coming from different directions. 'The Sky Stair', is a precipitous stair whose angle of elevation is 70 to 80 degrees. It leads to 'The Eagle Flies Facing Upward', a watch tower built on the lofty peaks. It is so dangerous that even eagles have to fly facing upward to reach the top. 'Zhengbei Tower' is the right place to appreciate the beauty of the sunrise and the sunset.

  • Shuiguan Located near the Badaling Great Wall, the Shuiguan Great Wall is sometimes called the 'Badaling-Shuiguan Great Wall'. It often happens that innocent visitors are guided to the Shuiguan Great Wall instead of their original destination - the Badaling Great Wall, especially during holidays or peak periods.

This portion of the Wall was opened to the public in 1995 after repair. Besides climbing the wall, you can also visit the Genghis Khan Palace, the Stone Buddha Temple, Luotuo Peak (Camel Peak) and the Great Wall Stele Forest nearby.

Hebei and Tianjin

Old Dragon's Head beginning of the Great Wall
  • Shanhaiguan, at the Old Dragon's Head, the wall juts out into the sea. To get there from Beijing takes about 3 hours by train.
  • Panjiakou Reservoir - sunken part of the Great Wall
  • Huangyaguan - worth a visit for its water run-off controls, well-preserved towers, challenging hiking and striking scenery


  • Hushan - can be explored from Dandong
  • Jiumenkou - located 18 km east of "The First Pass Under Heaven' at Shanhaiguan


  • The Outer Wall of Shanxi - Li'erkou to Deshengbu, Juqiangbu to Laoniuwan, and along the Yellow River
  • The Inner Wall of Shanxi - Yanmenguan, Guangwu Old City, Ningwu Pass and Niangziguan


  • Yulin and Shenmu - garrison towns in the time of the Ming dynasty


  • The Eastern Ningxia Wall - Hongshan Castle and Water Cave Gully (Shui Dong Gou)
  • The Northern Ningxia Wall - in the area of Helanshan
  • The Western Ningxia Wall - Zhenbeibu and Sanguankou


  • Minqin - oasis town
  • Jiayuguan - Fort at Jiayu Pass, nicknamed "Last Fort Under Heaven"
  • Lanzhou - former walled town that now is capital of Gansu Province


  • 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.
  • Visit the Great Wall Museum Down the "Badaling Pedestrian Street" and up a hill behind the "Circle Vision Theater" is the under-appreciated Great Wall Museum. The walk-through exhibits provide a good overview of the wall's multi-dynasty history, along with many artifacts from those time periods and photo-worthy models of watchtowers, scaling ladders, etc. The bathrooms are also probably the cleanest you'll find at Badaling (there's even a Western-style toilet). Best of all, admission is free! (closed M, 09:00-16:00). Great wall circle-vision theater (¥40).
  • Downhill on the toboggan run The Mutianyu section offers two chairlift lines which run to different parts of the Great Wall section, a more modern one with bubble cabins and a less modern one with two-seater chairs. If you feel up to it and the weather is clear, the return ticket for the less modern lift is also good for a ride down the toboggan run. Though if you prefer, tickets can easily be purchased separately for the toboggan ride of course - just walk up to the ticket office at the beginning of the ride, then off you go down the wall. Note that the tickets for the lifts cost the same but are not interchangeable. If you can't read Chinese check the picture on the ticket, and if you get wrong one with a picture of the bubble cabins, it's not a problem to immediately get your money back and take it to the other ticket counter.
  • HereIsBeijing, [email protected], (+86) 15601234491; (+86) 13347123412, [1]. John at 'Here is Beijing' provided a very convenient pick-up service for our hike from JianKou to Mutianyu. He was really helpful and even walked with us for a while in order to make sure we got on the right path. We can really recommend his services!

Stay safe

Bring a jacket against the wind or cold in the chillier seasons. In summer you will need lots of water, but there are plenty of vendors at the most visited sections. Be prepared for the possibility of sudden, short, but rather violent thunderstorms.

Do not leave any trace of your visit. Even if it is not an uncommon sight, resist the urge to add your name to the carvings in the wall, or take a piece home as a souvenir. If the wall should be damaged by your actions, the authorities may very well take action with fines and other punishments.

Hiking as a recreational sport is not well understood yet in China so the etiquette of crossing state and private land has not yet been established. Remember that the Wall is mostly mud and poorly supported stones, and that you are on your own if you're outside the maintained areas. Even if you are not walking on the wall, you will find few trails to follow and at some parts, the area the Wall traverses are vertical, treacherous and very unsafe. Besides that, it is difficult to obtain clean drinking water and some areas may even have no water at all. Other areas will have man made obstacles, like roads and motorways that have solid fencing. Villages where you could get supplies may be few and far between. Some may take you miles away from the Wall. Poor cartography is still a problem here since maps of less than 1:450,000 are not easy to get a hold of due to the military applications of such maps. Besides that, guides who know the areas along the Great Wall are few and far between. The last item to think about regarding hiking the Great Wall is that China has no system of mountain/wilderness rescue personnel. You will be on your own should something happen to you.

Scams - Beware of bus scams that may ruin your day. Also try to avoid organized tours to the Great Wall costing 100-150 Yuan. These are advertised by people handing out flyers around the Forbidden City in Beijing [2] for example (the real bus service to the Great Wall only costs 20 Yuan!). Also, the driver might just stop and set you off before your destination.

Walking safely don't run around as you may trip which may result in an injury as the steps are uneven.

Phones use your phone only for taking images, stop tweeting or updating your Facebook status and actually admire the scene for once as you may never get an opportunity like this again (this will also save you battery which you can then use in case of an emergency)

Get out

Badaling Take bus 919 back to Beijing (¥12) or the train from either the Badaling or Qinglong Qiao stations (¥14). The last bus 919 leaves at 17:00. There are plenty trains going to Badaling station. Very cheap and super easy from Beijing station.

For other sections hopefully you've come with a tour that is picking you up from that section. Taxis back to Beijing can be quite expensive (even from Badaling, it will probably be over ¥100).

Ming Tombs Many tour operators or private drivers will combine the wall and the Ming Tombs in a day trip. The Ming Tombs are nothing special and are quite plain. Tourists usually skip them unless they are Chinese history buffs.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!