10 Must-Visit Sections of the Great Wall with a Private Driver

Jinshanling Great Wall of China
Conquer the Great Wall’s Top 10 Must-Visit Sections with a Private Driver

Embarking on a journey through the timeless passages of the Great Wall of China can be a transformative experience.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site, a marvel of ancient engineering, offers much more than popular tourist spots; it’s a labyrinth of history waiting to be discovered.

In this post, we’ll guide you through the lesser-known areas of the Wall that promise a unique, personalized adventure.

Prepare to explore the hidden gems of this magnificent structure at your own pace, enriched by the knowledge and insights of a local driver.

Benefits of Hiring a Private Driver

A private driver offers unparalleled convenience and comfort, allowing you to focus on the experience rather than navigating unfamiliar roads or negotiating with local transportation providers.

With a private driver, you have the freedom to customize your itinerary, choosing the sections of the Great Wall that interest you most and spending as much time as you’d like at each location.

Your local driver will have valuable knowledge and insights about the wall and the surrounding area, enhancing your experience and providing a deeper understanding of this remarkable piece of history.

badaling great wall of china

1: Badaling

Badaling is the most visited and best-preserved section of the Great Wall. Located 60 kilometers northwest of Beijing, it was the first section to be opened to the public in 1957.

Historically, Badaling held strategic importance due to its position at the highest point of the Jundu Mountain.

Badaling is renowned for its majestic views and large watchtowers.

Its wider wall, accommodating up to five horses or ten soldiers side by side, is a distinctive feature.

Due to its immense popularity, Badaling often becomes crowded.

To ensure a more serene experience, consider planning your visit during the tranquil early morning or the serene late afternoon.

Moreover, as of May 1st, 2023, a new opportunity awaits visitors to immerse themselves in the enchanting ambiance of Badaling after dark, providing a truly tranquil and intimate experience.

The viewpoints from the North 8th Tower and the South 4th Tower provide panoramic views that are simply breathtaking.

mutianyu great wall private driver

2: Mutianyu

Mutianyu, situated 70 kilometers northeast of Beijing, is known for its lush scenery and well-preserved Ming Dynasty watchtowers.

It served as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs.

This section is famous for its 22 watchtowers and the ‘Ox Horn Edge Wall’.

The wall here is wider and has crenellations on both sides, a unique feature compared to other sections.

To enhance your visit, consider taking the cable car up to Watchtower 14, then walk to Watchtower 6.

From there, you can take a thrilling toboggan ride back down.

This mix of traditional exploration and modern fun makes Mutianyu a favorite among travelers.

jinshanling great wall private driver

3: Jinshanling

Jinshanling, located 125 kilometers northeast of Beijing, is a section of the Great Wall filled with historical charm.

Constructed in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty, it’s known for its grand watchtowers and intricate brickwork.

This section boasts 67 watchtowers, each with its unique architectural style.

The “General Tower,” adorned with intricate carvings and inscriptions, is a highlight.

Jinshanling offers the best hiking options for those seeking an adventurous experience.

The 10-kilometer hike from Jinshanling to Simatai West is highly recommended for its stunning views and fewer crowds.

Don’t forget to capture the panoramic views from the General Tower, which is arguably the most picturesque spot along this stretch.

simatai great wall private driver

4: Simatai

Simatai, located 120 kilometers northeast of Beijing, is renowned for its original Ming Dynasty architecture.

This section of the Great Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is celebrated for maintaining its original appearance.

It features 35 beacon towers, and its steepness varies dramatically, with some sections so precipitous they are virtually vertical.

The ‘Fairy Tower’ and the ‘Heavenly Ladder’ are some of the unique features that make Simatai a must-visit.

Simatai is the only section of the Great Wall open for night tours, offering a unique perspective of this ancient structure under the stars.

For those looking for a truly immersive experience, camping options are available.

Imagine falling asleep under the stars, surrounded by the silent testimony of centuries of history.

jiankou great wall private driver

5: Jiankou

Located 70 kilometers from Beijing, Jiankou is a wild and unrestored section of the Great Wall.

Its construction began in 1368 during the Ming Dynasty.

The section gets its name, which means ‘Arrow Nock’ in English, from its shape like an arrow, with the collapsed ridge opening presenting a nock.

Jiankou is known for its rugged beauty, with steep, crumbling sections and overgrown vegetation.

Highlights include the ‘Beijing Knot’, the meeting point of three walls, and the ‘Eagle Flies Facing Upward’, a dangerously steep section.

This section provides the most challenging hikes on the Great Wall, attracting adventurers and photographers from around the world.

The hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu is a popular route, providing stunning views and numerous photography opportunities.

However, due to its unrestored state, it’s recommended only for experienced hikers.

gubeikou great wall private driver

6: Gubeikou

Located 120 kilometers northeast of Beijing, Gubeikou is a vital strategic pass of the Great Wall.

Its construction started in the 6th century during the Northern Qi Dynasty, making it one of the oldest sections of the wall.

Gubeikou retains its original appearance with virtually no restoration, lending it an air of authenticity.

It is known for its 172 watchtowers, all differing in size and design.

The two sections, Panlongshan and Wohushan, provide a rugged, untouched experience.

Climbing the ’24-Eyes Tower’, the largest watchtower in Gubeikou, is a must.

From there, you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the entire section, offering a panoramic vista of the wall snaking through the hills.

huanghuacheng great wall private driver

7: Huanghuacheng

Huanghuacheng, situated 60 kilometers from Beijing, is unique for its location along a mountain range and a lake.

It was built during the Ming Dynasty under the supervision of General Cai Kai, who was later executed due to the high cost of its construction.

This section is known as the “Water Great Wall” because during the summer, the lower part of the wall gets submerged when the nearby Huanghuacheng Reservoir is full.

This unique spectacle attracts many visitors.

A popular activity here is a water-side trek along the Great Wall.

The highlight, though, is the “Underwater Great Wall” – a section of the wall submerged under the reservoir, creating a surreal blend of history and nature.

It’s an absolutely unique experience that sets Huanghuacheng apart from other sections of the Great Wall.

jinshanling great wall private driver

8: Jinshanling to Simatai West

This 10-kilometer stretch between Jinshanling and Simatai West is one of the most scenic sections of the Great Wall.

Built during the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty, it offers a combination of restored and wild parts of the wall.

The uniqueness of this section lies in its architectural variety, including watchtowers, beacon towers, and battlement walls.

Particularly noteworthy are the densely distributed watchtowers and the Kylin Screen Wall at the East Five-Window Tower.

The trek offers scenic views of stunning landscapes with the wall winding through the mountainous terrain.

The section has 67 well-preserved watchtowers and five passes, offering ample opportunities to explore and photograph.

huangyaguan great wall private driver

9: Huangyaguan

Huangyaguan, located in Tianjin, was built more than 1400 years ago during the Northern Qi Dynasty.

It was later restored in the Ming Dynasty by General Qi Jiguang, who is considered a hero in Chinese history for his defense against Japanese pirates.

This section is famed for its impressive fortresses, unique watchtowers, and the ‘Bagua Village’, a maze-like village built according to the principles of the Eight Diagrams.

Huangyaguan is home to the annual Great Wall Marathon, which is regarded as one of the most challenging marathons in the world due to the steep ascents and descents along the wall.

Whether you’re an athlete or a spectator, the marathon day buzz adds an extra layer of excitement to a visit here.

shanhaiguan great wall private driver

10: Shanhaiguan

Known as the “First Pass Under Heaven,” Shanhaiguan is where the Great Wall meets the sea.

Located in Hebei Province, it was built during the Ming Dynasty and served as the eastern starting point of the Great Wall.

Highlights of Shanhaiguan include the Great Wall Museum, the First Pass Fortress, and the Bell and Drum Towers, each offering a unique insight into the history of the wall.

Don’t miss the “Old Dragon’s Head,” where the Great Wall extends into the Bohai Sea, resembling a dragon drinking water.

This eastern terminus of the wall provides a remarkable contrast between the ancient wall and the endless sea.

Recommended Itinerary for Exploring the Great Wall

A multi-day itinerary allows you to explore a range of sections from the well-preserved to the wilder, less-visited areas.

Begin in Beijing, working your way through Badaling, Mutianyu, and Jinshanling, then further afield to Simatai, Gubeikou, and Huanghuacheng.

Mixing the sections provides an immersive experience, offering contrasting landscapes and architectural styles.

For instance, the restored elegance of Mutianyu contrasts beautifully with the rugged authenticity of Jiankou.

When planning your trip, consider factors such as your fitness level, interests, the time of year, and how much time you have.

Remember, each section offers a unique experience, so choose according to what appeals to you most.

Tips for Hiring a Private Driver

Start by researching reputable companies or drivers.

Look for reviews and recommendations online or ask your hotel for advice.

Be clear about your preferences and expectations.

Discuss your desired itinerary, the number of stops you want to make, and any other specific requests you might have.

Understand the pricing structure, including any additional services, like a guided tour or tickets to the wall.

Always confirm the total cost and what’s included before booking to avoid any surprises.

A private driver can significantly enhance your Great Wall experience, offering local knowledge, flexibility, and the convenience of personal transportation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the best time to visit the Great Wall?

A: The best time to visit the Great Wall is during spring (April-June) and autumn (September-October) when the weather is mild and the scenery is at its most beautiful.

However, each season offers unique charms.

Q. Can I visit multiple sections in a day?

A: Yes, you can visit multiple sections in a day, but it can be physically demanding and rushed.

It’s usually better to focus on one section per day for a thorough exploration.

Q. How much does it cost to hire a private driver for the Great Wall?

A: The cost of hiring a private driver for the Great Wall can vary depending on the distance, duration, and any additional services.

Prices typically start around 800-1000 CNY per day.

Q. Is it necessary to book tickets in advance?

A: For popular sections like Badaling, it’s recommended to book tickets in advance, especially during peak season.

Some sections don’t require tickets.

Q. Are there any restrictions or guidelines for hiking the Great Wall?

A: Always stay on the marked paths and respect the wall’s historical significance.

Some sections are steep and challenging, so appropriate footwear and a reasonable fitness level are important.

Q. What are the transportation options to reach the different sections?

A: Most sections are accessible by public bus from Beijing.

However, for a more convenient and flexible trip, consider hiring a private driver.

Q. Are there any accommodation options near the Great Wall?

A: Yes, there are accommodation options near the Great Wall, ranging from guesthouses to luxury hotels, particularly near popular sections like Mutianyu and Jinshanling.

Q. Can I hire a private driver for a half-day tour?

A: Yes, you can hire a private driver for a half-day tour, particularly for closer sections like Badaling and Mutianyu.

However, to fully appreciate the wall, a full-day tour is recommended.

Q. What should I bring when visiting the Great Wall?

A: Bring comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, water, snacks, and a camera.

Also, dress in layers to adjust to changing weather.

Q. Are there any local customs or etiquette to be aware of?

A: Always respect the Great Wall as a significant cultural heritage site.

Avoid littering, graffiti, and climbing on unrepaired sections.


There’s no denying the awe-inspiring allure of the Great Wall of China.

It’s not just a wall but a living testament to China’s rich history and indomitable spirit.

Hiring a private driver can elevate your Great Wall experience, providing unparalleled convenience, flexibility, and access to local insights.

Each section of the Great Wall holds unique charms and secrets waiting to be discovered.

Exploring these must-visit sections will reward you with a truly memorable adventure.

As you embark on this journey, remember that the Great Wall is more than a destination; it’s a passage into ancient tales, echoing with the footsteps of those who walked before us.

Additional Tips and Recommendations

Essential items for your Great Wall excursion include sun protection, comfortable shoes, a hat, a camera, and a power bank for your phone.

Dress according to the season.

Summers can be hot, so wear light clothing. In winter, the wall can be freezing and slippery, so warm, non-slip footwear is a must.

Always carry a bottle of water and snacks.

There are vendors at popular sections, but options are limited on wilder sections.

Lastly, remember that the Great Wall is a precious relic.

Treat it with respect, keep it clean, and help preserve its grandeur for future generations.

Safety Precautions

It’s important to adhere to safety guidelines while exploring the Great Wall.

Stay on marked paths, don’t climb walls that aren’t designated for climbing, and heed any warning signs.

Keep in mind that sections of the Great Wall are centuries old and can be fragile.

The Great Wall traverses a wide range of terrains, including steep, uneven, and slippery surfaces.

Always watch your step and take caution, particularly in wet weather.

A good pair of hiking shoes can help provide stability and grip.

Be honest with yourself about your physical fitness and limitations.

Some sections of the Great Wall, like Jiankou and Huangyaguan, are challenging and require a decent level of fitness.

Don’t push yourself too hard, take regular breaks, and remember it’s okay to turn back.

Ensure you have travel insurance that covers any unexpected situations, such as accidents, illness, or emergency evacuation.

Always carry a copy of your insurance and the contact details of your provider.

Safety should always be your top priority when embarking on this adventure.


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