Ready to Embark on An Epic Adventure? Check out Our Top 7 Best Sections of Great Wall to Visit!
If you’re planning to visit the Great Wall of China, you may be wondering which part is the best for you to explore.
The answer to this question can vary depending on your interests and preferences, so it’s important to do your research and plan carefully.
To help you determine where to go, consider answering the following questions:
Top Factors to Consider Before Visiting the Great Wall
Here’s a suggested order to consider these questions, which can help you plan your visit:
- Is this your first time visiting?
- What time of year are you traveling?
- How much time do you have to spend, one hour, two hours, or the entire day?
- Who are you traveling with, and what are their interests?
- Would you prefer to go alone or with an entire group?
- Do you prefer the original un-restored Wall or the restored one?
- What kind of activities do you want to experience? Hike daily, camp overnight near the Wall, or fly over the point of interest in a helicopter?
- Will you wish to take photos of sunset or sunrise?
- Will you require the services of a tour guide?
By considering the questions above, you can identify the most exciting and rewarding sections of the Great Wall to visit.
With so many options to choose from in Beijing, it can be overwhelming to decide which section is right for you.
To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular sections of the Great Wall.
Whether you prefer original, un-restored sections or more accessible, restored sections, there’s something for everyone.
Choose according to your preferences and interests to make your travel plans even more memorable.
Great Wall Map in Beijing Region
Best Parts of the Great Wall to Visit
With so many options to choose from, it’s important to consider your interests and preferences to make the most of your trip.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best sections of the Great Wall to visit based on various factors, including accessibility, hiking options, photography spots, and more.
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly option or a wild and adventurous experience, there’s a section of the Great Wall that’s right for you.
Great Wall Sections:
- Fully Restored Wall Experiences: Badaling, Mutianyu, and Juyongguan.
- Wild Wall Experiences: Jiankou, Gubeikou, Jinshanling, and Simatai.
Best Day Hikes:
- Jiankou to Mutianyu
Best Spots for Sunrises/Sunsets:
Best Spots for Long Layovers:
Best Photography Spots:
Best Family Vacation Spots:
1. Badaling: The Most Famous, Visited, and Restored Section
Badaling is one of the most famous and frequently visited sections of the Great Wall of China.
Located in Yanqing District, about 70 kilometers northwest of Beijing, Badaling is easily accessible and attracts millions of visitors each year.
Known for its well-preserved, restored wall, Badaling is a popular destination for tourists looking for a fully restored Great Wall experience.
Benefits of Badaling:
1. Fully restored – Badaling is one of the most well-preserved and fully restored sections of the Great Wall, making it a popular destination for tourists visiting Beijing.
2. Easily accessible – It is easily accessible and often included in tour packages.
The site is equipped with various facilities, including restaurants, guardrails, cable cars, pulleys, viewing telescopes, and souvenir markets, making it a convenient and enjoyable experience for visitors.
Drawbacks of Badaling:
1. Badaling offers less wild scenery – While Badaling is a popular and convenient section of the Great Wall, it may not be the best choice for those seeking a more natural and rugged experience.
Compared to other sections like Jinshanling, Gubeikou, and Jiankou, Badaling offers less wild scenery and landscapes.
2. It is noisier than other sections – Additionally, it can be noisy due to its popularity with visitors.
However, visitors seeking a quieter experience can still enjoy Badaling by walking towards its southwestern part, which is less crowded than the northeastern side preferred by most visitors and tour guide
2. Mutianyu: Less Crowded with Easy Walking and Fun Toboggan Ride
If you don’t have time for a full-day hike on the Great Wall, Mutianyu is a great option.
This fully restored section features well-formed trails that are easy to follow, making the 2km walk along the wall relatively easy.
Additionally, Mutianyu is less crowded than some other sections, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a quieter experience.
Benefits of Mutianyu:
1. Mutianyu is greener, and quieter than Badaling, and it also has a direct bus service to and from Beijing, making it a better choice for those seeking a more peaceful and enjoyable experience.
To check the Mutianyu bus price, you can visit GetYourGuide or Viator. Both offer reliable bus services to Mutianyu and back to Beijing.
2. Mutianyu is well established and boasts various features, including a toboggan ride, cable cars, and chair lifts, making visiting Mutianyu an unforgettable experience.
The cable cars are particularly useful for avoiding the steep climbs experienced in sections like Gubeikou or Jinshanling .
The toboggan ride offers a thrilling, fast descent back to the entrance.
Mutianyu is a popular choice for first-time visitors due to its beautiful views, excellent visitor services, and family-oriented facilities.
3. Mutianyu offers scenic landscapes and beautiful scenery, particularly on clear days, making it a great spot for taking photos effortlessly as you ascend the Wall.
Drawbacks of Mutianyu:
Harder climb to the top than other sections. While Mutianyu offers many benefits, visitors should be aware that some parts of the section are very steep, and the steps are uneven heights.
This can make for a challenging climb towards the top unless you hold the side rail to help pull yourself up.
However, for those who are up to the challenge, the climb can be a rewarding experience.
For more details about Mutianyu, check out the Mutianyu travel guide.
3. Jiankou: A Dangerous, Wild, and Picturesque Section
Jiankou is a popular section of the Great Wall known for its unique style, steep mountains, and stunning scenery.
This 20km long Wall connects to Mutianyu to the east and Huanghuacheng to the west.
Some of the most scenic spots of Jiankou include the Arrow Nock, Sky Stair, Eagle Flies Facing Upward, Beijing Knot, and Nine-Eye Tower.
Benefits of Jiankou
1. Jiankou remains wild and secluded in comparison to Mutianyu or Jinshanling.
While it may have a few broken sections and missing steps, the towers are adorned with native plants and trees, adding to the natural beauty of the area.
2. Jiankou is very popular for photographers and adventurous and experienced hikers throughout the year.
If you are into hiking in the wild, or you find the prospect of trekking in the wilderness adventurous, Jiankou will be a turn-on for you.
Traveling from Jiankou (Zhengbeilou) to Mutianyu offers a rare opportunity for you to explore both the unrestored and fully restored sections of the Great Wall.
From Jiankou, a hiker can easily reach Mutianyu, after which they can enjoy an exciting downhill ride of the famous Toboggan.
Drawbacks of Jiankou
1. Jiankou can get extremely dangerous when it snows or rains.
The famous Sky Stair is challenging to climb, more so than Mutianyu or Badaling.
2. Bit further out. Jiankou is located further away from Beijing, and there is no direct bus or train service available.
As you approach Huairou, some van drivers may try to sell you a ride to your destination.
However, some visitors have reported feeling intimidated or bullied by these drivers.
To avoid any potential scams or issues, it’s recommended to pre-book a driver in advance at a reasonable price.
4. Jinshanling: A Classic Great Wall Hiking Experience with Ruined and Preserved Sections
Jinshanling is situated in Luanping County, Hebei Province, 125 km northeast of Beijing. T
his section of the Wall is connected to Simatai in the east and Gubeikou in the west.
With only a 2.5-hour drive from Beijing, Jinshanling is a relatively undiscovered paradise for backpacking and hiking enthusiasts.
Beneifts of Jinshanling:
1. The breathtaking view.Jinshanling offers pristine landscapes and unique features that are sure to amaze you.
The views of rolling hills and walls in the surrounding countryside are breathtaking.
It’s no wonder why Jinshanling is one of the best sightseeing spots around Beijing and a massive draw for tourists.
2. Easy to avoid crowds.Escape the crowds and experience the originality of the Great Wall at Jinshanling.
With fewer tourists than Mutianyu and more authenticity than Badaling, you can take in the stunning views without jostling for space.
3. An unmatched sunrise and sunset view.Jinshanling offers stunning sunsets and sunrises that are just as magnificent as one would expect from the Great Wall of China.
Watching the beautiful red skies over Jinshanling is an unforgettable experience that you won’t want to miss.
If you’re planning a trip to the Great Wall, I highly recommend adding Jinshanling to your itinerary. It has a unique charm that will exceed your expectations.
4. An epic hiking experience.If you’re searching for an unforgettable hiking experience, the legendary Jinshanling is the trail to conquer.
The hike from Jinshanling to Jinshanling East has minimal traffic, allowing you to move freely and enjoy the tranquility.
This is a challenging yet popular hike in Beijing that requires prior booking of a tour or hiring a taxi.
The good news is that both Jinshanling and Simatai are safe, and you can camp near the Wall or stay overnight in one of the local farmer’s guesthouses.
Drawbacks of Jinshanling
1. Possible traffic when going back to Beijing from Jinshanling. Traffic can be heavy at certain times of day, and some areas are particularly affected.
Be prepared for traffic at all times, as the drive back to Beijing may be extended by up to 1.5 hours after your visit.
2. Aggressive vendors.Be cautious of local farmers who may follow and offer to sell you various items such as water, books, postcards, or T-shirts.
If you’re not interested in purchasing anything, it’s best to firmly decline and avoid eye contact to deter them from persisting.
Once you’re on the Wall, vendors at the watchtowers are typically more relaxed and friendly.
5. Gubeikou: Quiet, Original, and Perfect for a Wild Wall Adventure
Gubeikou, located approximately 120 kilometers northeast of Beijing, was an important mountain pass during the Ming Dynasty in the 16th century.
It boasts 14 beacon towers, 143 watchtowers, and 16 strategic passes, with the majority of the Wall built by the patriotic general Xuda in 1378.
Benefits of Gubeikou
1. A quiet, less-crowded section with fewer visitors gives you an entire feel of nature.
Gubeikou is an exciting place for those who like exclusivity and the fun that only the Great Wall can provide.
2. Picturesque views of the masonry stretching as far as you can see.
Gubeikou features the vast, expansive views most often seen in magazines, websites, Facebook, and TV.
3. An uncrowded adventurous hike.
Hiking from Gubeikou to Jinshanling is a great experience, with only the initial climb being physically demanding.
While this section is a long journey, it is the perfect choice for those who prefer a challenging hike on the Wall.
Gubeikou offers more than just the Wall and is an excellent destination for adventure lovers.
Drawbacks of Gubeikou
1. A little far away from downtown Beijing, allowing 2.5-3 hours to drive each way unless you pre-book an excellent driver.
2. The hilly trail is hard to follow as part of Gubeikou is officially closed.
Some parts of the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall go through a military zone, making them inaccessible.
As you pass a military base, you must take a detour on a path along the north side of the Wall.
It is important to note that there is no signage indicating the detour from the military area.
3. During spring or summer, the sharp spines from the surrounding plants can scratch you or even rip your garments.
It is highly recommended to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants while exploring the Wall in summer.
6. Huanghuacheng: Peaceful Lakeside Views in a Remote Location
Huanghuacheng was constructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) by General Cai Kai to defend the northern border of Beijing and protect the Ming Tombs.
The Wall stretches for 11 kilometers and includes five terraces, six forts, 32 watchtowers, and twelve beacon towers.
Huanghuacheng is a perfect spot for couples, families, and outdoor enthusiasts seeking a peaceful retreat.
It is a great alternative for those who have already visited Jinshanling. Hikers, photographers, and camping enthusiasts may prefer Jinshanling.
Benefits of Huanghuacheng:
1. Breathtaking scenery. During summer, the landscape comes alive with fields of yellow wildflowers, and a clear lake fed by nearby springs adds to the peaceful and secluded atmosphere.
With its many photo opportunities and captivating scenery, a visit to Huanghuacheng is an experience you won’t forget.
2. One of the top places for sunset-watching.
Huanghuacheng is a popular destination for honeymoon couples who can capture some of the most unforgettable sunsets, as the setting sun provides the perfect lighting for stunning photographs.
3. A little bit short but a steep hike.
This is a little harsh but steep section of the trail, which can be hiked in a single day or afternoon.
You will encounter a pretty chestnut garden, which the Ming Dynasty soldiers planted.
Despite the absence of smooth walking paths, you will find the rough mountainous terrain a perfect opportunity to take on a challenging hike.
You might wish the day doesn’t end while walking along the Huanghuacheng to Xishuiyu.
You can set up camp right by the lake for easy access to water.
You can also view the mountain without climbing the steep steps by taking a speedboat.
It’s a perfect place for adventurers and peace-seekers.
Drawbacks of Huanghuacheng
It’s remote, and accessing it can be challenging if you travel from Beijing since there are no direct buses.
7. Simatai: Picturesque, Quiet, and Stunning Night Views
Simatai Great Wall in Miyun County, 120 km from Beijing, winds through mountain ridges, valleys, and hills.
It spans 5.4 km and is divided into eastern and western parts by a valley, featuring 35 beautiful towers and steep inclines.
Simatai is the only section that opens in the evening, offering a unique and unforgettable experience.
Benefits of Simatai
1. uncrowded. Simatai is less crowded and more historical, where you can find a much-needed bubble of calm.
The hike from the entrance, along the reservoir (1.5 km), to East Tower 10 takes around 2-3 hours.
You can hike up the Wall just before sunset or even after the sun goes down, which is a more relaxed experience.
2. Beautiful water town beneath the Simatai Great Wall. Gubei Water Town is located right at the entrance of Simatai, allowing visitors to easily visit both attractions on the same day.
The Wall is visible from the water town and looks particularly stunning when lit up at night.
However, some people claim that Gubei Water Town is a replica of Wuzhen and lacks authenticity.
Despite this, visitors can still enjoy a pleasant evening stroll.
Drawbacks of Simatai
1. Very steep in some parts. Simatai is an incredibly steep and visually rewarding section of the Wall.
Some portions have very narrow, steep steps, thus making the hike up quite challenging.
Fortunately, a cable car is available if you want to avoid the initial climb up.
2. Only the section between towers 5 and 6 opens at night.
Western Simatai has been closed since 2010; visitors are allowed to walk only the eastern part from Tower 1 to Tower 10 during the day, while at night, you can only walk the section between towers 5 and 6.
This could be the major drawback of visiting Simatai at night.
Activities to Do on the Great Wall
From hiking and camping to cable car and toboggan rides, there are many activities to enjoy on the Great Wall. These include:
Hiking and Walking on the Great Wall
Hiking and walking on the Great Wall is a must-do activity for any visitor.
While many sections of the Great Wall have been restored and are easily accessible, others are more rugged and require a bit more effort to reach.
The most popular section of the Great Wall for hiking is the Huanghuacheng section, which is located about 75 kilometers north of Beijing.
This section is known for its stunning scenery, watchtowers, and easy accessibility.
Other sections of the Great Wall that are popular for hiking include the Jinshanling and Simatai sections.
These sections are more rugged and offer a more challenging hiking experience.
It’s important to note that these sections are not recommended for inexperienced hikers, as they can be quite steep and slippery.
Cable Car and Toboggan Rides on the Great Wall
If hiking is not your thing, you can still enjoy the Great Wall by taking a cable car or toboggan ride.
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall has a cable car that takes visitors to the top of the wall, offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside. F
or those who are feeling a bit more adventurous, there is also a toboggan ride that takes visitors down the mountain.
The Badaling section of the Great Wall also has a cable car, which takes visitors to the top of the wall, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
This section is the most popular section of the Great Wall, attracting millions of visitors each year.
Camping on the Great Wall
For those who want to experience the Great Wall in a more unique way, camping on the Great Wall is a great option.
You can spend a night on the Gubeikou Great Wall, experiencing the stunning scenery and peacefulness of the wall at night.
This is a great option for those who want to avoid the crowds and have a more intimate experience with the wall.
It’s important to note that camping on the Great Wall is only allowed in certain sections, and visitors should book a tour with a reputable operator to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Watching the Sunrise or Sunset on the Great Wall
Watching the sunrise or sunset on the Great Wall is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed.
The Jinshanling section of the Great Wall is known for its stunning sunrises and sunsets, offering visitors breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and countryside.
Visitors should plan to arrive at the Great Wall at least an hour before sunrise or sunset to secure a good spot.
It’s also a good idea to dress in layers, as it can be quite chilly on the wall in the early morning or evening.
Taking Photos on the Great Wall
The Great Wall offers endless opportunities for photography, with its stunning scenery and historical architecture.
Visitors should come prepared with a camera and be ready to take plenty of photos.
Some of the best spots for photos on the Great Wall include the watchtowers, which offer stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Visitors should also be sure to take photos of the Great Wall’s unique architecture, including its battlements, parapets, and crenellations.
It’s also a good idea to take photos of the surrounding countryside and mountains, which provide a beautiful backdrop for photos on the Great Wall.
How Long Does It Take to Visit the Great Wall of China?
- Badaling: It follows a mountain ridge to the final viewpoint-North Eighth Tower, roughly 1,015 meters (3,330 ft) above sea level. Most visitors take 2-3 hours to walk to the top and back; some take longer. The quickest and easiest route up to the top is taking the cable car.
- Mutianyu: On average, it takes visitors around 1.5 hours to reach the top of Mutianyu Great Wall, or just 1 hour if taking the cable car to tower 14 and walking up. However, this trip may take longer if the section is crowded. Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours to relax and enjoy the scenery. Pro tip: Arrive early on busy summer weekends to find parking near the entrance. For a more peaceful experience, leave at least an hour earlier during the morning commute on weekdays to avoid crowds.
- Jiankou: You can hike the entire route in three days. The trails hug the mountain for about 1 km to the Wall. If you hike uphill via Xizhazi village to Mutianyu, where the hike is finished, the entire walk normally takes between 4 and 5 hours. Unless you plan to spend lots of time in Jiankou, you don’t need more than one or two days in Jiankou itself. It all depends on your fitness and how far you hike.
- Jinshanling: The entire Jinshanling Great Wall is 10.5 km long with five passes, 67 towers, and 3 beacon towers. Outdoor enthusiasts, photographers, and tourists can see the amazing Jinshanling on the same day. There are several routes you can take. Depending on your pace, it takes anywhere from 2 hours to 4.5 hours to hike Jinshanling.
- Jinshanling 4 Hour Route (Most Popular Route): Start from the Main/West Gate and hike along the Wall from Zhuanduokou Pass to East Five Window Tower and end at the East Gate.
- Jinshanling 3 Hour Route: Start from the Main/West Gate and climb up to the Wall via Zhuanduokou Pass. Hike from Zhuanduokou to Houchuankou Pass, where the hike is finished, and walk the Jinshan Horse track back down the mountain to the main gate you started at.
- Jinshanling 2.5 Hour Route: Start from the Main/West Gate and hike along the Wall from Taochun Pass. Walk the Wall eastward to the Lesser Jinshan Tower, where you can take the cable car down the mountain (pay an extra 40RMB per person to take the cable car).
- Gubeikou: Gubeikou is around 12 miles/20 km long and is divided into four parts: Panlongshan, Wohushan, Simatai, and Jinshanling. Fit hikers are recommended to allow 4.5 hours minimum to hike up Panlongshan and walk down to Jinshanling, but more like 5-5.5 hrs for a good hike up, viewing, and hike down.
- Huanghuacheng: Generally, the walk takes about 1.5-2 hours and is manageable. Fit hikers should have no problem with a 4-hour hike from Huanghuacheng to Xishuiyu. Beginners in reasonable shape may find the ascent challenging but manageable, with proper pacing and plenty of water.
- Simatai: This route usually takes around 2-3 hours for a round-trip hike, but this can vary depending on your fitness level, age, and how crowded the area is. It’s recommended to give yourself at least half an hour to relax at the top before beginning your descent. For those who don’t hike regularly and are taking on Simatai as a physical challenge, it may take around 3 hours or even longer to complete. However, once you reach Tower 10, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views and a great sense of accomplishment for completing the climb.
Do You Need a Tour Guide for the Great Wall of China?
If you’ve never visited the Great Wall of China or want a more comprehensive experience, a guided tour is recommended.
A knowledgeable guide can offer a depth of understanding beyond guidebook snippets or plaque-reading, explaining the stories behind the Wall and describing life in ancient China.
For experienced or independent hikers, the Jinshanling/Huanghuacheng/Jiankou to Mutianyu route can be hiked independently, but caution is advised as some parts may be challenging to navigate.
Alternatively, a fully guided tour can provide a sense of comfort and safety, with the guide knowing the local area and culture.
Regardless of the option you choose, immerse yourself in the Great Wall and leave the busy world behind for a day. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
The Distance Between Beijing and the Great Wall
- Beijing (about 103 km) The Jiankou Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 150 km) The Gubeikou Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 157 km) The Jinshanling Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 149 km) The Simatai Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 81 km) The Mutianyu Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 80 km) The Huahaucheng Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 59 km) The Juyongguan Great Wall;
- Beijing (about 69 km) The Badaling Great Wall.
Whether you choose to visit Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Huanghuacheng, Gubeikou, or Simatai, each section of the Great Wall offers unique experiences and stunning views.
Consider your preferences for scenery, hiking difficulty, crowds, and historical significance to choose the best part of the Great Wall for your visit.
Regardless of which section you choose, the Great Wall of China promises to be an unforgettable adventure.
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