A trip to the Great Wall of China can turn into a nightmare unless you do a little planning beforehand.
The Wall is more than 4000 miles long so it's vital that you choose what section of the Great Wall is best suited to what you want to see.
We'll show you what each section of the Great Wall has to offer so you can make an educated decision.
Many people end up just following the hoards of tourist and end up surrounded by hawkers who let you little chance to enjoy the views.
You might even decide to make your trip to the Great Wall of China a multiple day stop. Just remember that walking the Great Wall for any distance is physically challenging.
You should get plenty of rest before even a single day trip. Consider staying in a Hotel nearest the Great Wall if you plan on fully exploring it.
Getting to the Great Wall from any distance can be a pain. Find out where the best budget hotels are located in Beijing.
Use this Webpage to...
Below are the sections of the Great Wall worthy of mention and close enough to Beijing to easily visit. All are North of Beijing.
Expect to do some strenuous hiking if you plan to walk the wall at any location.
There are Cable cars available in the Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai and Jinshanling sections only.
When you see all the pictures and video of the Great Wall, the Badaling Section is what you see. It's the youngest, grandest and most extensively renovated section of the Wall.
It's also the nearest section to downtown Beijing (less than two hours away) and the easiest to climb.
Thus, it's the most crowded section of them all.
Badaling now swarms with Tour Groups, Individual Tourists and Hawkers who will literally push their wares into the lens of your Camera as you try to snap a photograph.
The Badaling Section of the Great Wall has become somewhat tacky. There are better choices to experience the Great Wall of China in all its glory.
Mutianyu is second only to Badaling as far as monies spent on renovations. It's steeper to climb than the Badalang section but much less congested by Tourists, Souvenir Sellers and especially Pickpockets.
Mutianya also has a Cable Car for tourists who decide not to walk up the wall. The Cable Car is similar to a ski lift that you can take up and down the steep ridges that the Wall follows.
Please take the toboggan ride back down! Yes, there is a toboggan ride that you can ride back to the bottom. It's fast and much like a thrilling theme Park ride in Disneyland. It's unforgettable.
It takes an hour longer (3 hours total) to get from Beijing to Mutianyu but the drive is worth it.
There are few convenient methods to get to Mutianyu other than a $65USD taxi ride or a less expensive yet, great bare-boned budget tour that offers...
Cool and comfortable ride back to your hotel after a long, sweaty walk up the Great Wall.
A sandwich and a bottle of water. Might not sound like much but there are no places to buy food and drink along the Wall except at the entrance, where it is VERY expensive.
Who wants to wait in line? No one does, especially once you get near the Great Wall at Mutianyu. You'll feel like running the last few hundred yards.
He / She will leave you alone unless you have questions.
All for about $38USD.
Find out more about this Budget tour to the Great Wall of China at Badaling here.
Few renovations have been undertaken here and some areas are in ruins. But there is a huge part of the Wall at Simatai that remains intact and is surprisingly well preserved.
The Simatai section of the Great Wall is geared more to the adventurous type. Some of the Wall clings dramatically to the precipitous mountain ridge so it's a very steep incline to hike up.
Simatai does no have a Cable car (Cable cars are only available in Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai and Jinshanling sections.) to help you to the top.
I wouldn't attempt hiking the Great Wall at Simatai unless you're in good physical condition. You'll also need the proper footwear and be well stocked on noodles and bottled water.
People who know the Great Wall intimately consider Simatai to be the very best section of the Great Wall. There are few other tourists about, the climbs are challenging and the views are as stunning as anywhere else on the Great Wall.
Simtai is 4 hours from Beijing and there are few options for you to get out there other than the Public Bus, Taxi or Hired Mini-Vans.
It's best you enquire at your hotel or Guesthouse reception for transportation options. You can sometimes even talk the Guesthouse owner into driving you North from Beijing to the Great Wall for a moderate fee.
Jinshanling is not a part of the Great Wall the unprepared tourist should attempt.
This section of the Great Wall is completely un-restored, which makes it a favorite amongst the purists.
Purists love it so much because it has been almost completely untouched by human hands since it was built and occupied by the armies of the Ming Dynasty.
There is still a fairly long section of the wall that is completely intact but hiking the very steep slopes is heavy going.
I could find no means of transport out here other than hiring a taxi or renting a car. Both are expensive because you'll need just under 5 hours to get here by car.
A Recommended Hike for the Very Adventurous
It is steep in many places, and the rocks are loose in some places. Hikers need to pay attention and watch their footing. Still, there is a lot to see, including more watchtowers and great views.
Whether you find the Great Wall of China fascinating or you cannot find the answers you seek, consider reading an excellent book...
or check out the Documentary put together by the History Channel. Its entertaining and packed with useful information to help you decide what section of the Great Wall you want to visit when you travel to Beijing.
Knowing some of the fascinating history behind the Great Wall of China before you travel to Beijing adds an extra dimension of curiosity to your trip.
How to Get to The Great Wall of China
You'll have to get a car, taxi, minivan or bus to the Great Wall. The cost and travel times vary depending on what section of the Great Wall you decide to visit.
Get up in the early morning at about 07:00 to catch the first official tourist bus to arrive at the Badaling Great Wall around 09:00-10:00 to avoid the large crowds of tourists.
Or Just take the Budget tour. It's reasonably priced and it takes all the hassle out of everything.
Find out more about the Budget tour to Badaling here.
Admission to the Badaling section is about $5, and it is open from 6:40 AM to 6:30 PM.
What to Bring With You
Your hike may last for 2-3 hours, depending on your hiking pace and the Section of the Wall you choose to hike.
You won't find any place along your hike to purchase food and drink.
They can be purchased on the Badaling section only. And at quite the premium price.
Remember, there are no stores or stalls to purchase food and drink on the other sections of the Great Wall.
Unless you're on the Budget Tour at Badaling, you'll have to bring some water along and maybe a snack or some sandwiches.
Just don't drink too much water before you begin your hike. The toilets are located near the ticket offices and the Main entrances only.
Once you get midway along the Great Wall, you'll literally be miles from the nearest Public Toilet.
The temperature can drop rapidly as dusk approaches on the Great Wall, particularly in September and October.
Many people wear shorts and thin shirts with open-toed sandals but often get stuck shivering the last 20 minutes of their hike. Keep some warm clothes such as a jacket or sweater in a knapsack in case you get cold.
The winter is cold all the time. The Wall feels brittle and hard under your feet. It's just as awe striking in winter until the first Kilometer when the sweat is cold on your skin where the wind gets through your jacket or pants.
Trainers or running shoes are the best on the steep inclines along the wall. If you wear high-heels to hike the Great Wall of China then...well...you'll know pain.
You can get tired so easily along the hike up whatever Section you choose to visit.
So, make yourself comfortable but remember that it can be warm one minute then chilly the next while you're hiking along the hard-stoned surface of the Great Wall of China.
The Best Time To Visit The Great Wall Of China
The scenery around the great wall changes drastically as the trees and foliage change shape and color with the seasons.
May is the winner as the best month to visit the Great Wall of China.
The busy summer season has not yet begun and yet you've already emerged from the cold Winter months.
May is usually sunny and the flowers blooming with the Spring Season. The risk of getting caught out in a thunderstorm is much more likely in May than in June or July.
Fall temperatures are quite cool in October but still very comfortable compared to the sharp cold of November and December. Also, there is very little rain during the Month of October (Even less than May).
Most tourists have gone home after the summer rush and the Kids are back in School, making October a good month to travel to Beijing to see the Great Wall of China.
The Summer season is Rainy, Hot and Humid. It's also when the vacation season is in full swing and the tourists travel to Beijing to pack the tour sites.
But the Summer Season is still a better time to travel to Beijing and see the Great Wall of China than the Winter Season.
The bitterly cold Winter season!
Some people say it's better not to go at all than to visit the Great Wall of China in the Winter Season.
The best months to visit the Great Wall of China are May, September or early October. There isn't alot of rain during these months and the brisk temperatures are refreshng and comfortable.
Cooler temperatures in the city also mean less air-pollution to cloud the beautiful Vistas and scenery around the Great Wall of China.
The same can be said of the Winter months, though. It may be difficult to get past the bitter cold to enjoy that gorgeous mountainous scenery, but if you can, the rewards are many.
The Winter months are perhaps the only time you might get a chance to see the wall without the crowds affecting where you go, what you see and how often you are harassed.
Badaling is ideal for most tourists in view of its accessibility, but it is unavoidably crowded and touristy. Do not go there if you have another choice.
Also, you can head further afield to Juyongguan, Huanghuacheng or Jiayuguan parts, there you will find no noisy souvenir and food sellers, group travelers, just the great wall, locals and some adventurers like yourself.
No trip to China is complete without a visit to the Great Wall. It is one of the man-made wonders of the world, and one of the most iconic spots on the planet.
Everyone, from the budget-minded traveler to the globetrotting millionaire, will enjoy a trip to the Great Wall of China.
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