No visit to Beijing is complete without a day-trip out to the Great Wall. Unfortunately, if you're on a group tour, you are likely to be taken to the closest section to the city. This section, called Badaling, while equally stunning, is extremely crowded. I spoke to a woman who was a group tour associated with one of the Yangtze River Cruise Boat companies. Not only did they plan a trip around the October holidays - something any insider to China Travel will tell you is not a good time to be visiting major landmarks - they took the group only to Badaling.
So crowded that the group could hardly move along the wall, this woman opted to wait for the group at the bottom. This is really a shame. But unfortunately, tour operators use Badaling for its proximity to the city.
The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall of China is also easily reached from Beijing city-center and is good for a day-trip combined with a visit to the Ming Tombs. The Mutianyu Section is a little farther away than other sections of the Great Wall, such as Badaling, but is therefore less crowded with tourists. It offers beautiful views of the snaking Great Wall as it undulates over mountains into the distance and is fortified by a number of watchtowers that visitors can climb up into for views of the surrounding area.
The Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall is 43 miles (70 km) northeast of Beijing. In light traffic, it takes about one and a half hours to reach the drop-off point.
Construction of the Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall began during the Northern Dynasties period (386-581) and was restored by Ming emperors between 1368-1644. It historically provided a northern border to Beijing and is connected to Juyongguan Pass in the west and the Guibeikou Section of the Great Wall in the east.
- 1.4 miles (2,250m) long
- 22 blockhouses and watchtowers
- 26 feet (7-8m) high and 20 feet (4-6m) wide
- Group tours - many Beijing hotels offer tickets to group tours to the Great Wall. Make sure you know which section you are visiting before you book. The way this works is that a group tour will pick you up and drop you from your hotel but there will be tourists from multiple hotels on the tour.
- Tourist buses go out to the Wall from different locations in Beijing. If you are interested in taking public transportation, ask your hotel to help you navigate Beijing transportation to and from the Great Wall.
- Taxi hire - you can bargain with a taxi driver to take you to the Wall and then wait for you and bring you back. This can be tricky if you have no idea how much to ask. Again, I recommend asking your hotel concierge to help you bargain with the taxi. It should certainly be less expensive than hiring a private car.
- Private car/tour - this is certainly the most comfortable way to visit the Great Wall but also the most expensive. However, if you are 3-4 people, this way can be economical. Expect to pay around RMB 1,500 for the day. This should cover the driver and transportation. An English-speaking guide will cost extra.
- Recommended time for visit: allow at least 2-3 hours
- Best time to visit: Autumn for changing foliage and best chances of clear views
- Wear comfortable shoes, sections of the Wall are very steep
- Take the chair lift up, but opt for the slide on the way down
- Another easy section to visit from Beijing is the Badaling Section