Ultimate Great Wall Travel Guide | Trip Planning Ideas 2023/2024
As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China is on almost everyone’s bucket list. There is nothing that can be compared with the experience of standing on the soaring watchtowers to see how this colossal ancient engineering project spanning across thousands of mile from west of China to its east. No matter how long you want to hike, and how wild scenery you want to see, there is always a section of the Great Wall for you. But how much do you really know about the Great Wall? Do you have idea where to start with your Great Wall tour planning? Which section of Great Wall suits you well? When is the best time to have a Greaet Tour? You will find there are so many things to learn and prepare before you go. Here we have complied this Great Wall of China Ultimate Guide which have synthesized the most useful insights and tips from our Great Wall researcher and Beijing local tour guide to help you plan the perfect Great Wall adventure.
This is definitely true. Just as Beijing is the no. 1 destination in China, the Great Wall is also no doubt the No. 1 attraction in Beijing. It is on almost everyone’s bucket list as an essential stop on any trip to Beijing. The Great Wall is one of the World’s Seven Wonders, also one of the most impressive ancient structures on the planet. It boasts a history of overy 2,000 years, and stretches more than 5,500 miles from northwest to northeast of China. There are many featured sections location near Beijing. You only need a half day to see, walk, climb and experience one highlighting section of the Great Wall. If time allows, you are suggested to spend 1 or 2 full days to enjoy an in-depth hiking to one or 2 wild sections of the Great Wall.
Recommended Beijing Tours including Great Wall:
- 2 Days Beijing Layover Highlights Tour (Highlights of Beijing)
- 3 Days Beijing Essential Short Stay Tour (Transit Visa Free)
- 4 Days Classic Beijing Tour Package (Ancient and Modernity Contrast)
Mutianyu Section of Great Wall in July
Gubekou Section of Great Wall
The best way to visit the Great Walll is to travel with a private tour. Most of costs, including tickets, cable cars, meals and hotels, on the tour are covered. More importantly, you will be accompanied by the experienced guide, which is very important and necessary when you are going to visit the remote and wild sections of Great Wall, such as Jiankou, Jinshanling, Simatai, Gubeikou, etc. You guide will give you many helpful advice on the right and safe routes to hike. As you may know, some wild sections of the Great Wall are very dangerous to hike, and hard to rescue as well if an accident occurs. You will also get many handy tips and useful knowledge during your Great Wall visit. Traveling with a private tour, you will save a lof of time and get rid of the crowdedness of public transportation. Besides, some sections of Great Wall can only be reached by private cars, such as Jiankou and Gubeikou.
Best Selling Beijing Tour including Mutianyu Great Wall:
- 4 Days Classic Beijing Tour Package (Ancient and Modernity Contrast)
You can visit the Great Wall on a layover, but you must have at least 8 hours to spend before your flight departing. You will need about 1 hour to exist the airport, then 2~3 hours to find transportation and transfer to the Great Wall, and 2~3 hours to visit and walk the Wall, then get back to the airport to catch your flight. You also have to pray for not having traffic jams. Currently there is no public transportation from the airport to the Great Wall. You have to hire a taxi or book a private transfer from travel agencies. Generally speaking, if you have about 8~12 hours for layover, you can go to visit one section of Great Wall, such as Mutianyu, Huanghuacheng, Badaling or Juyongguan. To visit Jinshanling, Simatai, Gubekou or Jiankou section, you need at least a full day (24hrs).
Currently you can enjoy a visa-tree stay up to 144 hours in Beijing if you meet the Beijing 144-hour Transit Visa Free Policy. It time allows, you are strongly suggested to have a longer stay in Beijing to explore the Great Wall with other Beijing highlights, such as Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, etc., at a slower leisure pace.
Recommended Beijing Visa Free Tour Package starting from the airport:
- 3 Days Beijing Essential Short Stay Tour (Transit Visa Free)
Badaling Section of Great Wall (65km from Beijing)
Family Hiking on Mutianyu Section of Great Wall
The Great Wall has many sections. Some are kid-friendly, and some not. Walking on the Great Wall is physical demanding. You should choose the sections of Great Wall which are easier to walk and not too far away from the city. Generally speaking, Mutianyu and Huanghuacheng are two most kid-friendly destination. They are both only about 1.5hrs’ driving from central Beijing. Both two sections provide cable cars to transport to the top of the Great Wall. Mutianyu also has an exciting toboggan ride for you and your kids to slide down the great wall like an adventure. While in Huanghuacheng section of Great Wall, you can take a boat on the lake whiling enjoying the magnificent great wall landscape. If your kids are over 12 years ago, you can also plan a hike trip to Jinshanling, Simatai or Gubekou sections of the Great Wall.
Keep Reading: - Top Beijing Family Tours
There are more than 10 sections of Great Wall located in the northern area about 60~160km from central Beijing. Mutianyu is the best option if you travel with kids, or want to enjoy a leisure and scenic hike. If you are a hiker, choose 1 or 2 sections among Jinshanling, Simatai and Gubekou to hike 1 or 2 days. If you are the second-timer, maybe Huanghuacheng section will be very attractive to you. Its lakeside walls are very stunning.
|Great Wall Sections||Restored/Wild||Hiking Difficulty||Crowdedness||From Downtown|
|Jinshanling||Half Restored||Less crowded||154km(96mi)|
|Huanghuacheng||Half Restored||Not crowded||80km(50mi)|
Keep Reading: - Complete Guide on Which Section of Great Wall to Visit
Magnificent Jinshanling Great Wall Landscape in the Morning
Wild Peach Blossom on Jiankou Great Wall (April)
The Great Wall is usually open all year around. But taking the weather condition, crowdedness and cost into consideration, there are two periods of time which are perfect for Great Wall visit. The first best time is April to June when the weather is temperate and the vegetation surrounding the Great Wall begin to blossom. The second best time is from late September to middle November when the Great Walls and surrounding are particularly beautiful as the tree leaves begin to change colors to Golden and Red. It is also neither too hot nor too cold during this period. July and August are very hot and humid, thus not the best time to hike the Great Wall. December to February are the Winter days when it is very cold, dry and windy, but there are much fewer tourists on each section of the Great Wall. Avoid hiking in rainy or snowy days because some parts the Great Wall are very slippery.
You’d better not visit the popular sections of the Great Wall, such as Badaling and Mutianyu, during Chinese holidays and festivals to avoid the crowds, including the Spring Festival(usually in Febuary), National Day(1st to 7th, October), Middle Autumn Festival (usually in later September), etc. If your time is not flexible, try to visit the not crowded sections of Great Wall, such as Simatai, Jinshanling, Gubeikou, Jiankou, etc.
The location of each section of Great Wall varies greatly so is the available transportation. Some sections, which are closer to Beijing, can be reached easily, such as Badaling, Mutianyu, Juyongguan and Huanghuacheng. These sections of Great Wall provide flexible choices of transportation, including private car, train, tourist bus and public buses. Some sections of Great Wall are much further away from Chengdu, including Jinshanling, Simatai, Gubekou. Travellers can only get there by private car or public buses (usually takes much longer, and need to change bus for several times).
|Great Wall Sections||Location||By Private Car||By Touirst Bus|
|Mutianyu||Bohai Town, Huairou District, Beijing (北京市怀柔区渤海镇慕田峪村)||75 kilometers (46 miles) from Beijing/1.5hrs||Beijing Tourist Distribution Center (北京旅游集散中心) / Dongzhimen Wai Bus Station (东直门外站)|
|Jinshanling||Hualougou, Bakeshiyin Town, Luanping County, Heibei (河北省承德滦平县巴克什营镇花楼沟村)||160 kilometers (100 miles) from Beijing/2.5hrs' driving||Dongzhimen Wai Bus Station (东直门外站)|
|Simatai||Simatai, Gubei Ancient Town, Miyun District, Beijing (北京市密云区古北水镇司马台村)||150 kilometers (94 miles) from Beijing/2.5hrs' driving||Dongzhimen Wai Bus Station (东直门外站)|
Keep Reading: - Complete Guide on How to Get to Great Wall from Beijing
Beijing Great Wall Location Map
Tourist Bus to Mutianyu Great Wall
Hiking on Jiankou Section of Great Wall
Take a boat to see the Huanghuacheng Great Wall
There are many ways to explore the charms of the Great Wall. You can plan your Great Wall visit according to your interest (hike, photography, history, landscape), time (2hours, half day, 1 day, 2 days) and physical condition. Below are Top 5 Great Wall Experiences:
Hiking the wild section of Great Wall - the in-depth way to explore the Great Wall. It’s adventurous, hidropoietic and scenic. You have to pack well for the hiking as there is no restaurant and shops on the Great Wall. Some basic trekking gears are required. Learn more about Great Wall Hiking.
Visiting the Great Wall at Night - Simatai section of Great Wall is the only section of Great Wall, which is open for tourist in evening. It will be lit up during 17:30~21. 00. Simatai Great Wall is about 3hrs’ driving from Beijing. You are suggested to take a full day tour which include Simatai night visit with Jinshanling Great Wall daytime hiking. 4 Days Beijing Essence Tour with Simatai Great Wall Night Sightseeing.
Picnic on the Great Wall – having a picnic in a watchtower on the Great Wall is a part of the Great Wall hiking on these wild unrestored sections of Great Wall. But only some of the wild sections of the Great Wall allow tourists to have a picnic, such as Jiankou, Gubekou, Jinshanling, etc.
Ride a Toboggan down the Great Wall - it’s a very fast and exciting way to descend the Great Wall. Currently, only Mutianyu and Badaling operate Toboggan ride. Mutianyu Great Wall Taboggan | Badaling Great Wall Taboggan.
Taking a boat to see the Great Wall - very recommended for the second Great Wall visit if you already visited Mutianyu or Badaling. Taking a boat leisurely cruising on the lake while enjoying the Huanghuacheng Section Great Wall hanging over the mountain near the lake is best way to recover from the tough Great Wall hike.
Yes, you can visit the Great Wall of China, but only the Simatai section is open to tourist in the night, usually from17:30 to 21:00. Badaling section of Great Wall is sometimes lit up in the night, but not allow tourists to get onto the wall.
How to visit Simatai Great Wall in the night?
Simatai section of Great Wall is located close to Gubei Water Town, Miyun District, 150 kilometers (94 miles) from Beijing, approx. 2.5~3 hours' drive. Please note all visitors who visit Simatai section of Great Wall during daytime must exit the scenic area before 17:00. Then it will reopen for night visitors at 17:30 after getting lights on. If you want to visit the Wall in both daytime and night, you have to buy tickets twice. Night visitors have to take cable car up to the Great Wall, and take cable car down as well. The night visit is around 1 hour. Currently only the part between No. 5 tower and No.6 tower is open in the nighttime. Our suggestion is to visit another section of Great Wall nearby in the daytime, such as Jinshanling or Gubeikou, and visit Simatai in the night so that you don’t have to visit Simatai for twice.
After the Great Wall night tour, you can choose to transfer back to the city Beijing, or stay a night at Gubei Water Town at the foot of the Great Wall.
Recommended Simatai Great Wall Night Tour - 4 Days Beijing Essence Tour with Simatai Great Wall Night Sightseeing
Simatai Great Wall is the Only Section of Great Wall Open and Lit Up in the Evening
Camp on Jiankou Section of Great Wall
Yes, you can camp on the Great Wall but this is not encouraged by local government, and you can only camp on the wild sections of Great Wall, including Gubekou, Huanghuacheng and Jiankou. It is not allowed to camp in the restored sections of Great Wall, including Badaling, Mutianyu, Juyongguan and Jinshanling.
Available camping season is from late March to June, and from September to early October. July and August are not recommended as it takes much risk of disruption by thunderstorms, heavy rain, or extreme hot. It is also not recommended to camp during winter days. It’s very cold and windy especially during nighttime.
The Great Wall is not very wheelchair friendly because most sections of the Great Wall were constructed on treacherous ridge of up-and-down mountains, and the grounds on the wall are mostly made by stone steps. Some wild sections of Great Wall even don’t have a road to walk as the walls and towers are broken. But this doesn’t mean the wheelchair travellers or the elderly can not visit the Great Wall. Actually, the lower paths of most sections of Great Wall are accessible by wheelchair, and some sections are generally wheelchair friendly. In Badaling Section of Great Wall, wheelchair travellers can take the ramps to get to the first north watchtower. The scenic area also offers elevator service. In Mutianyu Section of Great Wall, wheelchair travellers can take a cable car directly up to the Wall. The fortress of Juyongguan section is accessible by wheel chair.
Keep Reading: Mutianyu Great Wall Cable Car | Badaling Great Wall Cable Car
Take Cable Car up to the Badaling Section of Great Wall