Here you can find useful information to visit the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu and Jainkou. We strongly recommend these sections of the Wall because they are not crowded and you will be able to walk both on a reconstructed and an authentic part.
What’s the Great Wall?
The Great Wall of China (Chinese: 萬里長城) is the collective name of a series of fortification systems generally built across the historical northern borders of China. Several walls were being built from as early as the 7th century BC by ancient Chinese states. Selective stretches were later joined together by Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BC), the first Emperor of China; little of the Qin wall remains. Later on, many successive dynasties have built and maintained multiple stretches of border walls. The most well-known sections of the wall were built by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The entire wall with all of its branches measures out to be 21,196 km (13,171 mi) – source Wikipedia.
The Great Wall was built to protect and consolidate territories of Chinese states and empires against various nomadic groups of the steppe and their policies. This was enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire. Apart from defense, other purposes have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade, and the control of immigration and emigration.
How can I visit it?
The Great Wall can be visited on different sites surrounding Beijing. Badaling is the most tourist one and there is a train getting there; hordes of Chinese tourists visit the site every day and you don’t want to be there with them! Jinshanling should be nice and isolated but we can’t say how to get there, sorry about that. Mutianyu, along with Jainkou, is the spot that we recommend and here we’re going to give you all the details to fully enjoy it.
This section of the Great Wall will give you the chance to enjoy both a renewed part and an authentic one going till Jainkou, for a total of about 20km. Just make sure you get there early enough to walk along both parts. Overall, it’s very scenic and spectacular as the Great Wall goes up and down following the shape of the mountains; thus, the surrounding landscape is also amazing!
How can I get there?
You have two options:
- Take a direct bus at 8:30am from Dongzhimen wai outdoor bus station (green dot on the map below). It costs ¥30 and takes two hours / two hours and a half hours to get there. It departures at 16:00 to come back to Beijing.
- Take the bus No. 916exspress (¥12) from Dongzhimen shu niu zhan indoor bus station (yellow dot on the map below). After about one hour, get off at Huairou (tell the driver and the ticket man “Mutianyu” and they will tell you when to get off; we also updated maps.me). Cross the road and wait for the bus H23 / H24 / H35. One of those will take you to Mutianyu in 20 minutes (¥3). This option will give you the chance to arrive to the site earlier. However bear in mind that the H buses are not that frequent. We took the 916express at 7:45, got to Huairou at 8:50 and caught the H23 at 9:45; if you leave earlier from Beijing, you might get another H passing before 8:50. Do the other way around to come back, catching an H bus at the bus stop opposite to where you get off; we missed one at 16:20 and caught one at 16:50.
What to expect once there:
The site is well organized. Buy the ticket (¥45) and walk to get the shuttle bus (¥15 return ticket) to reach the official entrance to the area of the Wall.
There, you have three options: 1) walking up for about 40 minutes; 2) getting the cable car on the left side (¥1000); 3) getting the chair lift on the right side (¥1000) plus the toboga to go down (¥1200 in total).
After our experience, we recommend the following option:
Take the cable car to go up and as soon as you are on the Wall turn left and walk until you get to the official end of the site (tower 21). Jump over the wall ignoring the CCTV and keep walking on the authentic wall till you feel like! On maps.me this area is marked with towers 22-32, Niujiaobian and Jainkou. Mind that the path can be slippery and full of bushes in some parts. But, it’s simply breathtaking!!!
When you feel like you have enough of wild nature and ancient rocks (or it’s simply getting late), come back and walk along the Mutianyu renewed section till tower 5, where you can either walk down (free) or take the toboga (¥1000). If you still have time, walk till Dajialou (Great Corner Tower) to have a view on another ancient part of the Wall and see how it split in two different directions.
We wished we knew all of that before in order to be able to walk till tower 32 or even Jainkou. We started from tower 5, walked right and then went all the way left till tower 21. There our path was blocked and we decided to go beyond the wall when we saw lots of people doing it. We then walked till tower 27 and came back due to lack of time and energy. Indeed, mind that you are walking up and down and for many kilometres!
Anyway, we were thrilled while walking on the authentic Great Wall and could enjoy the view of it running wild on the top of the mountains!!
If you have already seen the Great Wall, you can go beyond tower 32 and keep walking till Jainkou and then down to the village of Xizhazi, or the other way around. The path must be spectacular but we don’t know exactly how to follow it and how long it takes. Also, consider that you can wild camp along the Great Wall and it must be amazing to hike for two or three days following this mythological path.
We hope our advice will help you to enjoy one of the Seven Wonders as we did or even more!!