The Great Wall of China
- Type: Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
- Time to Spend: Half Day to Full Day
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Just north of Beijing, you'll find one of the most famous monuments in the world—the Great Wall of China. Although it's unlikely you'll see the whole thing (after all, it measures about 5,500 miles long), you should aim to experience a portion of it. That begs the question: Which section?
Only an hour's drive northwest of Beijing, the Badaling section is convenient, hosts a large souvenir market, and has a gondola to whisk visitors up and down the wall. Sounds perfect, right? Well, and that's why thousands of tourists decide to venture here. This creates mob-like scenes that can spoil the trip. Entrance to the Badaling section of wall (not including the gondola ride) costs 40 CNY (about $6.50 USD) in the winter and spring and 45 CNY (about $7 USD) in the summer and fall. You can start hiking the Badaling portion at 6:40 a.m., and you must be down by 6:30 p.m. every day.
The Mutianyu section, an hour's drive northeast of Beijing, is the favorite of recent travelers. Here, you'll find majestic mountainous vistas, a cable car for quick-and-easy access, a fun sled ride down, and (best of all) fewer tourists. One TripAdvisor user describes Mutainyu as "less [crowded] than at Badaling and far from the roads and villages so you can really enjoy a peaceful walk." Admission costs 35 CNY (about $5.50 USD), and visitors are welcome from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day.
Farther from the city, the Juyongguan, Simatai, Jinshanling, Huanghuacheng, Jiankou, and Gubeikou sections offer adventurous travelers more challenging hikes and unique landscapes. If you opt for one of these sections, take the time to carefully research it beforehand. Each portion meanders through different terrain and has its own pros and cons. Some sections are in better condition than others, and transportation to and from them can be less reliable.
Whichever portion you choose, be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks. The hike alone can be tiring, and hot weather can take its toll on unprepared visitors. For more information, speak with your hotel's concierge, who can arrange the appropriate transportation for you.