Simatai Great Wall
Simatai Great Wall
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Simatai, a section of the Great Wall of China located in the north of Miyun County, 120 km northeast of Beijing, holds the access to Gubeikou, a strategic pass in the eastern part of the Great Wall. It's one of the most untouched section of the Great Wall which will surely become the highlight of your trip to China!
Duration: More than 3 hours
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484 reviews
Very good

Stephen C
Singapore, Singapore1,082 contributions
Dec 2020 • Couples
Having been to Badaling and Mutianyu sections of the Great Wall, I was therefore looking forward to visit the Simatai section. The added bonus is that there is the option to visit in the evening.

To get to the cable car station for this attraction, we opted to go through Gubei Water Town (see my other review).

I was not disappointed. The night view of the water town from the Wall is spectacular. Only a small section is open for visit in the evenings but still it was worth it as the lights are very nice.
Written December 27, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Tianjin, China42 contributions
Jun 2021 • Family
One of the best place to visit, not an normal greatwall as locates in badaling, its special worth to visit , its a only place have.cable car for night view, well preserved. Nigth view something special.
Written June 1, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Buenos Aires, Argentina64,982 contributions
Apr 2021
A super hiking experience on remnants of the Great Wall of China. This is one of the greatest wonders of the world. Truly an awesome experience.
Written April 25, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Josh H
Los Angeles, CA50 contributions
Oct 2017 • Couples
Simatai is incredibly beautiful. After researching that Jinshaling was closed, we opted for Simatai. And boy there are no regrets. You can read the reviews and photos, but my review is a travel guide as to how to get to Simatai because nobody knows how to get there without a private tour. Well, I am a cheap traveler. I ain't paying for no private tour. So here is the guide. You have two options, two city buses or an Express Bus. I will also talk about hike timing once you are actually there.

Option 1 -- Slow, Cheap and an Experience: We followed the advice of other reviews and online resources to take bus 980 from the Dongzhimen bus terminal to Miyun, then bus 50, 51, or 37 to Watertown. This was the most unique experience of our trip to China. Being packed like sardines in a Chinese city bus was unpleasant but extremely invigorating. Especially the bus from Miyun. These are country folk. Farmers. Chinese that are from the rural corners of the country. They are rough and smell and are loud and gross, but it was an experience. They likely haven’t seen foreigners before. I would recommend taking this route if you are cheap and want to experience and see what rural China people and villages look like and how crazy drivers are in rural countryside. The Miyun bus was literally driving on dirt roads. It was awesome and it is cheaper than option 2. If you don't want this experience, continue to option 2.

Using your Beijing transit card, take the 980 Express from Dongzhimen. There may be a long line of people waiting for the express 980 but the bus interval appeared to be every 10 minutes or so. If you just take the regular 980, it will take an hour longer due to the increased number of stops. Once you get to Miyun, you need to get off the bus before the end of the line. The bus stop to get off at is located at the coordinates (40.388683, 116.856610).

Then, cross the street and take Bus 37 or Bus 51. Do not take bus 50 as it drops you off a 40 minute walk away from Beijing Watertown. Bus 37 is the shortest and most direct route (2hrs. 18mins.) Bus 51 is the same route as bus 37, but with more stops. (2hrs. 42min). Those are ETAs, and we arrived about 20 minutes earlier than what those estimates were. We waited for a bus 37 for 30 minutes, but never saw one so we opted for bus 51. The interval for bus 51 seemed to be every 15 minutes or so. We never saw a bus 37.

Make sure you get off at Beijing Watertown. If you go to the end of the line, you will be in the middle of nowhere. Keep in mind, with Chinese city buses, you just yell out to the driver to stop. There are no buttons to press to request to stop. Also no English is spoken. I used my iPhone GPS and a cached map (since I was in Airplane Mode) to determine when to get off.

Option 2 — Easy and Fast: So we discovered that the Beijing City Buses are starting roundtrip express bus service from the main bus terminal in Beijing (Dongzhimen) directly to Beijing Water Town. This appeared to be a brand new bus service as the signage looked new (and the Watertown is also all very new; opened in the last couple years). We also didn’t find any info online about this bus service so I may be the first to broadcast the bus route on an English website.

Anyway, you can take a direct bus from Dongzhimen to Watertown for 48 Yuan. It takes 2 hours and there are no stops as it is all on the freeway. This is the best bet for getting to Simatai but you will lose out on experiencing and seeing Chinese countryside and experiencing the Chinese people that Option 1 offers.

The bus stop location in Beijing is located at the NW corner of Xiangheyuan Nanjie (Xiangheyuang S St) & Dongzhimenwai Xiejie (Dongzhimen Outer Byway). It's not inside the Dongzhimen bus terminal like bus 980, but walking distance nearby. Once inside the bus parking complex here, you will find the physical bus stop along the south wall. See attached photo for the bus timetable. You must pay cash for this route.

Once you arrive to Beijing Watertown — Once you arrive at the Watertown, follow signs for the wall, You will walk about 8 minutes through the town and eventually end up at a massive plaza. Straight ahead is a large hotel lobby with a Starbucks inside! But if you turn left at the plaza, you will be able to access a place to purchase Wall tickets as well as the shuttle stop for getting to the cablecar. There is a limited number of people allowed to visit (due to the dangerously steep conditions) so we bought our tickets online beforehand (using a friend's Chinese phone number) but you may be able to buy tix the day of depending on the crowds. Once you get your tickets here, you will take a shuttle ride (10mins) to the base of the cable car.

I highly recommend the cablecar up and a hike down. If you hike up, you will be facing the steep steps of the wall instead of the beautiful views of the mountains and wall when you hike down. From the cable car (which doesn’t completely crest the top), it is about a 15 minute hike to the top of the 8th tower. You can hike from the 8th tower back down to the cable car in 2 hours at a leisurely pace. So give yourself about 4 hours from getting your tickets to returning back to the tickets area.

Simatai has extremely steep portions with no handrails. A misstep in certain areas would spell certain death or severe injury. This is China, not America. An attraction like this would never be allowed in the US due to the liability of injury. Please, be aware of the dangers before coming and PLEASE wear hiking shoes.

Also, there is security along the wall at each watchtower. I was caught flying my drone, and was immediately told to get rid of it. There is no signage prohibiting the drone, but security will yell at you in Chinese to put it away. Be aware.

When you are ready to leave, find the express bus stop at the main parking lot area near the Watertown entrance. There is a large brown sign indicating the bus stop location.

We took the slow route to Simatai and then the fast route back to Beijing. It was perfect. We were glad we experienced option 1 yet could relax with option 2 as we came back to Beijing.

Hopefully this helps with transportation to Simatai! Good luck and have fun!
Written October 18, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

124 contributions
Apr 2018 • Couples
the words “Great Wall” evoke so much for a traveler. i chose to head for the Simatai section this time, my pick because this part of the Wall is open at night

the ticket counter starts selling the night passes at 5:30pm. that’s also the time the gate opens and you have the choice of walking from the foot to the ridge (takes about 45 minutes) or take the cable car which gets you to just below the ridge line in about 10 minutes

at the ridge top station, you still have to walk about 600 metres to the Wall. we made it with more than 40 minutes to spare before sunset, meaning we got to see the Simatai Wall at daylight, sunset and night

the changing colours of the sky with Wall in the background was truly awesome. we managed to find ourselves a window on the watchtower 5 to catch the sunset and see the Wall in the distance get dark

the section between watchtower 1 to 10 are lit up. the lamps designed as 19th century kerosene lamps fitted with 20th century LED lights - making it trek friendly. the scenery of the Gubei area and WaterTown from the Wall was stunning, day or nite but i found being on the Wall at nite, an experience beyond visually spectacular. walking and standing where guards and slaves spent big parts of their lives, looking down where attackers looked upwards to capture, absorbing the experience of place which has seen more than a thousand seasons

Visit directions and tips : we have it easier than the guards, slaves and attackers of past seasons who must have had a hard time getting here. but it helps if you understand some Chinese

i credit Josh, Shanwei and Guylon for their clear directions on the bus route(s) from downtown Beijing to the foot of Great Wall Simatai. i went for the direct bus, my updates are on the bus times, some calculations and pics for anyone who wants to head on this road somewhat traveled

there are 2 direct bus services plying 2-way between Dongzhimen and Simatai, costs RMB48 per person per one way. as of my travel, there still wasn’t any signage at the Dongzhimen end, but the bus is parked on the kerb near a power cable box and a road sign that reads “东直门外斜街Dongzhimenwai Xiejie” (both in my attached picture). the driver says the bus will be parked there about an hour before the ETD and will have a large A2 sized card on the windscreen (picture attached it is partly in English). ask the driver or people standing nearby if this is the bus going to “Simatai” or “Gubei”, use these keywords, as for a non-English speaker “Great Wall” is called 长城 Chang Cheng in Chinese

the ride is approx 2 hours and the bus stops you at the Gubei Watertown parking lot. admission to the Wall costs RMB40, oneway cable car RMB90, but you need to buy a Watertown admission too at RMB150. we went for the bundled Joint ticket deal at RMB280 (price options in the picture attached)

it’s a 30 minute walk to the gate to Simatai (there are regular signs in English and Chinese) or you could take a minibus (RMB10 one way). the minibus isn’t compulsory unlike the ticket to Watertown which is. but if you walk, it will be at least half an hour assuming you don’t get lost or stop to take pictures (be warned : its so picturesque! that most people get distracted snapping pics – not a wrong thing being a traveller but it means less time on the Wall itself). one solution is to minibus to the Wall gate first and stroll thru the “town” on the way out, and you can take as many pictures depending on the bus departure time you are planning for

for the return journey, it’s a little easier at the Gubei parking lot for the buses going back. firstly it’s a smaller space and secondly, there are signs! but in Chinese (a tip : 东直门 is Dongzhimen - the stop in the city and 古北水镇is Gubei Watertown). so the bus times correspond to the time the bus departs东直门/Dongzhimen and 古北水/Gubei respectively (in attached pictures). there is somewhat of an semi-organized queue and the bus crew will say, plse assemble about 20/30 minutes before the ETD. last bus for the day leaves at 9pm, so you can take the nite walk on the Wall and still make it back to Beijing

the bus also goes to Beijing Railway station (北京站) and Beijing South station (北京南站), but i havent checked out the stops at those stations

A BIG BUT for those intending to make a day trip, the entrance tickets need to be reserved ahead of the visit at Simatai, can be done on their website or on the Watertown app (they are partly in English), that the number of visitors is monitored that there is no overcrowding. night tickets don’t have to be reserved ahead

the travel to and fro is a little tricky, will add a bit more to one’s spirit of adventure. was a lot harder for the slaves and the guards, worse for the attackers, most of them never made it back. we can
Written April 23, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Athens, GA13 contributions
Jun 2017 • Solo
The Simatai Great Wall was an amazing part of my one month stay in China. But there are some things I think everyone should know about getting to the Wall and how it is structured, that would've been helpful for me.

tl;dr- scroll to the bottom for my travel time and costs

Firstly, reserve your tickets online and make sure to bring your passport. There is a limited number of people allowed on the Wall and you must book in advance, especially if you’re not planning on also going to the Water Town. They will ask for you text confirmation and passport in the ticket office. The times offered are 10am, 12pm, and 2pm. This is also the only section that you can do a night tour on so look into that if it seems something your group would be interested in. I chose to go at 12pm.

Secondly, getting to the town from Beijing is a bit tricky so give yourself more than enough time in case of any delays. I’ll be honest, this was the most stressful part of my visit and I was hard pressed to find information online about explicit instruction on getting there. So I will provide my route here:

Take the Beijing Metro to DongZhiMen Station and Bus Terminal. It is on Line 2, Line 13 and also connects to the Airport Express (if you are coming from the west of Beijing, be smarter than me and DO NOT take the airport express to get to this station. It will charge your Metro card about 30 RMB).

After alighting the train, there are multiple signs that point to the bus terminal. You will want to go to the North Bus Platform and find Bus 980 or 980 Express. I took the express. You will find reviews online saying to go to Mi Yun Bus Station, THIS DOES NOT MEAN GO TO THE END OF THE LINE. As someone who speaks little to no Chinese, I was unaware that all signs and announcements on the bus would be in Mandarin. You want to alight at Mi Yun Xi Da Qiao. I will attach photos of the express line stops and what the stop looks like.

Since I went to the end of the line and had to take a taxi to Simatai, I am not sure about the next step from the bus stop but I believe you must cross the street and board Mi Bus 51. This is the bus I took back from the wall and it got me where I needed to go. Bus 51 will take you straight to the Water Town and you will know when you see it. It takes about an hour and a half.

Once you are off the bus, walk down the hill to the entrance of the Water Town and follow the signs to the Visitors Center. You will find signs that point to the Great Wall ticketing office (there are also signs for the WTown ticket office if you are interested in seeing it). Thirty minutes before the shuttle comes, the office will start selling the tickets so make sure you are there early! I would say an hour early just to be safe. There is plenty of things to see outside of WTown and many photo opportunities if you have too much time. If you solely wish to walk up and back down the path to the wall it is 40RMB (I’ve read this walk takes at least 50 minutes), a cable car one-way + the Wall is 110RMB and, I believe, the cable car both ways is 160RMB.

I decided to take the cable car up and walk down because I was pressed for time if I wanted to catch the buses back to Beijing. Let me explain the structure of this part of the Wall. The only towers that are open now are 1-10. That being said, walking up to the wall then walking from 1 to 10, is a complete incline. Like 50 degrees at least. If you have skipped leg day recently, this Wall is your redemption. Props to anyone who decides to walk up the Wall because I don’t think I could’ve done it with the amount I had. Anyway, the shuttle bus takes 15 minutes and will drop you off at the cable car entrance and you go in, they scan your ticket (keep your ticket, you will need it to get back on the bus or get out to WTown). The ride takes less than 10 minutes and you are dropped off below towers 8-9. There is a small shop with snack and waters here. Keep in mind that this is also the only restroom stop on the length of the Wall and the walk down. There is a generous amount of flights of steep stairs up to the actual wall after you pass the store. Be careful and take breaks of needed.

Once arriving at the top of the flights, you will see Tower 8 to our left and Tower 9 to the right. I decided not to go up to Tower 9 but I’m sure it was a beautiful sight as it leads to the end of the tourist section of Simatai. From here you walk down to Tower 1 and it is very leisurely compared to those who are walking up. That is not to say that it did not test my fear of heights. Be cautious as some steps are less than a foot wide and they are extremely steep. Walking the length of the Wall down took me about an hour. Overall, I recommend the route I took with the cable car one way if you are will a large group, have children or are traveling with seniors. It was a great way to see the Wall without much physical strain. I will provide all of my time stamps and prices at the end so you can properly time your trip.

Once down from the Wall, I took the shuttle back to the ticket office and walked up to the bus stop to catch Bus 51 back to Mi Yun. I read online before I left that this bus stop their service at 3:30pm. That is not true. I boarded the bus at 4:20pm and on the way back to MiYun I saw at least three other 51 Buses going up to the Wall. There are no screens displaying the nest stop on the bus so if you are unsure about your listening skills in Chinese or don’t remember what the stop looks like, you can ask the driver or someone on the bus to tell you when you are there. I would keep some screenshots of some translation with me like “I want to take bus 980 Express to Beijing.” The people on the bus were kind enough to help me out. Once you drop off at Mi Yun Xi Da Qiao, cross the street again and wait for Bus 980 Express and you’ll be back in Beijing in about an hour and a half or less (I believe the regular 980 takes about two and a half hours). The bus will drop you off at a stop outside of DongZhiMen bus terminal so turn left on the sidewalk and walk till you can turn right into the terminal. Just follow the path, you’ll see some blue signs directing you towards metro lines 2 and 13. Then you’re home free.

Things to bring: passport, text confirmation, WATER, camera, sunscreen, good walking shoes with traction, snacks (I brought myself a lunch but there are a few restaurants at bottom on Simatai)

Time of Travel (and vis versa):

Train (from ShuangJing -my apartment- to DongZhiMen): 1 hr

Bus 980 Express (From DongZhiMen to MiYun XiDaQiao): 1 hr 30 minutes

Bus 980: Takes 2 hr 30 min

Taxi (from end of 980E bus line to Simatai because I missed my stop): 1 hr

Shuttle Bus to Wall: 15 Minutes

Cable car up: 10 minutes

Walk from Tower 8 to Cable Car Entrance: 1 hr 15 min (Note: I am a solo traveler and was not waiting on anyone)

Bus Mi 51 (From Simatai Wall to MiYun XiDaQiao): 1 hr 45 min


Train one-way: 4 RMB

Bus 980e one-way: 15 RMB (7.5 RMB if you have a Metro card)

Bus Mi 51 one-way: 8 RMB

Walking both ways to and from Wall: 40 RMB
One-way Cable Car: 110 RMB
Two-Way Cable Car: 160 RMB

Taxi (from MiYun to Simatai): 150 RMB (This was as low as he would bargain with me for)

From start to finish, I left my apartment at 8:30am and got back at 7:40 pm. All of this information is correct to the best of my knowledge and this was all pulled form my own experiences. I am sure there are other ways to get to the Wall but this is what I did and I ended up having a wonderful time. I'm not sure if TripAdvisor allows comments but if I see them, I'll try to help!

I hope this information is useful! Enjoy your trip!
Written June 19, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

David Morgan
Perth, Australia58 contributions
Nov 2019
Firstly, sincere thanks to 748joshh of Los Angeles, California. I think he has provided the best description of how best to get to The Great Wall - Simatai (司马台长城)。
Given his description is two years old, I thought I reiterate my experiences based on the knowledge 748joshh supplied. I will however only discuss the express (direct) bus option.

The express bus leaves from the Dongzhimen (东直门) District and is best reached by Subway Line 2 (the blue inner circle line) and using Exit B. This will take you up into, or in front of, the Dongzhimen Bus Terminal. You DO NOT want this. Instead walk east (see map) along the main street Dongzhimen Wai (东直门外街) until you reach the first crossroad – Dongzhimenwai Xie Street (东直门外斜截) and turn north (left). Stay on the west side of the road and follow the road for about 400 – 500 meters. You should then see an open bus station and there is a blue signpost on the first corner (see picture) that says Dongzhimen to Beijing Wtown (Express Line) in Chinese AND English. The bus was actually parked on the road and not in the bus station. In the front of the bus was a moderately large sign (see picture) displaying in Chinese and English ‘Gubei Water Town (古北水镇)’ and Simatai Great Wall (司马台长城) to Dongzhimen (东直门)48 元 (i.e. the cost is 48 Yuan in cash or WeChat / Alipay. No bankcard)

I have attached a timetable posted inside the bus. Ignore the Beijing South Railway station columns. 周一到周五 = ‘Monday to Friday’ and the other column is the weekend timetable. Having said that the buses leave on-the-hour on Saturday morning, my bus left at 08:30. The bus took about 1 hour and 45 minutes and arrived at the Number 2 (lower) carpark (see picture). PLEASE NOTE that the latest departure time back on this express bus was 15:00 (3 pm). If you catch an early bus then this gives you over 4 hours, enough to see the Great Wall but probably not enough to see The Wall and the Water Village.

If you’re ONLY going to see the Great Wall, then there’s a few other things to realise. Firstly, there’s a separate ticket office off to the left as you approach the main entrance. The easiest thing to do is go to the Information Counter (this is clearly marked) and ask where The Great Wall Ticket Counter is. At the The Great Wall Ticket Counter you can purchase your entry fee (40 Yuan) +/- the cable car. After you’ve purchased your ticket what comes next is IMPORTANT if you’ve decided NOT to see the Water Town. You HAVE to catch a bus (i.e, you cannot walk) through the Water Town to The Great Wall Entry Point. Similarly, we you come back you HAVE to do the same thing. However, when you are coming back, IMPORTANTLY you meet the bus at a different point. You must walk about 80 meters further down the hill, to wait inside a hallway adjacent to the gates. Don’t be an idiot like me and wait at the top of the hill where you were dropped off for 40 minutes! The bus is supposed to run every hour, but the timetables seemed to mean very little. By the middle of the day as there were many more people the buses seemed to run 10 minutely.

Good luck, the effort is worth every kuai.
Written November 9, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Brisbane, Australia25 contributions
Aug 2017 • Friends
Simatai Great Wall was really unbelievable.
We choose the night tour and left our hotel in central Beijing about 1pm. It's took 1.5 to 2 hrs to drive from Beijing. (We organised a private driver) the night tour is 280RMB per person which gives you tickets to the cable car up and back and access to Watertown.
We had hiked Mutianyu the day before so didn't mind the reduced access to the wall. This particular section of the wall is very steep and challenging. I'd say I'm at an average fitness level and I could have hiked this wall during the day with appropriate footwear, clothing and plenty of water but I would have been absolutely wrecked by the end of the day if that gives you an idea of the level of fitness required.

For the night tour I would have taken the cable up he mountain about 6:30pm and spent more time looking around Watertown especially if you have a cloudy day. There was no visible sunset so you are kind of up there on the wall waiting for the lights to come on and doing a little bit of walking amongst the crowds in the remaining light. (If you want less crowds maybe consider seeing the wall during the day) I recommend waiting until nightfall to take the cable car back down to see the wall lit up from the cable car.
Overall this was quite a different experience to Mutianyu. If I had to choose only one I would choose Mutianyu due to the ease of the walk, how close it is to Beijing and the cheaper cost to access but if you have the time it is well worth seeing the simatai wall lit up all along the ridge of the mountain and the ruggedness of the wall itself.
Written August 2, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

London, UK52 contributions
Nov 2017 • Solo
Thanks to the great advice by Josh in an earlier post I took the express bus to Water Town to get to this part of the Wall. I decided to do so because the train to Badaling did not run on the day I had planned to go (despite the info online).

Locating the bus at Dongzhimen was a bit challenging, but if you allow enough time (and perhaps use some of the images I have added here you should be OK - note, not sure if the photos will show if you are reading this on your app). First of all – altogether forget the covered bus station that you get signposted to from the subway station. The express bus does NOT leave from this covered area. Instead you will find it parked on a side road near one of the bus feeder roads into to the terminal. I have included a screenshot of a map that shows the location of the bus (blue dot) and one walking route from the subway from exits E/H.

There is a sign on the bus window that tells the destination (as per photo). Please note that on the day that I took the bus, the bus was full well before 09:00. I got there already at 08:30 and the bus was waiting and you could take a seat and wait in the bus. So arrive early particularly on weekends. One couple was denied seats and they quite literally threw their toys…

Whilst there is no toilet on the bus (and it does indeed take 2hrs) interestingly the bus, immediately after departure, pulled up next to a public toilet and almost everyone offloaded. Not sure if this happens every time, but even if it does, it literally happens within the first 5 minutes of the journey, so you are still sat there for close to two hours with no chance of 'taking a break'. So limit your breakfast coffees if you are taking the morning departures!

Upon arrival I would recommend you check the return times from the bus stop. Note that the bus does not let people out exactly at the spot where the return journey boards. There is a small bus parking area immediately outside the Water Town entrance (in addition to plenty of overflow/long term parking, slightly higher up the hill side). You are likely to be let out at ANY convenient spot and this may or may not be close to the return departure point. The bus stop is at the bottom of the road leading to this bus parking area. It has a large sign that shows the departure times (all writing in Chinese). One photo here shows the sign. When I arrived, I totally missed this sign because I had to dash to the toilet which is inside the adjacent building. From there you can exit towards water town without having to pass the sign. So I would recommend that you plan your return immediately as you arrive there because then you know exactly what to do, when you want to leave + you know how much time you have to spend at the wall. Bear in mind that this sign (as pictured) shows departures time FROM Beijing TO Water Town in addition to the more useful departure times for the opposite direction. So please be prepared to translate the sign!

As mentioned, the bus was very busy when I visited (Nov-17 - Saturday), so people had formed a queue for the return bus a good half an hour before the departure. What I learned was that you needed to pick up a queue ticket from the baggage storage room that would actually secure a seat on the bus. So queueing seemed to only allow people to select the best seats, but the ticket system was used to manage overall passenger numbers. Not sure if this ticketing system is in operation every day or only on busy days/weekends, but keep an eye out for people in the queue and holding small tickets. These tickets can be collected from the person who manages the baggage storage facility in the building next to the bus stop – this is signposted in English although it does not mentioned anything about tickets. You do NOT pay for this ticket, you pay for your fare on the bus (actually not even at departure, but 10 minutes before arrival to Beijing). One of the photos should show this small ticket. If you are a party of four, you will get four of these. Ironically, on the day I was there, despite this two-stage queuing system (physical queue and a ticket) they actually boarded the bus from the parking lot (rather than from the queue) so it was a total free-for-all in the end and the people who were at the head of the queue actually ended up boarding last. I do not know what happens if there are more people than seats – the bus was again full for the return… They may have an overflow vehicle for busy days, or they may not.

Please do not expect people to speak anything other than Chinese on the bus. On the day I travelled I was the only foreigner on the bus. As such keeping track of progress was a bit challenging, but once you are on the highway you do actually get regular signs in between the lanes that show kilometres travelled FROM Beijing – so counts up from zero (reverse for return). This is a useful way of keeping track of how long until you are there. The last sign you should expect to see is 121 or 122 as that is when the bus comes off the highway and you are literally there. Might help if you had one too many coffees at breakfast and desperate to arrive!

I think people have written a lot about the reasons why you would come to this particular area, so I won’t add to that. A few useful tips: the climb TO the wall is quite considerable and will take time. The cable car will save you quite a lot of time and effort, but even with that you still have couple of hundred meters worth of climb/walking. If you buy an inclusive water town and wall ticket, they will ask you if you want to use cable car both ways. I think buying it as a bundle ticket will be cheaper. I did not realise that I had only bought one-way, so had to pay separately at the top to get the cable car down.

I did follow the advice to check out the separate ticket office for the wall (left turn before entering the main ticket office) but my impression was that they were showing ‘all sold out’ sign at 11:00 Saturday morning. Even if this was not true I found one person serving a queue of about twenty, so decided to try the main ticket office. With little or no wait I was buying a ticket to water town + wall and cable car. They even found a staff member that spoke English for me. Not sure how the other ticket office differs – maybe you do not need the water town ticket?! But I certainly found the entirely fake water town quite a nice thing to experience – the fakery and money spent on it was pretty impressive.
Written November 9, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Boulder, CO69 contributions
Oct 2016 • Solo
As the author of seven novels, which are all works of historical fiction set in Asia, I’ve been blessed to travel to some of the most interesting places on that extraordinary continent. My novel about the Great Wall, Unbound, was just released, and I believe that my story will inspire readers to search out more information on this legendary fortification, and perhaps to plan trips to China. For anyone interested in traveling to the Great Wall, I’d like to take a moment to pass along a few suggestions.

There are many tour companies that operate out of Beijing and take tourists to the Great Wall. Joining a large group, or hiring a private driver and guide, aren’t difficult propositions. What’s tricky is deciding which part of the Great Wall to visit, as many different areas of the fortification are easily accessible from Beijing.

The most popular location with locals and tourists is known as Badaling. This part of the Great Wall is about a two-hour drive from Beijing. Badaling has been completely restored, and features magnificent watchtowers, ramparts, and walkways. When visiting Badaling, it’s easy to get a good sense for the size and scope of the Great Wall. And yet, I wouldn’t recommend Badaling to the first-time visitor as the area is overrun with both tourists and vendors. It has a carnival-like atmosphere, and fails to deliver a magical experience.

A popular section of the wall to visit among foreigners is known as Mutianyu. This area is only a 90-minute drive from Beijing, and also has been wonderfully resorted. It’s child-friendly and features a cable car, which provides easy access from amenities near the road. Mutianyu boasts many wonderful watchtowers, and is surrounded by a forest of pine trees. People interested in a hike should walk toward Jiankou. For anyone with limited time, a journey to Mutianyu only takes a half-day, and will create a wonderful memory.

For travelers with a full day to spend on an adventure to the Great Wall, I recommend visiting Jinshanling, which is about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Beijing. Jinshanling has been partially resorted. This section of the Great Wall crosses a series of mountain summits. Visitors can access the Great Wall here via cable car, and can enjoy a descent via a long alpine slide. Jinshanling is much less crowded than the sites I’ve already mentioned, and it’s possible to walk for miles in either direction. I’d recommend walking toward Simatai, which is a moderately challenging, three-hour hike.

I’ve visited many parts of the Great Wall, and after much thought, decided to set my novel, Unbound, at Jinshanling. I thought the walk toward Simatai was the most beautiful and dramatic of any that I’d experienced. The views are extraordinary.

In general, I’d recommend leaving early for any site along the Great Wall. Try to arrive ahead of the crowds, which tend to appear in the late morning and early afternoon. You don’t need to be in excellent physical shape to visit any of the areas mentioned above, as they are easily accessed by cable car. But if you are in good shape, I’d recommend getting to the fortification, and then walking away from the entry points. The farther you walk, the fewer people you’ll see.

Whichever section of the Great Wall you visit, consider stopping at the Ming Tombs on the way to, or return trip from, the fortification. The Ming Tombs are located between Beijing and the Great Wall, and are an amazing collection of thirteen mausoleums that hold the remains of the Ming Dynasty emperors.

Visiting the Great Wall is a one-of-a-kind experience, and I suggest spending some time to determine a strategy that aligns with your schedule and expectations. Be sure to check with local authorities as to which sections of the fortification are open, as sometimes areas are closed for renovation.

As you walk on the Great Wall, you’ll feel history come alive beneath your feet, and you’ll never forget the experience.

-- John Shors
Written September 21, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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Simatai Great Wall, Beijing