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"He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man" Mao Zedong.
If visiting Beijing it is mandatory to see The Wall. But which part do you want to go to? Busy Badaling, scenic Mutianyu, hike along Jinshanling or see wild HuanghuaCheng or Jiankou?
All sections of the wall can be visited without an organised tour for people who want to visit independantly.
If you do opt to go with a tour company make sure you ask what is included in the tour. Some tours are combined with a vist to the Ming Tombs or may include shopping stops. So if you don't want to get dragged off the bus and made to visit a Chinese Medical Centre make sure you choose a tour suitable for you. As well as regular tour companies some youth hostels offer value for money small number tours.
JUYONGGUAN. 50km northwest from Beijing. Open 6am - 4pm. Admission RMB40. This is the closest section so if you are in a rush and just want a quick peak at the wall this is it. Do a bit of a walk in under 2 hours. Heavily renovated and not as scenic as other sections but the best place for a quickie option. If going by bus then it is the same bus that goes to Badaling so tell the bus driver this is where you want to get off.
HUANGHUA CHENG: 60km north of Beijing. You will need to check opening times as sometimes this section is closed to the public. Huanghua has an unofficial status as some of the wall runs through land not government run. Some local landowners ask for a small fee for access to the wall. You can also view this section of the wall from the Huangchuacheng Lakeside Reserve. Entrance is RMB25. You can walk around the reservoir but there is no easy access from here. The reserve is maily visited for it's excellent vistas of the wall.
Huanghuacheng is a ruined part of the wall that is in periodic reconstruction mode to restore the crumbly sections - which is why it is not always open. While spectacular, the wall clings to some steep hillsides - The scenery is breathtaking but keep in mind there are no guard rails and good shoes are needed to navigate some sections. It is split in two with a reservoir at the centre. Take the right hand side as it is a bit safer.
For transport a taxi from Beijing is best & get them to wait until you are finished. Otherwise get a bus from the Dongzhimen Long-distance bus station to Huanghua, get off at Huanghuacheng. Some buses are slow so make sure you get one that goes via the Jingcheng express. Some buses also stop & you may need to transfer to a mini bus. Then taxi to the wall.Read reviews by other travelers who have visited Huanghua Cheng: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction...
BADALING: 70km northwest from Beijing. Open 6am - 10pm Summer & 7am - 6pm winter. Admission: RMB 40 - 45. Cable Car is available Y80 one way or Y100 return. This Ming fortification section of the wall is heavily renovated. If you read travel books or travel brochures then this is mentioned as the most popular section of the wall. Also note popular means swarming with tourists. Popular also means tour companies love it. If you do want to visit this section then get there very early in the morning, especially on the weekend or come in Winter and enjoy. The scenery is impressive with the wall snakeing off over the hills in the distance. The two sections of the wall go in either direction, left or right, from the main entrance. Walk as far as you can in either direction and you will be rewarded by seeing the breathtaking veiw of seeing the wall winding over the hills.
It is easy to get to from Beijing with a direct train line from the Beijing North Train station. The S2 trains dpart from there - expect about 6 trains per day. The train journey takes 1 hour. When you arrive at the station you can either walk the 1 kilometer to the entrance or get one of the minivns or taxis that hang arounde ther station to take you.
There are also various bus options which take about 90 minutes which leave from Denshengmen Bus Station:
Bus No. 919 ( Air Conditioner Bus )
Bus Terminal: Deshengmen (德胜门快车)
Destination: Badaling Great Wall
Bus Fare: RMB 12
The first Bus: 6:00am;
The last bus: 6:30pm
Everyman & his dog has tours going there - try one of the youth hostels for a cheap option.
Or you can hire a taxi for a return trip RMB400 approx.
JIANKOU (Arrow Nock): Located on the mountain ridge of Xizhazi Village, it connects to Mutianyu in the east and joins Huanghua Cheng in the west. It is free to visit the Jiankou section of the wall. Warning: This one of the most dangerous parts of the wall to visit. It is in a state of disrepair, the bricks, walls & steps are loose and unsteady. It is best to go in a group and not on your own. Due to it's unique style, steep mountains and beautiful scenery it has become a photographic hot spot. To get there by Bus: A) No.916 at Dongzhimen, get off at Huairou Fangshan
(diagonally opposite Huairou First Hospital), there are buses to
Jiankou Great Wall (the bus runs between 10:00 and 15:00)
Or B). Take Bus 936 (支) at Dongzhimen, get off at Yanxi Huandao in Huairou District, there are buses to Jiankou Great Wall (the bus runs between 10:00 and 15:00) . Otherwise hire a taxi for a return trip from Beijing.
Read reviews by other travelers who have visited Jiankou: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction...
MUTIANYU: 90km north of Beijing. Open 6.30am - 6pm. (Winter 7.30am - 6pm.) Admission RMB45. Two chair lifts - one open ski lift style that fits 2 side by side. This the first cable car you will encounter and it wil take you to tower 6. Walk on further & you can buy tickets for the other chair lift that is enclosed and goes to a higher section of the wall - tower 14.
From tower 14 you can continue walking up to tower 21. The section tower 18 to tower 20 is quite steep with numerous steps. There is now also a new part of the Mutianyu that has recently opened up - the new section tower 21 to 23 offers some great views.
Check opening times for the chairlifts as sometimes they don't start operating until 8.30am. It is best to get to the wall early when it is not too crowded. Also there is only a small car park and you might find your transport has to park down the hill which means you will have a bit of a walk to get to the entrance.
This 3km section of the wall is not as busy as Badaling. The wall is built on the older Qi dynasty section (AD550-77) and it not as heavily restored as the Badaling section. The scenery is wonderful with crumbling outposts seen on the hills in the back ground. There are also watch towers built into the wall itself. If you are there in October you get to see the autumn colours of the trees in the surrounding countryside.
When you come to tower 6 there is either the option of a ski lift style cable car down or a taboggan ride.
To get there its faster to arrange a car & driver or negotaite a taxi for a set rate, approx RMB 500. If you leave early & arrange your own transport via private driver or taxi allow a 1/2 day. If going by bus it will eat up most of your day.
From Beijing Dongzhimen to Huairou Bus Station use 916 (快 express) or 916 with stops. Get off at the Huairou terminus and then hire a minivan to Mutianyu. The express bus 916快 bus takes 60 to 70 minutes. The minivan transit to Mutianyu costs about CNY 40-50 and takes 20 minutes.
More popular ( which runs during the peak season, approx April to early November) is the 867 Tourist bus which leaves from Dongzhimen Outer (Dongzhimenwai). There are only two buses a day leaving at 7:00 and 8:30 approx, and return from Mutianyu at 14:00 and 16:00 approx. Cost is Y32 return ( or Y13 return if using a Yikitong Transport card).
Read reviews by other travelers who have visited Mutianyu: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction...
SIMATAI: 110km northeast of Beijing.
Simatai was closed from June 2010 and has recently reopened but some sections are still closed - You can only visit the Eastern section, towers 1 - 10. You can not do the hike from Simatai to Jinshanling as the area between these two sections is closed to the public.
The small villages surrounding Simatai have also been redeveloped and this area has been renamed as Gubei Water Town.
The opening hours, prices and how to purchase tickets and get there are still under the opening guidelines. See here: http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/ShowTop...
Read reviews by other travelers who have visited Simatai: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction...
JINSHANLING: 110km northeast of Beijing. Admission RMB 55 - 65 .Chair lift available.
This trail through stunning mountain terrain is steep, rugged, stoney and wonderfully scenic and exhilarating which is why so may people choose to see it. Its also not crowded.
It has not been majorly restored and retains a lot of its original features and magnificent towers. The section of the wall where Jinshanling meets Simatai is closed but walking this eastern section of the wall, towards Simatai, still gives you outstanding views. Or walking toward the west will take you to the Xiwuyan Lou Tower ( Five Window Tower).
To get there: Negotiate for a taxi or private driver for the day aprox RMB 600- 700.
There is a special tourist bus which runs on weekends, main holidays and peak season ( 4 April - 15 November approx) from near the Beijing Dongzhimen transit Hub which departs at approx 8am and returns from Jinshanling to Beijing at 3.30pm. Purchase the One Day travel pass for CNY120 - it includes the round-trip bus ticket, admission fee, and single cable car ticket.
These instructions are posted by a trip advisor memebr:
1. Take the metro to Dongzhimen bus terminus in Beijing
2. Ignore the signs that point to the bus terminal and go towards Exit B (take the right Exit). See notes below re address of where to catch the bus.
Walk towards the east (early morning this is where the sun is :), but
you can also walk having the main road on your right side.
4. After a very short walk pass the bus terminal on the left.
5. You will come to an intersection, where you have to turn left.
6. Walk for about 5-10 minutes, pass many buses and you will see an outdoor bus terminal (Great Wall Terminal) on the left side
7. The first counter on the left, once you enter the driveway, sells Jinshanling Tickets.
Address of where the Tourist bus leaves: 东直门外斜街 45号
(45 Donghimen Wai Xie Jie). If you get lost show this to the local
people, they point you to the right direction. Ask multiple times and
different people, sometimes they do not know the way and point the wrong
The bus leaves Beijing at 8am (somtimes a little earlier). There might be only one bus a day. When I was there they had another one stand by in case the first one was full.
Leaves the Great Wall at 3pm, maybe a little earlier, so be there, it will leave on time & without you.
Public buses depart from the Wangjing West subway station ( lines 13 & 15). The bus runs from 07:00 to 16:00 from Wangjing West with hourly departures. The duration is around one hour and forty minutes. The last back bus is at 16:30. The fare is CNY32 ( or CNY20.6 if using a Yikatong Transportation Smart Card. ) There are free shuttle buses between the terminus of the bus and the entrance to Jinshanling.
Read reviews by other travelers who have visited Jianshanling: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction...
SHANHAIGUAN. 300km East from Beijing. The Jiao Shan part of the wall is as far from Beijing as it goes. Best done as an overnight stay. This is where The Great Wall meets the sea. This old historic Ming dynasty garrison town with it's walls is a good excuse to visit. It is popular with Beijingers, especially as it is close to the sea. This section has been restored and can get busy during holiday season. There are express trains from Beijing.