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Huanghuacheng; Mutianyu; Badaling; Simatai (Suburbs)
HOURS/TIMESHuanghuacheng: Mon.-Fri.: 8:00am-5:00pm; Sat.-Sun.: 7:00am-5:30pm; Mutianyu: Daily: 8:00am-4:00pm; Badaling: Summer: Daily: 6:30am-7:00pm; Winter: Daily: 7:00am-6:00pm; Simatai: Closed for renovations
PRICEHuanghuacheng: RMB 2; Mutianyu: RMB 40; Badaling: RMB 45; Simatai: RMB 40
POPULAR TIMESWeekends; summer; national holidays (weeks of Apr. 5, May 1, Oct. 1)
RESERVE IN ADVANCENo
WAIT TIME WITHOUT RESERVATIONNone
HIGHLIGHTSSecluded splendor at Huanghuacheng; luge at Mutianyu
With close to 2,000 years of history and snaking over 4,000 miles across Northern China, the Great Wall is certainly one of the world’s most incredible architectural monuments, even if it was never all that effective in its primary purpose of keeping the Mongol invaders at bay. Much of it has fallen into disrepair or even disappeared over the centuries, but in recent decades, several sections have been restored and opened to visitors. By far the most striking is Simatai, a stretch of the “wild Wall” where you can witness not only the Wall’s impressive undulations, but also the violence with which nature has attacked it–trees have fought their way through the ancient paving stones to create a stunning contrast between this incredible man-made monument and nature’s tenacity in overcoming it. (Unfortunately this location is closed for renovations.) Closer to the city and slightly less taxing to hike (though still quite strenuous!) is Huanghuacheng. Following a “dragon’s spine” curve, this peaceful partially restored section dips underwater at a reservoir before looping gracefully over a hill and into lovely surrounding orchards. Moving to the touristy end of the fortification, fully restored Mutianyu offers a gentle climb and the comforts of home (there’s a KFC on site) but peps things up with a thrilling luge ride down from the summit. Finally, for those looking for the easy way out, Badaling is as commercialized as they come: it’s serviced by a fast bus from the city, fully restored, and easy to climb, and there’s a slew of Western fast-food joints (Starbucks included) on site.
GO HERE WITH
Friends; family; kids
WHY WE LIKE IT
Standing on the Great Wall for the first time and truly comprehending its mind-bogglingly massive size and scale is an incredible experience. Our top pick is the impressive man-versus-nature scenery at Simatai, but this is closed until further notice. When we’re looking for an exclusive Wall experience (trust us, Beijing’s crowds can leave you screaming for solitude), Huanghuacheng is our fave. Even at peak times of the year, we rarely encounter more than a handful of other visitors, leaving us space to marvel at the Wall at our leisure (and snap photos without other people getting in the way).
WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE
The aggressive souvenir vendors at touristy spots like Mutianyu and Badaling. Ignore them, even though they will continue to follow you up the Wall.
GOOD TO KNOW
Definitely arrange a driver to take you to the Wall. Public transport is a nightmare this far out of the city, and after an exhausting hike, the last thing you want to have to do is navigate Beijing’s bewildering bus system. Either arrange a trip through your hotel’s concierge, or (if you’re feeling adventurous) pick up a driver at the Dongzhimen transport hub. Rates vary depending on where you want to go, how many people you’re with, and whether you want an English-speaking driver, but if you negotiate a round-trip from Dongzhimen, it should be about RMB 300-600. Drivers arranged through a concierge will be slightly more expensive but much less of a hassle.
If you’re planning on visiting Huanghuacheng, we recommend starting at the entrance next to the reservoir and hiking to the summit of the “dragon spine” curve. We strongly discourage carrying on beyond the viewing platform at the top, as the rest of this section of the Wall has not been restored. Also note that to access Huanghuacheng you will need to scale a fairly steep ladder, so proper footwear is essential.
All information within this website was checked for accuracy at the time of publication. But since the world moves quickly, things may have changed. Pardon us for any errors as we strive to give you the most up-to-the-minute details!