Traveling with children can be a pretty tough challenge, especially in a foreign country and if you are not sure what to expect. These tips and guidelines should help you prepare better and thus make the most out of your family's once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Great Wall of China.
Where to Go
Badaling section: as the part of the Great Wall closest to the center of Beijing, it has it's pros and cons. It is generally an easier climb, less steep and less rough than the other parts of the wall. However, Badaling is extremely busy during the peak season, and is largely renovated.
Mutianyu section: usually recommended for those with children but unwilling to go to the busier Badaling, Mutianyu is accessible by cable cars (both up and down), and is a very pleasant hike, but can still be a challenge depending on how far you want to climb.
Simatai section: more rugged and only for those with older children or who are comfortable hiking with their very little ones strapped to their backs. This section only reopened in January 2014, and stretches across 34 beacons with more rough terrain than Mutianyu and Badaling.
What to Watch Out For
A family on the Great Wall at Mutianyu
Paths and stairs: some parts of the great wall are not easy to climb. Besides the fact that they are steep, some steps are relatively tall, especially for younger children. Older sections may not have safety rails on steep climbs down, or may be missing bits from the steps. Strollers are definitely impossible.
Danger: some dangerous areas are not properly taped off — make sure that your children do not have the tendency to run away, as some entrances to guardhouses lead to steep slopes down into the wilderness.
Crowds: during the peak season, some parts of the wall are incredibly crowded and may be overwhelming for younger children, and easy for them to get lost.
Seasonal supplies: again, especially during summer's peak season, make sure that you bring enough water to keep the whole family hydrated! On top of that, sunscreen may be a good idea, as well as hats. It can get extremely hot on top of the wall as it is very exposed. Also beware in winter, when it can be extremely cold and windy.
Three little girls on the Great Wall
If your children are very young, make sure that you have the carrier ready to carry them on your back, this will make the trip a lot easier for everyone. Especially for those children who are not yet walking steadily or tend to be clumsy.
The Mutianyu section of the wall also has a toboggan which is great fun for children. You can control your speed so the trip down is fun for most ages. Parents are also allowed to ride down in the tobaggon with their child, making it a really fun family activity. However, for those really too young to go down the toboggan (i.e. babies — we have seen people take their babies down it, but it just seems like it would be better not to), it is also spectacular to take the cable car back down to the ground.
Throughout the hike on the wall at Badaling and Mutianyu there are stalls with vendors selling souvenirs. It may be fun for the little ones, especially those who weren't that excited about the hike to begin with, to know that they can get a special Great Wall medal at the end with the added personal touch of having their names carved in. There are also other great souvenirs that you can promise your children if they behave themselves!
Great Wall Kids Tours
With kids, especially the curious ones, it is great to have a tour guide along to answer all of their questions! Check out our Great Wall tours, or you can always contact us to tailor make a tour for you, and we will ensure that all the little ones' questions about the Great Wall will be answered.