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Our Great Wall maps cover where the main Great Wall sections are in China today, from Jiayuguan in China's northwest to Shanhaiguan on the east coast, with the most popular sections being around Beijing. Then our historical Great Wall maps chart where the Great Wall was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) all the way back to state walls of the Chu Kingdom (c. 650 BC).
The Great Wall of China in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) started from Jiayuguan at Ming China's northwest frontier and ended in Hushan on its Manchu/Korean border, crossing nine provinces and municipalities. The Ming Great Wall was over 8,500 km (5,200 mi) long. See below for more location detail on the Beijing area Great Wall sections, then Jiayuguan and Shanhaiguan...
The Great Wall north of Beijing is about 628 km (390 mi), and split into many sections. The famous sections include Badaling, Jiankou and Mutianyu, Jinshanling and Simatai. The travel time diagram below shows which Great Wall sections north of Beijing can be visited/hiked together.
The Mutianyu Great Wall section is the best restored Great Wall section. It is less crowded than Badaling's. The hike to the Jiankou section gets progressively steeper and treacherous. The adjacent Jiankou section is original unrestored Ming Dynasty wall.
The Jinshanling Great Wall section is highly-recommended for its restored and original Great Wall architecture. The adjacent Simatai section is also very popular, though part of the classic hike between the two is currently not possible due to restricted access.
The Jiankou Great Wall section is difficult to get to, especially by local transport. It is the steepest section of the Great Wall, and recommended only for adventurous fit hikers.
The Simatai Great Wall section is well-developed for tourism, reopened recently with better facilities and access. It's famous for its cable bridge linking to the Jinshanling section, and its steep ridge section, which is now off limits. Not all of the Jinshanling hike is possible due to restricted access.
The Badaling Great Wall section receives 70% of all Great Wall visitors, so it can get very crowded. However, its popularity is not without cause, as it guarded the most vulnerable route to the capital. Many Badaling tours include a visit to the Ming Tombs, to see the combine the Ming Dynasty's great engineering feat with the tombs of the emperors who ordered it.
Unless you really want to see the Shuiguan Great Wall section, avoid being conned into a visit instead of nearby Badaling. Juyongguan is a Great Wall fort occupying the main valley leading to Beijing from the northwest.
The Huanghuacheng Great Wall section offers reservoir-side hiking, original Ming wall, and submerged Great Wall sections, only about 1½ hours from Beijing.
The Baimaguan Great Wall section is mostly gone, but there are some interesting Great Wall towers and relics around the village of Baimaguan. But be prepared for some hiking. Baimaguan can be accessed via Miyun County using public transport, or more conveniently using private transport direct from Beijing.
The Gubeikou Great Wall section interestingly has original wall from the Ming Dynasty and the Northern Qi Dynasty (556 AD), though little of the latter is intact. Gubeikou is a small town in a hilly rural district, so we recommend that you arrange private transport from Beijing. It is not possible to hike to/from Jinshanling due to restricted access.
The Huangyaguan Great Wall section is in Tianjin Municipality, but is still closer to Beijing. It has fully-reconstructed Great Wall and several interesting tourist features. It is the site of the official Great Wall Marathon.
The Jiayuguan Great Wall Fortress is just west of the remote city of Jiayuguan in China's northwest. It was the western-most garrison of the Great Wall, marking the edge of China in the Ming era. The First Abutment of the Great Wall is half an hour by bus to the south, for those who want to see where the Great Wall began.
Jiayuguan's "Hanging Great Wall" section is a reconstruction built on a perilously steep ridge with displays of Silk Road life below it.
The main Shanhaiguan Fort, in the town of Shanhaiguan, guarded the eastern end of the Great Wall, and the northeastern tip of the Ming empire. It's about 300 km east of Beijing. The Shanhaiguan Great Wall section blockaded the coastal plain from Jiaoshan Mountain to the sea at Old Dragon Head.
Shanhaiguan's ‘Old Dragon Head' Great Wall is the striking seaward end of the Great Wall, which extends out further than the lowtide mark. The smaller fort there was a crucial coastal defence in the Ming era.
The "Great Wall" was built from the (Pre-) Warring States Period (about 600 BC) to the Ming Dynasty. During the Warring States Period, seven states built their own defensive walls.
The northern state walls were linked in the Qin Dynasty to form the first true Great Wall. China's northern border wall changed location greatly in subsequent dynasties though some sections were reused.
Follow the path of the Great Wall in key dynasties and states back in time, from the most recent Ming Great Wall back to the first Great-Wall-like wall of the Chu Kingdom:
Most of the remaining Great Wall is from the Ming era. "Guan" refers to a Great Wall Fort at a crucial valley pass. Find out more about the Ming Dynasty Great Wall.
For more on the Warring States "Great Wall" sections read Great Wall History.