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How to Visit the Great Wall of China: Insider Guide (2024)

Written by Sunny XieUpdated Nov. 28, 2023

To get the most from the Great Wall, a must-visit China attraction, you should follow the advice to plan a perfect Great Wall trip:

A video about the Great Wall of China

The Best Times to Visit: Spring and Fall

The Best Times to Visit: Spring and Fall

The best times to visit the Great Wall (around Beijing) are spring and autumn to avoid the summer heat and crowds, and winter freezing conditions.

Spring (April–May) in Beijing's mountains is cool/warm and the green plants and flowers make the Great Wall beautiful.

Fall (September–November) is the best hiking season due to the clear weather, allowing you to see the Great Wall snaking off into the distance. The mountains are blanketed by colors of red, golden, yellow, and brown, which sets off the gray and paler Great Wall colors.

You can also visit the Great Wall in summer and winter if that would suit you better. Summer is peak season and popular sections get crowded. It's hot with bright sunshine and some downpours. Winter is very cold, even icy, on the Great Wall, but there's almost no crowding.

Recommended Great Wall Tours:

Select the MOST Suitable Section to Visit

Jiankou Section of the Great WallJiankou Section of the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China lies mostly on the mountain ridges and crosses 15 provinces. The four most recommended sections are all around Beijing. See the table below to make a simple comparison and decide which section to visit.

Section Badaling Mutianyu Simatai Jiankou
Hours from Beijing 2
Scenery/ Photography (/5) 4 4 4 5
Physical Demands (/5) 2 2 4 5
Crowding (/5) 5 4 3 1
Tourism Development Restored Restored Wild Wild
Fit For Handicapped Travelers Kids and Seniors Ordinary Hikers Strong Hikers

Our recommendations: We do not recommend going to Badaling, because there are always many tourists, which will affect the experience. Mutianyu is one of our recommendations, especially for families with children and the elderly. There are cable cars, and it is relatively flat.

If you prefer less crowded and wilder scenery, then we recommend Jiankou or Jinshanling, which are also good for hiking. The Simatai Great Wall is special as it is the only part that is open at night. If you have more time and want to spend a night at the Great Wall, then Simatai is a good choice. Staying in the Gubei Water Town at the foot of the Simatai Great Wall is very convenient, and you could also enjoy hot springs after visiting.

Recommended Sections for Wheelchair Users

The Great Wall at Badaling, Mutianyu, and Juyongguan is (more) wheelchair-friendly. You could at least see some of the Great Wall near Beijing at the valley-bottom level there.

Mutainyu Great Wall Tower 14 is Wheelchair AccessibleAlan and Robyn Ashford at Mutianyu Great Wall Tower 14
  • At the Badaling section, wheelchair users can get to the first north watchtower by ramps. Wheelchair users should book the elevator service in advance.
  • At the Mutianyu section, there is a cable car for wheelchair users ascending the wall and ramps to a platform below the 14th watchtower, from which you can appreciate the beautiful scenery from the Great Wall.
  • At Juyongguan, the Great Wall Fortress area in the valley bottom can be navigated by wheelchair.

Otherwise visiting the Great Wall in flatter areas is recommended for wheelchair users, like Shanhaiguan on the east coast and Jiayuguan on the western desert.

Conquer the Most Challenging Great Wall Section: Jiankou to Mutianyu (4–5 hours hike)

Wild Great Wall HikingExplore the wild Great Wall at Jiankou, and you will have the Wall to yourself.

If you would like to experience the steepest section, the Great Wall at Jiankou is the best choice for you. This section is wild Great Wall without cable cars or any new steps. Many of the Great Wall stairs are broken or crumbling, which makes this section more dangerous. This most popular hiking route follows the wall down to Mutianyu — a magnificently restored section.

Read more tour details: 1-Day Jiankou to Mutianyu Hiking Tour

See more Great Wall Hiking Tours 

How to Get to the Great Wall (From Beijing)

Map of Getting to the Great Wall from BeijingThis map shows the distance and time costs to the Great Wall from downtown Beijing City by taxi.

For some well-restored Great Wall sections, like Badaling and Mutianyu, you have the choice of taking a public or tourist bus, taxi, or even a bullet train (Badaling only).

But considering the language barrier, fixed departure time, and inconveniences of catching this public transportation, etc., taking a private transfer service with a spacious car, an English-speaking guide, and a one-stop pickup service would make your trip more enjoyable. If you come all the way to China to see the Great Wall, why settle for a second-rate experience?

While for the wild Great Wall, it's difficult to go there independently. You may consider taking our Great Wall Tours >>>.

Spending a Night at the Great Wall

It takes about 2 hours on average to get to the Great Wall from downtown Beijing. With our private transfers, doing a half-day or one-day Great Wall tour is feasible. If you do not mind changing hotels for a night, an overnight stay near the Great Wall is highly recommended as you could:

  • Avoid traffic jams and lining up at the ticket gate.
  • Appreciate the Great Wall in the early morning when there are no crowds.
  • Enjoy sunset and night views of the Great Wall.

At Simatai — Gubei Water Town Resort

Gubei Water Town ResortGubei Water Town Resort

Simatai offers the best Great Wall night experience and a range of 5-star hotels, boutique hotels, and local inns in the nearby Gubei Water Town (1 km or half a mile away).

See our 4-Day Beijing Highlights and Great Wall Night Tour

At Mutianyu — Brickyard Retreat at Mutianyu Great Wall

Brickyard Retreat at Mutianyu Great Wall is reconstructed from a cultural revolution tile factory by Beijing expats. It aims to provide an environmentally sustainable and Western-style countryside hotel.

Highlights: green gardens, original brick rooms, and Great Wall views from the hotel.

At Badaling — Commune by the Great Wall

Commune by the Great Wall is a private collection of modern-architecture boutique hotels, 200m from the Great Wall at 'Water Pass' (Shuiguan).

Highlights: Different designs by accomplished architects. It's not only a hotel to stay in but also an architectural attraction in itself.

Camping on the Great Wall — Be Prepared

Camping at the Great Wall

Camping is not allowed at popular sections like Mutianyu. Camping would need to be done at the wild sections (e.g. Jiankou, Gubeikou).

Shops/guesthouses near the wild Great Wall are very rural and don't sell camping equipment/supplies. Campers would have to carry tents and everything else needed on the uneven and sometimes steep Great Wall paths, which are very strenuous. Beware trips and sprains, and dehydration. Carry lots of water.

Food at the Great Wall

In restored sections, there are many restaurants and hotels that provide local food and a place for travelers to stay at. Restaurants at the Great Wall may not meet the standards of those in downtown Beijing, but you can try local dishes there.

Wild sections don't have restaurants or hotels, so you need to bring food if you are planning a Great Wall hike.

A Travel Guide is Recommended for a Great Wall Trip

China Highlights provides a tailored itinerary, comfortable air-conditioned transport, and one-to-one tour guiding, if necessary.

In wild sections, there is a real possibility of getting lost without a guide, and getting there on your own would be very difficult.

Also, as the Great Wall is rich in history and culture — far more than just a scenic attraction — you should have a travel guide to explain and relate stories about the Great Wall in context to get the most from your trip.

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