How to choose between the different sites ?
I visited the first 3, so I can give some advice:
- Jinchanling to Simatai: far away (3 hours), difficult to get there unless you book some kind of tour. Very hard walk on some treacherous bits as the wall was partially restored. Wonderful scenery, then it gets less interesting as you walk downhill. Only foreign tourists. rather expensive as you are asked to pay for extras (entrance fees twice + toll for a bridge)
- Simatai: far (2.5 hours) restored. Very steep. Scenery unfolds as you keep climbing up and up. If you are tired, you can always go down. Hard walk, but always safe. Indeed this summer they paved the path from the car park to the Wall.
- Mutianyu: closer to BJ. (2 hours). cheaper. Steep climb to access the wall, but then gentle ups and downs. I recommend using the cable car to save energy. Very wide. You can see very long stretches of the wall. Very green. More tourists (Chinese+Foreigners)
Well people used to climb up the Great Wall but now there is a tobbogan-like ride up to 3/4 of the Great Wall at Badaling. From there simply trek up some distance again to reach the highest point of the Great Wall around the Beijing area.
Do this trek especially during winter because it helps to heat up your body, and you get to experience marvellous views from the Great Wall
There are some very steep descents on the wall but there are also hand rails for assistance. Unless you are adventurous,it is better to go to the restored parts of the Wall (as with Badaling).
Mutianyu is supposed to be the most scenic section of the Wall in the Beijing area.
If you want to join busloads of, head for the area of the wall at Badaling, about 70 kms (43 miles) northwest of Beijing. The 'remote' part of the wall at Mutianyu (about 90 kms/56 miles northeast of Beijing) isn't so remote any longer but is still less crowded than Badaling.
(See additional Travelogue for more pics).
No visit to China is complete without a trip to the Great Wall. It was certainly one of the most inspiring moments of my life to be standing on a part of it. The construction began more than 2,000 years ago on this wall that meanders more than 6,000 kms (3,728 miles) across the country.
Badaline was listed as 'World Cultural Heritage" by the United Nations and in recent years this section of the wall has been repaired.
If you want to get away from the commerce and busy life in the city (and from the many tourists), it is a good idea to go this part of the Great Wall. Huanghuacheng is about 60km north of Beijing. You can reach it by bus, see my Huanghuacheng page for all the detailes of this experience.
Might be a little hard to do. But if you can get your hands on a local driver (foreigners are not allowed to drive in Beijing), then ask him to take you to the fish farms near Simatai Great Wall.
There you can join the locals in fishing for salmon or other fish in the ponds and have them prepare it for you-sashimi, steamed or fried! Gotta speak Mandarin though.
When you go visit the Wall, there are a few kilometres restored where most of the people go, real crowds in summer!!
But if you go a bit further, the wall begins to be a bit ruined, tourists don't dare to go so far, and you can end up being totally alone at the original wall, surrounded by woods and nice landscapes... anyway, it takes a few kilometres to get there, but is worth the effort!
You should really try to make it to other parts of the Great Wall -no offense to the "tourist sections" of the wall, but I find them too crowded, and kind of fake. The picture for this tip is of a section of the wall (there is no name of it, as far as I know). It is close to the BaDaLing section. Have a look at the quality of the wall. It looks like the original (i.e. not restored), so I feel you get more history out of it - for lack of a better word.
Visit the Great Wall of China. Since it is outside of Beijing, I call it off the beaten path. It is wall-to-wall people on the Wall so we didn't get any decent photos. But look what else greets you there.......VENDORS.
Construction of the wall started in the 7th century B.C. The vassal states under the Zhou Dynasty had each built their own walls. In 221 B.C., after the state of Qin unified China, the walls were joined to hold off invaders and were extended to 10,000 li (5,000km.) In 1368 the Ming Dynasty undertook a renovation of the wall which took 200 years to complete. It became a World Heritage Site in 1987.
The Great Wall of China at Simatai has to be one of the best spots to gain access to the imfamouse Great Wall of China.
Getting to the Great Wall of china at Simatai on a backpacker's budget is no easy task. It involves getting on a minibus from Beijing to Miyun. At Miyun, you can hire a miandi driver to take you the rest of the way. This option will set you back about $20 USD, however, you can pay more for a direct taxi ride from Beijing.
Once can only wonder what it was like for many a Chinese soldier of yesteryear walking through the many towers, doors, and paths of the Great Wall of china at Simatai.
The Great Wall of china at Simatai is not for the weak hearted. Some of the paths on the wall are reminiscent of the paths taken by Indiana Jones. Don't look back on your walk though. One wrong step at parts can cause you to fall from the edge of the Great Wall of china at Simatai. Take a look on my pictures to see one of the countless possible falling paths I walked through. So many walkways, so many paths… all remain to be discovered at Great Wall of china at Simatai.
I do have to say that although parts of site are worn down, the hike up the Great Wall of china at Simatai is worth the time and the effort!. There are so many beautiful picture moments, including this amazing view I found from a window at one of the towers at the Great Wall of china at Simatai (look in my travelogue for this and other pics).
The Great Wall of China. By no means is it truly 'off the beaten path'. If anything its path has been much too beatened by tourists. The Wall is, however, very, very, VERY long, and fortunately the tourist access points are but a small part of it. It is not one single continuous wall but more (in my opinion) a network of linearly constructed fortifications. A fair bit of the Wall has still not been restored (and remain in ruins), and parts of it are still being discovered in the desert. How far you'd have to leave Beijing to get to some of these less trodden parts? Not very far actually. You just have to know how to get there. Unfortunately, I don't. I was on a tour and went to a tourist access point, albeit a less popular one. But still, this will be one quest that I would like to go on when I return in the future. If you have any info on this, feel free to drop me a line!
The Badaling Great Wall is the place to visit but expect it a very commercialize spot. This place has thousands of tourist daily making it another money making idea for the local peoples. There are souvenir shops as usual, camels, taxi, buses, toilets and the most important is the certificate cost 40 yuan after you climb up there but still a very interesting, beautiful place to see.
Don't stay in the touristic location of the Great Wall. Walk further. Of course it's tiring but the effort is well worth since every time you climb up a little hill there is a different view of the Wall. And of course without the hassling of vendors adn the lots of people that gather around the tourist posts.
My wife and me are thinking in doing some campping for the next time we visit Beijing (when we have grown up children- huh...fifteen or twenty years from now)
Take the trip from JinShanLing- Simatai Great wall. It's a hard walk, but worth the pain. Amazing view and few tourists.