For me, this was the highlight of the whole trip. I had wanted to visit and walk the Great Wall for many years and, finally, the time had come. After much research mainly on vt, we decided that Mutianyu was the best place to go and that Alvin was the best guide to take us there!! Alvin was recomended by many VTers, he was discovered by Homer and Eddie many years ago, and highly praised word of mouth on VT has gained him many followers.
Our day included pick-up at our Hotel at 8am, 2hr drive to Mutianyu, cable car up to the top, walking the wall for several hours (3hrs in total spent at the Wall), then lunch in a local Dumpling Restaurant, we then drove back to Beijing and spent one hour at the Lama Temple. We then went back to our room for a shower and reflection time! Then, pick-up by Alvin once again and off to our Acrobatic Show, pick-up after that at 8.30pm, dinner at the Loft Restaurant and back to our rooms by about 10pm. It was indeed a very busy and tiring day, but one I will remember for the rest of my life.
The weather at Mutianyu was perfect, a light breeze, light cloud coverage making it not too hot and we could see for miles and miles. I was warned by Steve from Brisbane that you HAVE TO take the cable car to the top, and now I agree totally with him. I had thought that we would give it a miss, cos we wanted to walk as much of it as possible, but you really do need to take the cable car - TRUST ME!!! My legs were sooooooooo sore the next day, and we had only covered a relatively short section of the wall.
We could not actually enter the Wall for about half an hour as they were holding an Army swearing in ceremony at the entrance, so we just watched that for a while, which in itself was rather interesting. And then came our time to start walking the Wall. The Mutianyu section of the wall is quite well restored, but there are still some parts that are a bit tricky to manoevre, and some very steep sections and uneven ground to cover. The views from the wall are simply magnificent, breath-taking and amazing. Every where you turned, there was something new and amazing to see and take a photo of. I took well over 100 photos that day, and each of them is worthy of keeping.
Alvin is a wealth of knowledge and information, he speaks fluent english, although with a somewhat quite heavy accent. He is the guide on the day, and also the driver, which means his price becomes very reasonable, as you are not also paying for the services of a driver. I would highly recommend you to hire Alvin and his services. If anyone wants his contact information and info on his prices, please email me.
The cost of entrance to the Wall, including return cable car was 90rmb. Also added to his bill was 20rmb to take the tollway there and back, allowing for more time actually on the Wall.
I chose Mutianyu because I had heard that Badaling is an over-renovated madhouse. Well, I had Miutanyu all to myself for at least one hour, and my thought was "who's going to find me if I die of thirst and exhaustion?"
My friend Happy_Maoron and I arrived at Mutianyu very early, before the cable car started for the day. The climb from the parking lot to the wall-proper is very long, with more than 1,000 steep steps. And the wall itself entails a lot of step climbing.
Fortunately, I recovered from the climb and was able to enjoy the watchtowers and the arid beauty and think of the poor wretches who gave their lives building the wall.
On the way back down, I tried to encourage panting Westerners who had just arrived.
ADVICE: In the dead of Winter, at the crack of dawn, Badaling would probably have been just as well. If you go to Mutianyu, the cable car is not just for sissies. Have a water bottle, and a candy bar with you. Brace yourself for the aggressive peddlers near the parking lots (they are the bane, I have been told, of a third segment, Simatai).
Comparing photos of Mutianyu and Badaling, it is hard to say which is more picturesque with the mountains and majesty of the ridge lines.
As I did my walk, I came across a sign that read “Many sections of the Great Wall are built at the knife-sharpened-like mountain peak, point to the sky straightly and combine majesty, steepness and beauty into one. It is the masterpiece of the Great Wall.” Very true, but some are more majestic and rugged, while others are more flowing and subtle.
I may have opted for one that was a little more subtle, but not by much. But the trade off was the serenity and peaceful isolation. During my ~3hrs on the wall, I only ran into 6 other tourists. Maybe I was lucky that most thought it was going to be cold, or that many were on holiday. But compared to the swarms of people on the Badaling section, it was much more peaceful.
Similar to Badaling, you can barter with a taxi for ~500Y round trip, gear up with a group and get a tour, of you can take a public bus (what I opted for to avoid crowds and call my own schedule).
How to get there:
Bus #916 leaves Dongzhimen for Huairou (~12Y). If you want more remote wall, take connecting bus #961 to Huanghua. Either way, u haggle w/ a taxi in Huairou for the remainder of the trip for much less than cost from Beijing.
UPDATE from the forums - March 15 ~ Nov 15 (tourist season) : Bus 867 goes to Mutianyu from from Dongzhimen outer. The bus transfer depot is just outside of exit B.
Mutianyu is a much better area of the wall to visit than Badaling.
It's far less crowded (with tourists and salespeople alike!) and offers a much better experience. I think we saw less than 20 other people on the top the whole time we were there.
Skip the chairlift that operates, and do the hike up. The hike is easier than they say, nice, and on well marked trails.
Took about 15-20 minutes to get to tower 8 on the wall from the ticketbooth, although the booth said it was an hour's climb.
Access to the park is granted through one of two ticket gates: North or South entrance. Tickets are 45 yuan for adults, with the lifts being extra. Your ticket is a mini-cd in a cardboard sleeve. The sleeve has a barcode on the back, and is scanned at the entrance turnstile.
Use the bathrooms at the bottom before heading up, as the few bathrooms on top were all closed.
I brought a picnic lunch and drinks in a backpack, but it was un-necessary as there was the odd local on the wall selling drinks and snacks that they had carried up.
There are 20 towers open to tourists on this stretch of wall, with the wall stretching between them.
This area was restored/rebuilt in 1988, and stretches for about 2.5-3km end to end.
We hiked the entire length, and even past the marked restored area to the western unrestored area.
It's sure not flat, and is quite steep in some sections, but is definately worth seeing the wall in it's pristine un-touched state.
Ok, after reading some many tour books, we decided to go to the Mutianyu section of the wall, and we are so glad we did. We had the wall all to ourselves for more than 4 hours, ON A FRIDAY !!!!!!! it was great. Of course it is in the middle of now where, but well worth the 2 hour drive from Beijing. Admission fee was a mire 30 RMB with a 30 RMB ride up the gondola to the top of the wall. We took a tour guide, but nothing a tour guide could say would prepare you for the site itself.......trust me the WALL speaks for itself !!!!! Take or buy plenty of water and be ready for a workout like you haven't had in a long time !!!! Well worth it.....would happyily pay 10 times as much to see this...It is one of the most impressive sights anywhere on PLANET EARTH !!!!!!!
It was very impressive standing on the great wall one of the amazing wonders of the world, so much so my friend and I kept saying "dude we're on the great wall!"
We were on a limited time schedule so we took a taxi ride from our Hotel, The Great Wall Sheraton to Mutianyu Great Wall it cost us 900 rmb round trip. The Driver waited 2 hours as we walked the wall.
The way up to where the cable cars were was infested with merchants trying to sell everyting related to the great wall. Be warned that these vendors can be very aggressive. I had one guy grab at my arm several times and then he shouted some obscenity at me when I haggled him down to low. He called me cheap, "you too cheap" it was for a t-shirt, I wasn't going to spend more than 20 rmb for it.
Other vendors have cards and they write their name and station number on these cards to remind you when you come back down to visit their shop. Some shout "I remember you" don't give them your name like my buddy did because they will go to town calling your name.
The wall itself was phenomenal, with breathtaking views of the mountains. It is amazing that the majestic mountains alone were not enough to keep the Mongol hoards from invading.
At the south entrance to Mutianyu lies the Dream stone city. Not much of a "city", just a couple buildings housing a rock collection.
You pass through the buildings as you are coming off of the mountain the great wall is situated on. The trail coming down between towers 8 and 6 will bring you out here.
No entrance fee if you are coming off the mountain.
It shows various rock formations collected from throughout China. Some of them are actually interesting...
There are several popular tourist destinations for the Great Wall of China.
The earliest is Badaling. Mutianyu which is further away has become popular too with the availability of cable car, chair lift and luge to get up or down the wall.
The view is outstanding with a large tower fortress.
We chose to go to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, and were very happy with that, not very crowded.
What is referred to as the Great wall is a series of walls in different shapes and conditions. The walls stretch along the North-Eastern part of China, to protect it against the Mongols and mark the border of the empire. Mainly Qin, Han and Ming dynasties built and reinforced the wall. It was also valuable in quickly moving large sections of the army, as it is much easier to advance along the relative smooth paths of the wall, rather than humping through dense forest. Now, some parts have been restored for visitors, and the most visited part is Badaling section. Mutianyu is the second most visited, so there is a lot of rather aggressive peddlers, but we walked behind the stalls up to the cable car station and that way avoided being too harassed.
You can reach the wall by climbing (reserve about an hour) or by cable car (open and closed). We chose the open cable car up and the toboggan ride down. I have fear of heights, but surprisingly, was able to enjoy the trip up, it was rather quick and comfortable. The toboggan ride was great. Children will love it! But the wall itself can be tiring for small children.
Up there, we walked around the wall, admiring the incredible effort it must have taken to build it, as we found the effort of just walking rather breathtaking too; there are many stairs as the wall climbs and descends the hills. Do bring a lot to drink, as prices for drinks on the wall are of course higher. Also bring good walking shoes and a hat if it is sunny. If it is wet, the stones may be a bit slippery. We were a bit unlucky as it was misty the day we went, but that meant is was not hot even though we went at the end of July. This part of the wall is very lush and clear days the view is supposed to be fantastic.
We paid a decent CNY200 for transport, guide and entrance to the Great wall with a tour operator. The cable car/toboggan was CNY55.
Thankfully Mutianyu was fairly quiet, which was quite surprising considering it was the May day holiday. It was great for Mom and Dad because there are 2 cable car sections so they could see a couple of different parts. The slide ride down is pretty fun too. Mike kept going to fast and the guys kept screaming at him to slow down. I had a whimpy girl in front of me and I wasn't too kind to her - I kept shouting K-why, K-why which means faster, faster in Chinese :). Gotta use the words you know.
What a great way to spend the day with my parents - wandering along the Great Wall of China!
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