The Great Wall snakes through the countryside over deserts, hills, and plains for several thousand miles. At its closest point it is less than 40 miles (60 km) from Beijing. The wall was created following the unification of China under Qin Shi Huangdi (221–210 BC). Despite impressive battlements, it ultimately proved ineffective; it was breached in the 13th century by the Mongols and again, in the 17th century, by the Manchus. Today, only select sections of its crumbling remains have been fully restored, with four main sites accessible from Beijing: Badaling, Mutianyu, Huanghua Cheng, and Simatai.


  • 44 miles (70 km) NW of Beijing

  • 6912 2222

  • Bus 919 from Desheng Men

  • Open 7am–6pm daily

  • ¥40


  • 56 miles (90 km) N of Beijing

  • 6162 6505

  • Bus 916 from Dong Zhi Men bus station; change at Huairou

  • Open 7am–6pm daily

  • ¥40

Huanghua Cheng

  • 37 miles (60 km) N of Beijing

  • Open 8am–5pm Mon–Fri; 7:30am–5:30pm Sat, Sun

  • ¥25


  • 68 miles (110 km) NE of Beijing

  • 6903 1051

  • Bus 980 from Dong Zhi Men bus station, then taxi

  • Open 8am–4pm daily

  • ¥40

Visiting the wall

Most hotels are able to organize a trip to the wall, usually combined with a visit to the Ming Tombs. Try to find out whether there are any unwanted diversions to cloisonné workshops, jade factories, or Chinese medicine clinics. Small groups can have a more personalized visit, and see the more remote parts of the wall, by hiring a taxi for the day from Beijing. Hiking clubs in Beijing offer day trips to lesser-known parts of the wall.

The area is extremely hot in summer (bring sun cream and lots of water) and bitterly cold in winter.

There are snack kiosks at each of the main four sites, but it’s better to bring your own food.

Top 10 Features
  1. Badaling

    The restored Ming fortification at Badaling is the closest section of the wall to Beijing. Its accessibility means it is perpetually busy. However, it is possible to escape the crowds by walking along the wall; and the views are spectacular.

    Souvenir stall at Badaling

  2. Great Wall Museum

    Housed in an imitation Qing dynasty building at Badaling, the museum presents the history of the region from Neolithic times, as well as detailing the construction of the wall. Admission is covered in the cost of your wall ticket.

  3. Juyong Guan

    This pass is on the way to Badaling. With unscalable mountains on either side it is easy to see why the spot was chosen for defence. Early cannons remain on the ramparts. Also worth seeing are Buddhist carvings on a stone platform, or “cloud terrace,” in the middle of the pass.

  4. Commune by the Great Wall

    Within sight of the wall at Badaling, the Commune consists of 12 stunning, contemporary villas, each designed by a different, celebrated Asian architect. The complex operates as a hotel , but non-guests can drop by the restaurant for lunch.

  5. Mutianyu

    Located in a dramatic hilly setting, and less with a series of watchtowers along its restored length, the wall here dates from 1368. Village buildings have been converted into holiday homes and restaurants.

  6. Huanghua Cheng

    On the same stretch of wall as Mutianyu, Huanghua Cheng is an exhilarating section of Ming fortifications that is far less developed than most other parts. The great barrier is split into two by a large reservoir. The crumbling masonry can be uneven and fairly treacherous, so you need to take care.

  7. Simatai

    The wall at Simatai has only been partially repaired, and so affords a more genuine impression of the original wall. It is very steep and hazardous here in parts, and can even be quite risky to navigate.

  8. Jingshanling

    The starting point for a 6-mile (10-km) trek to Simatai, which because of the steep and stony trail usually takes around four hours. The views as the wall winds over sharp peak after sharp peak are fantastic, but you have to work for them.

  9. Gubeikou

    Lying farther west of Jingshanling, Gubeikou is a heavily fortified pass from where you can begin a 15-mile (25-km) walk to Simatai. It is, if you are really fit, possible to do it in one day.

  10. Shanhaiguan

    This is where the wall ends (or begins), at the sea. East of town, the “First Pass Under Heaven” is a formidable section of wall attached to a gatehouse. It lies some 218 miles (350 km) east of Beijing but it does make for a worthwhile overnight trip.

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