The moment has arrived.
It’s the mother of all of China’s tourist attractions, the Pièce de résistance of the country and the coolest landmark in the world. We all heard about it at an early age and the myth and allure of it draws 10 of millions of tourists to witness this new World Wonder.
You know what I’m talking about, The Great Wall of China.
Did the Great Wall of China live up to the hype? You bet it did!
About the Great Wall of China
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History of the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China actually consists of several different walls brought together after China’s warring states unified under the rule of Emperor Qin.
It was during the Qin Dynasty, over 2000 years ago that the Great Wall was unified and constructed. Using hundreds of thousand of workers and prisoners, the wall was constructed over decades of work.
For over a thousand years the wall served as protection from the nomadic tribes to the north. Later dynasties repaired and maintained the wall to keep their fortification intact.
The Fall of the Great Wall China
It wasn’t until Genghis Khan came along in the 13th century that the Great Wall finally fell.
He unified the Mongols bringing together warring tribes and seizing control. They held power for 100 years as the Yuan Dynasty. Since the ruling party was from Mongolia and part of the nomadic tribes that the wall was built to keep out, it wasn’t needed anymore and left to fall to ruins.
When the Yuan Dynasty fell, the Great Wall began to be restored by the Ming Dynasty over a one hundred year period.
But alas, it was breached again by the Manchurians. This was the final nail in the over 2000 year ongoing project. The wall was left and forgotten to fall into disrepair over the centuries.
It was almost destroyed completely during the Cultural Revolution under the Rule of Chairman Mao. Wanting to do away with the past and erase anything that seemed old fashioned or useless, the Great Wall was ordered demolished by Chairman Mao.
But when a new ruler came into power, Deng Xiaoping re-opened its doors to the rest of the world and opted to rebuilt the Great Wall to restore National Pride.
Mutianyu or Badaling – What Should You Choose?
The great wall was first opened to tourists in 1957 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
We have visited two different sections of the Great Wall of China and we are going to compare our visits to the Mutianyu Great Wall with the Badaling Great Wall.
We loved both experiences, so it is completely up to you to search for the kind of exprience you want.
Enjoy reading about our experiences to see which one is what is right for you.
Mutianyu Great Wall
The Mutianyu Great Wall is located a little further out of Beijing than the more popular Badaling Great Wall section making it a better choice for fewer crowds.
If you want to stay away from the masses of people, we suggest the Mutianyu Great Wall. It’s worth the extra time.
We were expecting hoards of tourists and chaos when we visited the Great Wall. Instead, we got serenity and beauty during our time there.
It has fewer tourists than the other sections and it is the most well-preserved section of the entire wall. Made from granite the Mutianyu section remains one of the best quality sections of the Great Wall of China.
During our two-hour hike on the famous wall, we barely saw another tourist. It was a pristine day of blue skies, clear air, and spectacular views.
The Great Wall of China is Steep
The Great Wall of China is built over rolling mountains so make sure to wear proper footwear. Since it’s in the mountains, be sure to pack layers. You’ll work up a sweat, but it can be cool.
China has a similar climate to Canada in the Beijing region, so if you are traveling outside of summer, you will be cold.
Hiking the Mutianyu Wall
There are 22 watchtowers on the Mutianyu Great Wall and you can hike all of them, or catch the Gondola to number 6 where you can then continue on to hike up to 22.
The gondola is a fun little ride to catch some panorama views of the wall and countryside on the way up.
Once you are up at number 6, you have the opportunity to either walk down the great wall or continue up to watchtower 22.
We chose to walk up to check out the spectacular scenery. The hike is 2.5 km long and the path is well restored, making walking easy.
The day was just about as perfect as it could get. The brisk December air kept the clouds and pollution away and we had clear blue skies during our entire time at the site.
The walk is steep but not strenuous.
This section of the Great Wall is very well restored and the stone pathway is quite even and easy to walk.
The Mutianyu Great Wall is narrower than other sections at 4 meters wide, but with very little crowds and 2.5 km of tourist-free walking, it felt very spacious.
We stopped regularly to check out the watchtowers and look over the wall at what was once Mongolia.
More Mutianyu Great Wall Hiking Information:
- You can take a local bus from Beijing to the Mutianyu Great wall. For more information: Visit Beijing Trip for more info.
- If you go in December, dress warm, it is cold and windy on the wall
- If you take public transport remember that the wall is only open until 4 not giving you a lot of time to get there.
- Admission 45 Yuan
- Cable Car 45 Yuan One way
- Opening hours 8 am to 4 pm
- You can take a toboggan down instead of walking if you feel like a little fun
- The wall is 2.5 km long
The Badaling Great Wall
We were suprised with just how impressive the Badaling Section was. Having visited Mutianyu first, we thought it must be the most beautiful, but Badaling is also breathtaking.
Being closest to Beijing makes it the easiest to visit for local tourists making it the most popular section for local Chinese to visit. But it is also popular because of its historical significance.
It is the most heavily promoted section as a national monument. It was here that the Mongol’s crossed and took control of China and it was here that it was first reopened to the public in 1957.
When we visited the Badalin Great Wall, it was during the week of China’s independence holiday, so it was very crowded with local tourists.
You may think that this is a bad thing, but we loved it. We didn’t see another foreigner and it was so much fun to be welcomed by Chinese tourists who were genuinely happy to see us.
I think most foreigners now go to Mutianyu, so to see tourists here was almost a novelty for them.
Development at the Badaling Great Wall
When you visit the Badaling Great Wall, you’ll see a KFC (A good option for lunch), coffee shops, and you’ll have souvenir stores at your fingertips. It’s very developed.
You’ll have to go through security but you are allowed to bring water.
Once you go through the checkpoint, we suggest turning right for an epic side view of the Great Wall.
Like the Mutianyu Wall there are plenty of watchtowers and viewpoints.
There are 19 restored watchtowers along a 2.3 mile route.
And like the Mutianyu Wall, Badaling is very steep. The difference is it is much more crowded, and narrower.
Be sure to use the handrails and dress appropriately. Wear sturdy shoes with good treads.
It gets windy up there, so bring a jacket and sunglasses.
You can take a cable car to the top and there is even a slide to take down. So if you don’t want to walk up the steep route, there are other options.
Something we also liked about the Badaling Great Wall was how there were paths and lookouts outside of the wall. We could step off the wall and walk on the outside of it.
We could also check out some outcrops for better views and to see it from a distance.
How to Get to the Badaling Great Wall
It is accessible by local bus, tourist bus. Line 877 from Deshengmen or tourist bus line 1 from Qianmen.
Search what Great Wall tours are best for you.
These are easily canceled should you change your mind as long as it is within 24 hours of departure.
And they can be easily booked last minute as Get Your Guide sets aside several last-minute tickets.
Tips for Visiting the Great Wall
We visited the Great Wall in both summer and winter. Both were very good times with clear skies.
Weather can be unpredictable so pack layers including rain gear.
The wall can get very slippery when wet and in the winter, there will be snow, so wear sturdy hiking boots.
Public transit goes to both Great Walls
I suggest the Mutianyu Section because of it’s distance from Beijing and the quiet location.
Since it’s a little more difficult to get to, less people travel to it.
It’s also the most well preserved portions making Great Wall Hiking nice and easy. It was steep in portions but very manageable. Even if you are quite fit (like we were at the time) you’ll get a bit of a workout.
Whatever you may think of the Great Wall of China, it is an incredible feat of engineering.
With hundreds of thousands of men constructing thousands of miles of wall over the centuries, it is astounding to comprehend the history and events that took place over its lifetime.