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
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.
See how to Travel China on a Budget and Check out the Best Things to do in China.
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.
36 thoughts on “The Great Wall of China – Mutianyu VS Badaling”
I have been following your blog for the last 7 months and I am never disappointed.
Mutianyu Great wall was said as the most beautiful great wall in Beijing. I was there in last summer. It need about 40 minutes walk from the entrance up to the great wall. But the path is in very good condition. Once i stepped on the great wall, i was impressed by the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding. Next time, i would like to challenge the wild great wall sections in Beijing.
You captured the feeling perfectly. The views from the Great wall are astounding.
I went here. Yay!
Wow! Really nice pictures! We were even lucky to be alone on the Great Wall at the Badaling section in the late afternoon and my boyfriend proposed to me on the wall 🙂 I can’t wait to come back!
Wow guys, the great wall looks amazing with no people around. I’m taking a note about the MuTianYu section for when June finally comes around and we head out there ourselves. Thanks for the heads up 🙂
Hi Dave and Deb, great pics with a side of history lesson! I am totally fascinated with China. I have to figure out a way to get there this year. 🙂
Just simply amazing. I am so excited that you were able to go to a spot with so few visitors. I will have to remember that the MuTianYu Great Wall section is far less traveled. Great photos as well. I guess I better get to see the wall soon before this section’s secret is out. Thanks for the awesome info!
As always, stunning photos. Great tips – can’t wait to get to China.
Wonderful photos! I love the Great Wall.
You can guarantee in all these places there is normally one woman wearing heels. I went on a hike recently through a gorge and yes, there was a woman wearing heels. Lovely pictures though and still a place that I am determined to visit before I die.
Haha, I am glad to see that other people notice the women in heels. At the Forbidden City, it was freezing and a long walk around the place and we saw a woman in a mini skirt and high heels. Very strange.
It’s so spectacular I’ve been twice!!!!!! Love the pics, especially the one where you are kissing! 🙂
Thanks Andi, That is amazing that you have been to the Great Wall twice! What part of the wall were you at?
Love, love, love your photographs Dave and the blog is packed with so much useful info. I love your idea with the little box at the end.
Thanks Leigh, we try to pack as much info in as possible while keeping people entertained. The photos definitely help to move the story along.
Oh Cool! That is a place I can’t wait to visit as well. Looks awesome! Great pics to Dave. 🙂
It was definitely cool to visit. Especially this section. It just seemed surreal to be there.
Wow! It looks like you guys had an amazing day for it! So clear… you don’t always find that in China!
I’m pretty sure I climbed the Badaling section in November 2007. The area around the main entrance to the wall was packed with vendors and tourists, but once you got up on the wall it was actually quite quiet and not crowded at all. It could have just been because we were there in the off-season, but my Great Wall experience was great! Now you’ve inspired me to do a post about it.
It is true, we had great weather in China. I think it was being so late in the year that the pollution wasn’t too bad. Looking forward to your post about it, let us know when you do!
My photos certainly don’t stack up to yours, but here’s that Great Wall post you guys inspired me to put together!
Thanks for sharing Amanda. Those were great tips too! It is cool to see the other section of the wall that we didn’t get to visit. I am glad we could inspire you to write about it.
Great photos! Can’t wait to see it for ourselves!
Neat information about the wall Dave and Deb and fabulous pictures too. The wall looks quite imposing from this angle. Its funny that someone would wear heels on excursions like this. Did they have some kind of letter written at the top of the mountain? I hope you also got to see Mongol horsemen on the other side, lol. 😀
Good lord it looks epic! There are few places in the world that live up to the hype and I would imagine the Great Wall is one of them. I just hope Machu Picchu is for me!
It is always a great surprise when a place lives up to the hype. We enjoyed Machu Picchu, to see ruins way up in the mountains was pretty incredible. I hope you like it too!
Incredibly vivid photographs and a well told story…gives me a trip down memory lane when I visited the great wall back in 1979.
Thanks for sharing these with us and a Happy New Year to you both…looking forward to all of your 2011 materials
Wow! That would have been an amazing time to visit China. I couldn’t imagine how much it has changed. I am glad that we could bring up some memories for you!
In those days you could only stay at a government assigned hotel, which usually was the Friendship Hotel, was given a personal “official” interpretor/companion upon arrival at the airport without whom you were not allowed to go anywhere and your hotel had a floor attendant sitting on an official looking desk by the floor exit keeping an eye and probably an ear on everyone on the floor…but they did provide plenty of hot water in a thermos for tea
Haha, they still have one thing that is the same…always a full pot of hot water for our tea. It is very different now, but I think it would have been more exciting to visit when you were there. Quite easy these days. They have CNN, FoxNews and BBC even.
Wow, what an awesomely clear day you guys were blessed with! I never saw those jagged mountains when we were there because of all the haze! =)
We were lucky, we normally find ourselves surrounded by haze in our travels, so we appreciated this sunny day.
Your photographs are awesome — as usual.
I still think our visit to the wall was the highlight of our trip.
PS> Who the hell is that chick in the BRIGHT PINK coat?? 😉
Thanks Kim. The wall was pretty amazing wasn’t it. Now about that chick in the Pink coat…I have no idea but she followed us around all of China
What beautiful photos from the Great Wall. I visited the Juyongguan Section near Beijing, another popular tourist stop on the wall. It was very crowded, making climbing up and down those steep steps tricky for someone like me who has a fear of heights. Your tour company was smart to take you two hours away to a less crowded section of the wall. From your photos, it looks magnificent.
Thanks Donna. You are right, the Great Wall has some tricky sections that can be very scary if you are afraid of heights. I never expected that. Yet another thing that surprised me about China. I also think the time of the year was perfect. Our entire time in China is was the tail end of the tourist season so we rarely saw crowds.