The Great Wall of China: Travel Tips, Best Sections and Times to Visit

The Great Wall of China is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the world. As a Wonder of the World, the Great Wall is visited by thousands every year and is starting to become a top choice for those exploring Asia.

THE SECTIONS

Running over 342 miles, it can be difficult to decide which section of the wall you should visit. Here are some of the most famous sections and the pros and cons of these locations:

Badaling – the most popular Great Wall section among Chinese tourists and often incredibly busy. A 2 hour drive away from Beijing, this section of wall includes cable cars to and from the Wall, a Great Wall Museum, a circular-screen cinema and some wheelchair access.

Mutianyu – the most restored Great Wall section. The most popular section for foreign travellers, the Mutianyu section is 1 ½ hours’ drive from Beijing and offers cable cars up and down to the Wall. We took a private tour to this section and enjoyed some great views and hikes along this part of the Wall.

Jiankou – a completely wild section of the Wall, Jiankou offers the original Great Wall, with steep and challenging climbs – also known as the most dangerous section of the Great Wall.

Jinshanling – popular for Great Wall hikes. Half restored and half wild, the Jinshanling section of the wall is a great trip for those who want to experience the beautiful walks and views available. This section is 2-3 hours’ drive from Beijing and offers a cable car to the wall itself.

Simatai – representing all the greatness of the Great Wall. A 2-3 hours’ drive from Beijing, the Simatai section offers steep hikes alongside built up architectural towers. This section became a World Heritage Site in 1987 and is just stunning in the autumn. Cable cars, battery cars and zip-lines are all offered to transport you to and from the Wall.

BEST TIME TO VISIT?

Those photographic shots and your experience of the Great Wall will change with the seasons but I suggest spring or autumn to visit the Wall. This means that the weather is fairly sunny and the sky is clear without the heat and tourists that arrive from June to August. We visited in early April, which was ideal as the sky was clear whilst the weather was breezy and slightly cold.

We recommend getting a private driver to take you to and from the Great Wall section of your choice, meaning you can leave as early as 6am to beat the crowds of tour buses that arrive between 9am-10am.

WHAT TO WEAR?

Layers are important for most trips, particularly for the Great Wall. Because of the height you are climbing up, the temperature maybe fairly warm at the base but rather chilly as you head higher up. Bring a cardigan or jacket to stay warm during your visit. Wear comfortable shoes, as the wall can be steep with some areas being uneven. Trainers are perfect for your trip to the Great Wall.

The air around the Great Wall of China is fairly dry throughout the year so pop on some moisturiser before your trip to avoid drying up your skin.

FOOD AND DRINK

Some areas of the wall offer food and drink stalls and even restaurants at the base of the wall. However, make sure you bring a bottle of water and perhaps a snack or two for your time on the wall as some hikes can be 2-3 hours and keeping hydrating is essential.

Creative Travel Guide and Viator have partnered up to show you the best tours, worldwide.

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Book a tour to any of these sections of the Great Wall with Viator

Have you visited the Great Wall? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

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Showing 23 comments
  • Anisa
    Reply

    I was just blown away by my visit to the Great Wall, so agree this is something everything must do. I did it 12 years ago and it was part of a day tour so I actually am not sure what part we went to. It was the winter and we climbed the steps. The views were amazing but it was freezing. I would love to go back and explore more.

    • Makaila
      Reply

      An inglleitent point of view, well expressed! Thanks!

  • Katie @ The Budget Backpack
    Reply

    I wish this had existed when I visited! Other than trainers, I think I was super unprepared (probably partially because China was my first major trip). The snack/hydration tip is huge!

  • Mihaela
    Reply

    This was also a bucket list for me and it came true 5 years ago! good post and love the creative tips!!!

  • elisa martinez
    Reply

    Great to know! Been on my bucketlist for awhile, just didnt know whens the right time to go. Glad you shared!

  • Diana - MVMT Blog
    Reply

    I haven’t been to the Great Wall since April 2008, and your post makes me want to visit again! The weather was great in April, and I’d definitely recommend that as a time to go. We went with family, which included our elderly grandparents, so we didn’t end up doing much hiking there, but I would love to go back and hike as much of the wall as I can. Great photos 🙂

  • CHERENE SARADAR
    Reply

    I was looking for information just like this. I definitely plan to visit sometime in next couple years. I hate crowds so finding a more wild section sounds great. Thanks for all the great tips!!! Bookmarking this and will pin it!

    • Katie
      Reply

      Thanks so much Cherene!

  • Goni
    Reply

    Great resource! The great wall is definitely on my bucket list, love your advice to know when and where to go. Will use this to plan my trip there. Thanks!

  • Zoe
    Reply

    Great post! The Great Wall is on my bucket list for when I go to China and this guide will come in really useful! I love all the info about the different sections of the wall 🙂

  • Daphne from Girlswanderlust
    Reply

    I have never visited the Great Wall of China, but would love to do it one day! I will follow your advice and visit the wall around spring time. The cable car to mutianyu looks fun!

  • Noemi of Pinay Flying High
    Reply

    This is a great post! I’ve seen quite a few photos of the Great Wall with soooo many people on it. It’s very rare that I see photos like the ones you’ve posted. Lol.

    I didn’t know that you have to wear layers as it’s going to be cold from up there but it does make sense. 🙂

    • Katie
      Reply

      Hey Noemi, yeah we were fortunate it was fairly quiet. We arranged a private driver from our hotel and left at 7am to beat the tourist. By 11/12ish, it began to get busier.

  • Reply

    I love the tips you’ve included! I visited the Great Wall over a decade ago (I was 9?) so I barely remember the logistics behind it all… Been thinking about going back and seeing it as an adult so this will definitely be very useful 😀

    Thanks for including the different sections of the wall as well! Brilliant.

    • Katie
      Reply

      Hey Caroline, the different sections offer such a varied experience of The Great Wall – I am determined to see all the sections!

  • Lydia@LifeUntraveled
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing the different parts of the wall to visit. I wouldn’t want to go where there are hoards of tourists. Hope to make it there one day though!

  • Marli
    Reply

    Thanks, this is super helpful. Any suggestions for a private English speaking driver/ guide? Also what should the price range for this be?

    • Katie
      Reply

      Hi Marli, we spoke to our hotel (Courtyard 7) about a private driver and they arranged a great deal for us – leaving at whatever time we want! I would suggest you wait until you get to Beijing and ask around at your hotel or nearby hotel/hostels. Failing that, you can always check out Viator tours?

  • Reply

    A lot of good information. I didn’t know that there were so many sections to start from, thanks for sharing.

    • Katie
      Reply

      Yeah there are some great spots, my aim is to see them all one day!

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