Great Wall of China Travel Guide

2) Mutianyu Great Wall

After Badaling, the Mutianyu ranks second as most-renovated section with lush greeneries and high forest cover that create a fantastic view during summer and fall. It boasts of a ski lift that conveys tourists off and onto the wall, and experience a mind-boggling toboggan ride down the much steeper inclines of the wall! Mutianyu is 1.4 miles long, with 22 watch towers along its length. To get there, one can get a taxi or take the bus, which operates during the tourist season only, for a round trip of only USD5 plus a parking fee of USD1 upon exiting the site. Admission is pegged at USD7.50; USD4 for students with proper ID containing a photo.

Address: Mutianyu Road, Huairou District

3) Simatai Great Wall

Although a bit farther from the hustle and bustle of Beijing, Simatai poses a more challenging trek than most other sections, thus the elderly and not so physically fit travelers are duly advised against making the trek. It is certainly the most authentic and well-preserved sections and remains mostly in its original construction. Built in 1368 on top of the Yanshan Mountain, it shows off intricate designs and diversified styles that earned it its title as the “Museum of the Great Wall.” It was closed to the public for repairs, and many Great Wall enthusiasts await for its opening in the late part of 2013 or early 2014.

Address: Gubeiko Town

4) Huangyaguan Pass

This pass was built in the middle of the first century during the Northern Qi Dynasty. Considered as a prototype of the whole Great Wall of China, this pass is one of the most visited sites along the 5,500 miles of wall. People visit the site for its sophisticated run-off control system, steep slopes, encompassing panorama, well-preserved strongholds, the Huangya Water Gate and the Bagua Castle, temples and a museum. You can take a bus from Tianjin to Jixian County for a fare of USD 4. Then take a taxi to Huangyaguan Pass for a fare of around USD 8.50. Admission fee is USD 8.50.

Address: Jixian County, Tianjin

5) Jinshanling Great Wall

One of the best-conserved sections of the Great Wall, the Jinshanling still has many of its original features. The structure of Jinshanling shows that the walls were really designed as enormous and intricately-planned systems of passes, multiple-tiered watchtowers, enemy towers, lofty windows for shooting arrows, stone stair, with roofs that varied from arched to angular. The walls are not just massive fences; they are fortresses many miles in length. Admission fee is USD 11 and the cable ride costs USD 6.50. You can take a special tourist bust at Dongzhimen Bus Terminal in Beijing and pay a total of USD20 for admission, bus fare and cable way.

Address: Luanping County

6) Yanmenguan Pass of the Great Wall

This is one of the most important and most strategic strongholds of the Great Wall. There are three gates to this pass, all three hold special meanings to their inscribed names. The Jingbian Temple is adjacent to this military relic. You may take the bus or a taxi from Daixian County. Taxi fare from Daixian County to Yanmenguan will be around USD17. Admission is USD15. Children below 3 feet can enter for free.

Address: Dai County

7) Gubeiko Great Wall

The Gubeiko Great Wall used to be the bastion fending off enemy entry through the northern gateway to Beijing. It runs along the ridges of the Yashan Mountain range. Its beacon turrets, watch towers, citadels and strategic passes served countless wars. It can be reached by bus from Chengde City or Luanping County, or by train from Beijing to Gubeiko Station. You may also take minibuses from Miyun County to Gubeikou. This will cost around USD0.50.

Address: Gubeiko Town

8) Jiankou Great Wall

Jiankou, or Arrow Nock in English, is one of the most-photographed sections of the Great Wall. It used to be an important command post atop steep cliffs. It has lofty watchtowers and near-vertical stairs. The site can be reached by bus or by car from Dongzhimen to Huairou District, then to Arrow Nock or Jiankou.

Address: Jiankou Village

9) Zhenbeitai

The Chinese often liken the Great Wall to an enormous dragon. Shanhaiguan Pass is referred to as the head of the dragon and Jiayuguan Pass as the tail of the giant. With that, they often refer to Zhenbeitai as the heart of the dragon, and this part officially holds the title of “The Heart of the Great Wall.” The Zhenbeitai was built in the early part of the 17th century and served as an observation post. The tower is one huge terrace on the Great Wall. Atop it, you can see panoramic juxtapositions – to the north is a seemingly unending desert, to the south is an impenetrable green forest, and beyond are gorges and rock-faced cliffs. This heart truly pulsates with true beauty. From Yulin City, you can take a taxi to this site, or take Bus No. 3 from Guangji Mansion in Yulin City to Zhenbeitai. Admission is USD1.80.

Address: part of Yulin City

10) Gubeikou Hexi Village

Experience authentic life and rich cultural heritage in this village located at the foot of Wohushan Great Wall. This village welcomes visitors to several sites of interest, such as the Taoist Temple of Lu Dongbin and the Tomb of Yang Qilang. Farmhouses provide good food and accommodation for a taste of authentic Great Wall living. There are local forms of entertainment on cold nights, such as huddle around a bonfire, play a table game of mahjong, chess or cards, and dance the traditional yangko; or go fishing in the village on warmer nights. A person will spend around USD10 per night.

Address: Hexi Village, Gubeiko Town

Where to Eat

Climbing ancient walls is serious business, so make sure you have food and water to sustain you through the arduous scramble to these ancient enclosures. There is no reason to starve, though, because at the villages that usually sit at the foot of the many sections of the walls, authentic Chinese food is served. These charming farmhouses enjoy enchanting ambiance of majestic temples sprawled on graceful landscapes.

1) Schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse just at the base of Mutianyu Village is a superb place to eat fresh salads and desserts with mint leaves dipped in sugar crystals. Traditional and contemporary foods are priced reasonably from USD6 to USD30. They have a glass blower who makes high-quality souvenir items. It is such a marvel just to watch him do his trade.

Address: Mutianyu Village, Huairou District

2) Master Fish Restaurant

If you relish the idea of lunching over steamed juicy trout, served with fried Chinese ash leaves, and green onion pancake, there is no other diner but the Master Fish Restaurant. A freshly-farmed trout costs USD 17.

Address: Mutianyu Village, Huairou District

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