Great Wall Tour Tips

'He who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man', as this famous Chinese saying goes, the Great Wall of China, a great engineering marvel, always attracts throngs of adventurous tourists from all over the world.

Whenever you see this venerable Great Wall, you must feel deep esteem. If you are planning long haul travel to it to look in depth upon this the world's greatest feat of engineering, some of the must-know facts below may be helpful in preparation for your exploration.

Which Section to Choose

Besides the touristiest Badaling and Jinshanling, Mutianyu, Simatai, Gubeikou in Beijing, the Chinese government has also opened other sections to visitors, such as Huangyaguan in Tianjin, Shanhaiguan in Hebei Province and Jiayuguan in Gansu Province. However, visiting all of the sections is virtually impossible unless you have all the means and time at your disposal. Below are the four most popular sections in Beijing:

Badaling - This is by far the most representative and probably most famous. It is the grandest and most splendid section of all, closest to Beijing city proper, convenient to access and easier to climb, thus the most visited. However, it always swarms with tour groups, individual tourists and hawkers, which may affect your photography and ease with which to enjoy the views. Badaling has the most renovation and is well managed and consequently, much safer to walk along than other sections.

Mutianyu - This is the second most redeveloped section after Badaling, with high forest cover and remarkable views in fall and summer. It is steeper than Badaling but less congested by tourists, souvenir sellers and especially pickpockets. Here you will find a truly mind blowing experience.

Simatai - If you fancy an adventure, it is better to visit Simatai, which has had less renovation yet is well preserved. As well as its ruins, it also has an intact section, so Simatai is considered by many tourists from home and abroad as the best section of the Great Wall. Specifically, the eastern part of Simatai is more challenging while the western part is much easier to climb. Here you will seldom encounter vacationers. However, elders and those who are not in good physical condition are advised not to climb this section in view of its cragginess.

Jinshanling - the section that is completely un-restored, with almost no crowds and hawkers, but more steep, which is favored by most foreign travelers.

In short, Badaling is ideal for most tourists in view of its accessibility, but it is unavoidably crowded and touristy. Do not go there if you have another choice. Mutianyu and Simatai are the two best ones. Also you can head further afield to Juyongguan, Huanghuacheng or Jiayuguan parts, there you will find no noisy souvenir and food sellers, group travelers, just the great wall, locals and some adventurers like yourself, which may in itself present a challenge.

Best Time to Visit

The scenery of the Great Wall varies with the seasons, which offers many features and fodder for photographers who seek to obtain characteristic photographic works at any time of the year. However, if you are an ordinary visitor, the best times are spring and autumn, especially May, September or early October when it is usually sunny, with brisk temperatures, leaving you more refreshed and comfortable.

Although it is hotter, June to August is an alternative, as the tourist season is in full swing. November to April is always bitterly cold with biting winds, when the Great Wall encounters few, if any, tourists.

What to Pack


The temperature variation between day and night along the Great Wall is obvious. TravelChinaGuide suggests a loose cotton T-shirt and a loose trousers rather than denim. However, if you go there in summer, wear shorts for daytime hiking and put on warm clothes such as jacket or sweater in the evening for you will feel somewhat cool, particularly in autumn. Good advice if you are to avoid catching cold.

Due to the steep inclines along the wall, trainers may be a good choice for shoes. Never wear high heels or you will quickly suffer from fatigue and in any event, they are hazardous in such locations. Anyway, make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Food and Drink

Your hike may last for 2-3 hours. Take some snacks along, while a good supply of water is necessary to avoid dehydration. These can be purchased on the Badaling section but at a possibly unexpected higher price. Remember, there are no sales on other sections. However, do not drink too much water for there are no washrooms midway only those around the ticket office and the entrance.

Health and Safety

a. Carry an umbrella to protect you from the sun as well as potential rainfall.

b. Anoint yourself with some sunscreen and wear sunglasses to avoid the harm from strong ultraviolet radiation.

c.  Please inquire about the weather condition before traveling. Do not visit the wall on rainy days. In case it rains while you are on the wall, do not use cell phone, broadcast or any other communication equipment. Turn their power off and take shelter in a beacon tower to avoid lightning strike.

d. As it is always dry in spring, autumn and winter, moisturizer may be helpful to moisturize your skin.

e. It is quite windy in spring, autumn and winter, especially on the Great Wall due to its high altitude, so scarves can be warm and windproof to protect your face.

f. Some sections of the wall are very steep but still can be manageable, use the handrail.

g. Do not be bold to climb the undeveloped sections where the areas are insecure or damaged, or you may injured by the breakage of the wall.

h. Carry some medicines such as remedies for cold, carsickness and some Band-Aids so that they are readily available should the need arise.

Other Travel Tips

a. Get up in the early morning at about 07:00 to catch the first official tourist bus to arrive at the Badaling around 09:00-10:00 to avoid the large crowds of tourists, and thus you can get an early return to the city proper in the evening.

b. For travel to Badaling , you can also hire a taxi and have a round trip journey for about CNY400.00 according to the taxi type and your negotiation with the taxi driver.

c. Allow two to three hours for your visit when in Badaling section.

d. Cable cars are only available in Badaling, Mutianyu, Simatai and Jinshanling sections.

e. You should be aware that noisy hawkers could be a problem on the wall.

f. Learn more of the culture and history of the Great Wall before your hiking trip, to have a more informed experience.

g. For protection of this world heritage, graffiti is not allowed on the wall.

h. Please leave no litter on the wall, there are waste bins provided.

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