Walking the Great Wall of China

great wall of ChinaMost people dream of walking the Great Wall of China at some point in their life. The wonderment of such a vast and incredible human construction tends to leave a lasting impression on a young mind.

It’s a great bucket list item to pursue, and I highly recommend making a trip to the see and walk on the Great Wall of China.

It’s not too difficult to get there, and there are actually numerous different parts of the wall you can go to, making it so easy to see.

I was worried it might not stand up to my expectations once I saw it in person, but that was not at all the case. In fact, the Great Wall of China was so much more than I could foresee. It was magnificent.

In fact, I truly loved my entire visit to China and highly recommend spending some time there. See the reasons I loved China so much.

How much do you know about China? Learn a few interesting facts about it before you visit!

The Great Wall of China is one of the top tourist attractions in the world, drawing more than 10 million visitors from all corners of the globe every year. It’s  one of those really cool experiences that everyone should have in their lifetime. They don’t call it one of the 7 Great Wonders of the World for nothing.

Just standing on it, peering out over the vast countryside below, you can almost sense the pride and determination that it took to build it, you can almost feel the years of toil and anguish the soldiers, convicts and laborers who constructed it must have felt, you can almost see the world in which building something so massive was necessary. It’s a living piece of history that I feel privileged to have walked on.

How to Walk the Great Wall of China

If you’re wondering can you walk the Great Wall of China, the answer is yes. Of course you can!

There are a few sections of the wall that are open to tourists. Where you go depends greatly on what you want to do there and how far you’re willing to go. 

Badaling Section

We entered the Great Wall at the Badaling Section, which is both the easiest entrance to get to and the most frequented by tourists. It’s only about 45 miles from Beijing and can be reached by train and bus, if you’re on your own, or with any number of tour companies.

The section of the wall at Badaling is the most well-preserved and stretches some 7.5 miles, though only about 4,000 yards of it are open to the public.

Finally walking the Great Wall of China
Laura on the south side of the Great Wall of China at Badaling

If you’re just wanting to see the wall in as close to original condition as possible, Badaling is the place to go. Other sections of the Great Wall of China are not as well preserved, or have even crumbled out of existence.

There is a group tour you can take from Beijing to the Badaling section of the wall. It’s an 8-hour trip that also includes a visit to the tomb of one of the most important Ming Dynasty emperors. This is a great way to see the wall without needing to do the planning and figuring out of transport on your own. You can book the tour here.

North Tower of the Great Wall at Badaling
The tower at the north side of the wall at Badaling

The entrance at Badaling offers very little fanfare. There is a restaurant or two, a couple of souvenir shops, a museum and an exhibit on the Terracotta Warriors (in case you can’t make it all the way to Xian to see them in person). At the gate, you grab your ticket and decide which side of the wall you wish to walk.

We chose the south side, which had less people on it, and I’m really glad we did. We were able to take our time walking up the exceptionally steep inclines, peer over the edges for as long as we wanted and snap some really nice pictures along the way.

Long stretches of the wall draped like streamers into the distance
Long stretches of the wall draped like streamers into the distance

The North route may be more famous or more scenic, but I thought it was nice to take pictures looking to the north rather than walk (or should I say hike) it with the ever-present fear of passing out from lack of oxygen, although they do provide a cable car that will take you to the top, so you don’t have to worry.

The climb at times can be quite arduous and I can only imagine how difficult of a feat it was to build in an era without the help of modern building techniques. I wouldn’t recommend walking it on a rainy or particularly cold day, as you might find yourself landing on your butt more times than you care to. It’s not only steep, it’s slippery in places where the brick has been warn by the ever-present traipsing of tourists.

Endless stairs on the south part of the wall
The stairs, they just keep going up and up until your legs feel the burn

On the south side of the wall, there are five towers, from which the rest of the path appears to be draped like streamers for miles in the distance. From afar, it’s quite an incredible view. I imagine that another time of the year would have afforded us the addition of green vegetation or autumn foliage. But we were there to see the wall, after all, not the trees.

There is a cable car at the south side that you can ride to the top, so you don’t need to climb those steep steps. The cost of the cable car is 40 CYN one way or 60 round trip. That is in addition to the 40-45 CYN you must pay to get in.

Mutianyu Section

Mutianyu is a section of the Great Wall of China located in the Huairou District, also about 45 miles to the northeast of the center of the city. 

Like Badalin, Mutianyu is also a well preserved section of the wall. It often has less tourists, as well, so you might not see the long lines and crowds you find at Badaling.

To reach this section of the wall, you can take the Mubus from the city center that goes directly there or you can book a transfer through GetyourGuide. There’s also a guided tour option that includes transportation and a guided hike. The tour is 6.5 hours and goes from Beijing.

Once you are there, the cable car can take you to the top so you don’t need to take the incredibly steep climb up.

Mutianyu gate

This part of the wall is 3.4 miles in length and it has been renovated, so it’s safe to climb. You can enter at two points – the north and the south. Both require quite a bit of hiking. The cable car is located near the North entrance and should be used by anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to hike.

The cost to get into Mutianyu is around 40 CYN ($5 USD). The cable car costs 100 CYN for adults, 50 CYN for kids. Then you can take a chair lift or a toboggan ride down for the same cost.

When to See the Great Wall of China

I went to the wall in March and the “traffic” wasn’t at all bad. I’ve seen other traveler’s pictures where some parts of the walkway were so packed that it more resembled a crowded nightclub than the great wonder that it should be.

Sharing the wall with all of those people can cheapen the experience and mar any pictures you might take. For that reason I would really suggest visiting the Great Wall of China at a more pleasing (less crowded) time.

Those times are typically in the spring and fall (March-May and Sept-Nov). You can go all year round, though, if your schedule doesn’t allow you to go during the shoulder season.

Final Thoughts on Walking the Great Wall of China

This is definitely one of those experiences you must try in your lifetime. To see the Great Wall of China is a splendid thing that you can only imagine until you see it in person.

There are other ways you can experience the Great Wall of China, like hiking the Great Wall of China and camping out overnight or even running a marathon. If you’re into something alternative, you should look into those options too.

Walking the Great Wall of China

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