Advice for Visiting the Great Wall
The founder of the People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong, once remarked: ‘He who has never been to the Great Wall is not a true man’. While this is hyperbolic, it is true that few can resist the charm of this great fortification.
So how will you plan your trip to this impressive structure? Do you know when the best time to visit is, or which part is the most suitable for you? Here China Travel provides some suggestions to help you with your planning.
When Is the Best Time to Visit?
- Spring (April to May)
- Autumn (September to October)
They are the ideal seasons to visit this grand fortification. The temperatures during these periods are neither too hot nor too cold, and they offer some amazing scenery at the same time.
In spring, everything comes to life. The Wall is surrounded by abundant flora and fauna, displaying a lively vista to its visitors. When autumn arrives, various leaves start to turn red, gold, yellow and brown, decorating the Wall with color.
Of course, you can also visit The Wall in summer or winter if that suits your schedule better. Since the scenery varies with each season, these will definitely bring different vibes to travelers than during spring or autumn. Remember, however, to prepare for more extreme temperatures, and try to avoid the crowds in the more popular sections.
For more best time to visit the Great Wall information, see Best Time to Visit the Great Wall .
Selecting a Section of the Great Wall to Visit
Long enough to extend across ten provinces, the Great Wall of China includes many sections worthy of being visited. Check the table below to compare sections of the Great Wall around Beijing and decide which one is right for you.
||Driving hours from Beijing
Recom-mended tour time
|Physical demands (out of 5)
||Crowds (out of 5)
|cable cars up/down and option of tobogganing down
||tobogganing down, hiking, sightseeing
||half-day to a day
||quiet with amazing vistas
||restored and wild
||cable cars ; battery carts; zip-line; boats
||hiking, photography, zip-line to Simatai’s West; boats on the reservoir up to the East Tower
||really steep, with mountain ridges in the shape of a "W"
||some in water
||camping, boating, hiking
||a day to two days
||some wheelchair access
|all visitors (wheelchair-
||marathon, sightseeing buses to the mountain top
||the most famous
||cable cars; Great Wall Museum; circular-screen cinema
||half-day to a day
||all visitors (wheelchair-
Tips for Great Wall Hiking
The best hiker-friendly sections:
- Gubeikou, Jinshanling, Jiankou, Simatai and Huanghuacheng
Personal safety, physical conditions, and weather conditions are the main factors that hikers should take into consideration. Below are some suggestions to help.
1. Firstly, a travel guide is strongly recommended. A guided hike should afford you a higher quality trip than a self-conducted one. Especially at some of the more dangerous parts like Jiankou and Simatai, you may need guidance and help.
2. Please gear up sufficiently for your trip. Hikers should pack sunglasses, sun block (especially for hikes starting at noon), hat, good hiking shoes, coat, hiking cane, compass, map, flash light (for overnight stays in a village or camping at the Great Wall), bottles of water, and some snacks that provide rapid-release energy.
3. Weather-wise, the best hiking time at the Great Wall is late summer or autumn. During these periods, the weather is dry and hot, so you will have clear views and safer walking trails. Furthermore, starry nights outside the big city are irresistible. Whenever you go, check the weather 3 days beforehand.
4. Suggested itinerary for a 2-day Great Wall hike: Day-1 Beijing - Gubeikou - Jinshanling; Day-2 Jiankou - Mutianyu - Beijing, which is a popular route covering four wild sections and one restored one (Mutianyu Section).
4. Suggested itinerary for a 3-day Great Wall hike: Day 1 Beijing - Gubeikou - Jinshanling; Day 2 Jiankou - Mutianyu; Day 3 Huanghuacheng - Xishuiyu Lakeside Great Wall - Beijing. Trek up the mountain-side and visit the special part of the Great Wall immersed in water.
How to Get to the Great Wall
As it is complicated for travelers to change buses from downtown Beijing to any section of the Great Wall, we strongly advise you to book a Private Great Wall Tour through China Travel to any section of the Great Wall, or the equivalent through your hotel.
You can use our service according to your time schedule and your requirements. The car is equipped with comfortable seats and air-conditioning, while you will get a professional Beijing drivier and an English-speaking tour guide.
How to Avoid Crowds
It is imperative to understand the fact that Chinese people themselves often make the Great Wall their tourist destination. Therefore, to ensure a more pleasant trip, you need to know the following things.
- Avoid weekends and public holidays: Labor Day Holiday (May 1st - 3rd)) and National Day Holiday (October 1st-7th).
- Choose one of the less crowded sections to visit, such as Mutianyu, Simatai and Huanghuacheng.
- It is better to find a local guide who can lead you along a more comfortable part of the Wall.
Tips for Wheelchair Users
For wheelchair users, Badaling, Juyongguan Pass, and Mutianyu Great Wall are more wheelchair-friendly, because elevators make the paths and facilities accessible.
- Badaling section: As the most wheelchair-friendly section, Badaling is equipped with ramps, cable cars, and elevators. However, the two elevators used for easy ascent should be booked in advance.
- Mutianyu section: The cable cars at Mutianyu can help wheelchair users ascend the wall, and there is a ramp to the platform below the 14th watch tower.
- Juyongguan Pass：A 180-meter barrier-free route at the east gate leads to the top of the Pass, where wheelchair users can enjoy a panoramic view of the wall.
Spending a Night at the Great Wall
Accommodation at the Great Wall is limited to farmhouses, hostels and guesthouses. Camping is possible at certain wilder sections, but requires arrangements to be made by an agency. Remember to bring all the equipment for your camping, because the shops at the foot of the wall do not sell any camping supplies.
A benefit of spending a night at the Great Wall is that you can see the sun set and rise over the Wall, and capture the splendid scenery with photographs. You will also be able to enjoy a less crowded Great Wall tour in the early morning.
Tips for Great Wall Photography
The Great Wall is beloved by all keen photographers. A successful photographic tour is all about choosing the right section of The Wall, and the right time of year. The information below deals with these two factors.
Firstly, the sections best fit for photography include Mutianyu, Jiankou, Jinshanling and Simatai. They can be photographed in all aspects within one day. If however you are aiming for sunset, sunrise or night-sky photos, you will need to spend one night camping at the wall, or staying in a village home.
Secondly, the best time for photography differs for each section of the Wall, yet generally the best time would be summer and autumn.
Moreover, you had better hire a tour guide who is a photographer himself, so that he can lead you to the key positions for unique shots, and share his experiences with you. You can find professional photography guides at local travel agencies, or join a special photographic tour arranged by a photography club.
Apart from the usual supplies, essential gear for your trip will include a wide-angle lens, lens hood, tripod, flash light, durable camera pack, tele converter, lens cleanser cloths, and at least 2 extra batteries.
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