DIY Trips: A Watcher on the Great Wall of China

“Did you really walk on the Great Wall?”

That was the first question I got after my trip to Beijing, China.

Seeing “THE” Great Wall of China from afar was already a majestic experience but being able to stand and walk on it was extremely amazing. I am overly impressed on how the wall was built. I appreciate it even more knowing that people died building the wall.

The Great Wall of China consists of numerous walls and fortifications made of stone, brick, wood, and other materials. It was generally built from east to west, across the historical borders of China in the north to protect the country and its empires against invaders.

Although the Wall did not effectively prevent invaders from entering the country, it came to function more as a psychological barrier between Chinese civilization and the world. The Wall is the most recognizable symbol of China and its long and vivid history and remains as the powerful symbol of the country’s enduring strength.

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“The wall is such a long stretch, were you able to walk from end to end? How will you get there?”

It may be possible to walk from end to end but that would take days.

During my last trip to Beijing, we only chose one part of the wall. The Wall we see today was mostly built during the Ming Dynasty. It starts from Hushan in the east to Jiayuguan Pass in the west.

The walls have lots of sections to choose from. Here are some of the Great Wall’s famous sections:

  • Badaling – It is one of the best-preserved and most complete sections among the others, hence the most popular. Compared with other sections, most stairs in this section are not very steep and they are equipped with handrails, so it is a relatively easier climb. Also, Badaling has been equipped with cable car and pulley to save energy, and it even has some facilities to make it easier for seniors and the disabled. It is close to downtown Beijing and is easy to reach by public transportation.
  • Mutianyu – Also one of the best-preserved and best-known Great Wall sections. Compared with the top-notch Badaling, Mutianyu is less crowded, making it a good destination for the holidays. This section can be reached by bus (No. 916 Express) with a transfer in Huairou District. Mutianyu has been renovated, making it easier and safer to climb. It is equipped with cableway and luge, possible for children and seniors to make a visit.
  • Joyungguan – It is one of the three most famous passes along the Great Wall of China, together with Jiayuguan and Shanhaiguan. It is the nearest section from the city proper, 37 miles away. Juyong Pass was a solid stronghold encircling a valley, which was the northern direct access to Beijing in ancient times.
  • Jinshanling – This section of the Wall has been restored for an easier climb. This section has a complete defensive system including barrier walls, battlement walls, watchtowers, gun emplacements, shooting holes, horse blocking walls, and branch cities. Located about 80 miles northeast of Beijing downtown. Visitors can take a bus nearby Wangjing West Subway Station to get there.

Note: Jinshanling Great Wall has been closed for renovation since June 1, 2017. Visitors can go to other sections as an alternative since its operation resume date has not been determined yet.

  • Simatai – This section has been partially restored and opened. The tourist area is limited to its east section, so the hiking from west Simatai to Jinshanling is not allowed. The Great Wall at Simatai is also the only section opened for a night tour. The Mandarin Duck Lake lies at the foot of the wall, with a water town by the lake. Travelers can experience the beauty of the water town as well as the grand Great Wall. If you wish to go through the Gubei Water Town to reach Simatai, a reservation is required if you only plan to visit the Wall.
  • Huanghuacheng – This section is the only lakeside Great Wall in Beijing. It is one of the top destinations for a Great Wall hiking tour. Visitors can also take a boat to appreciate the Great Wall at Huanghuacheng from a different angle. It takes about 1.5 hours to get there by private car and 2 hours by public bus.
  • Yanmenguan – In the depths of Yanmen Mountain in Shanxi, there stands a lonely frontier outpost, Yanmenguan, some 2,000 years old. This once invincible patron saint along the boundary has cast off his armor and turns into an experienced old man waiting to tell you about his story.
  • Jiayuguan – One of the famous passes, Jiayuguan is standing at the western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall. Different from the well-known sections built with stones or bricks, Jiayuguan Great Wall was built with rammed earth, making yellow its dominant hue and helping the pass blend harmoniously with the surrounding desert.

There are still lots of sections which may be visited but I will not go into much detail.

So the next question is, “Which section of the Wall should I visit?”

I visited Beijing with my friends. We usually prefer to visit less crowded spots but we still decided to choose Badaling. It was just timely that we went to Beijing during winter so Badaling was not crowded as it usually is.

Many shared about the pros and cons about visiting Badaling. We tried our luck and went there hoping that there will be lesser people visiting the wall. True enough, there was a minimal number of people who visited the Wall.

It was a breath-taking experience figuratively and literally. Haha!

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“How did you go there?”

Going to Badaling is easy. You can either ride a bus or a train. You just have to decide which one is more convenient for you.

As for our group, we decided to take the train from Dengshikou station which is the nearest station from our hotel. We arrived at Huoying Station and transferred to Huangtudian Railway Station which is a different train station from the usual stations in Beijing.

Trains from Huangtudian goes directly to Badaling Railway Station. The entrance of Badaling Great Wall is just a short walk from the station.

Here are other options:

🚌 By Bus

Bus 877: Deshengmen – Badaling – Deshengmen

This non-stop bus departs from Deshengmen to Badaling and back. To go to Deshengmen, proceed to Exit B2 of Jishuitan Subway Line 2. The bus station/drop-off site is close to the pulley car lower station and about ten minutes walk from Jishuitan Subway.

Operating Time:
From Deshemngmen
April 1 – November 15: 06:00 – 12:30
November 16 – March 31: 06:30- 12:30

From Badaling
April 1 – November 15: 10:30 – 17:00
November 16 – March 31: 11:00 – 16:30

Tourist Bus Line 1: Qianmen – Badaling – Qianmen

This bus picks up tourists after the Flag-Raising Ceremony at the Tiananmen Square. Going to Badaling, this bus has a stop at Juyongguan Pass but the return bus runs directly back to Qianmen. Also, each bus has a tour guide.

Operating Time:
From Qianmen Arrow Tower 5:30 – 7:30
From South of Tiananmen Square 11:00

From Badaling Guntiangou Parking Lot
April to October: 9:00 to 17:00
November to March: 11:00 to 16:30

🚊  By Train

From Beijing West Railway Station

  • Take Subway Line 9 to Baishiqiao South Station
  • Transfer to Subway Line 6 to Nanluoguxiang Station
  • Change to Subway Line 8 to Huoying Station, Exit G4
  • Walk to Huangtudian Railway Station and take an S2 train

From Beijing South Railway Station

  • Take Subway Line 4 to Xizhimen
  • Switch to Subway Line 13 to Huoying Station, Exit G4
  • Walk to Huangtudian Railway Station and take an S2 train

From Beijing Railway Station

  • Take Subway Line 2 to Guloudajie Station
  • Change to Subway Line 8 to Huoying Station, Exit G4
  • Walk to Huangtudian Railway Station and take an S2 train

“Are there any restaurants in the area?”

YES YES AND YES! There are lots of restaurants in the area – Chinese restaurants and even KFC.

“Do you think getting a package tour to visit the Great Wall is worth it?”

If you read my write-ups, you would know my usual answer to this kind of question. As much as making and planning tours give me delight, I can simply say that planning your own trip to the Great Wall is easy as 1,2,3. Getting a package tour is not necessary and can be pricey.

“How do you describe your Great Wall experience?”

If I sum it up in one word (which is impossible but I’ll try), the experience was definitely, absolutely, exceptionally amazing (I tried and failed). You have to see the Wall before you pass on to the next life! I can finally say that I’ve ticked one item off my bucket list! Hooray!

For more details about my Beijing Trip, click here. If you like this article and want to see and know more about my trips and tips, follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

PHOTO GALLERY

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