Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Great Wall from Beijing

Last updated: October,18 2018

Stretching almost the entire length of China, the Great Wall of Beijing is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and the only man-made structure that can be seen on the surface of the planet from space. However, while it may be known as the “Great Wall” in the west, it is not actually one wall, but lots of them, constructed over a period of around 2,400 years. These huge feats of construction and engineering work stretched from Dandong in the east of China, close to the current border with North Korea, to Jiayuguan in the west, in the area of what is now the western end of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Prefecture.

Since most foreign tourists plan to start their Tibet tour from Beijing, how to spend the days in Beijing before departing for the Tibet tour is a big question. No Beijing tour will be complete without a trip to the Great Wall. To help you plan a better Great Wall tour, here we offer you the detailed information about the Great Wall of Beijing.

Major Sections of Great Wall in Beijing

The first parts of the Great Wall, known in China as the Long Wall, were constructed to the south of Beijing, to protect the warring states from invasion by their neighboring warlords. Later, around the 3rd century BC, the wall was constructed to the north of Beijing, after the unification of China by Emperor Qin, to secure the northern border of the new country. The walls above Beijing were added to during the Han Dynasty, and then rebuilt or restored during the Ming Dynasty, which are the walls we can see to the north of Beijing today.

Badaling Great Wall

The Badaling Great Wall is the largest and most popular section of the Great Wall. It has been open to the public since 1957, and has been visited by some of the world’s greatest leader, including United States presidents Nixon and Reagan, the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and even the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

Badaling Great WallThe largest and most popular section of the Great Wall —— Badaling Great Wall

In Chinese, the name of the wall means “eight reach ridge”, and it is located around 60 kilometers to the northwest of central Beijing. Constructed in 1505 by the Emperor Hong Zhi of the Ming Dynasty, the wall has 30 watchtowers, and stretches for 7.6 kilometers. At around 7.8 meters tall and 5.7 meters wide, the wall is normally accessed by cable car to the North Eighth Tower, at the top of the “Good Man Slope”, though you can walk along paved paths and steps all the way to the top.

Mutianyu Great Wall

The longest fully-restored section of the Great Wall is the one at Mutianyu, known in China as “Admire Fields Valley”. At around 73 kilometers from the center of Beijing, it takes around 1.5 hours to drive there and is open all year round. With 23 original-style restored watchtowers, the Great Wall at Mutianyu lies in the Huairou County to the north of Beijing.

Mutianyu Great WallThe longest fully-restored section in Great Wall —— Mutianyu Great Wall.

The wall at Mutianyu connects the sections at Jiankou to the east and the Baima Pass section in the west, and is just 2.5 kilometers long. The wall was constructed by the Northern Qi Emperor more than 1,400 years ago, and was strengthened and fortified by general Xu Da of the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century. During the second year of the reign of Emperor Yongle, the Mutianyu Pass was fortified to form a triangular formation with three linked watchtowers. Constructed in 1404, these three watchtowers for a triangle and are a rare formation along the sections of the wall.


The closest section of the Great Wall to Beijing, the Juyongguan Great Wall Fort lies just 60 kilometers to the northeast of central Beijing, in the Changping District. Located in the guangou Valley, this section of the Great Wall protected the most vulnerable access to Beijing, the Chinese capital, and was built during the Ming Dynasty, under Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang in the late 14th century.

JuyongguanThe closest section of the Great Wall to Beijing —— Juyongguan

One of the greatest of the forts that defended Beijing, it was instrumental in holding back the Mongol army that was constantly trying to recapture its former territory in China. Considered to be one of the most important passes in the entire Ming Dynasty Great Wall, the fort at Juyongguan defended Beijing from attacks by the Jurchens, as well as the Mongols, and was the site of a huge battle against the Japanese in WWII. The site of the fort lies on fortifications that date back to the Yan Kingdom, which spanned the period from 770-476 BC, and the Warring States Period (476–221 BC). During the Yuan Dynasty, in the 13th-14th centuries, three large towers were built, which were destroyed in an earthquake in the middle 1300s.


One of the most well-preserved sections of the Great Wall, Jinshanling still has many of its original features and is known in Chinese as “Gold Mountain Ridge”. Named because it was built on the ridges of the Greater and Lesser Jinshan Mountain Ranges, known as the Gold Mountains, this amazing section of the Long Wall lies around 130 kilometers to the northeast of Beijing, and is one of the most popular sections for tourists due to its unique preservation.

JinshanlingOne of the most well-preserved sections of the Great Wall —— Jinshanling

The wall at Jinshanling connects the Simatai Section in the east to the Gubeikou Section in the west and extends from Longyukou in the west to Houchuankou in the east. The original construction of the wall began in 1368, during the Ming Dynasty, and was rebuilt after damages in the mid-16th century. The wall also contains tablets that have poems and writings etched into them, which were left at the time of the rebuilding. 31 watchtowers are spread along this 5.1-kilometer section of wall, which are built in a variety of different shapes and sizes.

Jinshanling is also the most popular section for those wishing to hike along the great Wall, and the trek along the entire section to Simatai takes around four hours. Three paths run from the entrance gate to the wall, and a cable car to a fourth path which runs for the final 200 meters to the Little Jinshan Tower.


The section of the Great Wall at Simatai lies around 120 kilometers to the northeast of Beijing, connected to the western end of the Jinshanling Great Wall. It remains one of the few sections of the entire Great Wall of China to retain most of its original appearance, and it has many varied features and characteristics that other sections do not have.

SimataiOne of the few sections of the entire Great Wall of China to retain most of its original appearance —— Simatai

The Great Wall at Simatai is just to the north of the town of Miyun, and is close to the Great Wall of Gubeikou, which is an important and significant pass for the military in their protection of Beijing. The Simatai Section is just 5.4 kilometers long, divided by the Simatai Reservoir, with 23 towers to the west of the reservoir and 16 towers to the east. The reservoir is spanned by a chain-link bridge, although these days crossing by zip-line is more popular.

Constructed in the time of the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577 AD), the wall was rebuilt and extended during the Hongwu period of the Ming Dynasty, and underwent repairs under the supervision of General Qi jiguang in the middle of the 16th century.

One of the most perilous of the sections of the Great Wall, the elevation of the wall goes up by more than 600 meters in a short distance, and the narrowest part of the section is just 40 centimeters wide at the top. Known as the Sky bridge, this narrow section of the wall runs for around 100 meters up the side of the mountain, and during its construction, goats were used to ferry the bricks up to the wall.

Simatai is the only section of the wall that can be visited at night, and is lit up by lanterns along its entire length, making an amazing spectacle from afar.

Join in our classic 15-day Beijing Xian Lhasa Kathmandu tour by train to enjoy a wonderful visit to the Great Wall in Beijing.

Best Time to Visit the Great Wall in Beijing

While it may rest in northern China, the Great Wall sections at Beijing can be visited at almost any time of the year, as long as there is not too much snow in the winter. The best times to visit the Great Wall for the best views and the scenery are in the spring and autumn. In the early mornings, from the top of the Great Wall, you can see the remarkable early morning mists known as the “Cloud Sea”, that stretch out from the wall in all directions for miles.

May and June are the best times to visit the wall for the green scenery of the mountains, when the new growth of the trees and grasses has come through from the spring. Summers can be hot on the top of the Great Wall, and it is not recommended to spend too much time in the heat. Sun cream, lip balm, sunglasses and a hat are recommended if you are walking along the wall in the summer months, especially in late August.

There are times when it is NOT advisable to visit the Great Wall, mainly during the major Chinese holidays, as there are huge numbers of local tourists that clamor to get onto the wall during their short breaks. The national Day Holiday, from the first to the seventh of October is the main period to avoid, as well as the Labor Day Holiday from May 1 to 3. The Spring Festival, however, is not as popular for local visitors, as it is a time for people to come together as families, so is a great time to get onto the Great Wall, with less tourists than at other times of the year.

Travel Tips for Visiting the Great Wall in Beijing

Group tours operate from Beijing, which take you to the different sections of the Great Wall, and while they are cheaper than a private tour, many of the tours stop at the factory shops and expensive tourist-oriented restaurants. Private tours are much more flexible with where you want to go, and can be individually catered for the client. Tickets are normally arranged in advance for tours, to save you queuing and the guides are experts on the history of the Wall and where to get the best photos.

Traveling to the Great Wall is normally done as a day trip, and it is important to bring along plenty of water and snacks, especially since the majority of the restaurants close to the Wall can be expensive. Rain gear is handy to bring with you, as it can rain at any time in the areas of the Wall, and a good pair of strong shoes or hiking boots is best to wear for better traction. If you are traveling in the winter months, then you need to dress up warm, as it can get very cold on the Wall in winter. Snow can often be seen dusting the surfaces of the Wall, and the temperatures are usually around freezing, so bring warm fleece jackets to protect from the cold.

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