My backpackers’ guide for the Great Wall of China

He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man. – Mao Zedong

If you are in Beijing and only had time to visit one attraction, you have to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall of China is the world’s longest human-made structure, stretching some 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers).

After visiting the Great Wall of China, I have put together a backpackers’ guide to climbing the Great Wall of China.

The Great Wall of China comprises of several sections, including the Badaling, Huanghuacheng, Mutianyu, Jiankou, Gubeikou, Jinshanling and Simatai. For an experience of the Great Wall of China with magnificent scenery without the tourist crowds, I would strongly recommend the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall (慕田峪长城).

What to bring

Clothing

The temperature variation between day and night along the Great Wall is obvious. If you are there in summer, prepare an additional jacket. Otherwise a loose t-shirt and non-denim trousers would be great. Bring fitting hiking shoes as you will be climbing lots of stairs.

Food and Drink

Along the climb, you will be able to find peddlers selling food, drinks and souvenirs on various sections of the Great Wall at high prices. If you want to save some money, bring your own food and drinks before going to the Great Wall.

Others

Bring along an umbrella in case it rains, or gets too sunny. Even a suntan lotion if your skin burns easily.

Getting there

Option 1

Catch the 916 bus at the Dongzhimen bus transfer depot in Beijing to Huairou Bei Dajie, (Huairou, a small county north of Beijing). The bus ride takes a little more than an hour from Dongzhimen to Huairou and costs around 5 RMB by using Yikatong metrocard. From Hauirou bus stop, bargain with one of the mini-bus or car drivers to have them drive you to Mutianyu (20 minutes on the way) which costs around 10 RMB to 20 RMB per person.

Option 2 (recommended)

Take the tourist bus 867 from Dongzhimen Outer that goes straight to Mutianyu. The bus transfer depot is outside of exit B of Dongzhimen Line 2 subway station. While most of the buses are inside bus transfer depot in a massive building, the Mutianyu tourist bus 867 station is on the OUTSIDE bus transfer depot and may be a little bit difficult to find.

The bus leaves Donghimen Outer to Mutianyu on 7 a.m. and 8.30 a.m., and return from Mutianyu to Donzhimen Outer on 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.  Be early because it is a sitting bus, only allowing 27 passengers and there are usually long queues for the bus.

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Getting up and down the Mutianyu Great Wall

The entrance fees for Mutianyu Great Wall is 45 RMB for adults and 25 RMB for children under 13. Along with the entrance fees, you will need to decide on how you want to get up to the Great Wall of China. If you plan to hike up to the Great Wall on foot, there’s no need to purchase any additional ticket.

If you are looking for a relaxed way of getting up and down the Great Wall, you will find 2 companies offering cable car service up and down the Great Wall at the following prices:

  • Cable Car One Way: RMB 60
  • Children 12 & Under: RMB 30
  • Cable Car Two Way: RMB 80
  • Children 12 & Under: RMB 40
  • Cableway-Toboggan: RMB 60
  • Children 12 & Under: RMB 50
  • Toboggan Return: RMB 80

While it makes common sense to just buy the two-way cable car ride up and down the Great Wall, I found that it’s not the best way to experience the Great Wall because the two-way ticket requires you to walk from one end of the Great Wall to the other, and then back to take the cable car ride down.

I would recommend purchasing the Toboggan ticket down the Great Wall and then the cable car ticket up the Great Wall from the other cable car company. That way, you will just need to walk from one end of the Great Wall to the other end.

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Once you reach the Mutianyu Great Wall, you will find the Henkel Dedication Stone to commemorate the donation of 300,000 USD by the German company to restore the Mutianyu Great Wall.

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The good thing about choosing Mutianyu Great Wall over Badaling Great Wall is the number of tourists. Take a look at the photo below and see how great the place is.

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The Great Wall is also a popular place for wedding photos. You can consider getting your wedding photos done there too. I’m just not quite sure about the wedding fashion in China though.

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One note of advice. do not vandalize the walls on the Great Wall. There are already plenty of vandalism on the Great Wall. No point adding more.

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As you walk along the Great Wall, you will find great views of the Great Wall. Plus, realizing that there’s more to walk.

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But when you complete the entire section, you will be rewarded with probably the most magnificent view of the Great Wall.

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If you followed my tip on getting up and down the Mutianyu Great Wall, you can take a ride on the Toboggan to slide down to the bottom of the Great Wall.

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The Tobbogan is essentially a sled that carries a person down a slide. At the Mutianyu Great Wall, it’s a metal slide that goes all the way down to the entrance of the Great Wall.

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The Tobbogan is a plastic sled with a lever in the middle for brakes.

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When it is your turn, you just push yourself forward and off you go! It is quite fun and you get to decide how fast you go with the brake lever.

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At the end of the Toboggan ride, just head towards the bus stop where you alighted from to take the same bus back to Dongzhimen.

There you have it. This is my backpackers’ guide for the Great Wall of China. Do you have any tips for backpackers heading to the Great Wall of China? Share them in the comments section.

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