So you want to visit The Great Wall of China? Good choice. Being one of the 7 wonders of the world it certainly won’t disappoint. After all, how often can you say you have been to a manmade structure that can be seen from outer space? That in and of itself is pretty cool. In fact, visiting The Great Wall became our family’s favorite trip in China.
However, there are some pretty big mistakes that can be made when visiting The Great Wall. More than 4 million people visit the Wall every year. Trust me, you do not want to get caught up in the throngs of people that cluster in massive groups at various points along the Wall. It will make your visit much less enjoyable fighting your way through crowds as you climb stair after stair after stair after stair. Yes, there are that many stairs. In fact, you will go up and down so many times you will feel as if your legs are going to fall off. Why in the world did they have to include so many stairs in any way? Seriously.
But I digress. If you want to visit The Great Wall and enjoy your experience, you will need to get outside of Beijing. Go to Beijing and see the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Maybe take in a Kung Fu show or eat some Peking duck, but when you are done take a drive outside the city to Mutianyu.
Mutianyu is a small village situated about 40 miles outside of Beijing. It boasts few crowds and one of the best-preserved areas of the wall. While there is a very nice hotel and one tourist center in Mutianyu, you won’t find very much else in town. Staying overnight is limited but possible and if you stay where we did, you will be treated to a surprisingly relaxing vacation.
How to get there
Luckily you have multiple options to get to Mutianyu. If you are using Beijing as a home base, your best bet will be traveling by car or bus. We flew into Beijing, spent the day there taking in the sights, then hired a driver to take us out to the village. You can also take a bus that runs regularly throughout the day.
How long will it take
The answer to that is, how long do you have? We spent the better part of a day hiking along the Wall. It was such a luxury to have much of the Wall to ourselves, and the scenery kept getting more and more beautiful so we just kept going. By the end of our trip, we calculated to have walked 10 miles! I would suggest staying overnight for a night or two so you won’t be rushed.
Where to stay
Our family of 7 stayed at The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu. We all agreed it was by far our favorite place to stay out of all our trips in China. It felt more like a villa in Sonoma Valley than a hotel in China. The Schoolhouse offered a lovely courtyard, open-concept rooms with views of the Wall, and delicious meals. During our stay, we enjoyed a jazz night under the stars complete with a wonderful buffet dinner. Check out their website here: www.theschoolhouseatmutianyu.com for lodging and dining options as well as seasonal offerings and special events.
How to do The Great Wall at Mutianyu
One of the highlights of visiting The Great Wall at Mutianyu is the cableway and luge options for getting up and down the mountain, especially when traveling with children. They get a kick out of riding the ski lift to the top and rushing down the luge to the bottom.
Price: adults-single trip CNY 100/round trip CNY 120, children: single trip CNY 50 single trip/CNY 60 round trip.
Service Hours: March 16-November 15: 8am-5pm, November 16-March 15: 8:30am-4:30pm
Of course, The Great Wall itself doesn’t close, but the cableway and luge do. Whatever you do, take note of these hours. When we went we were clueless. If you want to get a kick out of our misadventure with the luge (and more), just click on this link: How to Be a Loner on The Great Wall.
Thoughts and Things
- When we arrived at the top of the cableway, we walked north along the Wall. Eventually, this led us to the “Wild Wall”, a section of the Wall that has not been preserved. This area offered some spectacular views. However, if you go this way use extreme caution. Hiking becomes treacherous at times. At some points, we were literally climbing up slippery sand trails on hands and knees.
- People sell water and snacks along the way. When we went it was pretty hot and ice-cold popsicles were very welcomed so make sure you bring some cash.
- You will be walking on some very uneven surfaces and up and down steep steps. Wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately.
- Sometimes the air quality is bad so it may be necessary to wear a mask. Make sure you check the AQI before you venture out.
- The best times of year to visit are; April, May, September, and October as these are the months with the most favorable weather. We went in June and it was really hot but the trees were very green, aiding to the spectacular views.
If you are going to visit The Great Wall, do it right. Get out of Beijing with the millions of others and take a trip to Mutianyu. It will be an incredibly enjoyable experience and one you will never forget!