Great Wall of China travel guide


You cannot talk about China without mentioning the Great Wall. Besides being an triumph of engineering, to actually contemplate its sheer size and significance Ė fortifications constructed from brick, stone, wood and packed earth that snakes its way across 8,850km of mountainside Ė is to consider over 2,000 years of cultural isolation and political endurance.
You can visit for a day Ė there are cable cars and a toboggan run for those who fancy more of a saunter than a hike, or revel in a two-week itinerary that combines nights in homestays and guesthouses with daily treks of up to seven hours.
The further you go from Beijing, the more authentic and less crowded it becomes, but when you do reach the Wall, youíll quickly realise that this incredible run of ramparts, strung out along a twisting, dipping, east-west line, must be seen to be believed. To witness such a feat of human achievement against a landscape of chestnut trees and blooms is to fulfill the trip of a lifetime.
Find out more in our Great Wall of China travel guide.
If you'd like to chat about The great Wall of China or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team
01273 823 700

Great Wall of China map & highlights


By far the best way to get explore the Great Wall of China is on two feet and how far you venture along its twisting, turning route is marked out for you in sections that start from about 2.5km in length. The most popular sections Ė Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling and Jiankou Ė are between 1.5 and 3 hours by road from Beijing and are best reached by private car because public transport to the areas is both infrequent and crowded. At a steady pace on a pretty even surface, a 4km stretch of wall takes around 4 hours to walk, while the wilder sections can take days to explore, and, at sections close to Beijing, weary legs are offered relief in the form of a cable car to ferry you back and forth.
Badaling Gubeikou Huanghuacheng Huangyaguan Jiankou Jinshanling Mutianyu Simatai


One of the upsides of the Great Wallís location so close to Beijing is that you can still visit even if itís not the main element of your China trip. This is not without downsides though; the most visited section close to Beijing Ė Badaling Ė is always busy with tourists and has the souvenir sellers and fast-food outlets to support this. Itís well worth heading further off the beaten track if you have time.


Wild and unaltered, the Gubeikou section of Chinaís Great Wall stretches for about 20km and is marked by 143 beacon towers; an historical nod to its great military significance. Unlike other, more crowded sections of the Wall, Gubeikou hasnít been restored and its distinctive blend of irregular rocky surfaces, steep steps, and centuries-old pass gates make it a hotspot for hardy hikers.


Unique for many reasons, not least because parts of it are immersed in water, itís also possible to camp along sections of the Wall at Huanghuacheng between May and September, and thereís a fascinating 500-year-old chestnut orchard at its foot. You can take a boat ride to appreciate the architecture from an entirely different perspective or hike around the lake and its lush vegetation.


A collection of castles and tall towers built along a mountain ridge, Huangyaguan is a representation of the entire Great Wall, but in miniature. Built against a pretty special backdrop of verdant mountain scenery, it hops up and down between cliffs and crags and is the site of the annual Great Wall Marathon every May. Donít miss the Eight-Trigram Streets; a zig-zag of lanes and T-junctions.


Apart from danger, what do you get if you cross wild disrepair with a mountain ridge and steep cliffs? Jiankou. Completely wild and perilously steep, it winds its way along mountain ridges in a rebellious ĎWí shape watched over by a mean looking enemy observation tower and steep steps that ascend, heaven-bound. Experienced photographers and serious hikers only need apply.


Considered one of the most beautiful parts of the entire Wall, Jinshanling is remote and isolated; it hasnít undergone a repair since 1570. With jaw-dropping views across the Greater and Lesser Jinshan mountain ranges, it is as popular with budding photographers as it is with hikers looking for an atmospheric walk and is characterised by 31 watchtowers all in different shapes and sizes.


Mutianyu is the biggest, fully-restored section of the Wall thatís open to visitors and, although itís been repaired sympathetically and is a master class in how to get rebuilding right, like Badaling, it can get very crowded at peak times. That said, with cable cars up and down and 23 different watchtowers to explore, itís very child-friendly and can be reached within 90 minutes of Beijing.


About 120km outside of Beijing, Simatai is steep and inspiring with sections of wall that wind their way up and then plunge dramatically down jagged ridges and cliffs. Itís wonderfully intense, especially in autumn when the surrounding scenery is a sea of deep red leaves, and its three-hour distance from the capital means that big crowds are kept at bay too.

Photo credits: [Map intro: Carol Schaffer] [Badaling:] [Gubeikou: Kyle Taylor] [Huanghuacheng: edward stojakovic] [Huangyaguan: Ronnie Macdonald] [Jiankou: Ronnie Macdonald] [Jinshanling: Brian Jeffery Beggerly] [Mutianyu: Scott & Elaine van der Chijs] [Simatai : Robert Nyman]

Written by Polly Humphris
Great Wall of China walking holiday

Great Wall of China walking holiday

Trek along various contrasting sections of the wall

From £1769 10 Days inc UK flights
Shanghai to Hong Kong tour, discover China

Shanghai to Hong Kong tour, discover China

Cities, wildlife, ancient history and rolling rice paddies.

From £2195 17 Days ex flights
Tailor made holiday in China

Tailor made holiday in China

China's iconic historical sights

From £2800 14 days inc UK flights
China highlights tour, tailor made

China highlights tour, tailor made

Walk along the Great Wall and relax in the stunning LiRiver

From US $2319 11 Days ex flights
China tailor made holiday, from Beijing to Shanghai

China tailor made holiday, from Beijing to Shanghai

Highlights of China private tour from Beijing

From US $789 8 Days ex flights
Beijing to Hong Kong holiday, China

Beijing to Hong Kong holiday, China

The very best of China in 2 weeks!

From £1850 12 Days ex flights
Essential China holiday

Essential China holiday

Encounter the essence of China

From £1635 21 Days ex flights
China highlights tour

China highlights tour

Short culture-filled adventure in China

From £986 9 Days ex flights
China strenuous walking holiday

China strenuous walking holiday

Walking in China for those looking for a challenge

From £2037 14 Days ex flights
China tailor made holiday

China tailor made holiday

Explore the Terracotta Warriors, Forbidden City and the Great Wall

From £3019 16 Days inc UK flights
Walking holiday in China, classic walks

Walking holiday in China, classic walks

Experience two of China's most classic walks

From £1498 11 Days ex flights
China tailor made holiday, culture & history

China tailor made holiday, culture & history

A dream tour in Beijing,Xi'an, Yangtze and Shanghai.

From US $1609 11 Days ex flights
Photo credits: [Page banner: Anderson Smith2010]
Convert currencies