Most people have the Great Wall on their travel wish-list. Having lived in Beijing for a year, I’ve been to The Wall five times. Each time, I’ve been struck by the sheer scale of the 8000 km edifice. Just like the Taj Mahal, the construction of this monument came at a huge financial and human cost, but that shouldn’t take anything away from this magnificent ode to human achievement.
1300 years ago, a people began the construction of a wall that would be more than 8000 kms long; a wall built without the use of modern machinery; a wall that I can walk on even today. Incredible.
More by happy circumstance than any plan, I’ve been to the portion of The Wall at Mutianyu in the winter, autumn and summer. The Wall is a completely different beast in each.
If you’re in Beijing on a short trip, Mutianyu Great Wall is the place to be.
How to get there?
If you’re a group of four or bigger, hiring a car or a van (with driver) makes the 90 minute journey more comfortable. Depending on your bargaining skills, the drive to there and back may take anywhere between 500 RMB to 1000 RMB.
- A guide is unnecessary. Make it clear at the outset that you will not require a guide
- While negotiating the car rental, make it clear that you will not pay extra for parking/ toll/ police tickets/ meals
- Definitely take the toboggan on the way down. If you do, make sure the guy in front of you is someone who is not going to crawl down the slide at snail speed.
- You can buy a packaged ticket that includes a cable car ride to go up & toboggan to come back down
- Do not let the driver convince you to go to Badaling. Its closer to Beijing; so packed with tourists
- The higher you climb, the fewer the people, the better the photos
If you have an adventurous spirit supported by strong calf muscles, spend a night on the Great Wall at HuaGuoShan.
Nobody around for miles, the place is a photographer’s paradise. Catch the sun set on the distant mountains and uncork a bottle of 40 RMB Great Wall wine.
How to get there?
The Beijing Backpackers will get you there and back, supply you with camping equipment and a knowledgeable guide. They charge 2000 RMB for a group of four
- Its a long climb of about two hours
- It feels like 4 hours because of the weight of the camping equipment on your back.
- Do NOT take your own backpack or you will have to slug two bags up the wall.
- If you’re going to carry alcohol, transfer it to a light plastic bottle to save weight
- Take along your DSLR, tripod and timer to create an amazing time lapse