The Great Wall of China is one of the most beautiful modern wonders of the world and stretches more than 6000 miles long! While you (sadly) can’t see it from space, it is a majestic site and a must-see if you’re planning to visit Beijing.
There are many sections of the Wall, so it may be difficult to decide which section will be the best to see. Before choosing which section to hike there are a few things things to consider, such as the hiking difficulty, transportation, distance from Beijing, and the crowds.
I’ve visited many of the sections and summed up the pros and cons of each part based on my experiences to help you choose which section is best for you. No matter which section you visit though you won’t be disappointed!
Sections of the Great Wall in Beijing:
- Camping on a Wild Wall Section with Mr. Chen
Also: Which season is the best to visit the Great Wall?
*I have just listed the sections I have personally been to – I still need to check off some more!
1. Badaling Section of the Great Wall
Badaling is probably the most famous section for Chinese tourists. It is easily accessible by a public train for a low cost. You can even find the famous saying by Chairman Mao on top of one of the watch towers: “不到长城非好汉” (Bú dào Chángchéng fēi hǎohàn). This translates to: “He who has never been to the Great Wall is not a true man.”
Pros: It’s very close to Beijing and doesn’t take long to get to. It’s a great choice if you want an easy and affordable trip to the Great Wall. It’s a beautiful hike as well, with a north and south side that have been nicely restored. There are also cable cars here if you don’t want to hike a lot.
Cons: Its easy access makes it very popular and it is often crowded! If you’re going on a weekend or holiday definitely avoid this section!
2. Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is a popular section to visit because it’s not too far from the center of Beijing and it also has one of the coolest attractions: the toboggan slide down from the Wall.
Pros: This section is a fantastic option if you’re not wanting to go very far, don’t want a very difficult hike, and also want to have a fun and interesting way to get off the Wall! It’s perfect for visitors who don’t have much time in Beijing, or for families and groups who just want to enjoy the Wall without much hassle. There are two different cable car options for going up and down the Wall.
Cons: Like Badaling, Mutianyu is one of the more popular sections of the wall to visit, so it often will be more crowded and difficult to get photos away from people (depending when you go).
Pros: Stunning mountain views, enjoyable hiking, and there are no crowds! Personally, Jinshanling has to be my favorite section of the wall I’ve visited so far. The wall and the surrounding mountains are stunning, and the fact that you don’t have to push past people and fight crowds for good photos make it even better. There is also a cable car here if you don’t want to hike the whole thing.
Cons: It’s farther away and harder to get public transportation, so it costs more time and money. I recommend booking a private car to get here.
I’ve been to Jinshanling 4 times and always enjoyed it! I even went to the Yinyang Music Festival during the summer here and had a blast.
I’ve also recently went to Jinshanling after fresh snowfall in Beijing this December. It was a beautiful winter wonderland!
Read more about my winter adventure here: Snowy Sunrise at Jinshanling Great Wall
4. Simatai Section of the Great Wall
This section is connected to Gubei Water Town, a lovely water town outside of Beijing.
Pros: You can stay in the Water Town and enjoy the Simatai section of the Wall at night, one of the only sections of the Wall that you can stay on in the evening. It’s perfect for a weekend getaway. There is also a cable car here if you don’t want to hike much.
Cons: Simatai is much farther away from Beijing. Also if you want to visit the Wall and not the water town, you have to book your ticket ahead of time.
5. Huanghuacheng Section of the Great Wall
One of the less popular sections of the wall near Beijing – and I don’t know why! I loved this section so much!
Pros: Close to Beijing, less traveled, no crowds, and a beautiful lake view!
Cons: None in my mind! Jinshanling is my favorite but this is a close second.
Check out my video at the Huanghuacheng Section of the Great Wall:
6. Camping on a Wild Wall Section with Mr. Chen
Camping on the Great Wall is a very exciting and different option for seeing the wall! During the National Holiday in 2019 I went camping with Great Wall Fresh at a wild section of the wall.
Pros: Wild Sections are untouched and unrepaired, so you see the wall as it naturally is. There aren’t many people at the wild section, and this let’s you really enjoy the nature and beauty of the wall. It’s a fantastic way to see sunrise and sunset, and enjoy the Great Wall in a more in-depth way.
Cons: Hiking here is challenging! This hike is not easy at all – by far the hardest hike of all the ones I’ve done at the wall because it is steep and wild. You’re also exposed to the weather, so you need to prepare for all things including rain and cold (and even if you do prepare, unexpected things can happen!)
This is a great option if you aren’t afraid of the outdoors and want a unique way to experience the wall.
Which season is the best to visit the Great Wall?
Ultimately the Great Wall is an amazing sight no matter when you visit China, but the scenery around the wall looks very different depending on the season. If you’re not picky about the weather and just want a beautiful hike, go for it! But if you’re trying to plan activities or photograph certain scenes, consider the time of year that you visit.
It doesn’t snow often in Beijing, but my first trip to the Wall it snowed at Jinshanling in January 2016, also again when I went to Jinshanling in December 2019. It was very lovely to see, but made it a tad slippier to hike. Wear good shoes with tread so you don’t slip and pack a warm coat because it’ll be cold out in the mountains. The toboggan at Mutianyu might be closed in inclement weather, as will some cable cars, so keep that in mind as well.
In March 2019 I visited Jinshanling again, and unfortunately the mountains were still brown and hadn’t turned green again. The weather was lovely for hiking though – I had a light jacket and pants and definitely warmed up once we started hiking.
A month later I went to Mutianyu in mid-April, and it was a bit greener then.
Summer is a vibrant green! The scenery is stunning. It will be hot though so bring water and sunscreen.
Early Autumn (September)
I visited Badaling in September 2018 and Huanghuacheng in September 2019 and those were two of my favorite trips simply because of how green the mountains were and how beautiful the weather was for hiking. Not too hot and not rainy! The best time in my opinion.
I went to Badaling again in November 2019 and the colors were lovely!
Hiking the Great Wall of China
Overall, each section is unique and beautiful, and you’ll have a great time seeing the Great Wall! Which section you should visit ultimately depends on yourself and the experience you want. Based on my own personal experiences, here’s what I’d recommend:
- Best Views and Hiking: Jinshanling
- Less Crowded: Huanghuacheng, Jinshanling, Wild Sections
- First Time Visitors to China: Mutianyu or Jinshanling
- Most Interesting and Fun: Mutianyu
- Cheapest Option and Easiest Transportation: Badaling
- Challenging and Unique: Camping on the Wall
I love living in Beijing! It’s so fun to be close to the mountains and many sections of the Great Wall. There are so many beautiful sights at all the sections, so no matter where you choose to go it will be an unforgettable experience.
There are still many sections of the Great Wall I haven’t visited, but plan to in the future! Have you been to the Great Wall? Which section is your favorite?
If you’re visiting Beijing, check out these other great things to do:
- A Guide To Visiting the Forbidden City
- The Ultimate 7-Day Beijing Itinerary
- The Best Instagram Spots in Beijing