Planning on visiting the greatest and longest wall in the world? Of course you are! Stretching back over 2,000 years, the series of structures which snake across the Northern border of China attracts heaps of visitors. Here are a few key tips to ensure you make the most of your Great Wall of China trip...
Choose your seasons wisely
The quietest season for visitors is during the winter months, when the number of tourists is dramatically lower, however the Great Wall of China may also be covered in snow making it a tad tricky to fully enjoy. The autumn months bring fewer crowds (than summer) along with comfortable weather and a beautiful array of flurrying plants. June also tends to be a little quieter than the other summer months as there are no bank holidays across the country during this month.
Visit the Great Wall on A Weekday to Avoid Crowds
If you have the option, try and visit on a weekday when crowds are at their lowest, and be extra sure to avoid Chinese bank holidays when the locals will be out in their masses. This way you can ensure minimal photobombing and maximum appreciation of the uncrowded walls in all their beauty.
Check out the modes of travel transport
You can get to The Great Wall via three modes of transport; train, bus, or a pre-booked car ( if you’re not travelling on a planned trip, make sure you get this one sorted in advance). There are a number of trains which go from Beijing Huangtudian Railway Station to Badaling and take around 1.5 hours, whilst the bus numbers 877 and 978 also go to Badaling and take around 2 hours. If you opt for the hassle-free car option, it usually takes around 1.5 hours to reach Badaling. Be sure to allow extra time for tourist traffic and any transport confusions that you’ll most likely experience.
Get there early
Early rises aren’t always ideal but this one will be worth it. Some areas of the wall such as Badaling and Mutianyu get crowded really early, so be sure to beat the rush and give yourself the opportunity to take in the surroundings whilst the walls are at their quietest.
Pick your trek carefully
This isn’t just your everyday trail, parts of the wall can be steeeeeeeeeep, so ensure you choose where to go according to your fitness and willingness levels. If you’re looking for the safe option, Mutianyu, which has been fully restored, is the one for you. Jinshanling is said to be a challenging hike but offers some insanely beautiful surroundings, and then there’s also Jiankou. For all you pro hikers out there ensure you bring along your walking boots, this is quite the climb.
Or you don’t have to trek at all
If none of those options sound like your jam, there’s also the choice to not hike at all. Just head to Mutianyu where you can catch a gondola up and then take a leisurely stroll back down. Also, an ideal option for those short on time.
Wear comfortable shoes
If you’re opting to walk the Great Wall be sure to bring along a pair of good walking shoes. Rugged terrain, vertical steps and broken parts of the wall make this a little challenging so make sure your shoe choice is orientated around comfort and practicality.
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Be aware of the weather
Layers are key when heading to the Great Wall of China. The temperatures can seriously fluctuate depending on where you are on the wall and the time of day, so make sure you’re prepared for all the elements. Plus, it can get real windy, so think twice before putting on something flimsy and non random gust proof.
It’s key to keep your energy and hydration levels high whilst hiking, but don’t rely on getting your snacks within the walls as these can be priceyyyyy! Instead, bring plenty of nibbles and a big bottle of water to keep you fuelled throughout the day.
Make sure you take a toilet stop
We should also mention that there are zero bathrooms beyond the main entrance, so be sure to go before you enter. And then probably avoid high caffeine drinks throughout the day.
There are other, lesser known, sections to visit away from Beijing
If you’re looking for a less-crowded part of the wall, there are other sections which stretch off from the Beijing gateway. The Shanhaiguan section of the wall is in Hebei Province, Zhenbeitai is located in Shaanxi Province, and Jiayuguan in Gansu Province . All these entrances can offer you a slightly less chaotic experience.
Visit the Simatai section for the most insane evening views
Simatai is the easiest section of the wall open for night tours, and the views are crazy cool. The well-lit area can have you walking between watchtowers for up to 3 hours, but be sure to book this well in advance as there is limited availability.