Winding its way along over a staggering 8,046 kilometres, the Great Wall of China needs little in the way of introduction.
It’s long, seriously long – it would take around 18 months to walk its entire length.
Listed as one of the great wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China is a legendary structure that attracts people from across the globe to witness and walk atop its beauty.
Stretching for thousands of kilometres through China, the Wall’s assembly spread though multiple dynasties, with some parts dating as far back as 220 BC.
The most famous stretch of the Wall is the Badaling Great Wall near Zhangjiakou, for this is the first section to be opened to the public in the People’s Republic of China, it was also the section of the Wall shown to important foreign parties when they were visiting.
Other parts of the Wall near Beijing and other tourist centres have been preserved the best, however due to its length some sections of the Wall have been impossible to maintain and have fallen into disrepair.
As such, it’s not possible to walk the full length and people typically choose to do the sections closest to major tourist hubs.
- The chance to experience one of the modern wonders of the world first hand, whilst at the same time being submersed in an entirely different and unique culture.
- Not only will you be able to walk on the Wall, but it will provide you with a step back through time and the chance to experience a major part of the countries history.
- Relatively easy to access and requires no climbing/technical ability.
Most tourists will likely access the Wall from near Beijing and these are the areas that are the best preserved.
The most heavily visited sections are to the East and North of the capital city with the travel time to these places ranging from one to three hours by car.
Tour operators will arrange transport if included or you can try to explain to a taxi driver where you need to go.
Beijing is a major international hub with domestic trains and flights and daily international flights to and from many global destinations.
Most people opt to walk for full days or half days on sections of the Wall and spend hours moving along at whatever pace they choose.
Due to the Wall being impossibly long, with some areas badly eroded or missing altogether, you cannot walk the entire length of the Wall.
Therefore it is at the individuals discretion as to how long they spend walking.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
Walking on the Wall is not particularly difficult and requires no technical or climbing ability.
However, it is important to take into consideration factors such as the weather.
Depending on the time of year you are visiting, temperatures can soar during the day and once on the Wall there are very few places that offer relief from the sun.
In some places you must walk for hours before you have the chance to exit off the Wall, therefore it is imperative you have enough supplies to last you this time.
Experience required will vary for the length of walk you choose to do.
Most will require no experience but those seeking to walk for entire days may wish to familiarise themselves with handling longer treks before attempting their walk.
You can visit the Wall and walk on it on your own, however, if you wish to camp on the Great Wall, then you’ll need an overnight camping permit.
These can be obtained through the appropriate tour groups.
Guided or self-guided
Travellers can walk by themselves or as part of a guided tour.
Various operators can be found online, in Beijing or near the Wall itself.
Most guided tours will take anywhere between a few hours to an entire day to complete.
It does not cost money to walk the Great Wall with no tour group but remember to factor in travel/accommodation costs.
The best time to visit the Wall is undoubtedly in the spring and autumn months as winter can bring chilly winds and potentiality slippery conditions atop the Wall if there has been snowfall.
On the contrary, summer offers high temperatures and little shade.
It is also recommended to avoid visiting during China’s major holidays in May and October as many Chinese tourists will seek to visit the Wall then.
It is worth noting that Badaling is the most heavily visited section of the Wall near Beijing and can become very crowded, this may affect those choosing to travel with children.
Seeing as you’re not able to walk the entire Wall, travellers often seek to visit just a single section or multiple sections in one day or multiple days, often combining seeing other sights such as Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City.
This means that itineraries will change depending on what you choose to do and see.
A rough itinerary for a three-day section of the Wall with the company Great Wall Hiking is as follows.
Jiankou to Mutianyu/Gubeiko
Tour company will pick you up at 8am from your Beijing hotel and drive two and a half hours to the Wall at Jiankou.
Hiking to begin at 11am.
This section is 10km long and takes up to five hours.
Accommodation for the evening will be a local farmers guesthouse in Gubeiko village.
Gubeiko to Jinshanling
Finishing breakfast by 9am, you will hike for roughly five hours again at a leisurely pace, passing through Shanhaiguan and Juyongguan before reaching Jinshanling with plentiful breathtaking views along the way.
Due to no accommodation options being available at Jinshanling, hikers will make a roundtrip back to Gubeiko to spend the evening.
This section is 10km again.
Jinshanling – Simatai West
After breakfast, drive to Jinshanling and resume your hike.
Arguably the most photogenic section with over 15 watch towers, this is where you’ll need your camera at the ready.
After finishing the 3km hike tour and having lunch, tour operators will drop you back at your hotel in Beijing.
Most tourists will stay in Beijing and travel to the Wall on day trips, this way they can access the endless opportunities that Beijing has to offer.
However, if you wish to stay closer to the Wall there are numerous hotels in Badaling, which is a very popular area with tourists.
Here, journey times to the Wall are much shorter but if you wish to go the capital city then it is a couple of hours each way by car.
With the capital city of Beijing being located only a couple of hours drive from the Wall, the possibility for experiences and adventure are endless.
Tourists can get lost in the rich culture and history of the city with popular tourist attractions including Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven.
There is also the opportunity to relive sporting history by visiting the 2008 Olympic stadium.
Should travellers wish to stay away from the heavily touristed areas they can simply walk amongst the bustling streets visiting food vendors and observing the many different temples along the way.
Museums, parks and private sightseeing tours await for those who aren’t as keen on the slightly more mainstream options.
|Skills Required||Hiking, Walking|
|Difficulty||1/5 - 2/5|
|Starts at||Jiankou Liang, Huairou District, China|
|Finishes at||Simatai West china|
|Length of route||25 Km|
|Average time to complete||3 - Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||Yes|
|Highest point||800 metres|
|Equipment needed||Poles if preferred, Water Supplies|