At the top of most people’s bucket lists for a China visit is SEEING THE GREAT WALL. Which is awesome, no argument at all. But, what a lot of people don’t think about when planning a trip is that this awesome great wall is really long with different sections you could possibly see. So far, we’ve done two very different kinds of trips to the wall so whether you’re planning a trip, or just wanting to see some goofy pictures, I’ve got you covered.
The first, most popular, closest part of the wall to Beijing is called Badaling. When our friends came over Chinese New Year, we tried to visit this section. We were rebuffed because EVERY SINGLE tour bus was filled up. We thought that because it was the middle of winter and a holiday, it might be emptier but we were wrong. Basically, if you’re short on time and just want to say that you’ve done it, you can go here.
The section we eventually went the next day is called Jiankou. This section was a lot more difficult to get to, but very cool. When we went, we took a 2 hour bus and then rented a minivan (with a driver) to take us the last hour. All of this was followed by a 45 minute hike up to the wall itself which we then scaled on a rickety ladder. A couple of notes: for this, you will need to speak a bit of Chinese (to get the van) or not miss the local bus like we did which only runs twice a day. If you are adventurous and up for a challenge, this is the way to go.
The other section we’ve been to is Shanhaiguan—where the wall meets the sea. This spot is more popular for Chinese tourists than international tourists, but is still very picturesque. In addition to getting to see a bit of the ocean, this is also the easiest walking. Unlike parts of the wall that are like an endless crumbling stairmaster, this section is relatively flat. Because both of our parents have knee trouble, this is the section we decided on for the whole family. A good time had by all. You can get here by taking a 2 hour high speed train from Beijing and then taking a taxi from the train station to the wall (maybe 20 minutes). The first time we went, we also visited another nearby section called Jiumenkou which turned into an adventure of its own. You can read about it here– The Great Wall and Drift King.
The last way to see the wall is by running on it. Our friend Carson completed a half marathon on the wall in the beginning of May. You can read more about it here Carson’s Half Marathon. Referencing my earlier crumbling stair master metaphor, this is not the place that you’re going to get your best time. But, if you love the idea of being able to say that you ran a full or half marathon on the Great Wall of China, the option is there.
That’s all the wall trips we’ve done so far. Stay tuned for a possible overnight camping trip on the wall later this summer. Happy planning!