How to avoid the crowds at the Great Wall of China

A client recently asked us for advice on how best to visit the Great Wall of China from Beijing.  During a business trip he decided to book a guide and take an afternoon to visit the Great Wall.  Although impressed by its stature and amazed at the scenery he likened the experience to Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon.

He has since asked us to arrange a family holiday to fit around his next Chinese business trip.  He is keen to take the family to visit the wall but would like something less busy and more authentic.  At over 8850km and covering nine Chinese provinces, finding ˜where’s best” can be tricky.  Here’s our lowdown on what some of the different sections of the Great Wall offer their guests.

1. Badaling - For Tourists

Over 10 million people visit the Great Wall every year.  By far the most famous, most visited (and most restored section) of the wall is Badaling.  At only 40 miles northwest of Beijing it appears on nearly all tour groups and guides hit list.  It is easily accessible and has plenty of amenities to keep the crowds happy (this is where our client was taken by his guide).

2. Juyongguan - For Accessibility

This section was built during the Ming Dynasty. Thought of as one of the most important strategic locations it has been restored frequently over the years.  The wall here is easily accessible as it doesn’t require any step climbing.  It can get very crowded but would be our preferred option to Badaling for clients with disabilities or younger children.

Juyongguan, Great wall of china
Mutianyu, Great wall of china

3. Mutianyu - For Photographers

If you have an entire day set aside to visit the Wall then Mutianyu is the perfect choice.  It is one of the best-preserved sections plus the surrounding natural scenery is breathtaking, making it a firm favourite for photographers.  Built by the Ming Dynasty the construction of Mutianyu is interesting due to the number of watchtowers.  It offers a much quieter alternative and is a popular choice for families thanks to the Toboggan ride you can take to head back down to the entrance (Children under 10 can ride the Toboggan but they will need to be accompanied by an adult).

Mutianyu, Great wall of china

4. Jinshanling - For Hikers

Jinshanling is a two-hour drive northeast of Beijing (80 miles) which means it is much quieter than other sections. Though parts of the wall have crumbled away, Jinshanling is one of the best-preserved sections, with much of its original walls and watchtowers still intact. The surroundings here give you a really good insight into why the wall was created in the first place.  Climbing to the highest point gives commanding views over the intersecting parts of the Wall, allowing you to appreciate how it snakes into the mountainous neighbouring Simatai section. The hiking route here takes around 4 hours and is easily manageable for kids aged 6 and over.

Jinshanling, Great Wall of China
Geikou, Great Wall of China

5. Gubeikou - For Adventurers

Unlike the other sections Gubeikouâ Great Wall hasn’t had any restoration work carried out and remains in its original condition.  Although much of the wall here is crumbling and there are no safety edges and a lot of loose rock, Gubeikou offers a unique insight into the history of the wall and gives the visitor an outstanding, authentic experience knowing you are walking bricks placed over 600 years ago.  It can be a bit tricky in places so is probably best for the 12 and overs.

Geikou, Great Wall of China

Local Guides all the way

If you are considering a trip with your family to the Great Wall of China make sure you mention to your guide what you would like to experience.  Make them aware of ages and abilities of your group as any reputable guide will have your family’s safety at the forefront of their mind when choosing the best area of the Wall to visit.

If you would like to have a chat with us about organising a family adventure to China give us a call or send an email.

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With such little time together, we want our families to get the very most out of each adventure they choose to take.  So we’ve compiled a month by month guide on which destination is best to travel and at what time of year.

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