Among the Terracotta Warriors probably the most famous historical, man-made tourist attraction in China. Therefore The Great Wall is  almost on every travelling plan for first time travellers to China!

But The Great Wall of China isn’t actually just one straight, on-going wall. In fact, it’s an enormous system of many different sections of walls stretching in total to a length of approx. 21’000km! In general, winding it’s way from East to West, it exhibits many junctions, sideways and even kind of circle ways! Built over more than 2’000 years by different emperors and dynasties starting around 650BC this historical UNESCO World Heritage monument is more a labyrinth of walls than a straight line! So, throwing a dart to choose the section of wall to visit is most likely not the best way to choose.
Choose your section to visit wisely

Beside time, we believe that accessibility, popularity and the condition of the section to visit should be considered as important criteria when deciding where to go:

  • Time: One day round trip from Beijing versus Several days visit

  • Accessibility: By cable car versus Only by foot

  • Popularity: Popular with (Chinese) tourist versus Unpopular with (Chinese) tourist

  • Condition: Restored sections versus “Wild” (unrestored) ones

For a good overview and description of various (tourist) sections to visit, refer to the website of

Of course, giving the popularity of The Great Wall there are many websites advising the foreign traveller on when, where and how to visit. So, no need for us to add a lot on this one! BUT …

Visit The Great Wall from Beijing

Most visitors to The Great Wall are planing to start their visit from Beijing doing it in a one day round trip. Running on a tight holiday plan this might be the best and most efficient way to do it. However, staying somewhere outside of Beijing and/or even spending more than one day visiting different sights can leave you not only with a deeper impression, it as well gives you the chance to soak in some rural sceneries and experience the peoples ‘normal’ daily life outside of a big Chinese city.

Visit The Great Wall from Yanqing

Having lived for 6 months in Yanqing (延庆市, approx. 80km from Beijing), I was able to visit several different sections of The Great Wall within the “proximity of Badaling”.  According to the internet, Badaling is one of the most popular section to visit among Chinese tourists. Based on this, we would like to provide you with some personal impressions on how different from each other a visit to The Great Wall can be and therefore how important it is to choose the section wisely!

All of these sections can be visited in a one day round trip from Beijing. However, for the foreign traveller interested in the daily life of a small Chinese town on the country side, I would highly recommend that you stay in Yanqing.

On a “not-rainy” day join the big open square in the centre of the city around sunset and get the chance to experience what is simply described by “Square Dance” but actually includes much more: from different styles of dancing, collective gymnastics to “feather-football” (Jianzi 毽子), karaoke in public … all accompanied by traditional drums and flutes. What a spectacle!

Yanqing centre square of the city at sunset with people doing activites

Dare to compare the Wall with the Wall

Get here a brief comparison of some sections of The Great Wall. All are within the proximity of Badaling (including Badaling itself). Hence, all are easy to reach from Beijing or alternatively from Yanqing (see previous chapter). We have listed them based on our “taste” from “wild to mild” respectively “first choice comes first”:

Shixiaguan Changchang 石峡关长城 (one “wild” section)

A wild, not restored, adventurous and definitely not the easiest section to get there and back. A single trail leading uphill through bushes only marked by red loops hanging randomly from bushes. Follow your instincts and experience history. Feel like joining the “night watch in Game of Thrones”!

Badaling Guchangcheng 八达岭古长城 (“acient wall”)

Away from the big masses, it’s an easy walk on a small paved road from the entrance into a lush valley. Climb a long way uphill on partly restored sections of the wall. The further you walk the greater the sceneries & views! Return the same way or descend on the top of the hill in to the unknown of the next valley to explore more!

Badaling Shuiguan Changcheng 八达岭水关长城

This is quite a touristy section. However, only accessible by foot but right from the highway/parking lot. Climb up very steep parts on both sides of the valley. So still not for the fainted heart. Walk your part away from the other tourists!

Juyongguan Changcheng 居庸关长城

Right next to the highway from Beijing to Badaling/Yanqing is this the first tourist section of The Great Wall and similar to Shuiguan described under 3. As well quite a touristy one, only accessible by foot and right from the highway/parking lot. Very steep parts on both sides of the valley. So still not for the fainted heart. Walk your part away from the other tourists! Some impressions for this section can be found here.

Badaling Changcheng 八达岭长城 (Badaling)

The main tourist section and accessible by cable car and/or foot. But still with very steep parts and great views. Experience Chinese tourism and feel the pride of Chinese history and Chinese culture!

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