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9th April 2023
The Great Wall is a must see for anyone on a first time visit to China. For many, it’s the highlight of their trip – but you need to choose which section you visit wisely. As you might imagine, certain sections are more visited than others; at some points the wall has been well preserved and maintained, while in other places little more than a pile of rubble can be seen.
Most people take in the Great Wall as part of their time in Beijing. In general, the rule of thumb is that the further you get from Beijing, the less people you’ll have to share the wall with, and the more spectacular the view is.
Simatai and Jinshanling – these two sections, around a two hour drive northeast of Beijing are highly recommended. Both sections are well preserved, and are mercifully free of the over development that has blighted Badaling. They are a considerable distance from the city, so you’ll escape the smog, and if the weather is clear be able to see the wall snake away over the horizon. The distance from Beijing also tends to put off the tour groups, and you’ll not need to share the wall with too many people. For those with the energy, there’s a great seven mile trek between the two.
Mutianyu – with Ming Dynasty era guard towers, around an hour from Beijing, this is a good option if time is tight and/or if mobility is an issue. There are a couple of decent places to stay here as well. If time is not an issue, and you’re reasonably fit and active, then Jinshanling is the better option.
Badaling – the most popular section for visitors around an hour from Beijing. It has been heavily developed and attracts plenty of t-shirt and souvenir hawkers. Not recommended.
Huanghua – this section has barely been restored at all, and therein lies the reason for its attraction. There is almost a complete absence of development, and this, coupled with some breathtaking views make it a good choice. You’ll need decent shoes and should be prepared to do some scrambling. Recommended for those of a slightly more adventurous disposition.
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