I’m sure for most people visiting China, living and breathing the Great Wall is one of their main desires. And for very good reason; it’s rich in history, every section offers something different and it’s easily accessible (as long as you know how!) Which brings me to my next point. There are two well-known sections of the Great Wall: Badaling and Mutianyu. It is said that Badaling is popular with Chinese tourists, and Mutianyu with every other kind of tourist you can think of. But this is just a tiny portion of what is on offer on a 5,500 mile stretch of Wall. Come to China to live and teach and you will have lots of free- time to explore the more wild sections, the sections that few have a chance to venture to.
Badaling and Mutianyu – restored
If you would like to see the Wall restored to what it once was, these are the sections to visit. As they are popular, transport from downtown Beijing is frequent, affordable and easy to find. For those not keen on the climb up to the Wall from the valley, a handy chairlift is on offer. Once at the top, the impressive watch towers can be explored which break up the Wall every 50 meters or so. Views span out over the horizon as far as the eye can see and on a clear day the Great Wall snakes off into the distance – brilliant photo opportunities as you can imagine. To get down, either take the roller coaster at Badaling, or enjoy some adrenaline on the toboggan at Mutianyu.
For Badaling: Bus 877 at Deshengmen bus station – Jishuitan Line 2, Exit A. Buses run between 6am and 5pm. Expect to pay 12RMB and travel for 1.5hrs each way.
For Mutianyu: Bus 916 at Dongzhimen bus station – Line 2/13, or the Airport Express line. Buses run every 20 minutes throughout the day. The journey is between 1.5-2 hours.
Good to know: Beware of ‘fake buses’ hanging around the stations. They are usually more eager to get you on-board and often display the correct bus number. They will get you to your destination, but will cleverly stop at expensive shopping areas on route.
Great Wall Fresh – wild
If you’d prefer to get off the beaten track, I highly recommend staying a night or two with the Chen family. Situated in a tiny village called Chenjiapu, the family host guests in their home which sits just below the wild Great Wall of China (it can be seen from their garden). Furthermore, there are 3 walks available – easy, medium, hard – and if you’re not confident exploring by yourself, either the son or Mr Chen himself will happily escort you. Experience visiting the wild Great Wall, unrestored and free from tourists and upon returning to the village, enjoy a fresh home cooked meal made by the super-smiley mother of the family.
Website: Great Wall Fresh
How to get there: Arrange a pick up from Huilongguan, line 13 on their website.
Good to know: The Chen family don’t speak English (aside from the son) so communicate well prior to arriving and learn a few useful phrases. You will certainly be wanting to say “hao chi!” which means “good food!” and “piao liang!” meaning “beautiful!”
In conclusion, there are many sections to explore while visiting the Great Wall. So if you have the time, get researching, grab yourself a map and go and explore one of the world’s most fascinating creations! Here are a few photo’s of the Great Wall in different seasons to inspire you..