Your travel guide to the Great Wall near Beijing
The Great Wall passes through the north of Beijing Municipality, an hour or two by car from Beijing City. In this guide, we look at the seven sections of Great Wall that you can visit near to Beijing. Each part of the Great Wall in Beijing is described in greater detail, and with lots of photographs, in its own page.
The Great Wall of China close to Beijing City
The light green area in the map below shows Beijing Municipality, with the Great Wall shown in brown.
All of these sections of the Great Wall close to Beijing have tours which go there, but the most popular is BaDaLing Great Wall because it is one of the closest and can also be reached easily by a frequent and cheap bus (919 from DeShengMen).
The popular sections of the Great Wall near Beijing
BaDaLing Great Wall, JuYongGuan Great Wall and MuTianYu Great Wall
The sections of the Great Wall closest to Beijing are JuYongGuan and BaDaLing. MuTianYu Great Wall is only a little further, but without an expressway to it.
Badaling Great Wall offers awesome views, but it can also be the most crowded (near the entrance), especially at weekends or on national holidays, because it is the most commonly visited by tour groups. MuTianYu Great Wall is another restored section to the east of BaDaLing, and is also much longer (22km). MuTianYu requires a more rigorous climb, however. Both MuTianYu Great Wall and BaDaLing Great Wall have cable cars to help you reach the top.
JuYongGuan Pass Great Wall is actually a little nearer than Badaling Great Wall. Both cross the same steep-sided valley through which a river, railway line and the Badaling Expressway now pass. The rigorous climb at JuYongGuan is complemented by a number of attractions at ground level. JuYongGuan Great Wall also features some life-size Terracotta Warriors.
BaDaLing Great Wall
Stretching for 4.8 km along rolling mountains, the BaDaLing section of the Great Wall has 19 strategically located watchtowers. This section was crucial to protect the capital against attack in ancient times, giving BaDaLing the name 'key to the north gate'.
The top of the Great Wall here is wide enough in most parts for 10 soldiers to march side by side. The outer parapet is crenelated with merlons almost 2 m high.
Badaling Fortress, at an elevation of 600m, was built in 1505. The walls around it, built in 1571, are 10m high, 4m thick and over 1 km long in circumference. The fortress has 2 gate towers. A tablet inscribed with "Outpost to JuYongGuan Pass" is hung on the eastern gate and another with "The Lock on the Northern Gateway" on the western gate. As the entrance to BaDaLing Great Wall, this fortress is an important defensive spot on the north side of JuYongGuan Pass. During the Ming dynasty, a strong force was garrisoned here.
East of the fortress lies a huge rock, 7m long and 2m high, named 'Watching Beijing Rock'. It is said that the Empress Dowager CiXi once passed here as she fled to the north when the Eight Allied Forces invaded Beijing in 1900. Making a short stop here, she looked back towards Beijing and lamented the loss of her comfortable life in the Forbidden City.
In recent years, this section of the Great Wall has been repaired (using traditional materials and techniques) and a Great Wall Museum has been established near to the wall.
Over 100 million visitors have walked along BaDaLing Great Wall.
MuTianYu Great Wall
Located in HuaiRou County, 70 km northeast of Beijing, the MuTianYu section of the Great Wall lies between JuYongGuan, Badaling, JianKou and HuangHua in the west, and JinShanLing, Simatai and GuBeiKou in the east. One of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall (and now carefully restored), the MuTianYu section served as part of the northern barrier defending both the capital and the imperial tombs.
First built in the mid-6th century during the Northern Qi dynasty, MuTianYu Great Wall is older than BaDaLing Great Wall. During the Ming dynasty, under the supervision of General Xu Da, construction of the present wall began on the foundations of the Northern Qi wall. In 1404, a gateway was built in the Great Wall here. In 1569, MuTianYu Great Wall was rebuilt.
MuTianYu has the largest construction scale and best overall quality among all sections of the Great Wall. Built mainly with granite, the wall is 7 - 8 meters high and the top is 4 - 5 meters wide.
Compared with other sections of the Great Wall, MuTianYu possesses some unique characteristics in its construction. Watchtowers are densely placed along this section of the Great Wall - 22 watchtowers in the 2,250 m long wall. That is, one every 100 meters whereas the norm is about one every 500 meters.
Both the outer and inner parapets are crenellated with merlons, so that shots could be fired at the enemy on both sides, a feature very rare on other parts of the Great Wall.
The MuTianYu Pass itself has 3 watchtowers, a big one in the center and a smaller one on each side. Standing on the same terrace, the 3 watchtowers are connected to each other from inside composing a formidable but rarely seen structure among sections of the Great Wall.
MuTianYu Great Wall is surrounded by woodland and streams. The forest coverage is over 90% making for wonderful scenery. A cable car is available to whisk you up onto the Great Wall - which is a good idea given how far along the wall you can then travel.
SiMaTai Great Wall
A much wilder and less crowded option is to go to the section known as SiMaTai Great Wall. However, this section is quite a lot further away - over 100 km northeast of Beijing, and part of the journey is along smaller roads through the mountains. The journey time to SiMaTai Great Wall is about 2 1/4 hours.
Higher than BaDaLing, running along a precipitous mountain ridge, and with the extra beauty of being in a weathered, partly crumbled state, the Great Wall at SiMaTai fulfills one's Great Wall dreams and so is well worth the journey.
SiMaTai Great Wall is 5.4 km long, has 35 watchtowers and joins with JinShanLing Great Wall to the west. There are many places along the wall here that are unmatched among other sections of the Great Wall.
SiMaTai Great Wall is separated into two parts - east and west - by a valley. The west section is relatively gentle and has 20 well-preserved watchtowers. The east part is precipitous and has 15 rugged watchtowers on 1000 meter high peaks, creating a journey you will surly never forget.
JinShanLing Great Wall
Just to the west of SiMaTai Great Wall is JinShanLing Great Wall. Partly restored, JinShanLing Great Wall lies in beautiful scenery that is more rolling and forested, whereas SiMaTai Great Wall is more rugged. JinShanLing is another good choice for a more peaceful Great Wall experience. Although a bit narrower than BaDaLing and MuTianYu, JinShanLing Great Wall features complicated and well preserved fortification systems. One can hike all the way from JinShanLing to SiMaTai. End to end, the journey is about 30km and requires about 6 hours or so at a leisurly pace.
A good idea for a two, three or four day trip : combine a visit to Simatai GreatWall and / or JinShanLing Great Wall with a visit to ChengDe, the ancient imperial summer resort, that is on the same line of direction from Beijing (about 2 hours drive further). ChengDe contains a huge imperial park, encircled by a charming mini Great Wall, and a number of interesting temples. ChengDe itself is encircled by mountains and is a picturesque place well worth a visit.
HuangHua Great Wall
HuangHua Great Wall was constructed during the Ming Dynasty and is about 70km north from Beijing.
In summer, all the villages in the area of HuangHua Great Wallare immersed in yellow flowers, hence the name HuangHua ('Yellow Flower'). In autumn, the yellow flowers give way to boundless yellow leaves.HuangHua Great Wall is a good examples of 'Wild Great Wall' - so expect loose rocks and brambles, and be very careful of your footing and which parts you really should not attempt to climb (you can pass around).
JianKou Great Wall
JianKou Great Wall was constructed during the Ming Dynasty and is about 73km north from Beijing. JianKou Great Wall is regarded by some people as the most picturesque section of Great Wall and is a good example of 'Wild Great Wall'. The main section of JianKou Great Wall is built along a mountain ridge with steep cliffs on each side. Therefore, climbing the wall here needs a good level of fitness and great care.
JianKou Great Wall connects with MuTianYu Great Wall, 10km to the east.
JuYongGuan Great Wall
JuYongGuan Great Wall is a Pass that lies in an 18 km long valley named GuanGou in ChangPing County, about 55 km from Beijing City. JuYongGuan is one of the three great passes of the Great Wall of China. In fact, JuYongGuan Great Wall actually has two passes, one to the south and one to the north. The southern one is what we now call JuYongGuan and the northern one is BaDaLing.JuYongGuan rises steeply each side of a fortrified gate that crosses a river (and now a reservoir). There is a temple and other attractions close by. JuYongGuan Great Wall also features some life-size Terracotta Warriors.
JuYongGuan Pass was connected into the Great Wall of China during the Northern and Southern Dynasties period. The JuYongGuan Great Wall we see today was initially built during the Ming dynasty and it received much renovation later. It is a very strategically important place connecting inner China with the area near the northern border. JuYongGuan Great Wall was also of major defensive importance for the city of Beijing.
GuBeiKou Great Wall
GuBeiKou Great Wall is located in north MiYun County about 150 km north east of Beijing. It connects with JinShanLing and then SiMaTai to the east. GuBeiKou provided vital access to a road that runs north-south across the YanShan Mountains. With the PanLong (Coiling Dragon) and WoHu (Crouching Tiger) mountains in the background, this section of the Great Wall is linked to the QingFeng (Green Wind) and DiCui (Piled Verdure) peaks. The ChaoHe River also runs across the Great Wall here from north to south. The main section of GuBeiKou Great Wall joins the PanLong and WoHu mountains into an integral whole to form an impressively strong fortification。
In 1378, the 11th year of HongWu's reign in the Ming dynasty, General Xu Da ordered this section of the Great Wall to be rebuilt and strengthened. Few sections have seen as many battles as GuBeiKou and some of the battles are famous in Chinese history.
On the southern mountain slopes of GuBeiKou Great Wall stands a temple dedicated to Yang Ye, a famous Great Wall garrison general during the Song Dynasty. There are quite a few temples in China dedicated to this general, but this one at GuBeiKou Great Wall is perhaps the earliest.
ShuiGuan Great Wall
ShuiGuan ('Water Pass') Great Wall is a restored section that lies between JuYongGuan Great Wall and Badaling Great Wall where the wall crosses a small river (hence the name). The wall here dates from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). As is the case for the other Ming dynasty defences in this area, the wall itself is constructed with stone blocks topped with brickwork.
Once through the grand archway of the pass itself, one can go either north or south; both quickly lead to steep inclines. The north side is highest and once at the top, which is no mean feat, there are great views; one can easily see Badaling Great Wall in the distance from here. The arrow tower of the pass is an impressive 15 meters tall. Nearby attractions include the Great Wall Stele Forest and the Stone Buddha Temple.
ShuiGuan Great Wall opened to the public in 1995 after restoration work was completed. There are seven watchtowers in the open section.
Video of Badaling Great Wall close to Beijing