Must see attractions in The Great Wall

  • Sights in The Great Wall

    Jiankou Great Wall

    For stupefying hikes along perhaps Beijing’s most incomparable section of Wall, head to Jiankou, where white-knuckle sections like ‘Upward Flying Eagle’ and ‘Heavenly Ladder’ will make you marvel at just how they built the thing in the first place. Accessible from Xizhazi Village (西栅子村, Xīzhàzi Cūn) via the town of Huairou, and connected to Mutianyu Great Wall, you'll need a car and driver to hike here, and someone to guide you up onto the wall.

  • Sights in The Great Wall

    Jinshanling

    Jinshanling Great Wall, near the town of Gubeikou, has been thoroughly restored, but it's distant enough from Beijing that it sees far fewer tourists than the likes of Mutianyu. That means fewer people to interrupt your hike along a steep section of Wall that winds through stunning and remote mountainous terrain. Jinshanling is also the finish (or the start) of an adventurous 6½-hour hike from Gubeikou.

  • Sights in The Great Wall

    Mutianyu

    Famed for its Ming-era guard towers and excellent views, the 3km-long section of wall at Mutianyu, northeast of Beijing in Huairou County, is largely a Ming dynasty structure that was built upon an earlier Northern Qi dynasty edifice, and restored in the 1980s. Considered the ideal introduction for the Great Wall newbie, it's easy to reach from the city, less crowded than Badaling, and is well set up for families.

  • Sights in The Great Wall

    Simatai

    Simatai, built during the reign of Ming dynasty emperor Hongwu, is famed for the precarious steepness of its battlements as they soar up the 'heavenly ladder' of the Yan Mountains. Heavily restored and reopened in 2014, its once rambling charm has been diluted by the faux-historic Gubei Water Town, although an admittedly nice feature is how part of the Wall is illuminated (and can be walked on) after dark.

  • Sights in The Great Wall

    Badaling

    Historically a strategic portal between the fertile lands of the capital and the more arid plains beyond, Badaling has been called the ‘Key to Northern China’, and is the site for what has become the defining section of the Great Wall. On this stretch of battlements, restored in the mid-1950s and again in 1987, Nixon, Thatcher, Reagan, Gorbachev and even Queen Elizabeth II have posed for the cameras. It's also the busiest and most commercial Great Wall destination by far.

  • Sights in Badaling

    China Great Wall Museum

    This sizeable museum blusters through a history of the Wall, from its origins as an earthen embankment in the far-off Qin dynasty (221–207 BC) to the Ming-era battlements you see today. There are decent English captions, and enthusiasts will appreciate the sections on warfare.

  • Sights in Simatai

    Gubei Water Town

    Cashing in on the magnificent Simatai Great Wall that overlooks it, this faux-historic village of waterways and old courtyards is a commercial venture built in 2014. There's not much to do here beyond wandering about, shopping and admiring the light show after dark.