How could I ever visit China and not go to one of the most iconic places on Earth? I just couldn’t! The Great Wall of China was on my must-do list of attractions and even though I read that it’s super crowded, most of it is rebuilt and not original, it is still one of those places you have to see at least once in your life.
Because I was in Beijing during an odd time- national celebration of 70 years since the end of WWII- most of Beijing was shut down (including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square). Some subway lines were shut down and lots of roads were blocked. At one point, even a curfew was established so we needed to be back at the hostel before 8pm. During this time, one of the tours that were available was to the Great Wall and with several restrictions on travel, it turned out that it was one of the best times to visit it.
There are 3 main places you can access the Great Wall of China from Beijing, or at least the most popular: i.e. to where you can easily find tours. These three access points are Badaling, Mutianyu and Simatai. They go from most popular (i.e. more crowded, but cheaper) to least popular (i.e. further, more costly). These tours are usually done on different days of the week, so technically you can do all three if you would like. One important thing is to check with your accommodation’s front desk when checking in to see when they offer the tours and to reserve it in advance, specially if you are only in Beijing for a few days. In my case, I had to reserve a day in advance.
The tour cost around RMB300 and included lunch. It did not include about RMB150 for the cable car, which in my opinion is a must do if you want to see a lot of the wall instead of sweating your butt off up steep slopes and stairs. Don’t get me wrong, usually I am all for the exercise, but the tours are usually on a set schedule- only a couple hours at the wall, so it would be a shame if you didn’t get to see the most beautiful parts of the wall -usually the furthest from the starting point- because you chose to save money. But that is just my opinion.
The place was pretty empty and it rained while we were there. I forgot a rain jacket, so I was soaked by the time we came back down the wall. The good part of rain, though is that the wall empties out while people take shelter in the observation towers and you can get pictures of almost no one in it.
The Great Wall of China was absolutely fantastic. Yes, it is just bricks and cement, but the magnitude of it and the surrounding mountains make it worthwhile!
Have you been? What part did you visit?