Although situated just a few kilometres to the southeast of Badaling
, the well-restored Shuiguan manages to remain uncrowded. While it may lack the length and overall grandeur of its neighbours, its accessibility from the city make it a great choice for those pushed for time.
Translating to ‘Water Pass’, Shuiguan’s name comes from the stream that used to flow beneath the Zhengguan Arrow Tower, the section’s centrepiece which sits at the bottom of a steep-sided valley, now flanked by some lofty portions of wall known for the ‘V’ shape they form.
Given its proximity to the capital, it used to serve as an important final barrier, in an area that would have already proven geographically intimidating enough, with its steep climbs making it ideal for archers shooting down from on high.
Shuiguan is along the section of wall built under the direction of General Qi Jiguang in the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644); it lay untouched until the late ‘80s, when it underwent several years of refurbishment before reopening to the public in 1995.
Put simply, Shuiguan is close to Beijing, (relatively) uncrowded, and picture-perfect restored – three qualities that many people look for in a quick Great Wall fix.
Although steep in places, it’s fitted with handrails throughout to keep you steady, and still offers some impressive mountain scenery once you reach the peaks. Currently, around 4km of wall is accessible from the tourist centre, taking in nine towers along the way – it’s not the longest, but it’s a pleasant little leg-stretcher.
Of all the sections going, this was the one that Michael Jordan was taken to on a visit to China in 2004. He had a great time
Be warned Although its visitors are far fewer, Shuiguan is en route to Badaling, so a trip out here can also be hampered by traffic at peak times, most notably during the week-long National Day Holiday in the first week of October.
Distance from the city 63km
Getting there Shuiguan is en route to Badaling, so the direct 919 bus service is also the one you’ll need; it leaves from Deshengmen Bus Station (near Jishuitan subway station, Line 2), taking around two hours, traffic depending – expect longer waits and jams on weekends and public holidays. 12RMB, 5.30am-6.30pm; return, 5.45am-7pm.
Opening hours and tickets
Peak season (April 1-October 31): 6.30am-5pm.
Off-peak (November 1-March 31): 7.30am-4.30pm.
Entrance, 40RMB; 20RMB (students); free for children under 1.2m.