Great Wall of China guide: Mutianyu

A restored but trusty go-to, large enough to accommodate its many visitors

Heavily restored it may be, but it’s got more watchtowers than most, some of the longest stretching views, and you can even ride a giant slide down from the top. Rides aside, this section – the second most visited – offers what many feel is a more tasteful alternative to Badaling.

What’s the story?

The first signs of a great big defensive wall at this location can be traced all the way back to the Northern Qi dynasty in the mid-6th century, though it was during the 14th century and the Ming dynasty (when ambitious construction projects were all the rage) that it was built up fortified to the max, serving as protection for Beijing and nearby imperial tombs.

Of course, it’s undergone a heavy restoration in recent decades, but a tasteful one at that; for all its chairlifts, accessibility and amenities, this remains a hugely popular choice among first-timers and lovers of the wild wall alike.

Why choose this section?

After Badaling, this well-restored section is the second most visited portion of the Great Wall, though it largely manages to avoid the overcrowding of its super-convenient counterpart, all while offering superior views across one of the widest walled valleys.

The amenities stationed at its footings – gift stalls, restaurants, car parks and all – manage to remain relatively hidden by the surrounding woodland, which bursts into life come spring, making for some truly spectacular vistas. Mutianyu also has more watchtowers to admire than most of its contemporaries – 23 in total, over 2.3km – which crown the snaking and dipping wall.

Well served by public transport, Mutianyu is a great choice for those seeking a bucket-list ticker fit with stunning mountain scenery, and an all-round calmer alternative to the hectic Badaling.

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Fun fact Mutianyu is home to the often maligned but undeniably fun Great Wall slide – a single-rider metallic toboggan run that takes worn-out wall walkers back to base camp. Chairlifts are also available both ways for a lower-octane experience.

Be warned While, as a rule of thumb, Mutianyu is relatively uncrowded, during national holidays and weekends, it can still attract a veritable horde of tourists, though its more distant stretches away from the main points of entry usually remain peaceful.

Hikers say ’While Mutianyu is fully restored, at either end of the park area you’ll find some unrestored wall. A popular way to get a look is to hop out of the last tower on the northern side and hike up towards the Ox Horn, where a steep and rough line of Great Wall heads up to a peak. If you really want a hike, a better way is to begin at Jiankou and follow the wall all the way to finish at Mutianyu.’

Distance from the city 77km

Getting there By bus: Take the 916 Express service from Dongzhimen Bus Terminal out to Huairou Bei Dajie (12RMB; around 1 hour, traffic depending; runs 5.50am-7.50pm); from there, the local H50, H36 or H23 services all stop at Mutianyu, taking around half an hour, all for 7RMB. Alternatively, on arrival in Huairou, you’ll no doubt be approached by every man and his van offering to take you the remainder of the way – a convenient option, but don’t pay more than 100RMB for a round trip.

Opening hours and tickets
Peak season (April 1-October 31): 7am-6.30pm.
Off-peak (November 1-March 31): 7.30am-5.30pm.
Entrance, 45RMB; 25RMB (concessions). Cable car, 10RMB (single); 25RMB (return).

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