I will never get bored with our trips to the Great Wall of China. The history of this 9000 km long wall is so crazy and the scenery so magnificent that it is at the very top of my list of what you MUST experience in China.
So far, we have seen the wall during spring, summer and autumn. Widely different experiences. Now we just need to see the wall covered in snow too.
Here are the three best places we have went with our driver so far.
Mutianyu – Children and elderly friendly
3-4 hours from Tianjin, 1.5 -2 hours from Beijing.
Mutianyu is my favorite, because that part of the wall is so fun and easy to access. If you’re off with small (or big and lazy) children and / or elderly people it is recommended to take the cable car up to the wall. Take a nice hike and return with the toboggan down the mountain or take a lift down. Perfect option for a three generation tour.
Tickets to the wall, toboggan and cable car are purchased in advance in a sometimes very busy shopping center further down the mountain where they speak very little English. A couple of times we stayed at Brickyard hotel that runs a free shuttle bus first to the ticket center and then to the wall. Another time we stayed at the more low key but lovely and cheap Flower Yard. Thy are also able to arrange transport for you.
Yahuangshan – Peaceful and challenging part of the wall
1.5-2 hours drive from Tianjin, 1.5-2 hours from Beijing.
This part of the wall is only partially renovated and can be a bit challenging with narrow, small stairs and loose rocks, but just watch your steps and you will be fine.
We were there on an autumn day in October in a beautiful autumn landscape, the wall surrounded by low clouds. Mysterious, beautiful and peaceful landscape and very few people on the wall, so we had it almost to ourselves. You can be driven to a place on the wall from where you hike along the wall and end up at a monastery. There there is a large car park there, where you can ask your driver to be picked up. The walk takes 1.5 to 2 hours.
Simatai – China’s Venice on the wall
4 hours drive from Tianjin, two hours drive from Beijing
At the Simatai section of the Great Wall the Chinese recently build a replica of the famous Chinese water towns down south. Gubei Water Town. It means that everything in this china-style village with canals passing through is totally fake, but super cosy anyway. I’ve only been there once. On the coldest and rainiest days in the spring, so the images may not give the place great justice but we will go again in October 2017 and hope for better weather. The city has the coolest outdoor scene with perhaps the world’s most spectacular views of the wall that is lit at night. You can climb the wall at night here too. Go for a boat trip in the canals or take a stroll around the narrow cobbled streets with nice handicraft shops, restaurants, cafes and beautiful boutique hotels.