The 13 Best Places to Visit the Great Wall of China

The best places to see the Great Wall of China

The 13 best places to visit the Great Wall of China include 1) Mutianyu, 2) Jinshanling, 3) Simatai, 4) Badaling, 5) Jiankou, 6) Gubeikou, 7) Juyongguan, 8) Huangyaguan, 9), Huanghuacheng 10) Shanhai Pass 11) Jiayuguan, 12) the Han Dynasty Great Wall, 13) China Southern Great Wall.

When you think of the Great Wall of China, you think one of mankind’s most incredible architectures and greatest ancient engineering achievements. It was first built during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period (770BC-221BC). After Emperor Qinshihuang in the Qin Dynasty unified China, the Great Wall was expanded massively to prevent the northern nomads from invading the central plains. The existing Great Wall with a total length of 6,700 kilometers was mainly built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It traverses seven provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, including Hebei, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu.

1. Mutianyu - the best restored and essence of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall

A senior traveler hike Mutianyu Great Wall

The most popular section of the Great Wall among foreign travelers, Mutianyu was built by famous general Qi Jiguang of Ming Dynasty. It looks magnificent, with 35 exquisite watch towers and fortresse scattered on the 5400-m wall.

Location: in Hairou area, 73km from downtown Beijing

Connecting with Juyongguan Pass and Gubeikou

Highlights & Activities: cable car, toboggan, hiking, sightseeing

Suitable for: everyone, including family with kids

Recommended Tour: Private Beijing Great Wall Day Tour (Different Parts Available)

2. Jinshanling - celebrated as the most beautiful Great Wall

Jinshanling Great Wall in spring season with greenery

Semi-restored and semi-wild, Jinshanling is inspirational and features the most popular hiking trails of the Great Wall. There are 67 watchtowers, 2 beacon towers and 5 fortresses. Jinshanling is also the best place for the Great Wall photography.

Location: in Miyun County, 140km from downtown Beijing

Connecting with Longyukou Pass and Wangjinlou Pass

Highlights & Activities: hiking, photography

Suitable for: hiking lovers and photography enthusiasts, honeymooners who wish to see the Great Wall sunrise

Recommended Tour: 3-day Great Wall Trekking with Camping Tour

3. Simatai - The wide, authentic Great Wall featuring night tour

The Simatai Great Wall built on the cliffs

The only the Great wall that retains its original appearance of Ming Dynasty, Simatai is steep, precipitous and elaborately designed. In 2012, Simatai was named "the top 25 must-see sights in the world" by The Times.

Location: in Miyun County, 120km from downtown Beijing

Connecting with Wangjinglou Tower and Houchuankou Pass

Highlights & Activities: hiking, sunset, night tour

Suitable for: hiking lovers, family with kids

Recommended Tour:3-day Classic Beijing and Simatai Great Wall Night Tour

4. Badaling – the best-preserved but most crowed Great Wall

The Badaling Great Wall in summer season

It has always been a place of contention for military strategists and an important barrier for the capital Beijing. So far, more than 300 celebrities including Richard Nixon and Margaret Thatcher have visited here.

Location: in Yanqing, 72km from downtown Beijing

Connecting with Juyongguan Pass

Highlights & Activities: cable car, sightseeing

Suitable for: everyone, including seniors and wheelchair-users

5. Jiankou – one of the steepest, most authentic and wildest Great Wall

The andcient fortress of Jinkou Great Wall

Jiankou Great Wall is so named because the whole section is winding in W shape, like a bow-buckle arrow – a majestic arrow built on the perilous peaks and cliffs. Today it has been weathered and eroded without being restored. Jiankou is also an iconic image of the Great Wall.

Location: in Huairou District, 100km from downtown Beijing

Connecting with Mutianyu

Highlights & Activities: hiking, trekking, photography

Suitable for: hikers and adventurers

6. Gubeikou – an ancient military fortress with the most complete system of the Great Wall

Gubeikou Great Wall in the Mist

Gubeikou was the fortress of the Great Wall between Shanhaiguan and Juyongguan, and it was the throat of the Liaodong plain and Inner Mongolia to the central Plains. It was always the place that was contested by the warlords. Especially in the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, the battles happened in Gubeikou were never stopped.

Location: Luanping County, Chengde City, 146km from Beijing

Consists of Wohushan, Panlongshan, Jinshanling and Simatai

Highlights & Activities: hiking, trekking

Suitable for: hikers and adventurers

7. Huangyaguan – the Great Wall Marathon

Hike The Great Wall at Huangyaguan section

Founded in 1999, the Huangyaguan Great Wall International Marathon is honored as "one of the world's 10 coolest Marathons" and also one of the 10 must-run events selected by the US media. While experiencing the race, participants can also take in beautiful views and experience the vicissitudes of the Great Wall.

Location: 28km north of jizhou District, Tianjin

Highlights & Activities: sightseeing

Suitable for: everyone

Recommended Tour:7-day Great Wall Hiking Tour from Huangyaguan to Crouching Tiger, Jinshanling, Gubeikou, Jiankou, Mutianyu

8. Juyongguan – one of the most important forts of the Great Wall

The ancient fortress of Juyongguan Great Wall

Juyongguan is the gateway into Beijing from the north. The highlights of visiting Juyong Pass are the tall and majestic Guancheng and its rolling crenel, as well as the exquisite stone carvings of Yuntai.

Location: Changping District, 60km from Beijing

Highlights & Activities: sightseeing

Suitable for: everyone

9. Huanghuacheng – the Great Wall emerges from water

Huanghuacheng Great Wall water scene

Three parts of the wall traverses the water. Huanghuacheng not only guards the north gate of the capital, but also serves as an important gateway for guarding the Ming Tombs.

Location: Jiuduhe Town, Huairou District, 65km of downtown Beijing

Connecting with Mutianyu

Highlights & Activities: sightseeing, hiking, camping, boat cruise

Suitable for: everyone

10. Shanhai Pass – where the Great Wall meets the sea

Shanhaiguan Pass Great Wall meets the sea

It was thought to be the east end of the Great Wall until 1990 when Hushan (Tiger Mountain) Great Wall in Dandong City, Liaoning Province was identified as the east terminal.

Location: 15km northeast of Qinhuangdao, Hebei

Connecting with Old Dragon's Head

Highlights & Activities: sightseeing, hiking, camping, boat cruise

Suitable for: everyone

11. Jiayuguan - celebrated as the greatest fort under heaven

The original site of Jiayuguan Great Wall

The west end of the Great Wall, JIayuguan is also a historical site of the Silk Road, with the walls traversing the wild gobi desert, offering an exotic sense of ruin and desolation.

Location: 5km west of Jiayuguan City, Gansu Province

Highlights & Activities: sightseeing

Suitable for: everyone

12. The Han Dynasty Great Wall

A Great Wall was built in Han Dynasty and stretched over 10,000 kilometers from Lop Nur, Xinjiang in the west, to the territory of the People's Republic of Mongolia in the north, and to the southeast of Jilin Province in the east, longer than the Ming Dynasty. It used trenches or natural terrain as a barrier, made up of beacon towers, castles, pavilions, and other fortifications. Through 2000 years of erosion, sand burial and human destruction, most of the Great Wall of Han Dynasty has been destroyed.

13. The South Great Wall of China

The stairs of the south Great Wall of China

With a total length of more than 200km, it is also known as the Great Wall in the Miao nationality’ region. The South China Great Wall is an significant site to study the history how the rulers of the Ming and Qing dynasties conquest the remote ethnic minority.

Location: Fenghuang County, Tujia-Miao Autonomous Prefecture, West Hunan Province

Recommended Tour:16-day China Great Wall Panorama Tour

Further reading:

  • Unique Things to do on the Great Wall of China
  • 6 Best Great Wall Hiking Routes

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