Let me first tell you... I spent a long time looking at this. Did you know that the GReat Wall is not one big long wall? There are five main sections of the Great Wall you can visit from Beijing and there are pros and cons for all of them. Plus there are other wild sections too. This means there are lots of options on where to visit. I'm here to make the case for the Mutianyu Section because we ended up having the best time here and honestly, it makes the most sense for many travelers. While further than other parts of the wall from Beijing (45 miles, 1 1/2 hours by car), it was worth the extra drive and time needed to get there.
Whether with friends, families, or a group - see why I think you should visit the Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall.
It is extremely well-preserved. Many sections are crumbling and falling apart from years and years of wear and tear. This section was recently restored and is definitely very beautiful.
The views are incredible. You can see the watch towers coming down over the mountains. The trees and scenery are also very green. It's far enough away from Beijing that the pollution is not as bad as other sections either. This makes the views along the wall awesome.
It has a cable car and luge tube to ride. We took the cable car up and back to save time. When we got there the luge was already closed, but this sounds like such a fun way to get down from the Great Wall. We were definitely disappointed we didn't get to experience it, but the cable car gave us an awesome view of the wall from above.
It's one of the oldest sections of the Great Wall. It was built during the Qi Dynasty (400 - 500 AD), meaning it is 1500 years old. When we stepped on it, I was experiencing the same steps that so many people had taken before (although this section is restored, so know that it is nice partially because of that). It was powerful!
You can hike for 1 1/2 miles along this section to another section of the Great Wall - Jiankou Section, going inside the watch towers, and seeing the architecture of different dynasties as they changed and rebuilt the wall. It's the longest section available to hike or walk. Jiankou Section is not preserved or restored so it has a very different feel. To me, this adds to the Mutianyu section being the best because you can hike from a preserved area to an non-preserved one and experience both.
It is well-preserved and there were almost no people there. We basically got to be there alone. It was just wonderful to have room to breath after being in such populated areas and experience a place as special as the Great Wall without the crowds. My parents visited the Great Wall just a month before I did and there were so many pictures where they went, I wasn't sure what to expect. I researched so long for this one. I didn't want to be in big crowds if I could at all avoid them. The research paid off and we experienced the Great Wall almost alone.
So, now that I have convinced you that you should go to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, here are some tips to help you make it happen.
Public transit from Beijing is possible, but can be delayed and tricky. If you do want to take public transit, check out how here. There is no direct bus from downtown Beijing. Book a private tour instead that allows flexibility and doesn't require visits to factories. This is often a feature of tours in China meant to have you buy products and feels inauthentic. We used a tour that was private and was $60 a person. It included transportation, lunch, and entry into the Great Wall.
When you get there, you get tickets, walk through an area of shops, take a bus, and then take the cable car. This finally brings you onto the Great Wall. It will take you a bit to get to the actual wall. Plan ahead and make sure you have plenty of time.
You can get up by hiking, taking the cable car, or the luge (to get down). The luge closes the earliest (30 minutes before the wall closes) so plan ahead if you want to take it!
Entry is only about $6, but the luge and cable car are about $15 each. You can buy the tickets based on timed entry when you arrive.
Because this section is less populated, there is less supervision. Be vigilant and careful while here. There are not many guard rails or people watching over tourist. If you go with kids, definitely stay close!