How can I visit the Great Wall of China?

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Answered by: John, An Expert in the China - The Great Wall Category
The Great Wall of China is a must-see attraction for any visitor to the city of Beijing. The wall itself is about one hour by bus north of the Chinese capital. There are several options open to tourists wanting to visit the Great Wall.

There are several sections of the Great Wall that are open to the public. Two of the most accessible are Mutianyu and Badaling. If you choose to take a tour organised by your hotel, you may well find yourself going to Mutianyu. These tours are vastly overpriced you are simply paying for the privilege of being escorted from your hotel by a guide. They may include a visit to the Ming Tombs, a lunch meal and several jade jewelry stores. Most visitors going to the Great Wall do not particularly want to visit these other attractions, at least not on that day. The tour guide gets a commission for any sales at the jade outlets.

When you finally arrive at Mutianyu there is little time to actually see the wall (on many occasions, less than one hour). This section of the wall is spectacular, very steep with lots of watchtowers and lots of photo opportunities. It is one of the Great Wall's best preserved sections and used to protect the city of Beijing and the Ming Tombs from any invasion from the north. The original wall was built during the 6th century, although the wall that stands today was rebuilt in 1569. It has in recent decades undergone extensive restoration work.

The section of the Great Wall of China that receives the most visitors is at Badaling, it is 80 kilometres or 50 miles from the center of Beijing and dates from the early 16th century. It housed a military outpost during the Ming Dynasty and offered protection to the Juyongguan Pass, a strategic position in this mountainous region to the north of Beijing.

Badaling was the Great Wall's first section to be opened to tourists in 1957 after undergoing restoration work. The area now includes hotels and restaurants as well as a cable car. The Badaling Expressway gives it a direct link by road to central Beijing.

Beijing's suburban railway line S2, enables tourists to visit the wall on trains direct from Beijing's North Railway Station. Another option to independently visit the wall is to take a bus. The 877 bus service leaves Deshengmen Bus Station in Beijing to go directly to Badaling. The bus station is close to Jishuitan subway station on the Blue-line of the Beijing Metro system.

Buses leave frequently, during peak periods there is a line of people waiting to get on the bus. As soon as a bus is full, it leaves, the long line of people is constantly moving as each bus is filled and replaced by another. For the return journey the bus station at Badaling is across the road from where you get off the bus. It is a few minute's walk (mostly uphill) to the entrance to the wall. This option is so much cheaper than an organised tour, and you get to choose how long you want your visit to the wall to be.

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