One of the first things we discovered the day we landed in Beijing was the fact that there are too many people everywhere. The second day we planned to go to the Great Wall and we didn’t want to feel like when we visited the Summer Palace. Solution?
- Get up very early and be the first one to reach the Great Wall in the morning.
- Choose Mutianyu section.
Mutianyu is not so crowded as Badaling section, it is maybe not so well preserved in some parts, but it is exactly equal spectacular, or maybe more, because you can avoid having thousands in your photos and you can walk up and down calmed and fresh.
Mutianyu is located 65 km to the north from Beijing and there is no direct public transport. You need to commute from underground to bus in the Dongzhimen public transport hub. We took the 916 Express bus, that stopped in Huairou Beidajie Station. Once there, we expected to take another bus to the Great Wall entrance. However, it was so early in the morning that there was no bus available. The first bus from Huairou Beidajie was at 10:30!
We didn’t know it and we could neither understand the information pannel in the bus stop. However, a smart taxi driver came to us and explained, using a direct transator app, that we didn’t have any other option than taking a taxi to the entrance of the Great Wall. At first we didn’t trust her. It is common that taxi drivers want to cheat you.
But, after checking and checking again the timetable in the information panel, we understood it, and yes, the taxi driver was right. She approached us to the entrance and we gave her an extra tip. We arrived at the entrance at 8:30 after 2.5 hours journey. We bought the ticket that allowed us to go up by chairlift and go down riding through a metal toboggan.
Mutianyu section has 5.4 km available for hiking. It was built during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-557) and it was rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to strengthen its defensive potential. It is between 7 and 8 metres high and between 4 and 5 metres wide. Both sides of the Great Wall have parapets to defend against enemies. In fact we used them to breath after some hard slopes.
There are 23 watch towers distributed all along the section and some of them have the different levels opened to the visitors, allowing perfect viewpoints of the forests, mountains and the snake-like shape of the wall itself. We discovered the Great Wall with some mist in the higher points which created a special atmosphere for both of us. We created this timelapse to get a proper souvenir:
The day started with cool temperature compared with Beijing. However, after two hours walking up and down and temperature rise we started sweating like we did the rest of our travel to China. We took advantage of the mist to refresh ourselves, drink some water and continue to the end of our visit: the toboggan.
The toboggan is another reason to visit Mutianyu instead of Badaling. It is a nice way to go down with some extra adrenaline although it will depend who you have in front of you. I had a father with his baby, so I could not speed up too much. However, it was a nice experience itself.
We had lunch in a restaurant close to the entrance of the Great Wall and left later to Beijing. On that day we still had time to visit the Lama Temple and Wangfujing Street where I ate scorpions… but this will be explained in another post. We hope that this post helps you to plan a journey to the Great Wall and have photos like ours with no people. In times of Covid-19 and empty monuments, you need to know that the Great Wall can be also empty with no illness around.