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How to Choose Your Best Part of the Great Wall

About the author, Vera Zhao
Vera Zhao is the product manager at Odyssey Tours. She has been in the line of Asia travel for 10+ years and stacks up helpful tips for tours to China, Southeast Asia and South Asia.
Write to for any questions or read more tips by Vera Zhao >>

Winding Simatai                         Wild Jiankou                                  Crowded Badaling

Now you know Great Wall in China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World; and standing on it gives you a life time experiences. You know it‘s worth it, but how to choose the best wall?

That’s why China Odyssey Tours received tons of questions asking which is the best part of Great Wall is shall we see? Is it safe for the kids to do the trekking? Shall I travel alone or tour with others? How shall we arrange a tour to include half/one day hiking on the Great Wall …?

Well, unless you’re a super fan of the Great Wall, it’s not necessary to see them all (redundant time-consuming), therefore, it’s wise that you compare, and decide which one is friendlier depending on time/hiking intensity for you or your family. The general information below about each section of the Great Wall near Beijing may help you quickly identify your ideal part. If more details of the Great Wall is what you are looking for, then go to my articles introducing what to do and tips about the Great Wall at below sections.

Mutianyu                                    Jiankou                                  Huanghuacheng  

Simatai                                      Jinshanling                              Gubeikou

Badaling Great Wall & Badaling Remnant Great Wall


Badaling: The “most” one - the most magnificent, most famous, most well-restored, and most crowded.

Mutianyu: Slightly untamed version of Badaling with equal magnificence, well-developed but quieter, a good alternative to Badaling.

Badaling Ruined part: Broken wall, scattered bricks; steep, short trip.

Simatai: Less restored yet well preserved with one intact section, wild and cragged.

Jiankou: Totally un-restored, original appearance since built in Ming Dynasty in 1368;most precipitous, wider than Jinshanling or Mutianyu.

Jinshanling: Pristine and majestic look, most densely gathered watch towers, well-preserved military defense system.

Huanghuacheng: Built near a reservoir. Partially restored, a stark contrast between old and new wall.

Gubeikou: Far from city, connects Jinshanling at its east side. Raw, simple but magnificent.


Badaling The most visited, most crowded (actually overcrowded at south part of Badaling)all year round, however, you could still experience less crowded Badaling by walking towards the north side of it.

Mutianyu Less crowded compared with Badaling, but more visitors than other parts of the wall.

Simatai May encounter some vacationers, a good place to avoid mass tourist groups.

Jinshanling Not cluttered with tourists, encounter a couple of hikers en route.

Ruined Badaling:  Less visited section.

Huanghuacheng Not crowded in general especially in weekdays.

Gubeikou Few visitors; encounter few hikers along the way.

Jiankou  Considerably less explored, least-visited and sometimes you may encounter no one along the whole trip.

Physical Demand

Badaling Broader passage way, few steep steps with guardrail in most parts, the easiest one to climb/moderate climbing.

Mutianyu  A bit steeper than Badaling but easier to walk than the rest.

Gubeikou  Connected with Jinshanling, wall condition similar to Jinshanling.

Jinshanling  Less challenging, but still have to climb sometimes.

Simatai:  Some steep steps, physical demanding, can be strenuous.

Badaling Ruined part Many over 60 degree slopes with scattered bricks and crushed stones.

Huanghuacheng:  Tough hike, no facilities, some part include very steep ascent and descent.

Jiankou  Most strenuous part, professional hiking gear is required.

Suggested Duration

Badaling: 2 -3 hrs on the wall; it takes 2-2.5 hours to hike its north side, 1-1.5 hours to hike to its south side.      

Mutianyu: Multiple choices available. Start from the 8th watch tower, you can either head to the 1st watch tower to the east (requires 1-1.5 hours),or head to the 20th watch tower at the west, (requires about 2.5-3 hours). An extensive Mutianyu to Jiankou hiking needs around 5 hours.

Jiankou: Need around 5 hrs to hike to Mutianyu.

Simatai: As Simatai to Jinshanling connected section closed, it only takes around 1.5-2 hrs to walk within Simatai.

Jinshanling: As Simatai to Jinshanling connected section closed, you could only hike west to Gubeikou, which takes you about 5-6 hours.

Gubeikou: You need about 5-6 hours to hike from Gubeikou to Jinshanling.

Huanghuacheng: Walk within Huanghuacheng needs 1.5-2 hours; an extensive hiking to Xishuiyu needs about 4 hours.

Badaling Ruined part: 1.5-2 hrs on the wall. 

Supporting Facilities

Badaling: Cable car, handrails

Mutianyu: Cable car, toboggan, handrails

Simatai: Chair lift, toboggan, zip line (on restoration)

Badaling Ruined part: Handrails

Jinshanling: Cable car

Jiankou: None

Gubeikou: None

Huanghuacheng: None

When to Go

Well-restored parts with good wall condition and equipped with aids like Mutianyu and Badaling, are suitable for travelers to go all year round. Less maintained parts like Simatai, Jinshanling, Jiankou, or Badaling Ruied part… are suggested to go in summer and autumn (from May to October).


Location & Distance from Beijing

Badaling: the nearest, around 75 km, about 1.5 hrs’ drive from Beijing.

Badaling Ruined part:around 75 km from Beijing, about 1.5 hrs’ drive; 10 km southwest of Badaling.

Huanghuacheng: around 85 km, about 2 hrs’ drive from Beijing.

Mutianyu: around 95 km from Beijing, about 2 hrs’ drive, adjacent to Jiankou.

Jiankou: around 100 km,about 2 hrs’ drive, adjacent to Mutianyu.

Simatai: around 140 km,about 2.5 hrs’ drive from Beijing, with Jinshanlin to the east.

Jinshanling: around 140 km, about 2.5 hrs’ drive from Beijing, adjacent to Simatai and Gubeikou.

Gubeikou: around 145 km, about 2.5 hrs’ drive from Beijing, near Simatai and Jinshanling.

Sketch Map 

Originates from Google

In the end, which part of the Great Wall would I recommend the most?

Overall, I highly recommend the Mutianyu Section of Great Wall - it is family-friendly, well-developed, less crowded than Badaling, more accessible than other parts of the wall, well, lots of reasons. You can walk the wall, admire the views and take advantages of the amenities. Every year, many Odyssey clients choose to go to Mutianyu Great Wall and they all return with good feedback.  But anyway, it depends on your own preference.

Classic China Tour with Great Wall for First-time Visitors

Intact or ruined, far or near, crowded or peaceful…The Great Wall always has something to offer. By comparing the information, you probably already get YOUR ideal part of wall in mind. To know more details and tips of the Great Wall, you can reach us via