Sunrise on the Great Wall

There is a plethora of attractions just a short and inexpensive distance from Beijing. Probably the most well known is the Great Wall, with many ways to get there its difficult to determine, which will be the easiest or the fastest.

I personally have visited a number of ways from getting the bus to hiring a private driver, which as you can imagine was not the cheapest way but the most convenient and well worth doing if you are on a tight schedule. The driver will charge one flat fee for the entire day, including the toll charge and sometimes even the tickets. If you are planning a trip in a large group, this could work out to be a good option. There is always room to negotiate so never accept the first amount the driver asks for, he will expect bargaining so don’t be shy. The driver will pick you up from the city and take you straight to the wall.

My last visit as to Mutianyu, which dates from 1368. It’s a rather hilly section with watch towers staggered along the restored section. We were on the wall by 7.30am after buying tickets and taking the cable car up to the top. At this time there was no one with us, we were the only people on the wall, which made it well worth getting up early as you can watch the sun rise and enjoy how cool it is.

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These are some of the few photos I have without a large crowd of tourists.

There are a lot of sections to chose from when visiting the Great Wall from Beijing, so no need to chose a part that is quite as hilly as this, as it really was tough climbing up and down with the uneven steps.

A very popular section to visit is at Badaling because it is easy to reach from the city, however this draws a lot of crowds and leads to it always being busy. From Desheng Men you can take bus 919. The majority of the wall opens at 7am, which would be a great time to get there if you can stomach getting up. This section is one of the best options if you plan to take public transport.

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Other sections include Juyong Guan, which is famous for its Buddhist carvings on the stone platforms and still having many of its canons attached along one side of the wall. Jingshanling and Gubeikou each offer a long trek (6 miles and 15 miles respectively) to another section of the wall: Simatai. It is well worth the trek as this part of the wall is largely untouched. Another way to get to Simatai is by bus from Dong Zhi Men bus station. Its bus number 980.

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Mutianyu, on a smoggy day

If you chose to hire a car the flat fee lasts all day so we tied it in with a visit to the Ming Tombs. An imperial burial site during the Ming dynasty. As one of the longest reigns in Chinese history these tombs now cover an enormous area. Split into 10 sections you really need a car to travel around and see them all. We started with the Spirit Way, which was a large path lined with statues of mythic beings and leaders during the imperial reign, like court officials or warriors. Following on from there we went to the Chang Ling Tomb, the burial ground of the Yongle emperor, who is well known for building the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven both in the centre of Beijing. They are yet to excavate his body, along with his wife and the 16 concubines buried with them. Walking around there is an exhibition of artefacts from his reign and a large statue commemorating him. Each tomb has an entrance fee, so if you plan to visit a few in one day its a good idea to buy the group ticket for 120¥, which would save you money. If you only plan to see one to two tombs its best to buy separately, as each tomb is between 30-60¥.

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I would recommend Chang Ling Tomb if you don’t have much time, as it is the oldest and grandest making it the most interesting to visit.

If you would like a driver recommendation or know of any other ways to visit the wall, leave a comment below, would be great to hear suggestions ♥

3 thoughts on “Sunrise on the Great Wall

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