A great option for those wanting to avoid the tourist crowds, Mutianyu has been more sympathetically restored than Badaling yet is still reachable by public transport. The wall weaves gently along the hills through green trees and beautiful scenery. You can choose either the manageable half-hour hike up to the wall, or alternatively take the scenic chair lift.
Originally built over 1400 year ago, the present day structure was restored in 1986 and resembles the 1568 (Ming dynasty) construction. It is notable for having one of the highest densities of watchtowers of any section of great wall, providing many opportunities to explore these fascinating structures. Unusually, it also has arrow slits facing both sides of the wall, rather than solely defending against the north.
Most beautiful section
The northeastern section (particularly between watchtowers 14 and 23) is generally considered to have the most beautiful scenery. You can take the cable car directly to watchtower 14 or walk up from watchtower 8.
Zhengguan (watchtower 6)
This particularly magnificent gate was a highly defended spot along the wall. The two story high construction includes three hollow watchtowers as well as significant storage space for soldiers provisions.
For a more adrenaline-filled visit, opt to take the toboggan (100 RMB) back down after your hike. A popular route for those travelling with kids is to take the cable car up to watchtower 14, walk east to watchtower 6 and take the toboggan ride down.
If you’d rather avoid the hour walk to the wall, you can opt to take the scenic chair lift ride for 80 RMB one way or 100 RMB return.
Unrestored Hiking Route
While Mutianyu has been restored, its northwestern end connects to a completely unrestored section. You can have a quick taste of the real Great Wall by hopping out the northwestern watchtower 23 and walking up to the Ox Horn at the peak of the hill. Alternatively, serious hikers can experience the Great Wall in its full unrestored glory by hiking from Jiankou all the way to Mutianyu (you’ll need a good half day, good weather and suitable hiking kit).
Tickets: 45 RMB.
Opening hours: 7:30 – 17:30 (winter), 7:00 – 18:30 (summer).
Recommend visit: 3 hours.
Transport: Take metro line 2 to Dongzhimen (东直门), followed by bus 916 to Huairou North Street (怀柔北大街). Cross the road and take bus H23/H24/H35/H36 or taxi (approx. 80 RMB) to the Great Wall ticket office. From here, it’s a short minibus trip (15 RMB return) to the start of the climb.