History of the Great Wall:
The Great Wall of China is one of the world’s great engineering marvels. The original wall was started over 2,000 years ago and an estimated 180 million cubic meters of earth were used to build it. Officially, the wall is 8,851.8 km (5,500 miles) long, although in many places the wall is non-existent or just mounds of earth. During the years, needy villagers have pillaged the wall and have reduced many of the sections to nothing more than rubble.
Where to go near Beijing:
There is over 550 km (342 miles) of wall in Beijing, so you have literally miles of choices. Here are three choices that I researched:
This is the most popular choice, and is overrun with tourists. Expect lots of touts and souvenir hawkers as well as restored brickwork, but since it’s the closest to Beijing, it’s a good choice if you have a time crunch. 45 Yuan / 25 Yuan for students. Open 6 am to 7 pm in the summer and 7 am to 6 pm in the winter. Take a tour or local buses 877, 919 or 880
Less touristy than Badaling, Mutianyu is a better option if you have a bit more time. It still has great views, cable cars and is easily accessible from Beijing. Plus it has a pretty cool toboggan ride. 45 Yuan / 25 Yuan for students. 7 am to 6:30 pm summer, 7:30 am to 5:30 pm winter. Take the special bus 867 which leaves at 7 am and 8:30 am from Dongzihmen bus stop (near the metro station) and returns at 2 pm and 4 pm. You can also take bus 916 to Huairou and get off at Mingzhu Guanchang bus stop. Originally I planned on going to Mutianyu, however bus station staff told me to take Bus 980, which is the wrong bus. (It takes you to Miyun, where you can then take a taxi to the wall at Jinshanling, which I ended up doing). If you want to go to Mutianyu, make sure you don’t take this bus, as a taxi ride from there is very expensive.
(All pictures taken at Jinshanling) The best of both world, Jinshanling has been renovated in some parts, which gives you a sense of its old grandeur and some parts are left crumbling in on themselves, ensuring you an authentic wall experience. There is a hike between Jinshanling to Simatai, but it is currently closed (November 2014). Still, you can hike a good a good 6 or 7 km in the opposite direction and experience awe-inspiring views. The wall here is undulating to say the least, so get ready to sweat a bit. Watch out for anyone that is too helpful at the top and who wants to walk along the wall with you, providing you advice along the way. You may feel obliged to buy their expensive souvenirs at the end of the journey. 65 Yuan in Summer / 55 in Winter (starting November 16th). Take bus 980 to the town of Miyun and then take a taxi to the wall. We paid 100 Yuan for a round trip per person. Try not to pay more. It’s easier the more people you have in the group.