The Great Wall of China tips & advice

Things to do...

Show the kids something they’ll never forget. It’s easy to dismiss the Great Wall as too ‘grown up’, but it’s actually well set up for children. How far you walk and how fast is up to you; there’s no pressure to trek for miles on end. At Jinshanling, there are cable cars up and down; Badaling has a rollercoaster ride to transport you from A to B; and Mutianyu’s toboggan run zips down the mountain in three minutes! With steps to scramble up and watchtowers for soaking up the incredible atmosphere, this is a foolproof way of disguising education as fun. Explore ancient history. If you took all the defensive walls created in China over the last 2,000 years, and lined them end to end, they would reach around the Earth 1.25 times! It’s almost impossible to comprehend the Great Wall and you definitely don’t need to be a history buff to be mindblown by its story. Besides its standing as a military masterpiece, it is an astonishing feat of architecture, and as you walk its sections you will be captivated by this enchanting outdoor museum. Thrive on adventure. Lifting, dropping, tilting, and at times almost folding back on itself, the Great Wall of China is as much a journey into the country’s past as it is a physical adventure that will see you walk, climb and scramble. Whether you prefer the rough, rugged and perilously steep ridges at Jiankou, or are keener on an amble around Simatai’s unique architecture, you will find your own personal adventure at the Great Wall.

Things not to do…

Avoid walking. You don’t have to walk the Wall – there are cable cars at the most popular sections – but queuing for a ride doesn’t exactly scream ‘Great Wall adventure’. The further away from Beijing, the less crowded and more surrounded by nature the Wall becomes, but out here your only option is two feet (or two wheels). Your walk can be as challenging as you make it, but reaching a watchtower and seeing the Wall snake across the landscape like a never ending ribbon is a vision that will remain etched in your mind forever.
Expect remote luxury. While the options increas the closer to Beijing you are, if you do opt to walk the Wall’s remoter sections, you’ll be staying at much more basic hotels and guesthouses in mountain villages en route. This is all about getting under the skin of local culture, so don’t expect room service and feather pillows. You’ll be comfortable, but your accommodation won’t be fancy, so bring a sleeping bag liner and pillow case to ensure you bed down restfully.
Be antisocial. If crowds get your goat, avoid China’s ‘Golden Week’, or National Day Vacation, from 29th September to 10th October. Everyone in the country – that’s 1.4 billion people – has this week off. Just because the Great Wall is in China, doesn’t mean the Chinese are bored of it and they flock here in their thousands when they can. Conversely, outside of this time if you head out to more remote sections of the Wall, you’ll barely see another soul.

Our top Great Wall of China Vacation

China tailor made vacation

China tailor made vacation

Explore the Terracotta Warriors, Forbidden City and the Great Wall

From US $3550 15 days ex flights
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This trip can be tailor made at any time, year round to suit you and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary
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The Great Wall of China travel advice

The Great Wall really is great

The Great Wall really is great

Andy Burt, from our supplier, Intrepid, shares his opinion on the Great Wall of China:

“The one thing you must not miss when you come to China by an absolute mile is the Great Wall. It’s one of those places – like the Grand Canyon, or the Taj Mahal – where photographs just can’t do it justice. You can see the landscape on a picture, but just being there with the landscape 360 degrees around you for as far as you can see and as long as you can walk is incredible. If you travel three or four hours out of Beijing to Gubeikou and stay overnight, you can arrive at a section of the wall called Jinshanling at 8am and be the first people there – and until about 10am, the only people there. I was expecting to be slightly underwhelmed because I’ve seen so many pictures, but I was completely overwhelmed; the scale, the setting and the fact that you’re physically there is just mind-blowing and incredibly atmospheric.”
Walk on the wild side

Walk on the wild side

Mia Yang, from our supplier, China Highlights, shares her advice on where to hike at the Great Wall of China:

“Take a hiking trip on the Great Wall to really appreciate the scenery that surrounds it. The most popular hiking route is between Jinshanling to Simatai West, which includes beautiful natural scenery and a change in the architecture of the Great Wall from restored to wild.”

Tips from our travelers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Great Wall of China travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
Walking the Great Wall involves a lot of scrambling and climbing of steep steps, but is great fun and the views are amazing.
– Michael Martin
"Take your own roll of toilet paper and keep a few sheets on you. Take your own antiseptic hand cleaner and keep it handy. If it rains, the rain can be very heavy: either accept getting quite wet (not actually that bad) or take truly waterproof clothes." - Sally Payne

“The guide was excellent and the Great Wall treks were amazing, but you’ll need to be prepared to be outside for a long time with very little respite from the sun.” – Lisa Mitchell

“Wear flat shoes!” – Janet Chambers

“The Great Wall was the most memorable and exciting part of our vacation. None of the pictures really do it justice, the views are amazing. We went about 60km away from Beijing and set off early. It was really worth it as it was not crowded at all and we almost had the Wall to ourselves.”– Darren Grubb
Every bit of my vacation was great, but the most outstanding part of it has to be walking on the Great Wall - it's so varied, in condition and terrain. Truly, the trip of a lifetime!
- Phyllis Ryan
Written by Polly Humphris
Photo credits: [Page banner: Anderson Smith2010] [Temp chart: Brian Jeffery Beggerly] [Things to do: Peter Dowley] [Wall is great: Brian Jeffery Beggerly] [Walk on the wild side: Thomas Fischler] [Best time: Mike] [Review intro: Lydia Lui] [Review 1 - Sally Payne: Ronnie Macdonald] [Review 2 - Phyllis Ryan: Alberto ....]