The Mutianyu Great Wall is located between watch towers 4 and 23. It is one of the best preserved sections of the great wall and the least crowded.
Badaling Vs. Mutianyu
Badaling, located just outside of Beijing, is the most popular and most crowded section of the Great Wall. Unlike the Badaling Great Wall, Mutianyu has steep, difficult stairs to climb with no handrails, and it is not easily accessible by public transportation. Another factor deterring visitors from Mutianyu is the 60 minute drive to from Beijing lacking tourist markets and souvenir shops.
Visitors first encounter the small village of Mutianyu at the bottom of a hill. Restaurants, shops, and stands sell local food, drinks, hats, t-shirts, statues, and other souvenirs. Passing through the village, the ticket adjustment is reached.
There are several routes to access the Great Wall. After passing through the South Ticket Check, there are footpaths accessing watch towers 6, 8, and 10 or a cable car can be taken to tower 14.
We follow the footpath to watch tower 8 consisting of a steep flight of stairs with end in sight. Small, level platforms provide a brief rest for climbers.
Below the stairs is an endless blanket of trees swallowed by the smog. Over 90% of Mutianyu is covered in vegetation.
The Great Wall
Emerging onto a narrow, dirt path, the Great Wall of China comes into view. The relatively flat path continues along the outside of the wall to a set of stairs accessing watch tower 8. At the top of the stairs, we step onto the Great Wall of China. We are the only visitors this morning except for a worker quietly sweeping the stones.
We begin the walk towards watch tower 9. The vision of a gently rolling stone wall is quickly proved incorrect as we climb the unevenly sized and spaced stairs. In some areas the stairs are so far apart I can barely reach the next step and others, my size 6 shoe is wider than the closely built stairs.
Inside, the stone watch towers are cool and a welcome escape from the heat. The Great Wall was built mostly with granite. A maze of archways separate small corridors filled with windows allowing guards many views of approaching enemies.
Mutianyu has more watch towers than other areas of the Great Wall. There is only about 350 feet between every tower. This area also has notches along each side of the wall permitting the launching of arrows from both sides.
At watch tower 14, we climb down a narrow staircase to a busy platform with vendors selling drinks and passengers arriving on the cable cars. From here, we can see the steep, 45 degree staircase to tower 23.
Short on time, we decide against a hike to tower 23 and chose a leisurely descend towards tower 6, Zhengguang Terrace. Here visitors have the option to toboggan down from the wall.
We follow the perpendicular path to tower 11. This tower provides a view of the outside of the wall and has more corridors than the other watch towers. Here guards were able to attack enemies before they reached the wall. Every watch tower has a different number of windows on each side and a unique shape to prevent enemies from being able to predict the layout.
Tickets to toboggan down from the Great Wall can be purchased at tower 6 for 80 Yuan. The only control riders have is a small joystick attached to the middle of the seat, moved forward to speed up and backward to brake. There is no seat belt or harness. Guards are stationed along the way to encourage riders to slow down.
*For more information on our tour check out: G Adventures China Express.
- Day 1: Fly into Beijing
- Day 2: Beijing: Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square
- Day 3: Great Wall Mutianyu and travel to Xi’an
- Day 4: Xian: Terracotta Warriors Guided Tour and travel to Suzhou
- Day 5: Suzhou: Master of the Nets Garden Tour and overnight train to Shanghai
- Day 6: Shanghai: Orientation Walk of the Bund
- Day 7: Shanghai: Carte Blanche
- Day 8: Fly out of Shanghai