The Mutianyu Great Wall between watch towers four and twenty three is one of the best preserved sections and of the great wall and least crowded areas.
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, there are no handrails, and it is not easily accessible by public transportation. Another factor deterring visitors from Mutianyu is the sixty minute drive to from Beijing lacking tourist markets and souvenir shops.
At the bottom of a large hill is the small village of Mutianyu. Restaurants, shops, and stands sell local food, drinks, hats, t-shirts, statues, and other souvenirs. Passing through the village, we reach the ticket adjustment.
There are several routes to access the Great Wall. After passing through the South Ticket Check, there are footpaths accessing watch towers six, eight, and ten or a cable car to tower fourteen.
Feeling ambitious, we follow the footpath to watch tower eight. We quickly begin to feel the early September heat as we begin climbing a steep flight of stairs. With no end in sight, we welcome the small, level platforms providing a brief rest for our burning quads.
We pause a moment to enjoy the scenery. Below us there is a blanket of trees stretching as far as the eye can see until it’s swallowed by the smog. Over ninety percent of Mutianyu is covered in vegetation.
The Great Wall
At last the Great Wall of China comes into view as we emerge onto a narrow, dirt path along the outside of the wall. Following the path, we reach a set stairs accessing watch tower eight. At the top of the stairs, we step onto the Great Wall of China. We are the only visitors this early in the day except for a worker quietly sweeping the stones with a broom made of sticks. The wall snakes along the mountain tops until it disappears into the gray haze.
We walk towards watch tower nine. Our visions of a gently rolling stone wall are quickly proved incorrect as we climb the unevenly sized and spaced stairs. At some places the stairs are so far apart I can barely reach the next step. Other areas, my size six shoe is wider than the stairs built extremely close together.
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 three hundred and thirty feet between every tower. Also, this area has notches along each side of the wall which permitted the launching of arrows from both sides. We enter a room decorated with white canvases covered in signatures and add ours to the Great Wall.
Reaching watch tower fourteen, 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, forty-five degree staircase to tower twenty-three.
Looking at the time, we decide against a hike to tower twenty-three and begin a leisurely descend towards tower six, Zhengguang Terrace, where we will toboggan down from the wall.
We follow the perpendicular path to tower eleven. This tower provides a view of the outside of the wall and has more corridors than the others we have entered. 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.
Reaching tower six, we find the ticket booth, and pay eighty Yuan to ride down from the Great Wall. A small black seat with a joystick moved forward to speed up and backward to brake is our only control as we speed down the aluminum slide. We pick up as much speed as we can without hitting each other as periodically spaced guards wave at us to slow down. Arriving at the bottom of the hill, we glide to a stop and exit the toboggan.
Hungry after our leg workout, we stop at one of the restaurants in the village and order steamed dumplings before hurrying back to the van. What an incredible experience!
*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