How to See Different Areas of the Great Wall of China

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Walking the Great Wall of China is often a bucket list item of a traveller. By picking the right season to walk the wall, is made more special, as you are not dealing with hoards of tourists.

And, unless you are an adventure junkie, we’d recommend staying away from the unrestored section. It might just be your biggest adrenalin rush or your first panic attack.

Related Post: Choose from 10 Best Things in Beijing

Related Post: Cycle the Impressive Wall of Xi’an

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Book VIATOR for your Great Wall of China experience

When visiting Beijing, a trip to the Mutianyu Great Wall of China is easily done with Viator.

Whether you want to spend most of the day walking between the Towers, add on a lunch stop or another attraction, Viator has another of options to suit your available time and budget.

Just click below to find out the various tours available along with prices.

Mutianyu Great Wall of China

Those in the group walking up to the wall

Our group was collected at 8.30am for the bus ride to the Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall, two hours from central Beijing.

The first thing we noticed was the bus drivers accent. He sounded as if he was from Cornwall in England as his  Northern Chinese accent seemed to roll the R’s.

Because we would spend most of the day walking the Great Wall, we needed to organise food and drinks. Our guide mentioned we could organise it at Subway.

Does he mean the metro?

And surprise, surprise, Subway do have a franchise near the entrance to Mutianyu.

So in the middle of nowhere, we were able to organise a foot long sub to take with us on our trek of the Great Wall. Classic.


Where to Start your Climb of the Great Wall

Start your Climb of the Great Wall

Organising our lunch was the easiest part of our Great Wall experience. To actually get to the wall, you have to pay an entrance fee and then you have two options:

  • Climb the 423 steps up through the forest to Tower 8 or
  • Take the CableCar

Yes, you guessed it, we decided to walk up. It was now 11.15am.

And at Tower 8 you can then decide either to walk to Tower 20 or to Tower 1.

We chose to walk to Tower 20 and assess whether we would climb into No Man’s Land.

The Chinese government have walled off the entrance after Tower 20 as it is in disrepair and make it very clear, you walk it at your own risk.

Views from the Great Wall are Amazing

Amazing. Incredible. Jaw stopping. These are the views you can expect as you walk the Great Wall which meanders along the skyline.

To think the towers at the various points along the Great Wall is where 2 million soldiers would eat and sleep while guarding the Great Wall.

But was even more surprising, was how few people were on the Great Wall at the end of May.

At various points along the way, we met no one.

Start your Climb of the Great Wall

Walking the Wild Wall in No Man’s Land

The climb to Tower 20 was steep. Going up, up, up where some sections were so steep with steps, you certainly knew where your calf muscles were.

Having got to Tower 20 we decided we would cross into No Man’s Land to Tower 23 and have our lunch.

And yes, the wall kept going upwards as we climbed to the Tower 23.

It was here at Tower 23 the Great Wall became overgrown and broken with the steps wobbling underfoot. No wonder they call this part ‘The Wild Wall’.

We thought of our sons and our own safety, deciding to head back down, stop for lunch and then walk all the way back Tower 1.

Tower 20
No man’s land
Climbing over part of Great Wall of China
Climbing back over the wall at Tower 20
Great Wall of China Danger sign
Take note of the signs

Having Fun on the Great Wall of China

Tower 19

On our return from No Man’s Land, we met the American group of our tour at Tower 19. They were getting ready to perform a music video. As you do on the Great Wall of China?

They invited us to join in the fun, so we did. Maybe it’s now on YouTube?

Certainly, one way to entertain the other walkers on the Great Wall and enjoy the whole experience.

Tower 8

We continued our walk back to Tower 8 where we came across a photo shoot. A Chinese couple in traditional dress.

Terry was enthralled (probably the red fishnet stockings and red stilettos) and started taking photos too.

The photographer then approached Terry asking if he could photograph Terry taking photos of the couple? He wanted Terry to appear in his photos and obviously didn’t mind his bright orange shirt.

Then the man of the couple handed Terry his headdress so Terry could have some photos with the lady. It certainly made his day.

Couple posing for a photo on the Great China Wall
Fun at Tower 8 on the Great China Wall

Tower 6

As we approached Tower 6 we were just in time to hear the start of a song “Happy Anniversary” being sung to the same tune as Happy Birthday.

Of course, we joined in the singing to wish the couple Happy Anniversary.

An Indian couple celebrating 23 years of marriage with their family wanted to celebrate the occasion of the Great Wall of China.

How awesome are people’s bucket list dreams?

We congratulated the couple and asked for a photo and then were presented with a piece of delicious anniversary cake.

Who would have thought The Great Wall would be this enthralling.

Couple celebrating their anniversary on the Great Wall of China
Happy Anniversary on the Great Wall of China
Couple and family celebrating their anniversary on the Great Wall of China
Family celebrations on the Great Wall of China

Tower 1

Congratulations finished, we continued our walk down and up to the Zhengguantai Pass.

Check out the photo above to see the steepness of some sections of the Great Wall.

Zhengguantai Pass is where the Generals organised the troops and enjoyed better living conditions than those living in the Towers.

Up, up, up to Tower 1 and the steps are huge, cut from massive hunks of rocks so if you are short, you almost need a leg up.

The Great Wall of China completed after climbing 423 steps to up and down, 30,000 steps in total and ascending the equivalent of 300 flights of stairs.

Phew. What an achievement.

And we made it back down to the meeting point just as the heavens open and the rain descended on us.

Man lying on the Great Wall after walking 30,000 steps
Yes it’s over
Zhengguantai Pass on the Great Wall of China
Zhengguantai Pass on the Great Wall of China
China Wall

Homestay near the Great Wall of China

A Freezing Cold Night at Jiankou … but the alcohol helped.

At 4.30pm the bus arrived to take us to our next destination Jiankou for our homestay accommodation. 

The area is rural and very basic. Our accommodation looked like it had been roughly put together with modern materials, but unfortunately, they forgot to put a door at the end of the corridors. With the rain and temperature falling, we were all feeling the cold.

The large dining area also had no doors so this resulted in some Chinese white liquor materializing to warm the bodies along with the beers after our sumptuous Chinese dishes for the evening meal.

Bus at a rural homestay

Luckily Terry had spied an oil column heater so secretly led it out the door and carried it up the flight of stairs to our room. Even the owner’s little dog started to follow him as he was obviously cold as well.

The bedroom became so toasty and warm later in the evening. There were electric blankets on the bed as we discovered, so we encourage the American girls to use them. Only because they saw the heater going past their room to ours.

Walking the Wild Great Wall of China at Jiankou

Homestay breakfast provided morning was definitely odd with a plate of round wine biscuits, two chopped up bananas, some apple pieces and puff rice biscuits.

Thankfully the cold fried egg (a staple item in Asia) appeared along with some fried rice and a vegetable pancake.

Carb loaded, we were ready for our 3-hour trek to an unrestored part of the Great Wall.

The climb up took us through the bush, clambering at times over rocks and trees roots as we ascended the half hour to the wall. Here we encountered once again amazing views of the valley, and the wall itself.

Mr Chow, our host accompanied the group on the trek wearing his suit jacket and soft shoes along with his pack of cigarettes.

Mr Chow of Jiankou
Mr Chow of Jiankou
People hiking near Jiankou
Hiking near Jiankou

Heaven’s Ladder, and a scary climb

The goal this morning was to ascend Heaven’s Ladder.

But first, we had to navigate along the unrestored great wall, intact in some areas and not in other areas.

This section of the Great Wall is called the “Wild Wall” and not open to the public.

This means the Chinese government take no responsibility if anything happens to you while climbing this section of the wall.

GAdventures has it on their itinerary, how bad can it be?

Couple standing on unrestored Great Wall of China
Heavens Ladder of the Great Wall is in bad disrepair

“Heavens Ladder” is an adrenaline rush with its steep, almost vertical narrow steps. A true testament to those men who built it. Now we just have to climb it.

With the steps so narrow, and the ascent vertical, is how Heavens Ladder gets its name.

The climb is more akin to rock climbing with Terry reminding us to ensure we have three points of contact.

The ascent goes well and relatively quickly as long as you focus on each step. “Don’t look down Terry.”

Finally, we reach the top of the ladder, now we just need to get up on top of the old Tower.

Thankfully someone has stacked some old bricks and rocks on top of each other. Not steady at all, and it is a long way down on the other side.

But we make it atop the tower for great views and a selfie photo.

Related Post: How Travel Helped Me Overcome My Fear of Heights

Couple standing atop of Heavens Ladder
Happy to be at the top, but nervous with the climb back down

And Climbing Back Down?

Deep breaths as we need to focus going down. Do we descend frontwards or backwards?

We descend back down the ladder, Maura spotting for each other and then turn halfway to descend frontwards through the narrow part of the ladder to the bottom.

Phew, we are both feeling amazed and questioning ourselves, “did we just do that?”

What an adrenaline rush.

Maura descending the heavens ladder
Heavens Ladder in Jiankou, China
Heavens Ladder in Jiankou, China

Heavens Ladder accomplished, the group walked backed via the bush path to the Guesthouse for the 3-hour bus ride back to Beijing.

With the rest of the afternoon to ourselves, we walked along from the hotel to view the only remaining section of the Beijing City Wall.

The rest of the Beijing City Wall was demolished as the modern city expanded.

Tonight we have the overnight Chinese sleeper train to Zhengzhou for our next stop, Shaolin Monastery, home of Kung Fu on our tour of China.

Is the Great Wall of China on your travel bucket list?