Guide to visiting Mutianyu Great Wall

The Great Wall in Mutianyu
The Great Wall in Mutianyu

The Great Wall is maybe the most renowned attraction of China, it’s a must-see place for most people who travel to China, without visiting the Great Wall your China tour is incomplete.
For historical and natural reasons, the Great Wall doesn’t form a continuous line, but exists in many sections at different locations. Mutianyu Great Wall is the section in Mutianyu Village in Beijing, it’s one of the best-preserved sections, and is one of two most visited sections of the Great Wall (the other one being Badaling Great Wall). Compared to Badaling Great Wall, the Great Wall in Mutianyu is less crowded, but is actually more interesting to visit.
Mutianyu Great Wall has a history of over 1400 years (older than the section in Badaling), it was first built in the mid-6th century during Northern Qi Dynasty, as a protective barrier to defend against northern tribes. The wall was rebuilt in Ming Dynasty, the same dynasty in which the Forbidden City was built. Today most parts of the wall in Mutianyu are well preserved.

Aerial view of Mutianyu Great Wall
Aerial view of Mutianyu Great Wall seen from the section near 20th watchtower

Below is the guide to visiting Mutianyu Great Wall.

Admission:

The entry tickets of Mutianyu Great Wall can be purchased on site at the ticket office in its tourist service center, and can also be booked online in advance.

As of 2018, the standard admission fee is 45 Chinese Yuan, approximately 6.5 US Dollars.
You’d be prepared for the long queue at the ticket office if you choose to purchase on site at the ticket office.
Booking in advance is recommended, as it offers a discount and you won’t need to wait half an hour in the line for a ticket. The admission tickets can be booked by clicking here. You will receive a mobile voucher with a QR code on it. When you visit Mutianyu Great Wall you can skip the lines, just directly go to the entrance and scan the QR code on your voucher, then you will be allowed to enter.

Opening Hours:

Mutianyu Great Wall opens to tourists all year round, the opening hours differs slightly depending on the month of visit.
It opens 8:00-18:00 from March 16 to November 15, and 8:30-17:00 from November 16 to March 15.
So you’d better to arrive there earlier, it’s recommended to depart from your hotel in morning, as it takes a while to reach the attraction.

How to get there:

Mutianyu Great Wall is located in Mutianyu Village, Huairou District, Beijing, it’s about 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of downtown Beijing.
Since the Great Wall is at suburban area of the city, no metro line goes that far to reach there.
However it’s still easy to get there with the following methods:

1. Taking a taxi:

The easiest option is to take a taxi, you can show your destination to the driver with the text “慕田峪长城 (Mutianyu Great Wall)”. However taking taxi to get to Mutianyu will be expensive, it cost about 240 Chinese Yuan (35 US dollars). I don’t recommend you choose this method unless cost is not your concern.

2. Taking a Bus (Preferred method):

The bus that goes to Mutianyu Great Wall starts at Dongzhimen Bus Station in downtown area. To take the bus, you first need to get to Dongzhimen by metro. Metro line 2, line 13 and Airport Express Train all pass through Dongzhimen.
Once you arrived there, get out of the metro station from the Exit C. The Dongzhimen Bus Station can be found next to the metro station.
In the bus station, search for the bus line 916 Express, the bus will take you to Huairou District in which the Great Wall is located, it costs only 12 Chinese Yuan (1.8 US Dollars). As a express bus, its route is mostly on highway, there’s no stop until Huairou District is reached, so the bus is very comfortable to take.
The bus ride takes about an hour, then you can get off the bus at Huairou Beidajie (Huairou North Avenue) Station, then transfer to bus line h35 or h36 to Mutianyu Roundabout, after that, walk to the Tourist Service Center of Mutianyu Great Wall. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or find some other people to share a minivan with to get to Mutianyu Great Wall.

Tourist Service Center of Mutianyu scenic area
Tourist Service Center of Mutianyu scenic area

Both Bus and taxi will stop at Tourist Service Center, from there, you can either walk to the ticket counters at the base of the Great Wall, or take a shuttle bus to there.

Hiking the Great Wall

There are two entrances (ticket counters) at the base of Great Wall, respectively are South Entrance and North Entrance.
If you want to take cable car to the Great Wall and you have booked or purchased a ticket for cable car, then you have to enter from North Entrance, as the cable car starts from there.

Cable cars in Mutianyu
Cable cars in Mutianyu

If you want to hike up to the Great Wall via stone steps, you can choose either one of entrances to enter the scenic area. The stone steps start from North Entrance will lead you to 10th or 8th watchtower of the Great Wall, and the stone steps start from South Entrance will lead you to 8th or 6th watchtower.

View the map below to see the detail, you can click to enlarge the map.

Map of Mutianyu Great Wall
Map of Mutianyu Great Wall (Click to enlarge)

Generally it takes more than half an hour to hike up to the Great Wall, after that you may have no enough energy to hike the Great Wall itself. So it’s recommended to take a cable car to reach the Great Wall, additionally you can enjoy the aerial views of the mountain from the cable car. The tickets for cable car can be booked along with the entrance ticket of the Great Wall. The cable car will take you to the 14th watchtower.

Once you arrived 14th watchtower (or other watchtowers if you ascend to the Great Wall via the stone steps), you can officially start to hike the Great Wall itself. From 14th watchtower, you can either first hike to the 23th watchtower (the highest watchtower) at the higher and western section of the wall, or hike down to its eastern section at lower altitude.

The higher section of the Great Wall in the distance
Looking towards the higher section of the Great Wall in the distance

It’s better to hike towards the west first, as you can explore the eastern section(the lower section) after you returned from the higher section.

The Great Wall in Mutianyu is 2250 meters (7,380 ft) long, without counting the part that hasn’t been restored. Watchtowers are distributed at short intervals along the wall, in total the wall has 23 watchtowers. These watchtowers is numbered from 1 to 23 from the east to west, the highest one on the western end is Tower 23 (23rd watchtower), which is the destination for visitors who hike up the wall.

The wall is mainly made of granite, the path between the parapets is 4 to 5 meters wide.

The path and the parapets of the Great Wall
The path and the parapets of the Great Wall

The section between Tower 14 (14th watchtower) and Tower 23 has better natural views than that of the lower section at east. The wall is surrounded by beautiful woods, which is very dense that covers most part of the area.

The parapets on two sides of the path are covered with merlons, which are mostly shaped in rectangular form, but there are also a few of them shaped in jagged form. Below each merlon there is an embrasure, these embrasures were used in ancient time to allow cannon fires go through the parapet, while cannon itself can remain under covered.

The merlons and embrasures on the parapet
The merlons and embrasures on the parapet

The interior of each watchtower on the Great Wall can be accessed to explore, some towers’ roofs can also be accessed.

The interior view of a watchtower
The interior view of a watchtower


The path between Tower 14 and Tower 19 has relatively gentle slopes. Along this path, you first hike to Tower 17, which is at the lowest point of the path, then hike up to those remained watchtowers. Starting from Tower 17, the path becomes a little steep, and the section between Tower 19 and Tower 20 is the steepest section, for this reason many visitors stop at Tower 19.

The path between Tower 19 and Tower 20 in the distance
The path between Tower 19 (on the right) and Tower 20 in the distance

Tower 23 is considered the highest point in Mutianyu Great Wall, but this is only true if not counting the wild section.

The 23rd watchtower
The 23rd watchtower

After you reached the Tower 23, you can go further to wild sections, which has not been restored, the area of the wild wall is called Non-tourist Area. Despite of it sounds, tourists are allowed to access there. The wall in the area is not cleaned, the steps are grown with lush plants, the body of the wall is fragmentary, parapet is partially missing and no safety barriers is added, and at some parts the steps are very steep. However, it leads to higher altitudes, hence attracts a few visitors to explore.
We don’t recommend you to explore the Non-tourist Area, because it’s not safe and it’s better to save your time to return and explore the eastern section of the wall.
Although the natural views in eastern section of the wall is not as appealing as that in the west, the Great Wall itself is more attractive in this section.
One example is the Tower 11, this watchtower is a distinct one as it’s not built on the main wall like other ones, but is built on a short branch wall on the hill ridge.

The 11th watchtower on a branch wall
The 11th watchtower on a branch wall

And some watchtowers on eastern section have decorative roofs instead of typical flat roofs, which are seen on most watchtowers of the Great Wall.

12th watchtower and the eastern section of the wall
12th watchtower and the eastern section of the wall

The most unique watchtower is Tower 4, which is also known as Zhengguan Terrace, it comprised of three watchtowers, three towers are connected together, with a large one in the middle and two smaller ones on its two sides, forming a 40-meter long terrace. Such structure is rarely seen among the entire Great Wall.

Looking down at Zhengguan Terrace
Looking down at Zhengguan Terrace

The easternmost watch tower of Mutianyu Great Wall is Big Corner Tower (Tower 1). The tower is located on the joint point of three paths of the wall, it connects the Great Wall in Mutianyu to path of the wall in Gubeikou section in the northeast, and to a branch wall in the southeast. Big Corner Tower is named that because only one corner can be seen from each path that connects to it.
After you explored all the steps of the wall and watchtowers, you can leave the Great Wall with the following methods: One is just head to Tower 6 to hike down the mountain via stone steps; Or if you booked or purchased a round way cable car ticket, you should go to Tower 14 to take cable car to descend; Another way to go down the mountain is slip down with toboggan, it will slip very fast on a metal track, this option is not available on rainy days.

The slipway for toboggan
The slipway for toboggan

Are you planning to visit Mutianyu Great Wall in person? You can book the entry tickets at here.

If you have never visited China before, take a look at these places, they are worth to visit for first-timers. And also check out these 8 most beautiful attractions in China.

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