Opening hours can vary between the summer and the winter. They can also be different depending on the section of the Wall. Last entry is usually at 7pm.
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Things to know about the Great Wall
The main Great Wall line stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east, to Lop Lake in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. It measures about 8,850 km, made up of 6,259 km sections of actual wall, 359 km of trenches and 2,232 km of natural defense barriers such as hills and rivers.
Beijing is a good place to visit some of the Great Walls’ “sections”, as due to an impressive flow of visitors reconstruction works take place to ensure safety measures.
Those sections, available to tourists, have their own peculiarities and different crowd levels. Keep in mind that Badaling is the most popular and crowded one, so you should probably choose another section if arriving during peak season.
Photo credits to David Pursehouse via Flickr
Which section to visit
Located about 80km from downtown Beijing, this is the most popular and the most crowded section of the wall near the Chinese capital. It has seen the most renovation and is well managed so this section is safer than others and easier to access.
Located 85km from downtown Beijing, this is the second most redeveloped section after Badaling, with an impressive forest cover and therefore more unique views during the fall and summer. It is steeper than the Badaling section but is much less crowded. This is probably the best choice if you travel with kids or seniors. There is also a toboggan from this section of the Great Wall which is great fun!
If you don’t have much time to explore the wall and want to avoid other tourists - you may prefer going to Juyongguan section. It is the nearest section to Beijing (about 60km). Most visitors prefer hiking on its west semicircle for the steepness and beautiful view (this part of the wall is located between the mountains).
If you’re not into visiting the restored parts and wonder what is left of the original parts of the Great Wall - consider going to Jiankou (the most photographed stretch of Great Wall in China; 80km from Beijing), Huanghuacheng (the paths are steep and out of repair, but the spot is quite unique, with the lake breaking this section into three segments naturally; 80km from Beijing), Jinshanling (130 km from Beijing, Jinshanling is the best preserved section of the Wall, with many original features) or Simatai (120 km from Beijing) Great Wall sections.
Simatai wall without tourists, photo credits to Cyril Bèle via Flickr
Best time to visit the Great Wall
All the sections of the Wall are open to visitors all year round.
The best time to visit the Great Wall is either in spring (starting from the end of March) or in fall (until early November).
Summer is not the best choice: it’s very hot, plus it rains very often and it is also high season with big crowds everywhere (particularly in Badaling).
Fall is very nice, with a blue sky, comfortable sunshine and the colorful leaves in and around Beijing. The best time to see the Wall in Mutianyu section is from October 15 to November 15 when trees change their colours.
In winter there will be few visitors, due to frozen weather and snow the journey is not very pleasant, the access to sections is not guaranteed, and you probably won’t be able to go far on the Wall. The cold weather stays until mid-March.
Avoid public holidays, especially Golden Week (beginning of October) and the Labor Day holiday (end of April - beginning of May), that’s when all Chinese are on holiday, it’s far too overcrowded on the Great wall at this time.
Also avoid the Spring Festival rush period (it lasts 40 days and takes place in February-March) when the main sections of the Wall are overcrowded with Chinese visitors.
We suggest you visit as early as possible if you’re arriving during high season: consider staying at a nearby hotel since most tourists arrive from Beijing, it’ll take them a couple of hours to arrive, so peak hours usually fall between 11am - 2 pm. Coming earlier or later will allow you to avoid crowds and take better photos.
Exact opening hours vary in summer and winter and may be not the same for different Wall sections, but usually access to the Wall closes after 19:00.