Mutianyu Great Wall is one of the best preserved sections (or perhaps, most restored…) near Beijing, but with less crowds than Badaling Great Wall even though it can still be reached easily by public bus.
The surrounding scenery would be absolutely beautiful in spring and summer – in the winter it was a little greyer but still lovely to look around. Built with large granite blocks, the wall still stands strong among the ancient trees as it meanders over the hilltops. Although the main path has been pretty heavily restored in order to make it safe for visitors, some of the original watchtowers still remain.
Figuring that most of the crowds (we were visiting during the Chinese New Year holiday) would be spread between the cable car and the luge, we chose to hike between watch towers 10 and 20. At this point, we were simply too exhausted to continue! The “wall” could actually be much better described as “endless steps” since it has been built on the tops of the hills, constantly flowing up and down the slopes.
Apparently, if you have a whole day and are pretty fit, there is a very good 10 mile route from Jiankou (taxi from Beijing) to Mutianyu along the great wall, which would start at a completely unrestored, genuine and empty section before joining up with the more rebuilt Mutianyu section where public transport can then be easily found back to Beijing (thus avoiding the cost of paying a taxi driver to wait for you). Some tour operators and hostels will also offer private tours along this route if you look online.
Entrance fee: 45 RMB
Transport: public bus 916 to Huairou then bus h23/ h24/ h35/ h36 to Mutianyu