The Great Wall is one of those attractions worth visiting in any weather. During our trip, a heavy fog hung in the air, and the trees were covered in beautiful hoarfrost. Unfortunately, we missed out on the stunning views the wall is famous for- the fog was too thick to see very far at all. It was still an incredible experience, and now I have a solid reason to return to China. (I want to see the Wall’s views on a nice clear day, after all!)
After weighing the pros and cons, my travel mates and I elected to join a group tour through our hostel. Yes, we could have traveled independently, but the process was somewhat complex: Here’s the process: take the subway to Dongzhimen station, catch a 20 or 120 bus and ride that for 1 ½-2 hours, then transfer to either a minibus or a taxi for another half hour to get to Mutianyu. Repeat the same process on the way back, and hope that we won’t mess up any of the steps. Rather than sort out our own transportation, we elected to pay a little bit extra to join a group tour. With lunch and entry to the wall included, and our own peace of mind, it was worth the ~$50. As a bonus we met fantastic people from Australia, Mexico, Germany and Canada!
The Great Wall is the largest object ever built by humankind, and its scale is impressive- the main length of the wall and all of its branches add up to over 21 000 km. It’s easy to see why it’s both a UNESCO heritage site and one of the seven new wonders of the world!
Tips for seeing the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall:
- This section tends to be less busy than Badaling and other more famous sites, while still being an excellent trek. For an even quieter experience, you might consider walking up the stairs to the wall rather than taking the cable car. (Warning: there are thousands of steps! Make sure you’re physically up to it 😉 ) We had sections 10 to 14 almost to ourselves.
- If you are visiting in wintry or wet conditions, wear good, grippy shoes! Trust me, I wore boots which work well on any surface except ice. I spent much of my descent walking one step at a time, gripping the handrails for dear life. Shoes meant to cope with ice would have helped immensely!
- The Mutianyu section is famous for a toboggan that allows visitors to slide back down to the base. Unfortunately, this is closed during the winter, so bear that in mind.
A bonus bit of fun: there was a selfie stick tucked away in the back pocket of the seat in front of me. Given Soozie and I’s history of encountering selfie sticks in Korea, it was absolutely hilarious (to us). As there was no way to return it to the previous owner, I felt like adopting it as my own was the reasonable thing to do.
And oh, the fun we can have with it!