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Top 5 Beijing Great Wall Locations

Top 5 Beijing Great Wall Locations

Badaling | Simatai | Jinshanling | Mutianyu | Juyongguan

Five recommended places to see the Great Wall

Daniel Allen

The longest architectural structure in the world, the Great Wall of China stretches 6,700 kilometers from the Jiayuguan Pass in Gansu Province to Shanhaiguan, where it dips its stonework in the waves of the Bohai Sea. Like the spine of a gigantic dragon, this imposing barrier - which took 2,000 years to fully construct - meanders across the mountains, plains and deserts of China's northern interior.

Great Wall of China, Beijing.

Great Wall of China, Beijing.

"He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man, said Mao Zedong, and visitors to China eager to prove their manliness (or womanliness) will find the wall most accessible near Beijing. However, with eight sections of the wall open to the public, it's not always easy to choose the right location. Here are Beijing-Visitor's top five Beijing Great Wall locations to help you decide.

1) Badaling

Badaling is about 80 km from Beijing and is the most convenient place to view the Great Wall. Admittedly it's very touristy, but it's easy to ignore that fact when you're confronted with one of the world's seven wonders. Family friendly, Badaling has a cable car that will save you the walk to the top of the wall. There is a fee for the ride, but it's a great time saver, and the spectacular views as you rise will inspire photographers of all skill levels.

Great Wall of China, Beijing.

Great Wall of China, Beijing.

2) Simatai

The most spectacular and aesthetically pleasing section of the Great Wall, Simatai is a relatively short span (5.4 km) that is situated near the town of Gubeikou, roughly 120 km northeast of Beijing. Like most of the other sections of the Great Wall, the Simatai section was refortified by General Qi Jiguang during Ming Dynasty (CE 1368-1644). With 35 watchtowers it has the greatest number of watchtowers per kilometer than any other section. The extreme topography means steps are often very narrow and steep, making Simatai more suited to the adventurous and energetic.

NB: the Great Wall at Simatai is currently being renovated as of February 2011. Please check the web for reopening times.

Great Wall of China, Beijing.

3) Jinshanling

Connecting with Simatai to the east - about 125 km from Beijing - the 10.5 km long Jinshanling Great Wall boasts 5 passes, 67 towers and 2 beacon towers. Although smaller and narrower than Badaling and Mutianyu, it features complicated and well- preserved fortification systems. The initial section of the wall has been restored to original condition, but the condition of the wall deteriorates towards its natural state as it approaches Simatai, although the ruins have a unique natural beauty. A cable car has been constructed to take visitors to the highest point along the wall, although this is probably the least visited section of the wall and therefore perfect for a peaceful hike.

4) Mutianyu

The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, about 70 km north-east of Beijing, is a masterpiece of restoration, with 22 original style watchtowers. Around 2 km in length, it is the longest fully-restored Great Wall section open to tourists. Winding over lofty mountains and high ridges, Mutianyu has a cable and wheeled toboggan ride which is fun for kids. Besides its strategically important location and compact layout, the Mutianyu Great Wall is also famous for the breathtakingly beautiful scenery, surrounded by woods on both sides.

Great Wall of China, Beijing.

5) Juyongguan

The Juyongguan section of the Great Wall is in Changping District, about 60 km from Beijing. Recently renovated, this section lacks the authenticity of other parts of the Great Wall, but still makes for an interesting day out. Connected with Badaling in the north, the main feature is the heavily fortified Juyongguan Pass, which was one of the three great passes of the Great Wall (the other two were Jiayuguan and Shanhaiguan). The Juyongguan Pass has long acted as a military stronghold, serving as a natural barrier to invaders from the north.

The Juyongguan Great Wall comes down to the level of the parking lot in two locations, so no climbing or cable car is needed. Near the center of Juyongguan is a marble structure known as the Cloud Terrace, or Yuntai. This is a rare survivor from the Yuan Dynasty and was built in 1365. Among its exquisite carvings are a Dharani Sutra in six different languages: Chinese, Mongolian, Sanskrit, Tangut, Tibetan, and Uyghur.

Great Wall of China, Beijing.

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