Independent travellers or those travelling within guided tours of china are faced with the same dilemma that everyone encounters when visiting world famous monuments: I want to go but I don’t want to be another body on the tourist conveyor belt. Here’s a quick guide to seeing the Great Wall of China in relative peace and tranquillity!
Far from Beijing:
As a general rule of thumb the closer you are to Beijing, the heavier to crowds are likely to be. Domestic and foreign tourists alike tend to loathe the idea of spending an extra hour on a bus, even if that means being crammed on to a single section of the wall with hundreds of other tourists. Most tour operators tend to use the entrance at Badaling which is around 50 miles from the Beijing’s CBD. Consequently, this section of the wall can get very busy throughout all visiting hours. A saving grace of this area of the Wall is that it is geared up to tourists so you’ve more lunch options, amenities and there are some dynastic Ming tombs close by which help break up the day.
If you’re close by and only have the day to see the Wall we recommend using the entrance at Mutianyu. This section of the wall is around 2 hours from the city and experiences much lighter footfall. Of all the sections this part of the wall also has some of the best views of the regions undulating countryside and the towers and sections of the wall have been beautifully preserved. Moreover, if you’re not a fan of walking there is a Gondola up to one of the towers and a nifty slide down!
Out of season and unsociable hours:
An age old travel adage but hitting the road early and getting to the gate as it opens. Furthermore, consider travelling out of season. Peak months to visit China are between April and September, with the earlier period being the very peak. So, grab your cold weather gear and see the Wall during the Chinese winter. Not only will you be one of the few people to travel during this period, you’ll also stand a chance of seeing the epic scenery around the wall peppered in snow.
Another good tip is to take lunch with you. Many tourists will head back to their busses or local restaurants for lunch. Grab a pre-made lunch at your hotel or a convenience store en route and you can enjoy your lunch in beautiful scenery in almost total peace!
Avoid Chinese national holidays:
As everyone does, the Chinese prefer to travel over national holidays. Wherever possible try and avoid these. A recent article by the Sydney Morning Herald recounting chin’s Golden Week is a perfect illustration of why! As they are always subject to change it’s always best to consult Wikipedia or national new outlets to get that years dates.