The Great Wall of China is one of the premier tourist destinations in the world. You can choose to hike sections of the wall and camp, or you can stay in one of the numerous hotel properties that are present along the wall itself. What follows is a handful of tips and advice for planning your trip to the Great Wall.
First off, if your travel dates are flexible, you should try to plan your visit when the weather is best, and the crowds are the smallest. Visiting in Spring or Autumn will ensure you miss the summer heat and crowds, as well as avoid the freezing winter. If you plan to hike as part of your Great Wall trip, the Fall is the best time to visit, as the weather will be the best.
You should also take into consideration which section(s) of the Great Wall you want to visit. The four most popular sections of the wall are the Simatai, Jiankou, Mutianyu, and Badaling. Each section has varying degrees of hiking difficulty, as well as the level of tourism development. That means you can go as “wild” or developed as you wish.
Actually getting to the Great Wall can be a bit of a task. There are no buses or trains that run to the wall directly from Beijing, so you would need to be experienced in switching trains/buses. If that seems like a daunting task, consider taking a private tour with a local guide service.
When it comes to actually spending the night at the Great Wall, you have a couple of choices. You can choose to book a hotel near the wall, which will allow you to avoid the stress of booking a ticket and allow you to view the wall early in the morning before the crowds show up.
You can also choose to camp on the Great Wall if you prefer a more wild experience. You won’t be able to camp at the more popular sections, so you’ll probably need to look at Jiankou and Gubeikou. Plan to bring in all the gear you’ll need, including water. You’ll be negotiating some pretty steep paths, so camping on the Great Wall comes with some fairly serious risks.