One of the main things everyone comes to China for along with the amazing food is the Great Wall. This ancient structure is one of the 7 man made wonders of the world. Over a million people worked on the wall in its many different sections. For many the wall became their tomb. We took a small guided tour to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. This is a slightly less touristy location, Badaling is the most famous section which can be extremely crowded. It has the nickname “the sea of people”.
After searching through a number of private tours we settled on one from Viator. We were extremely happy with our choice. It offered pickup from an easy to reach location and included Lunch and access to the Great Wall.
Our guide and driver collected us around 10.00am. The group consisted of about 12 people from all over the world. Our guide Ms Wong or Emma was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. The journey is roughly around 2 hours. For the first hour she introduced the group to each other and taught us a few Chinese phrases. She then gave us a great overview about the history for the wall in China.
It originally was built to protect the area around Beijing during the Qin Dynasty. Over the centuries different rulers and dynasties built more sections. Some were built from wood others from stone as is still seen today. Emma told us that in certain places in China the locals didn’t even know there lived near or on ancient sections of the Great Wall as most of it is lost to history.
The parts of the Mutianyu Great Wall still standing today were mostly built in the Ming Dynasty. Built from stone there are complete sections and others that are in disrepair and off limits.
Mutianyu has approx 25 Towers on its section of the Great Wall, 23 of which are open to the public. Once we arrived at the car park we headed into a local restaurant for lunch before heading up the wall. The food was good, a selection of meats and vegetables with rice. The restaurant had the food ready when we arrived so as to not lose any time on the wall.
We chose this tour and Mutianyu for a number of reasons.One it was a lot less touristy than Badaling. Two there was lunch included. Three, not only is Mutianyu a beautiful section of the wall it has a Chairlift to go up and a Toboggan (slide) to go down on.
After lunch Emma gave us a breakdown of how we could get to the top. We could hike up, we could get the cable car that takes us to one side or we could take the chairlift up and Toboggan down. We took the Chairlift/Toboggan because it leaves you on the steeper side of the Wall which we wanted to climb.
The Cable Car and Chairlifts are run by two separate companies, the cost of these are not included in the tour. You also need to be sure to keep your ticket safe as if you lose it then you will be either walked down or buying another.
We got our tickets and hopped on the Chairlift. The journey to the top is about 7 minutes and the views of the wall are fantastic. Once at the top you are on Tower 6. You can then either choose to turn left and head towards Tower 23 or go right and head for the more difficult route to Tower 1. After Tower 1 there are 3 other Towers that are off limits.
The route is steep in places but extremely fun, the sense of satisfaction when you reach the top is well worth the effort. The views are spectacular, we got perfect weather and could see for miles in all directions. The Towers themselves are a mix of 1 and 2 story structures with narrowing widows. The wall is lined with battlements on both sides to aid the defenders if they were attacked but now are just used for photos.
After 40 minutes or so we headed back in the direction of Tower 6, to see some of the “less difficult” side of the wall. We bumped into some of the other members of our tour with Emma and stood chatting about each others countries for the next half an hour while taking in the view. Doing this on top of such an ancient structure designed to keep countries apart was kind of ironic.
It was time to descend one of the other reasons we choose Mutinayu, the Toboggan Slide. Once back at Tower 6 we headed straight there. Imagine a mix between playground slide and bobsleigh. You sit on a 4 wheel plastic cart with a leaver. Forward to go, pull back to break. That’s pretty much it you whizz down the mountain from the wall to the bottom, it was extremely fun and a great novelty after relaxing on the wall.
At the bottom we grabbed a drink and chatted a bit more with our fellow tour members waiting for everyone to finish up and head back to Beijing.
As an experience this is something we both would recommend to anyone. Emma was a fantastic guide, the food was good and the wall was amazing to see. If you want to see for yourself we have linked the tour here