Chairman Mao said you’re not a hero until you’ve climbed the Great Wall. (That means some of us living in Beijing are heroes several times over!)
The Wall is an essential pilgrimage for both Chinese and overseas visitors, and one of the nicest parts to visit is Mutianyu.
But what makes Mutianyu so special, and how do you get there on public transportation?
The picturesque Mutianyu section of the wall is just 70km outside Beijing, and is one of the nicest sections to visit due to its relative accessibility and fewer tourists. Construction on a wall began near the village of Mutianyu in the mid 6th century, and resumed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when new wall was built over old.
This section is one of the widest and best-constructed sections, and has the most watchtowers per kilometer with 22 in just over 2km of wall. You will also see merlons – holes in the wall for firing arrows – on this section which are rare on other sections.
But its unique history and beautiful views are only as good as how easy it is to get there. Fortunately, Mutianyu is easily accessible by bus!
How to get to the Great Wall at Mutianyu
Part 1: Get to Huairou
To get to Mutianyu by public transportation, the first thing to do is head over to Dongzhimen on Line 2. Once there, on the north-east corner you’ll find the long distance bus station.
Head inside, and walk directly past the Tourist Information Office and under the blue LED sign that lists all the buses that leave from there. Look for signs for bus 916快 (快 means fast).
You buy a ticket when you get on the bus. Either swipe your Yikatong (travel card/phone app) or tell the driver you want to go to Huairou North Street (怀柔北大街, Huáiróu běi dàjiē) and pay cash.
It takes about 1 hour to get to Huairou North Street. Once there, the first part of your journey is complete!
Part 2: Get to Mutianyu
When you get off at Huairou North Street, cross the road to the bus stop on the opposite side of the road. It’s easy to see, because there’s a China Mobile office right behind it.
At this bus stop, you are looking for the H35 bus. They each come approximately every 30 minutes before midday, but run less often in the afternoons. So be sure to arrive as early as possible!
On this bus, you’ll be going to Mutianyu Roundabout (慕田峪环岛，Mùtiányù huándǎo）so again, either ask the conductor for that stop and pay in cash, or just use your card/phone to swipe. You’ll recognise the stop when you see the huge aqueduct that runs right in front of it!
Once you’re off the bus, simply walk under the aqueduct for about 100m, until you reach the roundabout, then you’ll see the ticket office and the entrance to Mutianyu Great Wall on your right!
Part 3: Getting onto the Great Wall
At this point, your quest has almost come to an end! Walk through the parking lot, and on your right you’ll see the tourist centre. Just after that will be the ticket office.
Tickets to the Great Wall at Mutianyu cost 60RMB. We also suggest that you buy a bus ticket (15RMB) from the tourist area to the actual start of the path that leads up to the Great Wall itself. Choosing to walk will add an extra 45-minute steep uphill walk to your journey.
If you opt for the bus (highly recommended) simply take a right from the ticket office, and walk straight down the street, passing by multiple shops, cafes and restaurants (including Burger King…) until you get to the boarding area for the bus. Here you’ll show your ticket, and hop on for the roughly 5-minute drive.
Once you get off, you’ll see a small sloping path, with many people walking up and down. Head up there, and in 1 or 2 minutes you’ll reach the ticket check. Show your ticket and head on in!
Part 4: Head on up, up, up!
As soon as you’re through the ticket check, you’ll be greeted by a split path. On the left is the path to the cable car that goes up to Watchtower 14. On the left are the stairs to Watchtowers 8 and 10.
Taking the stairs, after about 20 minutes you’ll reach another fork. Keep going straight up and you’ll come to Watchtower 10. Take the right hand path and you’ll end up at Watchtower 8.
Walking straight on to Watchtower 10 is our recommendation. It’ll be about another 30-minute walk from the fork, and you’ll then reach the entrance, as seen in the photo above. You’ll get great views from there, including of the unusual branch wall ending in Watchtower 11, then you can walk downhill towards Watchtower 8 and head back to the entrance from there.
So simply walk through the small gate, and proudly proclaim to the sky, “I am a Hero!”
Once you’ve explored as much of the Wall as your aching legs can endure, and taken as many selfies as your phone can store, you’ll probably be ready to head back. Simply either go back the way you came, or head down at the alternate path (at Watchtowers 10 or 8). If you took the bus here, your ticket is also valid for a return journey, so you’re all set.
To get the bus back to the city, you just need to reverse the journey. Head back to where you got off the bus, then on the opposite side of the road is the return bus stop.
Back at Huairou North Street, cross the road again, and get on the 916 back into Beijing. Do keep in mind that the H35 and the 916 both stop running early, with last buses at around 17.50 and 18.50 from their terminuses respectively, so plan ahead to make sure your epic journey to Mutianyu ends as smoothly as possible!
Tips for travelling to the Great wall at Mutianyu!
1) The higher you go, the more expensive snacks and drinks become, so prepare well!
2) Mid-day is always the busiest, especially at weekends. So come early on a weekday for the least crowds.
3) It can get very hot in summer, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids, often!
4) Everything is always changing in China. Be sure to double check routes, prices and availability in advance before setting out!
5) When you get off the bus at Huairou North Street, you’ll likely be approached by drivers who will try to convince you there are no buses, so that you’ll pay them high prices for their services. If you’re travelling in the afternoon when buses only come once an hour or so this may be an option you want to consider however!
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