The Great Wall of China, top tour activity in China

Great Wall of China - Best Tours & Trips 2019

A visit to the Great Wall is an essential part of any comprehensive China tour. First built as a fortification more than 2,000 years ago, much of the wall is now in ruins, but at some locations you can both view and walk out on this massive monument, which snakes its way through northern China for some 5,500 miles from the east coast to the Gobi Desert. The most accessible areas are in the region around Beijing; the closest and most photogenic is at Badaling, 42 miles from the capital. These sections primarily date from the Ming Dynasty, 400 to 700 years ago.
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Trip Type Trip Type Classic Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Guided Experiences Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ocean Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Tour Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Independent Package A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ocean Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Tour Styles

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

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$ 1,139 $ 10,000+

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Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

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Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

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Top Great Wall of China Experiences and Attractions

Top Great Wall of China Experiences

  • Traveling about 1.5 hours north of Beijing to reach the foot of the Great Wall. Along the way, glimpsing parts of the wall that became eroded or were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution when many of the Wall’s bricks were repurposed for the construction of homes and reservoirs.
  • Trekking for several days along the expanse of the Great Wall, and watching the terrain transform from desert to mountainous forest. 
  • Arriving at the foot of the Great Wall and gazing up, impressed and dwarfed by its height and expansiveness (25 to 45 feet in height and 15 to 30 feet wide).
  • Taking periodic breaks in the watchtowers and peering out of the “windows” (holes that punctuate the walls) to marvel at the ancient architecture against the backdrop of the rugged, mountainous terrain.
  • Taking a cable car to the Wall itself, and then tobogganing down the peaks of the Great Wall.  
  • Experiencing the rush of paragliding over the Great Wall.
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Great Wall of China Trip Reviews

122 Great Wall of China Tour Reviews - Summary 99% Recommend

4.7 out of 5
Excellent 87
Great 34
Average 1
Disappointing 0
Terrible 0
Value
4.7
Guide
4.7
Activities
4.7
Lodging
4.7
Transportation
4.7
Meals
4.7

Tour Reviews Write a Review

Fantastic

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

They took very good care of me as I was a woman traveling alone, never once did I worry about a thing. It was extraordinary. I am using them again to go to Japan.

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Operator Alexander + Roberts

The China sampler tour

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

The China sampler was a wonderful trip. We had never ventured to the orient and the China Sampler was a good introduction to Chinese culture. We liked all the places we visited in Beijing, Xian, Shanghai,and Sozhou. The hotels were very nice and comfortable. Out guides Hou and Lilly were very knowledgeable and spoke perfect English. All the extra excursions were well worth the time and expense. I would definitely recommend the tour to anyone.

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Operator SmarTours

A fascinating journey covering a range of experiences both visual and cultural

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

A fascinating journey covering a range of experiences both visual and cultural.

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Operator G Adventures

A fascinating trip experience the vastness of the country and the calibre of the people who live there

4.0
  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0

A fascinating trip - experience the vastness of the country and the calibre of the people who live there. The knowledge displayed by the local guides in the cities visited provided insights that are not available anywhere else.

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Operator G Adventures

Almost Perfect

4.0
  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0

We enjoyed the trip. We were in a group that had used SmarTours several times and were happy with the results. We were made aware before the trip of all that needed to be done ahead of time. The tour guides were friendly and informative. We were always made to feel comfortable and saw many interesting sites in China. Air China is an awesome airlines - friendly and well-dressed.

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Operator SmarTours

Will not recommend this company, will not use it anymore

3.0
  • Value 3.0
  • Guide 3.0
  • Activities 3.0
  • Lodging 3.0
  • Transportation 3.0
  • Meals 3.0

will not recommend this company, will not use it anymore. Bad service.

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Operator China Highlights

Great Wall of China Tours and Travel Guide

Great Wall of China Attractions & Landmarks Guide

Where to Visit the Great Wall

A visit to the Great Wall is an essential part of any comprehensive China tour. First built as a fortification more than 2,000 years ago, much of the wall is now in ruins, but at some locations you can both view and walk out on this massive monument, which snakes its way through northern China for some 5,500 miles from the east coast to the Gobi Desert.

As a result, there are multiple places to see the Great Wall. The most accessible areas are in the region around Beijing; the closest and most photogenic is at Badaling, 42 miles from the capital. These sections primarily date from the Ming Dynasty, 400 to 700 years ago.

Throughout its existence, The Great Wall (Chángchéng /channg-chnng/ 'Long Wall') withstood attacks from enemy lines and parts of it were destroyed during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). By 1987, the wall made the World Heritage List by UNESCO.

If you are visiting Northern China for the first time, The Great Wall is an absolute must see, and there are 10 different sections of the wall that caters to different travelers:

Badaling

Badaling is 45 miles north of Beijing and is the most popular section of the wall for Chinese travelers to visit. Touring time usually takes about half a day and amenities include cable car rides, a museum, and wheelchair access. This section is perhaps the most consistently crowded.

Simatai

75 miles from Beijing, Simatai is the section of the wall that became a World Heritage Site in 1987. Showcasing different characteristics, with the exemplary display of architecture juxtaposed with ruins that show the wall’s battle scars, the Simatai sections is a favorite among history buffs.

There are cable car services available in this stretch of the wall, and for more adventurous travelers, zip – lines, and boat services as well. Set aside a full day, If you plan to hike this section of the wall.

Mutianyu

Mutianyu is 45 miles from Beijing and is the the most fully restored section of the wall. This makes it the most popular among foreign travelers (as this is also the most child friendly section). As the watchtowers have been fully restored at this section of the wall, sightseeing from varying heights is a favorite activity amongst visitors. Hiking along this section of the wall generally takes about half a day.

Jinshanling

Jinshanling is 96 miles from Beijing and is the most popular hiking route. This section is of particular interest to many hikers because it is half restored and half in ruins, paving the way for a mix of terrain. For those who opt out of the hiking, there is cable car service. If you are planning to hike this section, plan for a full day’s trek.

Jiankou

Jiankou is about 65 miles from Beijing and is known to be the most steep and challenging section of the wall, a destination for avid hikers. This section of the wall has not been restored and hikers are warned to take extreme caution. If you are up for this challenge, plan for a whole day to conquer this stretch.

Gubeikou

Gubeikou is 90 miles from Beijing and is most well known for being the pass that protected the city of Beijing from Northern Mongol invasions. It is said that over 130 battles occurred right at this pass which today lies mostly in ruins. This is also a popular trek for avid hikers. Be forwarned that no amenities, such as wheelchair access or cable car rides, are offered here.

Huanghuacheng

Huanhuacheng is about 48 miles from Beijing and offers travelers a scenic view of the wall against the backdrop of a lake. At this juncture, parts of the wall are immersed in the water, and at the foot of the wall lay an ancient Ming Dynasty chestnut orchard. Cruise boats take travelers around the lake here and hikers can choose to set up camp (best months being May through September for the climate).

What to Do on the Great Wall of China

One of the simplest things to do at the Great Wall is to leave your mark by placing a padlock along the wall. The Chinese view the Great Wall as as symbol of eternity, and so leaving a love lock along the wall is believed to guarantee lifelong success for the couple.

At the Mutianyu section of the wall, generally the most touristy one, tourists can cable car up to the top of the wall. This is great on particularly hot summer days, and makes the wall accessible to older and physically handicapped travelers who otherwise might struggle to view the iconic structure. For the more adventurous, you can even take a toboggan ride down, which we highly recommend!  

Hiking the Great Wall -- whether as a part of a longer multi day trek, or as a day long activity of your comprehensive tour of China -- is also a classic activity to do on the Wall. Steep slopes and stairs will leave you having gotten a good workout, and your reward will be incredible views away from the main tourist throngs.

Visitors to the Great Wall who seek a little more adventure might also be interested in paragliding over the structure to get a unique aerial view. Not only will get a much better sense of the incredible length of the Wall, you will also get to see the beautiful Northern Chinese countryside.

Top Great Wall of China Travel Companies

Things to Know Before You Go

Great Wall of China Frequently Asked Questions  

  1. How long is the Great Wall of China? The great wall is 13,170.7 miles long; or 21,196.18 kilometers.
  2. When was the Great Wall of China built? It was built over 2,300 years ago.
  3. Why was the Great Wall built? The last time the Wall had construction done was in 1644, although construction began in 7th century by the Chu State.
  4. Who built the Great Wall? The Great Wall was built over the span of 20 different dynasties, and commanded by their leaders. The actual builders of the Great Wall were soldiers, prisoners of war, and peasants. 
  5. How long did it take for the wall to be constructed? It took the work of thousands of years, different states, and multiple dynasties to construct the Great Wall. In total, it took just over 2,500 years to build the Great Wall of China.
  6. Who has visited the Great Wall of China? The Great Wall of China has is visited by hundreds of tourists each day, and has also seen some celebrity faces. Some of the famous people who have visited include President Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, President Putin, and President Neslon Mandela. 

Great Wall of China Facts

  • The Wall is not continuous. In certain places, natural barriers such as a mountains occupy a break in the wall.
  • Just under ⅓ of the Great Wall has completely disappeared today.
  • Bricks in the Great Wall were bound together not by cement, but by glutinous rice flour.
  • A significant portion of destruction to the Great Wall took place during the Cultural Revolution (early Communist) period. Bricks from the Wall were used to build houses and farms.
  • The average height of the Great Wall is about 7.88 meters

When to Visit the Great Wall of China

Summer is potentially the worst time to visit the Great Wall.  This is the prime season for tourists, especially in sections of the Wall near Beijing, and it can be uncomfortably hot, with the average temperatures being in 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius). Not only this, but summer is when the Great Wall is most prone to monsoons.

The best time to visit the Great Wall is in either the Spring or the Fall. These times are usually much less crowded, and the weather is less demanding. Spring is slightly warmer, with average temperatures ranging from 52-75 degrees F. In the Fall, average temperatures range from 46-64 degrees Fahrenheit.

Does it cost money to enter the Great Wall?

The cost of the Great Wall depends where you enter it. In some less touristy places, local landowners may ask for a small fee to access their portion of the wall. In other more frequented spots, the price to enter is usually around $7 US dollars.

All Great Wall of China tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.7 for all Great Wall of China trips.

84 trips from 46 tour companies with 122 reviews

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