This was my first trip to the Badaling section of the Great Wall and went with a tour group and I’m going to tell you why that’s a really bad idea from the first-hand experience. After that, I tell you what you should really do.
As the tour bus left the Ming Tombs the guide started talking about jade, and then tea, my eyes rolled into the back of my head. To explain; it’s quite common for tour services to take gullible foreigners to ‘jade galleries’ and tea houses featuring ‘genuine green tea’ for sale.
The guide started with a big long story about how important jade is in Chinas history, which it probably is, and then how there’s ‘good and bad’ jade, blah. blah and then, so lucky for us, there happens to be an exclusive jade showroom just around the corner!
So instead of spending time at the Great Wall, here we are at a Jade Salesroom, hmmm, I should have learned a lesson after joining a tour group to see Mt Emei which ended up being a tea sales tour. Never go with tour groups!
Although, I did ask when I booked this tour ‘there is no side trips to tea salesrooms is there?’, now I know why she dodged the question!
Rather than get frustrated I tried to think differently, and just go along with it, even though it was wasting valuable time. I wondered, just how much money this enterprise makes from selling overpriced ornaments to tourists who know no better. I think plenty, minibuses are wheeling in and out, the place is huge and its packed with staff, like heaps of staff. The building is located in the middle of nowhere but is conveniently en-route to the what is the most visited section of the Great Wall.
Why did the guide take us there? Big commissions per head brought in apparently.
Anyway, after finally getting to the wall, the tour guide pointed up to a section of it, and said, “you should be able to get to where that tree is, then get back with the hour, then we’ll have lunch”. Yup, that was the intro from our guide to the Great Wall, the thing we actually bought tickets for, and she had graced us with a whole hour to enjoy it. Funny, she didn’t mention a time limit for while we were at the jade room.
Right. I don’t care I’m finally going to walk along the Great Wall!
In the photo above you can see the right side of the Badaling section of the Great Wall. Here at Badaling, the wall weaves it’s way around for almost 5 kilometers, this section of the wall was built in the 1500’s and restored and opened to tourists in recent times.
After visiting the wall, the tour then journeyed off to another showroom full of junk, where we stood waisting time, time that could have been spent on the wall. I was over it, and the tour guide knew it. I had enough, so I bailed and got a taxi to the Lama temple and went on enjoying sightseeing instead of being stuck in showrooms.
Don’t take tours! Here is a guide to enjoying the Badaling section of the Great Wall in your own way. You don’t need to join a tour!
How to get to Badaling section of the Great Wall at Beijing
Bus 877 – Route: Deshengmen bus stop (德胜门) to Badaling Great Wall bus stop (八达岭长城) – Ticket: 12 RMB
The first bus leaves from Deshengmen at 6:00 am. and the last bus from Badaling Great Wall leaves at 4:30 pm. The journey takes around 1 hr 50 min.
Here is the 877 bus route on Baidu Maps
Depart from Beijing Tourist Hub (北京旅游集散中心) every 25 minutes during busy period between 8.30 am and 11.30 am and depart every 50 mins during the slow season. It is known as Tour C. The journey takes around 1 hr 30 min. Note: buses won’t depart until they have enough passengers. Be sure to buy tickets for the government-run bus.
Ticket cost is 100 RMB for round trip which includes entry to Badaling. Departure point is: 1 Qianmen West Street (前门西大街甲1号)
Head to Huangtudian Railway Station (黄土店站) and take the S2 train to Badaling Station (八达岭).
You can get to Huangtudian Railway Station (黄土店站) via subway line 8 or 13 and depart at Huoying Station ( 霍营站) and exit from Exit G4 and it’s only minutes walk.
The train journey takes around one hour and it’s advised to take the early train which leaves at 6.30 am. From Badaling Station, it’s a 15-minute walk to the Great Wall. There are also shuttle buses running during the peak season. The ticket cost is 6 RMB.
Taxi cost from downtown to Badaling is approx 220 RMB. Taxi Address: 八达岭长城 – Bādálǐng Chángchéng
Tickets are purchased at the gate. Please take your passport, as you may be asked for it.
|Season||Apr. 1 to Oct.31||Nov.1 to Mar.31|
|Ticket Price||40 RMB||35 RMB|
The North and South sections
You have a choice, to go up the North Section or the South Section.
The North section has twelve towers and can become tough going after the ninth, but you are rewarded with an easy way down which passes by the Bear Zoo. You can also go up via cable car or pulley car (sliding car) or a combination of the two. The North Section features the famous stele engraved with the words “He who has never been to the Great Wall is not a true man” inside tower eight. The full loop by foot would take three hours.
The South Section features seven towers and is much easier. It can be completed in a couple of hours. There is also a cable car up to the fourth tower.
Some people even go so far as to do both sections, depends on you. Some people are satisfied to go up in the cable car, catch the glorious views, and come back the same way. Any way you like, it’s up to you.
The Cable Car and Pulley Car at Badaling
If you want to take a quick way up, try the cable car or pulley car. There is a cable car at the South section and a pulley car and cable car at the North section. Kids and elderly are recommended to take the cable car over the pulley car.
The South Cable Car (八达岭索道有限公司) – heads up to the 4th Tower of the southern section. It’s a short ride.
The North cable car (八达岭索道) – departs from dining and shopping area and heads up to the 8th tower of the northern section.
The Pulley Car – departs from near the bear garden and heads up to the 4th tower of the northern section. Note: some people like to take the cable car up and the pulley car down.
Hours: Apr. – Oct.: 8:00 – 16:30 | Nov. – Mar.: 8:30 – 16:00
Cable Car and Pulley Car Tickets
|Single Trip||Round Trip|
|Cable Car||CNY 100||CNY 140|
|Pulley||CNY 80||CNY 100|
The Great Wall Museum (中国长城博物馆)
The museum features nine halls covering arts and culture, history, and artifacts. Entry is free for ticket holders. Note: its closed on Mondays.
Circle Vision Theater (长城全周影院)
Free entry with Badaling ticket. It’s a 360-degree cinema showing featuring a movie that runs for 17 minutes with scenes of the great wall and some history.
Badaling Bear Paradise (八达岭熊乐园)
Coming down the northern section you will see a bear zoo, there are multiple species here and entry is free, you only need to pay if you’d like to feed the bears.
Food options at Badaling
There’s no shortage of options ranging from Chinese restaurants, snack stalls right through to western fare such as Starbucks and KFC.
Badaling Fast Facts
- Badaling is located in Yanqing County, 70 km north of downtown Beijing.
- First opened to tourists in 1957 post-reconstruction
- The best-preserved and most complete section
- It is the most visitor-friendly section in terms of incline and having handrails for safety
- Built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD)
- Badaling sections total length is 12 kilometers (7.5 miles ) but only 4 kilometers is open to the public.
- The public section features 19 watchtowers, all restored
Badaling Visiting Tips
- Wear comfortable clothing
- Take sun protection
- Wear appropriate shoes, some inclines are slippery
- Be prepared for crowds
- Take ample water up with you
- Beat the crowds by going early, or in the afternoon
- Avoid going there on weekends and holidays
- Best time to visit is Spring (April to May) and Autumn (September to October)
- Badaling section is the most wheelchair-friendly
Badaling Map google map
On this map, I will highlight all the transport stations mentioned and points of interest at Badaling.
Badaling overview map
Showing towers, cable cars, and amenities. Click for larger image.
Where to Stay in Beijing?
One of my top picks for places to stay is the Sofu Hotel, which has a small food street near its door, it’s four-star, and is a very short walk to Ping’anli Station which gives you access to Line 4 and 6. Another choice is the Novotel Xinqiao which is four star and very near Chongwenmen Station or the Ji Hotel at Xuanwumen Station. All three are super convenient for getting around the attractions of Beijing by subway.
See also, my hand-picked list of the top 15 spa hotels in Beijing.