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It’s been a while since we’ve been to the Great Wall but as soon as we saw the glorious skies over Beijing on January 2, we knew we had to make the most of it, and a trip to Mutianyu was too hard to resist. The journey by car there was very quick, taking just over an hour from Shunyi. We prefer the Great Wall at Mutianyu, as it is less crowded and has better architecture than at Badaling. Mutianyu, meaning 'Admire Fields Valley,' is also the longest fully-restored Great Wall section open to tourists.

Located in Huairou County, Mutianyu Great Wall was first built in Northern Qi Dynasty (550-557). In Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Tan Lun and Qi Jiguang, two famous patriotic generals, rebuilt it in order to strengthen its defensive potential when they guarded the strategic pass. It served as the northern protective screen, guarding the capital and imperial mausoleums for generations. Mutianyu Great Wall winds 1.4 miles through mountains and ridges, many sections of which are made of granite. There are 22 watch towers distributed at close intervals along the wall, providing a wonderful vista for the breath-taking scenery. Woods cover a great deal of the scenic area, with hundreds of ancient pine trees and cypresses.

The whole scenic area at Mutianyu has recently been extended. Currently, visitors who get off at Mutianyuhuandao bus station only need walk for a couple of minutes to reach the newly-built tourist center and ticket office. You then take a shuttle bus to reach the foot of the wall, which takes about five minutes. A round-trip shuttle bus ticket costs RMB 15. For a single trip, you pay RMB 10, and if you don’t wish to take the shuttle bus, you’ll need to walk around under two miles to reach the foot of the wall. The cable car is a great option for making your way up the wall if you're feeling lazy, and of course the toboggan sled is the best way down. A “signature” wall has been built to the west of No. 14 watchtower, to encourage people to sign that wall rather than the Great Wall itself. Another two of these signature walls will be set up near No. 5 and No. 10 watchtowers.

Subway and a Chinese restaurant are your dining options at the foot of the wall, but take the bus back to the new tourist area, and you are spoilt for choice with many western and local restaurants available. Lakers, Burger King, Yoshinoya, Carles, and a Vegetarian restaurant give a great deal of choice. We opted for The Schoolhouse café, where we devoured tomato soup and hot pork belly and mustard shao bing. The café stocks a range of The Schoolhouse products, including soaps and pot pourri, stained glass objects, crockery, and slippers. Outside, we strolled around some of the stalls, selling the usual over-priced tourist items, and there are many brand new kiosks that have been built, which will soon be filled with vendors.

I am impressed with what the developers have done here. The days of cars queuing and crawling up the steep hills are gone, and even though we weren’t visiting in the height of the tourist season, the design of the new parking areas, the fact they have dozens of shuttle buses that go frequently, should all work efficiently in the height of season. There are plenty of new restrooms, with sit and squat toilets. The new and improved Mutianyu makes spending a much longer day there more appealing. You can now enjoy a coffee before the hike (or cable car) up, and a nice lunch and some shopping afterwards.

Mutianyu (慕田峪)
Opening Hours: 8am-4pm
Admission Fee: Adults RMB 45; Children (1.2-1.5M) RMB 25; Free for children below 1.2M.
Cable Fee (Optional): Adults (including children above 1.3M) RMB 80 for a single trip, RMB 100 for a round trip; Children (1.2M-1.3M): RMB 40 for a single trip, RMB 50 for a round trip; Free for children below 1.2M.
Slideway Fee (Optional): Adults RMB 80 for a single trip, RMB 100 for a round trip (Cable car up, slideway down); Children: RMB 60 for a round trip (Cable car up, slideway down).

Photos: Sally Wilson

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