Back in time on The Great Wall of China with Sepia Photography

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I have visited Beijing as my 3 days stop over on the way back to Melbourne, after my Mongolia trip last Sept 2016. As a part of my day guided Beijing tour, we visited the Mutianyu Great Wall. Once we arrived at the Great Wall, we basically had 2 1/2 to 3 hours to get up there, walk around and return to our tour van.

Mutianyu Great Wall is around 1.5 hours of driving from downtown Beijing, or 1 hour 20 minutes if you are coming from the airport by road. It is a good alternative for Badaling. With fewer tour buses and stops, Mutianyu is much quieter and easier to walk in than Badaling. Besides being the longest fully restored section of Great Wall, Mutianyu attracts visitors because it has the convenient facilities including cable car, chairlift and toboggan. With the easier walking conditions and fewer crowds, Mutianyu is much more enjoyable to walk in than Badaling.

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Walking the Great Wall of China is no stroll in the park although the surface of Mutianyu is generally smooth. The section between tower 19 and 20 (left towers when you’re facing the entrance) is really steep, containing approx. 450 steps. If you find climbing vertical steps exciting, you will enjoy this part of the wall.

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Similarly, the vertical steps between the 1st and the 6th towers may add the difficulty of your walk. If you are not in good shape, you may struggle. However, thanks to the cable car and the chairlift, you can still get to the top of the Mutianyu without hiking up the wall.

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The stretch is beautiful, and thankfully not so crowded after lunchtime, But if you go in the morning or during weekend, the area is so crowded.  Getting up on the Great Wall is a fair challenge, a great place for a quick cardio session!!. The slope just to get up to the ticket center is fairly moderate to very steep and then up to the gondola, just as steep! And of course some good stair work too.  I’m not sure if there are alternatives for people who are poor walkers but if there aren’t, this might not be the right section for people who need more assistance.

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This was about a two hour drive from Beijing. Leaving your transport at the bottom of the hill you can either walk up the full way to the wall which will take you between 45 to 60 minutes or walk up to the cable way and pay 120 yuan return for a 5 to 7 minute ride. It’s like a ski lift with a bar in front to hold. As I don’t like walking much especially steep climb, I thought this was the easiest one for me, but nevertheless a very scary part to get up and go down. Due to my fear of heights, I have to close my eyes and do some mind distraction to ally my fears.

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When you get to your destination, you will then climb a few more steps to reach the wall. At the first turret there’s a good photo opportunity to capture a length of the Wall. I continued down to the next turret then looked upward and saw too many steps some quite high to continue. My companions continued slowly up and waited at the bottom. They said the view was great but the steps were tiring. I was surprised less crowded it was , apparently most visitors go to the other site. To return you can either use your ticket for the cable ride .

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Award wining Photographer Dr Zenaidy Castro 1

At places the climb is very steep and you can slip. The Wall winds up and down the mountain ridges, offering more magnificent scenery, but requiring more energy to climb. Climbing the great wall is more a “I did it” than being very interesting. It is great to see from a historic perspective, but otherwise it is basically climbing a lot of stairs. Because of the smog, there is not a great view of what could be wonderful scenery.

To go down, you can try Slow Roller Coaster. Great for kids or people looking for Adrenaline adventure. It’s sounds fun, you can hear those people screaming on the way down,  from the thrill of the ride. But definitely it’s not for me

This is an attraction not to be missed…. The sheer human effort in constructing this is mind boggling. And if you think it’s just a big wall….you’re wrong. It’s like a never ending staircase.

How long is the Mutianyu Walk?

The entire Mutianyu walk takes approx. 2 -3 hours, with plenty of relaxation, resting, picture taking along the way. The Mutianyu trails are are well formed and easy to follow, which makes walking along it relatively easy. It takes on average of 40 minutes to hike uphill to the wall , with some breaks regardless of individual fitness, age and/or length of stride.

Walk up the trails you will reach the sixth, eighth or tenth tower. If you are coming from the Dream Stone City or the South Entrance, near the toboggan, walk up the stairs you will reach towers six or eight. Alternatively, walk up from North Entrance close to the cable car station, and ascend the stairs till you reach tower eight or ten.

There are three popular means of ascending / descending the Mutianyu. They include;

  1. The Toboggan ride
  2. The chairlift
  3. And the Cable car

The Chairlift

A 550 meters long open chairlift will take you from the parking lot to tower six and vice versa under ten minutes. The open ski-lift kind of cable car can comfortably accommodate 2  passengers side by side. The ride offers a perfect elevated opportunity to sit back, relax and savor the breathtaking beauty of Mutianyu Great Wall section, IF you are not scare of heights.

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What to Bring

Dress for walking and dress for the weather.  Layers of clothes that can be taken on and off allow for greater comfort and temperature control. Wear/bring sun protection in the summer and dress for sub-zero temperatures in the winter. It can feel much colder on the wall than down in the valleys because of altitude and exposure.

Choose comfortable footwear with good grip and support for the feet or walking pole. Umbrellas may be used here as the ascents and descents are not difficult, but may be inconvenient in strong winds. Bring snacks and water if you want to walk a long portion of the wall.

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At the exit, you will meet this two chinese men wearing a costume as a watchtower guard, waiting for tourist to have a picture with them with a small tip.

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See the world from my photographic perspective

Welcome! I’m Dr Zenaidy Castro , a Cosmetic Dentist based in Melbourne  Australia. My unquenchable thirst for travel and passion for photography  leads me to explore the world, from here and hopefully one day, at the end of the remote continent -wherever that is.

If you are looking for travel insights and inspirations, you have come to the right place. My blog post have abundance of visual journals and photos to help you soak with the landscape, culture, people and the place without leaving your home. You will find tips and informations along the way.


It’s all here for free viewing.


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