The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall was opened to tourists in 1986. Located 73 kilometers from Beijing proper, it offers a quieter alternative to the theme-park ambiance of Badaling, especially if you get there early. Don't be put off by the swarming kiosks, the car park and the cable car: make your way to the top and strike out on your own and chances are you'll be rewarded with some blessed solitude and a chance to reflect on the sight of the Wall snaking its way through the dizzying landscape.
This well-preserved section was built about 1,400 years ago and reconstructed later during the Ming Dynasty. When Emperor Yongle returned north and reestablished Beijing as the capital, in the 15th century, he was vulnerable to attack on three sides. Harassment increased after the reign of Emperor Zhengtong, so work was begun to strengthen and lengthen the wall at Yalu River in the east.
The highest observation tower in the Mutianyu section is 540 meters above sea level. Crenellations and arrow holes are part of the solid construction. To the east, the Great Wall continues across the mountain ridges, to the west, it enters a point of strategic importance at a peak 1,044 meters above sea level.
Getting there: Tourist Bus No. 6 from Xuanwumen, Qianmen and Dongsi Shitiao; or take Bus No. 916 from Dongzhimen to Huairou, and then change to a local bus or hire a taxi (17 km)