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Badaling vs. Mutianyu

As is known to all, Badaling and Mutianyu are the two most visited Great Wall sections. Both are well-preserved, and well equipped for visitors' convenience. But one may ask which one should I visit if I have limited time? Here are their differences and similarities to help you make a final decision.
 
  • Badaling
  • Best-preserved
  • Visited by over 460 world leaders
  • Too crowded to visit on some holidays
  • Cable car and pulley are available
  • Direct public transport from Beijing
vs
  • Mutianyu
  • Well-preserved
  • Visited by some world leaders
  • OK to visit on holidays
  • Cable car and slide way are equipped
  • Need transfer from downtown Beijing

 Both are well-preserved, but Badaling is even better.
Badaling is the best-preserved and most complete section. The bottom is 7-8 yards (6.5-7.5 meters) wide, and the top is 5-6 yards (4.5-5.8 meters) wide, allowing five horses or ten soldiers to walk shoulder by shoulder. Its magnificence is incomparable. It is also the first section that was developed into a scenic area and opened to the public in 1958.
 
In contrast, Mutianyu was opened as a scenic area 30 years later in 1988. It is also well-preserved, but its grandeur cannot rival that of its counterpart, with a top width of 4-5.5 yards (4-5 meters).
Which one to choose: Badaling or Mutianyu


 World Leaders Prefer Badaling.
Accompanied by China's Premier Zhou Enlai, India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Badaling in 1954. It was the first time a foreign head of state was received at the Great Wall of China. Since then, it has become an important place to entertain foreign leaders. More than 460 heads of state, and heads of government have visited it. Some of these influential people are Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Elizabeth II, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Boris Yeltsin, George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, and Barack Obama. Mutianyu also received some influential people, like Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, but it cannot equal its counterpart.
 

 Badaling is the most popular section, but is overcrowded on some holidays.
As the most popular section, Badaling has more visitors than other sections. As of today, it has received 150 million visitors from home and abroad. This may be the source of the rumor that it is overcrowded. But that is not always the case. Most of the time, Badaling has a regular number of visitors. The scenic area is large with pretty long walls, allowing enough space and pleasant tour exprience. During holidays, however, especially National Day Holiday from October 1st to 7th, it will be overcrowded. The pictures of a crowded Great Wall were mostly taken then.

Badaling on normal days and on big holiday

Therefore, it is wise to consult a China Public Holiday Calendar  to avoid big holidays. If you happen to visit during the peak travel time, Mutianyu, Jinshanling and Juyongguan with fewer visitors are better alternatives.
 

 Both are well-equipped with sound facilities for visitors' convenience.
At Badaling, there are two cableways: North Cableway and South Cableway. Additionally, visitors can ride on the exciting pulley. At Mutianyu, visitors can ride on the cableway. Also, they can descend by slideway, which is quite thrilling. Both sections are equipped with handrails for visitors' convenience and safety.
 

 Badaling is more easily reached by public transport than Mutianyu.
How to get to the Great Wall makes little difference to group travelers. But it means a lot to independent travelers.

Compared with Mutianyu, Badaling is more easily accessible by public transport from downtown Beijing. You can take bus line 877 from Deshengmen or tourist bus line 1 from Qianmen to get there directly. Or, you can take an S2 train from Huangtudian Railway Station near Huoying Subway Station.
 See How to Get to Badaling from Downtown Beijing

There is no direct transportation to Mutianyu from downtown Beijing. You need to take bus line 916 Express or 916 from Dongzhimen to Huairou District. Then, change to a local mini bus or charter a private car to get there. It is time-consuming and there is a possible risk of being robbed when chartering a private car.
 See How to reach Mutianyu from Downtown Beijing

Badaling Bus 877 vs Mutianyu Bus 916

 In a word, Badaling is a must-see for first-time visitors to China and highly recommended on normal days, while Mutianyu is a popular alternative during holidays.