Jinshanling Great Wall of China: A Complete Guide & Photo Tour

The Great Wall of China is a bucket list destination for all travelers. But, with over 10 million people visiting the historic site each year, can you really experience the Great Wall of China crowd-free?

Yes! But you need to head out a bit further from Beijing and do the Jinshanling Great Wall Tour.

This guide details everything you need to know about the Jinshanling section, including how to get there, which route to choose, and how it compares to all the other sections of the Great Wall.

How to get to Jinshanling Great Wall
These views from Jinshanling are just the best

Where is the Jinshanling section

The Jinshanling Section is about 150 km north-east of Beijing. Although it’s one of the furthest sections from the city, the 2.5-hour drive to get there is worth every minute.

Jinshanling connects with the Simatai section toward the east and the wild Gubeikou section toward the west. But don’t worry; I’ve detailed the full hiking route below!

Best way to see Jinshanling Great Wall

Unlike the more popular sections of Badaling and Mutianyu, getting to the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall is slightly more challenging as it’s further from Beijing.

The easiest way to visit Jinshanling is by booking a Great Wall of China tour that takes you from Beijing to the wall and back.

Things to do in Beijing China
Was it worth coming all the way to China just to see the Great Wall? Yes

Group tours

Group tours are an easy and more affordable way of visiting the Great Wall at Jinshanling. Here is a great tour that includes pick-up in Beijing and takes you to the Jinshanling section, where you walk the unrestored parts to Simatai.

Private tours

Private tours are the more popular option as they give you more freedom and flexibility. You’ll also have more one-on-one time with your guide. If you want to learn more about the Great Wall, I recommend booking a private tour.

  • Private driver: This allows you to create your own itinerary and stop at other attractions on the way. Find out more here.
  • Private day trip & sunset: This tour takes you to two sections, and you’ll watch the sunset from the Jinshanling Great Wall. Find out more here.

Public transport

There is a direct bus from Dongzhimen in Beijing to the Jinshanling section. This is Bus No. 8 at the 942 Express Bus Station Courtyard (getting here can be a challenge) and they operate between April and October each year.

Remember, you’re in a foreign country where there’s not much English spoken. It’s crazy busy everywhere and there can be delays with the buses. Not to mention that finding your way around Beijing is challenging, especially if you don’t have a VPN and access to the internet.

I didn’t want to risk the chance of getting lost and not having a full day hiking the Great Wall, so I chose to go with a tour group instead. It’s by far the easiest and most convenient way to plan your trip.

Best Jinshanling group tour from Beijing
The view as you get off the Jinshanling cable car

Best time to visit Jinshanling Great Wall of China

China gets extremely hot in the summer months, from June to August.

I hiked the Jinshanling section during August in 40-degree heat and extreme humidity. I don’t recommend this (unless this is the only time you can visit!)

April/May and Sept/Oct are the best months to visit the Great Wall as it’s not scorching hot nor overly crowded. But clear skies are never guaranteed in China as the air pollution is so bad.

Avoid weekends or public holidays, especially over Chinese New Year in February.

Gubeikou to Jinshanling
I took the cable car and walked for about 3.5 hours through the restored and unrestored sections of Jinshanling

4 Reasons to do Great Wall at Jinshanling

Here are some of the pros of doing the Jinshanling section.

1. Crowd free

If you’re planning your trip to Beijing, be prepared for crowds. The city is bustling with tourists left, right and center.

The Jinshanling Great Wall tour offers an escape from the chaos of it all as it’s further from Beijing.

Need proof? Well, these pictures speak a thousand words. And no – tourists have not been photo-shopped out of them.

Great Wall of China crowd free
This was during the peak summer months, and look how empty the wall is

2. The hiking

For those looking for an adventure and a serious workout, the Jinshanling section is for you!

It stretches over 10 km with steep steps and uphill climbs. I hiked the section from Jinshanling toward Simatai, which has several beacon towers, all with iconic arched doorways and windows.

Because there weren’t many people on the wall, I could walk at my own pace (which wasn’t too fast, thanks to the heat).

Jinshanling Great Wall hiking
We walked about 6km of the 10 km Jinshanling section

3. It’s semi-restored

Did you know that over one-third of the Great Wall of China has disappeared as a result of erosion? And parts of the wall will continue to fade away slowly throughout the years.

This is one of the best things about the Jinshanling section. You can see the wall in its original form, and how it’s deteriorated as time’s gone by. But you can also experience the newer, well-maintained sections that have recently been restored.

I preferred the older, wilder section as it took me back in time and made me appreciate just how old the structure is.

I can’t imagine what those people went through, working all day and night throughout the summer heat. It’s believed that many of them lost their lives working on the Great Wall, and I can now understand why.

Jinshanling or Mutianyu
Walking from the Jinshanling section to the Simatai section of the Great Wall

4. The views from Jinshanling Great Wall

The Jinshanling section is said to be the most beautiful part of the Great Wall of China. And I couldn’t agree more.

As far as the eyes can see, you’re spoilt with gorgeous lush greenery and breathtaking views of the rolling hills in the distance.

Did I think China would be this beautiful? No! And seeing it from the Jinshanling Great Wall has made me want to experience more of the county.

This gorgeous 4-day hike to Huangshan is next on my China bucket list!

Views from Jinshanling Great Wall
The views from the Jinshanling section are said to be the best

Hiking Jinshanling Great Wall

Thanks to the Jinshanling cable car, certain parts allow easy access for the elderly or people with limited mobility (or those who aren’t too keen to walk the wall).

Alternatively, you can take up the challenge and hike as much of it as possible.

I chose the latter (well, sort of)!

Jinshanling Great Wall map

I suggest you save the Jinshanling map below and use it as a guideline for your walk.

The three most important locations are Brick Cremel, highlighted in red, Xiaojinshan Tower in green and East Five-Window Tower in blue.

Jinshanling Great Wall map
You can either walk from Brick Cremel (red) or Xiaojinshan Tower (green) to East Five-Window Tower (blue)

The best Jinshanling walk

There are various routes you can choose depending on the amount of time you have.

Option 1: Walking the entire Jinshanling Great Wall route

Key directions: Brick Cremel to East Five-Window Tower

Time needed: 3.5 hours fast walk / 4.5 hours at an easy pace

If you choose to walk the entire section, you need to follow the route from the entrance of the Jinshanling Great Wall tour to Brick Cremel (on the Jinshanling map above).

Once you arrive here, take a left, and you’ll soon meet up with the group taking the cable car.

Continue to the East Five-Window Tower, where you’ll find a path that takes you back to the East Gate of the Jinshanling entrance.

Hiking the Great Wall of China
Walking toward the East Five-Window tower

Option 2: Walk and Cable Car

Key directions: Xiaojinshan Tower to East Five-Window Tower

Time needed: 2.5 hours fast walk / 3.5 hours easy pace

If you take the cable car from the Jinshanling entrance, you will arrive at Xiaojinshan Tower on the Great Wall.

This part is moderately busy as many tourists take the cable car to the top, get a few snaps, and then return via the cable car.

Once you reach this tower, you’ll turn left and make your way to the East Five-Window Tower. Here, you’ll leave the wall and walk towards the East Gate of the Jinshanling entrance.

Jinshanling cable car
The Jinshanling cable car takes you to the Xiaojinshan Tower. From here you turn left toward the East Five-Window Tower

Should you take the Jinshanling cable car

When I first heard that there was a cable car at the Jinshanling Great Wall, I laughed. Why would you want to take a cable car to the wall and not walk the route yourself?

But then I realized that to get to the wall, you need to walk uphill for over 45 minutes. Why waste all this energy just getting to the wall?

Also, if you’re doing the Jinshanling Great Wall section with a tour group, you’ll most likely have 3h 30min to hike the wall. This may seem like enough time to cover 12 km, but if you want to admire the views, take loads of pictures, and enjoy the hike, then the cable car may be a better option as it gives you more time on the wall.

If you take the Jinshanling cable car and follow my route above, you’ll walk from the restored section toward the rugged and wild section on the east (toward Simatai).

How difficult is the Jinshanling Great Wall walk

The hike (or walk) from Jinshanling toward Simatai is relatively easy, but several parts are quite challenging. It does require some level of fitness, but it’s best not to rush. Take as many photos as you need – it’s a great excuse to have a short break.

You’ll pass through both ruins and completed sections; you’ll walk up steep flights of stairs, and then all the way back down again. You’ll find shade in the watchtowers (and never want to leave).

But once you’re done, you’ll leave feeling like you’re on top of the world!

Jinsjanling marathon Beijing
Hiking the Great Wall in 40-degree heat was not easy

Jinshanling Great Wall Marathon

The Jinshanling Great Wall Marathon takes place in April every year. There is an option to do the full marathon, half marathon, and 10 km race.

If you’re planning to visit Beijing during this time, I highly recommend that you sign up for it.

Which is the best section of The Great Wall

The Great Wall is made up of several different sections, which were built by different dynasties for different purposes.

I’ve hopefully already convinced you to visit the Jinshanling section, but if you want to check out your options, these are other popular Great Wall tours that may be better suited for you.

Best section of the Great Wall of China
More from Jinshanling

Badaling Great Wall

Pros: The entrance is just 70 km from Beijing, making it the closest section to the city. It can be reached by train, so if time is of the essence, you may want to choose this route. It’s immaculately restored and offers easy walking routes and accessibility if you have limited mobility.

Cons: The Badaling section of the Great Wall is the most well-known tour, with 75% of tourists choosing to visit this section. It’s busy and commercialized. Don’t do it!

Badaling tours: Because the Badaling section is close to Beijing, you can pair a trip to Badaling with the Ming Tombs, which is the largest imperial tomb in the world. Check the latest prices.

Mutianyu Great Wall

Pros: Mutianyu is the second most popular choice for tourists. It’s well-restored and offers a less crowded experience than Badaling. If you only have a day in China, I recommend you visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, as it’s only 75 km away from Beijing. The toboggan ride down from the top is also a huge attraction!

Cons: It is still a crowd favorite and attracts thousands of visitors.

Tour: This is one of the most affordable sections of the Great Wall of China. Enjoy round-trip air-conditioned buses and an English-speaking guide. Check the latest prices.

Simatai Great Wall

Pros: If you visit the Simatai section, you can see the wall in its original form, with some parts crumbling. However, it is accessible to hike and less commercial than the above two.

Cons: The Simatai section is further from Beijing, 130 km, and not easily accessible for people with disability.

Tour: The Simatai section is located near Gubei Water Town, an ancient canal village. It’s best to explore the water town as well as the Simatai section on the same day. Check the latest prices.

Jiankou Great Wall

Pros: Jiankou has not been renovated and is the wildest section of the wall. It’s completely original and is recommended for the more adventurous traveler.

Cons: With the crumbling rock, it can be pretty dangerous. The climb is not for the faint-hearted as it is fairly steep. Hiking boots are required, and it’s advised that you hike this as part of a group.

Jinshanling is considered the happy medium of all the above, and so that’s why I chose it.

Tour: If you want to experience the Jiankous section, it’s best to do the Great Wall hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu. Check the latest prices.

Best time to visit the Great Wall
The Great Wall of China in August – It was boiling hot but the scenery was incredible

What to pack when climbing the Great Wall of China

If you’re serious about walking quite a bit of the wall, you need to dress appropriately.

  • Trainers are a must (Hiking shoes aren’t necessary for the Jinshanling section)
  • Comfortable clothes
  • Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen (You can purchase a hat at the front entrance)
  • Small backpack or sling bag
  • Lots of water and snacks. There are vendors at the watchtowers selling refreshments, but these can be more expensive
  • Cash to buy refreshments and drinks during lunch
  • Camera or GoPro
What to pack for your Great Wall hike
Still going strong after 3 hours of walking the Great Wall

Where to stay in Beijing

When visiting Beijing, it’s best to stay near the city center. From here, it’s easy to access the subway, and it is within walking distance of several attractions.

I stayed in the Qianmen area and the location did not disappoint. It’s a short walk to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and there are an array of restaurants nearby.

Here are a few accommodation options that will suit any budget:

  • Budget: Peking Youth Hostel is an excellent, social place right in the center of the city. You can book private or dorm rooms here, and it’s one of the most affordable accommodation options in Beijing.
  • Mid-Range: The Orchid Hotel can be found in the heart of Beijing in a well-preserved, historic home.
  • Luxury: The Peninsula Beijing is an exquisite hotel centrally located in the Wangfujing Shopping District. It oozes elegance and is the perfect place to stay if you’re willing to spend a bit more.

Final thoughts after ticking the Great Wall of China off my bucket list

The Great Wall was everything I imagined it to be and more!

Opting for the Jinshanling section was one of the best decisions I made. I feel that my experience would have been very different had it been overcrowded like some of the other tour options.

If I can give you one piece of advice – don’t go in summer if you don’t have to! I can’t even begin to explain how hot it was out there! But I soldiered on and didn’t let the heat ruin my experience.

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Have you been to the Great Wall of China? Which section is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

About Carryn

Hi, I'm Carryn. I’m an adventure travel blogger trying to figure out my way through life by traveling and exploring. Join me as I share my travel guides and tips for life abroad. Find out more about me here.

14 thoughts on “Jinshanling Great Wall of China: A Complete Guide & Photo Tour”

  1. All the parts of the Great Wall look absolutely stunning! I love how you talk a bit about the history. Taking the cable car sounds like a good idea though haha! I really didn’t think China looks this pretty, thanks for sharing!

    • Exactly – I thought China was just made of massive, over populated cities! But going to the Great Wall really changed my perspective of the country. It’s so beautiful!

  2. Ok, this is 100% from my ignorance, but I never realized there were multiple places to visit the Great Wall. It appeals to me so much to visit the Jinshanling part of the Great Wall because of the lower crowds, and I’d also love that it’s semi-restored. Great post! Pinning this for next year when I visit China.

  3. The Jinshanling section seems great. Just avoid the “Badaling” one, it’s the easiest to get to, but also the most crowded.

  4. We will be in the cruise port for Beijing and Tianjin for two days in March. In the past ten years we have visited the Great Wall at Mutianyu and then at Huangya Guan Great Wall Scenery Area. I am fascinated by The Wall and want to see another section but I cannot walk long distance and steps are difficult for me. Still, it seems that the Cable Car would enable us to see more of China and The Wall. Is it possible get off at the top, enjoy the sight and take a few photos, then return via the Cable Car to where we started? In March it will be cold and I don’t want to be there for a long time. Suggestions appreciated!

    • Hi Jean,

      Yes, the cable car at the Jinshanling section is a great way to see the wall without hiking long distances. You can take the cable car up and down. I highly recommend this!



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