There are no sections of the Great Wall near Hong Kong, so most travelers combine a visit to the Great Wall with a trip to Beijing. There are many sections within driving distance of Beijing, and from there, visitors can combine a day trip to the Great Wall with a visit to the Ming Tombs.
To get to the Great Wall from Hong Kong, travelers must first go to Beijing and then travel another 90 minutes or more to the Great Wall via private transfer. In addition, a tourist visa may be required to travel from the former British colony of Hong Kong to China, which has separate immigration and customs procedures from Hong Kong. Depending on your country of citizenship and your itinerary, you may be eligible to travel in China for up to 72 hours without a visa via China's 72-hour Transit Visa Exemption or for up to six days without a visa via the 144-hour Travel Visa Exemption.
Once in Beijing, it's best to book a day tour or hire a driver and guide so you can go at your own pace. Expect a full-day adventure, from early morning to late afternoon/early evening, but it is possible to visit the Great Wall in half a day if you are pressed for time.
There are plenty of itineraries to inspire your travels, like this 12-day Beijing to Hong Kong Grand Tour.
Duration: 3.5-hour flight (+ 90 minutes to 2 hours transfer to the Great Wall)
Flying affords the quickest travel time to make the 1,221-mile (1,965-km) journey from Hong Kong to Beijing and is the most convenient and preferred option.
There are more than a dozen nonstop flights from Hong Kong International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport, which is 18 miles (30 km) northeast of Tian'anmen Square, and the new starfish-shaped Beijing Daxing International Airport—set to be the world's largest airport when it officially opens at the end of September—which is 30 miles (50 km) south of Tian'anmen Square.
Flying between the two cities is a breeze, particularly because most major airlines allow passengers to check-in 90-minutes to one full day before their flights locally in-town at Hong Kong MRT Station and Kowloon MTR Station. From each Beijing airport, a private driver can drive you to the Great Wall.
Duration: 9 hours - 1 day (+ 90 minutes to 2 hours transfer to the Great Wall)
More than RMB220 billion was spent to build China's high-speed rail system (gāotiě)—the largest in the world—which makes it an enticing, but slower, option. Each day, only one high-speed train travels up to 186 mph (299 kph) along the 942-mile (1,516-kilometer) route from Hong Kong West Kowloon Station to Beijing West Railway Station. Second class, first class and business class seats are available for passengers who wish to take the scenic route. A much slower classic sleeper train option is available from Hong Kong's Hung Hom Station to Beijing West Railway Station, but it's a long, 24-hour journey that departs every other day. The options on the slower train include soft sleeper, hard sleeper, and hard seats.
Passengers traveling by bullet train from Hong Kong to China should arrive early to check in and clear customs and immigration for Hong Kong and China, which are completed on the Hong Kong side. Passengers traveling on the overnight train from Hung Hon Station should also arrive early to check in and clear customs and immigration in Hong Kong; passengers will go through China's immigration process upon arrival in Beijing. Most trains have a food serving counter or dining car with simple fare like xīhóngshì chǎo jīdàn (scrambled eggs with tomatoes) and there are hot water dispensers to use for making instant noodles, coffee, and tea. Most of the local trains have snack carts that are pushed through each train car. The carts have similar items that can be found at convenience stores in and around the train stations: instant noodles, potato chips, crackers, cookies, bottled soft drinks, beer, and water. If you decide to take the night train and book a hard bed option, don't be surprised if you wander off to the restroom or dining car and return to your door-less cabin to find other passengers sitting on the foot of your bed or even curled up in your lower berth bed Booking a soft sleeper (there are four beds in each cabin) is more comfortable and secure as there is a door that locks. In the morning, music is played to wake travelers up and welcome them to Beijing. Once in Beijing, there are several options for touring the Great Wall, all within a few hours drive of the capital.
By Private Transfer from Beijing
Duration: 1-2 hours (from Beijing to the Great Wall)
It is possible to take tourist buses to different sections of the Great Wall, but for a stress-free and quicker route that doesn't include testing your Chinese skills, hire a private driver for the day to take you to the Great Wall.
For the least strenuous visit to the Great Wall, head to Badaling, which has a cable car to take you to the wall. Depending on traffic, the drive takes an hour or more along the Badaling Expressway to Yanqing County.
The Ming tombs, where 13 of the 16 Ming emperors are buried, is a short drive away and worth a visit if you have the time. Less crowded than Badaling, which is arguably the most touristy part of the Great Wall, is the Juyongguan section of the wall, which is also off the Badaling Expressway. The stairs to climb up are steep, but its close proximity to Beijing makes for a quick visit to the wall.
Some 90 minutes from Beijing is Mutianyu, which is another restored part of the wall that boasts majestic views of the Chinese countryside. Visitors can take a cable car or chair lift up to the wall and take the chair lift or an adrenaline-fueled toboggan ride down from the wall.
Another option in Huairou district about 90 minutes from Beijing is Huanghuacheng, a refurbished section of the wall that is punctuated with watchtowers. Also within a few hours' drive from Beijing is Simatai, a quieter section of the wall that affords weary hikers the option of ziplining off the wall after a challenging hike, and Jinshanling, an often-hiked part of the wall that has dozens of watchtowers and unbeatable scenery.