There is no one who haven't heard of The Great Wall of China yet. Most of them also want to visit it. This means the wall is heavily crowded with tourists. But what many don't know is that it is open for visitors not only in one part. Some parts are more, some less easy accessible. That makes them more or less crowded. The most popular option for visitors is Badaling. It's only 60 km from Beijing. In my opinion, Jinshanling is the best alternative. It's 100 km away from Beijing what makes it less populated and is accessible with public transport.
This article shows how to get there on budget.
Beijing has a good developed public transport network. Even if you plan to use it only for visiting the great wall I advise buying Beijing metro smart card. You will save a couple of yuans with it. You pay 20 RMB as a deposit and then top it up with any amount you need. For trip to Jinshanling I recomend to top it up with 30 RMB. When you return the card you get all remaining credits and deposit back.
The public bus to Jinshanling departs from Wangjing West metro station. It's on line 13 (yellow) and 15 (dark purple). Bus starts running at 7 am and metro opens at 5:30 am. If you want to experience the great wall totaly uncrowded I recommend waking up early and taking first bus. But because Beijing is a massive city keep in mind it can take much more than an hour for a metro to get you from one side of the city to another. For example, at 6 am I spent 45 minutes to get from Jianguomen to Wangjing West. One metro ride (no matter how many times you change the line) cost 4 RMB.
When you get to Wangjing West take the exit C. If you arrive by line 13 it's quite some walking from where the train stops to the exit. When you step out of the building turn right to the main road and there right again. After 100 meters or so you'll find a bus station on your left. Bus station has two entrances. You want to take the second one (the one you have to walk a couple of meters more.)
Then you have to find queue for bus to Luanping. It has no number, but in chinese it should be written something like 滦平 on a plate behind the windshield.
If you're visiting Jinshanling on the weekend there is another tourist bus from the same station. It starts running at 8am.
I was there a couple of minutes before 7 am and found a long line of local people already waiting for first public bus. I thought there is no chance we all get to the bus. But exactly at 7 am five buses came, one after another, and all of us managed to get on. You have to pay 13 RMB to conductor and later touch the sensor with your smart card. It's deducted for additional 9.50 RMB.
The ride then takes around an hour and a half to the first stop at the rest area behind a long tunnel. You jump off there.
From the rest area you can get a free shuttle bus (golf car) to the entrance. There are two entrances at Jinshanling. Western - more popular is 6 km from the rest area, but eastern is only 2 km away. At the western there is a cable car, but at the eastern you have to climb the hill on foot. Consequently it's less crowded. You have good chances to be on the wall completely alone if you get there early enough. And you can manage 2 km from rest area even on foot if you miss free shuttle bus. This is what I did. You have to walk back in the direction from where the bus came from, and go by the road that goes under the highway. You can't miss the eastern entrance. It's a huge building.
Entrance for the wall is 65 RMB. When you buy the ticket, you climb a nice path with stairs all the way to the top. When on the wall, you can walk towards the east for a couple of towers and you'll see bricks with engraved writtings.
If you head towards west you have around 5 km of walking to the western entrance where you can get back to the valley by cable car or on foot.
One more thing: if you go there in the summer and want to walk all the way from eastern to western entrance be prepared for high water consumption. Temperatures can be well above 30°C with high humidity. But if you don't want to carry a large bottle with you, you can always buy it from the local sellers at every couple of the towers.
For the way back you can take free shuttle bus again. When you leave the rest area where the bus droped you off, it's good to ask/check when the last shuttle bus leaves on the way back. I can say that they are running at least until 3 pm.
If you're visiting Jinshanling on weekend there is also a direct bus from western entrance to Wangjing West station in Beijing. It also leaves at 3 pm. The price of this bus is the same as of the one from rest area and the same as for the way there (13 + 9.50 RMB.)
1. Buy Beijing metro smart card (20 RMB deposit) + top it up for 30 RMB more
2. Take metro to Wangjing West station (4 RMB)
3. Exit C, turn right to the main road and there right again
4. After 100m a bus station on your left (2nd entrance)
5. Take bus to Luanping - 滦平 (13 + 9.50 RMB from 7am)
6. Jump of the bus at first stop (rest area, 90 min)
7. Take free shuttle bus or go on foot to eastern entrance
8. Entrance fee: 65 RMB
9. Exit at the western entrance and take free shuttle bus back to rest area (at least until 3 pm)
9. On weekends - direct bus to Wangjing West (13 + 9.50 RMB, at least until 3 pm)
10. At rest area take the bus back to Wangjing West (13 + 9.50 RMB)