The Thirteen Tombs of Ming Dynasty is the burial place of the same number of Ming emperors and their life partners. This location, as well as 13 other burial complexes around China, are counted as part of a single UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The ones in Beijing are among the best preserved, though only three out of thirteen are open to public.
Getting here is simple via public bus but not so much by metro. If you do take the Changping Line, get off at Changping Dongguan instead of at Ming Tombs station because there are no buses at the latter and you may have to hire an overpriced taxi to cover the additional 4 kms to the site. At the former station, you can just take a bus directly to the entrance of the Tombs. It is located 50 kms northwest of central Beijing at the base of Tianshou Mountain, but very close to famous parts of the Great Wall, so a day trip combining these two attractions is quite savvy.
Once you make up your mind to experience the last chapters of the Emperors lives, you can either visit all three Tombs accessible i.e. the Changling Tomb; first one built by the 3rd Ming Emperor, the Zhaoling Tomb of the 12th emperor (closed for repairs as of April 2019) and the Dingling Tomb for the 13th emperor and also the only Tomb with its underground excavated and explorable or save time and money and just pick one. There is a combo ticket for all three tombs and the Sacred Way for RMB130/100 (peak/off-peak season). Individual tickets are also sold ranging between RMB20 – RMB60, with price varying with attraction and season. The general rule of thumb while visiting any popular sightseeing place applies equally here; come early, avoid weekends and public holidays, bring water and snacks and comfortable walking shoes are life savers!
Walking down the Sacred Way, you’ll be met with stares of huge animals and officials’ statues guarding the path that led Emperors to Heaven after their death. All animals were built twice, once standing and once kneeling, from enormous single stones for each figure, several centuries ago. All the tombs are based off of this path and built in a fan out structure. The distance between each tomb is considerably long and a lot of walking is required if more then one is on your itinerary.]
Amongst the Tombs, the Changling Tomb is the biggest and oldest and a sort of blueprint for all other tombs, though each varies slightly because of Feng Shui and architectural details. However, visiting the Dingling Tomb is specially rewarding because of the underground excavation that revealed a palace underneath. Going down 8 flight of stairs (not wheelchair friendly) is no easy task when the place is thronged with crowds, but you can see expensive antiquities buried alongside the remains of the emperor Zhu Yijun and his two empresses once you reach. A trip here is a humbling experience indeed.