Our Hike on the Great Wall of China (with video)
No visit to China is complete without a day at the Great Wall of China. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t see it from space, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. By most estimates, the Wall is longer than America at 3,700+ miles long. We’ve seen some estimates well above 5,000 miles. Either way, that’s a lot of wall. We spent 2 days hiking near Jiankou and Mutianyu.
Within an hour of starting out hike with Visit Beyond near Jiankou, I knew it was the most impressive man-made structure I had ever seen. Angkor is impressive. And we’ll see about Machu Picchu. But it’s hard to beat a giant wall that’s thousands of miles long. It’s a common misconception that the Great Wall of China is one continuous structure. It’s not. Not even close. It is a series of walls and offshoots that stretch out across China. Check out more pictures here.
OUR HIKE ALONG THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
The most popular stretch of the Great Wall of China is Badaling. If you take a day-tour from a hotel or hostel, this is where you will most likely go. We got away from that with Jiankou, which is considered one of the most beautiful sections. It was never refurbished, which means parts of the Great Wall of China are crumbling piles of rocks, but that made it even more beautiful to us. It’s very popular with photographers since there is a great view of sunrise. In fact, when we woke up, there were about 6 photographers near our campsite waiting for dawn.
On our second day, we hiked the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. There was a huge difference between the two different sections. Mutianyu is fully restored and full of tourists. It’s awesome to see what the wall once looked like, but you definitely pay the price with all of the other people surrounding you.
HISTORY OF THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
The first extensive construction of the Great Wall of China began in the 3rd Century B.C. It’s difficult to pin down an exact year when construction began, but smaller sections may have been built for defense earlier. Construction continued with different parts and sections for the next 1700 years or so. The Ming Dynasty added a tremendous amount to the Wall from the 14th century to the 17th century. Most of what we see today is from the Ming Dynasty.
The Great Wall was built to defend China against invading Mongols and other enemies, and warring armies fought hundreds of battles along the wall. The most recent was in 1938 during the Sino-Japanese War between China and Japan. You can still see bullet marks from this battle near the Gubeikou section of the wall.
GETTING TO THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
It’s really easy to get to the Great Wall. First, get to Beijing. Second, ask at any hotel or hostel for a trip. They all have one or can put you in touch with a tour company that arranges tours. We went with Visit Beyond for our 3-day tour. The Great Wall is China’s most popular tourist attraction, and all of the hotels and guest houses can get you there.
If you want to take public transportation, then I highly recommend doing a lot of research. From what I’ve found, it seems fairly easy to get to the Badaling section. Check this page out for more info. It could be much more difficult to get to other sections of the wall.