It’s fair to say that the greatest wall in the world, The Great Wall of China, is not called the Great Wall for nothing. It’s easy to underestimate the size and sheer vastness of China’s greatest icon until you see it with your own eyes. “Scale the Great Wall” they said, doing so is forever making it onto top adventures to have before you die lists.
Hikes like this are of course taken at your own risk. Parts of this truly breath-taking wonder of the world are so steep that they’re almost vertical. Plan your hikes in advance, know where you’re going, plan according to your ability and, of course revel in the mystic atmosphere that can only be experienced in this magical part of the world.
Every year over 10 million people visit the Great Wall of China. Here’s 3 reasons why you should too.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or merely a beginner, the Great Wall has something for everyone.
Mutianyu, arguably the most touristy section of the Great Wall, and indeed the best preserved, provides beginners or less confident hikers with over 2000 metres of beautifully paved wall and over 20 watch towers to enjoy and explore. This stretch of the Great Wall is conveniently located 70 kms northeast of Beijing and even more conveniently provides hikers and walkers a like with the opportunity to get up or down using a chairlift or even a toboggan ride. It is littered with snack stops and pop up refreshment stalls and provides spectacular views and safe walking for all levels.
More adventurous hikers can continue beyond the 20th watch tower to experience a more authentic (and perhaps more dangerous) hike upwards to the highest watch tower on this section of the wall.
Jiankou is the more rugged and wild section of the wall. Located 73kms North of Beijing, Jiankou offers more seasoned hikers stunning views, wild countryside, challenging hikes and a much more mystical and authentic adventure than Mutianyu. Having never undergone any reconstruction since it was built, Jiankou should be hiked with caution. Loose rubble and overgrown wall mean a good pair of hiking boots are going to be your best friend.
Some of the hikes may be tough and steep but this scenic part of the wall will truly take your breath away and plunge you into a mystic place you can only truly experience on the Great Wall of China.
Gubeikou is the history rich section of the wall. It is located around 146 kms from Beijing and is built along a mountain range. This makes hiking here challenging with many steep inclines followed by deep descends. This section of the wall is 100% in its original form so you can expect loose rocks and crumbling stone under foot, meaning you should walk with caution and be well prepared.
It’s sensible to plan hikes in advance, avoid thunderstorms and hike in groups. This is especially relevant when hiking Jiankou and Gubeikou as both are quiet spots with little shelter and no rest stops or facilities available.
Whichever section you choose to hike, the Great Wall promises that every challenging step will be littered with awe inspiring rewards.
Of course, one of the main reasons people want to hike the Great Wall is for the views. Rolling countryside, wild flowers, deep valleys, meandering wall, all enveloped by vast mountain ranges. The Great Wall of China truly provides world class views from all sections. In the winter months, hiking is treacherous and should be kept to a minimum, but the wall often becomes covered in a stunning blanket of snow. Quite the spectacle.
Autumn is often noted as the best season to visit the Great Wall. A season where the rugged and raw beauty is brought to life with an eclectic array of colours from blossoming trees. If you get a clear day on the Mutianyu section, you can revel in glorious views of Beijing’s skyline. Quite a rarity in China’s humid and polluted atmosphere.
Jiankou is best experienced at sunrise, hazy mornings on the wall are by far the most magical and beautiful part of the day. Don’t miss the opportunity to watch the sun creep slowly over the mountains surrounding this stunning section of wall. Gubeikou sees the wall meandering through mountain ranges with stunning views across the Chao River and Yan mountains.
It’s fair to say, the views from the Great Wall of China are enough to blow anyone away.
Even if you’re not a total history buff, it’s hard not to be impressed by the story behind China’s Great Wall. Built well over 2000 years ago, the wall is actually a stretch of separate fortifications built during different eras in Chinese history, including both the Ming dynasty, and the Qin. Estimates vary, but it’s thought that the entirety of the Great Wall spans over 10,000 kms, with sections still being uncovered even today.
The main purpose of the building of separate parts of the wall is thought to be to protect the borders of separate states. There are many stories about millions of soldiers being sent on the Great Wall project during the Qin dynasty. Many labourers are thought to have died working on the wall that was built to protect Qin Shi Huang’s newly founded state.
Throughout the years, many more parts were added to the wall to protect newly established states and during the Ming dynasty extensive work was done rebuilding the wall and adding new sections as a means to maintaining the border of Mongolia and protecting Beijing. Over 130 battles took place on and around the Gubeikou section the wall. Quite the history, it’s a great idea to educate yourself before you visit.
The Great Wall of China holds many colourful stories of mystery, battle, life and death and is sure to capture the imaginations for generations of hikers to come.
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