Great Wall of China Travel
A Walk on the Great Wall of China – A Life Time Experience
Great Wall of China Travel. Any visit to China would be incomplete without a walk on the Great Wall of China. Chinese believe if you haven’t walked on the Great Wall at least once in life, you are not a real man.
Which section of the 6,700-km Great Wall of China is ideal for a walk? Along the mountains north of Beijing are several sites good for a walk.
I am a native Chinese. I have visited Beijing many times and walked/climbed the Great Wall in different sections. I would want to share with you my Great Wall experiences.
History of the Great Wall of China
As we all know, the Great Wall is a military defense to the northern frontier of China. Its history can be dated back to the Spring and Autumn period (770-470 BC) when state emperors built defensive devices along the frontier. Therefore you would find watchtowers, beacon towers and ramparts along the Great Wall.
Emperors of various dynasties had renovated and re-built the Great Wall. The greatest scale of work was done in the Ming Dynasty, about 500 years ago.
Today, China government has been working hard to restore and maintain this invaluable cultural heritage. The most comprehensive renovation was done at Badaling in 1957.
Sections of the Great Wall at Beijing
In Beijing, there are four most famous sections of the Great Wall of China. Each of them has their unique attractions. Badaling is the most heavily restored. Juyongguan bears the most strategic location. Simatai is the steepest and most hazardous. Mutianyu has a good balance of all.
If you have sufficient time and if you are fit enough, I would say you should visit all of them. Otherwise, pick a favorite section and walk for a lifetime experience.
Great Wall of China – Badaling
Badaling Great Wall has undergone heavy restoration. Some people even refer to it as ‘new antique’.
At Badaling, you can see domestic travelers with business dress and ladies in skirts and high heels. I really had no idea how they manage the walk. But this is a sign that Badaling is for everybody. After the walk, you might consider taking a cable car to return.
Badaling Great Wall has the most population of souvenir sellers. They are after you everywhere. You might consider buying a certificate in memory of your Great Wall tour.
Remember to take a photo at the ‘Real Man’ stele, inscriptions by Mao Zedong.
Remarks: Badaling Great Wall is good for everyone, including kids.
Great Wall of China – Juyongguan
The Great Wall at Juyongguan is famous for its strategic military significance. Chinese described Juyongguan as “one man guarded here, ten thousand men couldn’t break in”.
Apart from its strategic location, Juyongguan is also famous for its beautiful scenery. It was built on a 15-km valley embraced by layers of mountains and forests. In fact, it was ranked number one among the Eight Best Scenic Spots in Beijing since 800 years ago.
Your Great Wall tour to Juyongguan could be vigorous however not a big deal compared with the steepest Simatai. Even so, there are some 1,600 steep steps. Just do it within your capability. Do not over exercise as it could be dangerous.
Remarks: Good for young people and photography fans.
Great Wall of China – Mutianyu
A Great Wall tour to Mutianyu could be the top pick among all sections of the Great Wall in Beijing. It is well restored, close to Beijing, not too crowded and not too demanding in walking or climbing. Its surrounding scenery is beautiful year round.
It is the only section of the Great Wall where you can find “double-sided battlements” and the “branch walls”.
There are some 800 steps up and down mountain edges. If you are lazy or have children with you, you can choose to ride on a cable car. However, the true Great Wall experience is to climb it on your own hands and feet. You’ll find it an incredible experience through your legs might be soaring the next day.
Other than cable cars to help go up and down, there is a tourist slide to help you skip the staircases on your way back. It is really great fun, exciting and fast sliding down the Great Wall.
Remark: Mutianyu has a good balance of everything. Good for everyone, including kids.
Great Wall of China – Simatai
This section of the Great Wall is famous for most original, most calm and quiet, most hazardous and spectacular.
Since Simatai is in its original condition without restoration, you have to be very careful as there are lots of loose bricks and rubbles. However, if you want to see the untouched original Great Wall from 500 years ago (Ming Dynasty), this is the place.
There are 16 watchtowers along the Simatai section of the Great Wall. Few people manage to check 12 of them. But the real challenge lies between the 13th and 16th. With its 80 degrees gradient, it is the most hazardous part of the Great Wall. It could be scary if you try to look back. I would say only the most hardcore adventurous hikers could manage to climb up to the 16th.
Remark: A Great Wall tour to Simatai is only for those who are fit enough. However, it should be the most rewarding tour of all. If you are an experienced and skillful hiker, challenge yourself here.
Packing List and Tips
1. Umbrella and hat
2. A mask (sandstorm might occur in spring)
3. A towel in summer (handkerchief and tissue paper won’t work)
4. A small folding fan in summer
5. Rich moisturizer in winter
6. A camera with lots of films or memory cards
7. Loose clothing and comfortable walking shoes
8. Lots of water
9. Toilet paper
10. A mini first aid kit (for Simatai only)
11. Go early in the morning to avoid heavy traffic
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