The Great Wall is probably one of the most well known sights in the world, and it stretches for several thousand kilometres across China. While most people know it simply as ‘The Great Wall,’ it is in fact made up of four separate walls from several different periods in China’s history.
There were four different walls built and each is a monumental engineering feat in itself. The figures about the effort taken to build the wall are mind boggling. The first wall began construction in 221 BC and was designed to stop invasions from the north. It took over three decades to build and was built by a work force of half a million. Keep in mind that the population around 200 BC was only around 250 million people. This means that one in every 500 people on earth was involved in building the wall.
It was less than a century later and the rule in China had changed and the new emperor ordered a massive expansion. Over a millennium later another expansion took place, and finally the fourth wall was finished in 16th century. The most famous parts of the Great Wall that most people visit are those of the fourth and last Great Wall.
If you want to visit the Great Wall, the most popular place to do this from is the city of Beijing, located on the east coast of the country. Most of the popular sights are about one day’s journey away from the city.
There are tours that leave from the city and you will find that there are many people handing out fliers about tours to the various sites. Be very wary of these, as mostly there will not be a tour, just an overpriced bus journey that may, or may not, take you where you want to go.
The best option will be to take the public bus or hire a taxi for a fair rate and plan your own tour of this incredible human achievement. If you do want to take a tour, do your research before you go to Beijing and consider booking a reputable tour before you leave home.
Don’t be put off by potential scams though. The Great Wall is probably the greatest sight in China and arguably one of the greatest engineering accomplishments in the world. The history and accomplishment of those that built it will truly be an awe inspiring sight.
Walking the Great Wall
In parts the wall is unkept but much of the wall is in relatively good condition and makes a fascinating and challenging walk. Some people do a section of the wall whilst others focus on longer stretches.
The most popular areas are the ones near Beijing which are also more crowded but there are remoter areas to walk along the Great Wall. To the far west around Jiayuguan fort are some of the more scenic routes and some used in film sets, with desert and mountain scenery as a backdrop whilst in other parts the wall is simply mud.
In contrast, at Shanhaiguan the Great Wall meets at the edge of the sea. Walking the Great Wall of China is a unique experience and perfect for meeting others and for appreciating the depth of history in this part of the world.
The walk can even be done as part of a day trip to Beijing and is an integral part of visiting China.