The Great Wall of China - 万里长城

by - May 16, 2014

The Great Wall of China 
The Seven Wonders of the World, it turns out, are not particularly well defined.  Whichever list you go by however will undoubtedly contain The Great Wall of China, the world’s greatest and most famous defensive fortification.  The first iterations of the wall were constructed around 700 BC and were added to by subsequent Emperors over many centuries.  The total length is disputed (it isn’t actually a straight line and many sections are now non-existent), but a brief Google leads to a suggestion that is over 10,000 miles long.  As one of the most iconic sights on earth and an engineering marvel, there was no way that I could spend a year living in China without a visit.  Conveniently, the easiest place to use as a visit to the wall is Beijing, with the majority of the best preserved sections within a few hours’ drive of the Chinese capital.

A beer at the Great Wall
The wall runs north of the city and the most commonly visited sections are located at regular intervals from north-west to north-east.  The most suitable section to visit depends on your time constraints (travel times range from 40 minutes to 2 hours), physical fitness (some sections are very hard going) and what you want the wall to look like when you visit (some sections have been totally renovated, while other parts are ‘wild wall’, meaning that they have been partially reclaimed by nature).  In addition, some parts are more touristy than others - so it’s worth aiming to go at an off-peak time to a quieter section.  Based on the above considerations, we decided to travel to the 'Jinshanling’ section of the wall - at a two hour drive, one of the furthest sections from Beijing.  The wall in this area is a mixture of restored and 'wild’ sections and tends to not be so popular with tourists due to the long journey time.  We hired a driver from our hostel in Beijing (the Qianmen Hostel), which cost the four of us 300 Yuan per person for the day - about £30.  We set out at 6am and were back at the hostel again at around 5pm.

Team photo at the Great Wall
Some of the legendary world sites that I have visited have actually turned out to be a bit of a disappointment - impressive, yes, but never quite as good as you hoped (the one that always jumps to mind is the Sphynx in Egypt, which is much smaller than I ever imagined it to be).  The Great Wall was the total opposite of this - I could not have imagined just how spectacular it is, in every respect.  The setting, amidst valleys and mountains (some of which were topped with snow), would have been worth visiting in its own right, even if the wall hadn’t even been built.  As for the wall, nothing can quite prepare you for the scale of it - or allow you to comprehend just how hard it must have been to construct.  It is hard enough to walk up some of the steeper sections, let alone to do it hauling building materials.  What will always stick with me however is how the wall never stopped - it entered from the horizon in one direction and left from the other, without any gaps.  We were blessed with some beautiful weather and the walking was wonderful - some of the towers contain vendors selling drinks (including beer), so there is no need to carry loads of water.  All in all, the Great Wall was of the most impressive sights I have ever visited and is an absolute must for everybody at some stage in their lifetime.  I never thought I would paraphrase Chairman Mao on this blog, but he once said that “he who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man”.  If you replace 'man’ with 'traveller’, then I have to say I would be inclined to agree.

Photos below:

You May Also Like