As most seasoned travellers will no doubt testify, stepping foot onto the Great Wall of China has to be up there with one of the most remarkable experiences on the planet.
Such incredible feats of human strength through construction are rarely seen these days and paying your respects to the untold tales of endeavour, hardship and suffering is always a necessity when making your own pilgrimage to a hugely popular world-famous landmark.
As the wall was once almost four thousand miles long and reached from North Korea in the east to the borders of Mongolia in the west, there are several ‘must see’ highlights to be found along the accessible routes that you’ll find today.
Tourist hot spots, lesser visited sections and an exceptional variety of scenery help to make the Great Wall of China a unique and thrilling prospect, and from chance encounters with donkeys to crazy toboggan rides, hold onto your hat as this thing has to be experienced to be believed.
Below are just a few of the exceptional points of interest to be found along the wall and best advice if you want to avoid the crowds is to head to a lesser visited section, such as Gubeikou, or visit off peak during the winter where snow and ice add to the thrill factor.
This is one of the Great Wall’s most popular sections and can be found in Yanqing County approximately fifty miles northwest of Beijing. As the first part of the wall to be opened up as a tourist location, Badaling provides as much an ancient history lesson as a modern one with the Ming Dynasty of 1504 and the Summer Olympics of 2008 combining to fascinating effect.
One of the Great Wall’s most impressive mountain passes, Juyong aka: Juyongguan, can be found about thirty miles from Beijing and stretches across the Guangou Valley for just over ten miles in length. Built within the Ming era and known to provide protection to the capital of China, this is an essential point of interest for history buffs and contains some excellent examples of ancient Buddhist carvings upon the incredibly well-preserved Cloud Platform.
Thanks to its location, some one hundred miles outside of Beijing, this twelve mile section of wall is way beyond the casual tourist radar and presents a peaceful and reflective experience unlike any other. Fortresses and watchtowers align the route and if you’re looking for panoramic scenery without the steep ascents then Gubeikou probably represents one of the best walks for all levels of fitness. Known to be one of the Great Wall of China’s most important passes, this is an excellent option and perfect for exploring far from the madding crowds.
Located just over seventy five miles to the northeast of China’s capital, Beijing, and stretching for around six and a half miles the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China contains a succession of seventy towers and can be accessed by cable car and suspension bridge. Top tip: the scenic mountain views from Jinshanling are just spectacular, especially at dawn, so don’t forget your polarising filter!
Just over forty miles from the centre of the capital and known as one of the best preserved areas of the wall, Mutianyu is a blend of watchtowers, woodlands and gondola rides which makes it a popular spot for tourists as well as an ideal area for hiking along the nearby forest trails. If you’re looking for a unique and slightly pulse racing end to your Great Wall experience at Mutianyu then the single person luge/toboggan run never fails to deliver!