Begun in the second century BC, the Chinese wall saw its construction spread over a little less than two millennia to know its current form (-200 BC/1644).
A bit of history: The Great Wall of China
Initially specific to each region of China, the wall symbolizes the unification of the country in the face of potential invaders. The wall project therefore brings together the different plots of the Wall. One can observe throughout the building (6700 km) the various stages of construction and the various influences. Tips for exploring one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Do not necessarily rely on the tour operator to visit the wall
Do not worry, if the wall is the subject of certain criticisms it is only to better appreciate the immensity and the beauty of the decoration which surrounds us when one can walk on the wall. From Beijing, you don’t necessarily have to choose the agency that takes you the closest or the fastest. Ask the counter to show you some photos of the excursions they usually do.
The major tour operators will take you by bus of about fifty over a relatively short section (1km) so that everyone can keep up with them, with them it’s a quick job well done! With tour operators you will be encumbered by the mass of people around you and will not be able to fully enjoy the spectacle offered by the wall. Prefer a small, modest agency in the streets of Beijing. You may have the chance to leave with a group of a maximum of ten people and to be the only ones to cover the ten or so kilometers that the guide will indicate to you. A pure happiness. Walking shoes, get ready for an experience as physically hard as it is stunning.
Once you arrive at the site, the guide will explain the procedure to you. The feeling of freedom is omnipresent, alone facing nature and this building which was supposed to repel the attacks of the Mongols or the Huns. First the climb: between the trees and the slippery stones, it is better to have good shoes but also a certain physical condition. You will have to climb in ten stages which materializes by passing through ten “houses” of the wall.
The legend says that there are bodies of the inhabitants who built the wall under its cabins which were used to see if the enemies were approaching. Arrived at the highest point, admire the fauna and the flora which surrounds you, look at the horizon, contemplate the wall which gives the impression of being established on the mountain like a long and majestic snake. What a sensation ! You will take your breath away, both literally and figuratively!
Certainly one of the most beautiful views on the planet! The course does not plan to retrace its steps. You will not descend what you have mounted. You will therefore admire the other side of the mountain while descending the wall. Nine “houses” further on, the guide will be waiting for you, before taking you to a small typical restaurant in the area.
The wall between adaptations and rumors
The opening of China to the outside world has allowed many tourists to contemplate the Wall. The effects have not only been positive. Although many plots of the wall have been renovated, this has not always been in favor of the protection of this historic site. Some images can be striking, such as the sponsorship of the Samsung brand which adorns one of the hills where the wall is located or even the cable cars which are not in line with a monument of such value.
If the Great Wall of China is of course the largest monument created by man, the rumor stating that it is visible from the Moon has proven to be false. If the length of the building is large enough to see it from space, it is the width that is too small (4 to 5 m). The astronaut who thought he saw the Wall mistook it for a river. For the more adventurous, the Great Wall of China marathon will have you climbing a trifle of 5164 steps, a test for the most sporty of travellers!
What is the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is one of the seven wonders of the modern world . It was built between the 5th century BC and the 16th century. It is impossible to get an idea of its magnitude! In its day, the wall reached more than 21,000 kilometers in length. Currently only a few sections can be visited, most near Beijing.
The Chinese Empire ordered it to be built to protect itself from the invasions of the Xiongnu nomads who lived in Mongolia. The average height of the Great Wall of China is about 8 meters, although in some sections it is up to 14 meters high.
Jinshanling, the best section to see the Great Wall of China without people
We believe that Jinshanling is the best stretch to go to the Great Wall of China from Beijing . Especially for those travelers who hate crowds . Although traveling to China sooner or later you will have to get used to it!
Why do we think it is the best? First, because being quite far away, there are hardly any people . Especially in the afternoon, when the few guided groups have left. We were alone at sunset! It also zigzags beautifully up the mountain and there are many original unrestored sections. In total it has 10.5 kilometers, although it is not essential to do the entire route.
We believe that it is not the best stretch to go to the Great Wall of China from Beijing if you are traveling with small children or elderly people . In most of the route, the slopes are demanding. We end up with shoelaces! So it is better that you take it as a trek and not as a walk. It takes about 4 hours to walk the Jinshanling stretch smoothly.
Simatai, to see the wall at night and combine the visit with the floating village of Gubei
Simatai is one of the most interesting sections of the Great Wall of China. Why? Because it is the only one that allows night tours! So if your intention is to visit the Great Wall of China at night , it is the best option.
Another strong point of Simatai is that it has many original sections . So you can get an idea of the state of the Great Wall of China and have a more authentic experience.
Also, right at the foot of the wall is the Mandarin Duck Lake, with the famous floating village of Gubei next to it. So combining the visit to the Great Wall with the town is a fantastic idea.
How to get to Simatai from Beijing
The most practical is to book a day tour from Beijing . It includes a visit to the floating village of Gubei and, once the sun sets, you can see the Great Wall of China illuminated by lanterns . You will not have to worry about transfers. In addition, it allows you to see both the Simatai section and the beautiful town of Gubei in a single day for a very reasonable price.
If you want to get to Simatai from Beijing by public transport , you will need to take the bus from Dongzhimen Station to Gubei Water Town. The journey takes 2 hours and costs 48CNY (€6) each way. Buses leave at 8:00, 9:00, 12:00 and 15:30, and one more bus at 14:00 on weekends and holidays. Buses back to Beijing leave at 1:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 9:00 PM, and one more bus at 7:00 PM on weekends and holidays.
Badaling , the most popular area
Badaling is the most visited section of the Great Wall of China . So we do not recommend it if you want to know it calmly. In the end you must bear in mind that with so many people, it is difficult to walk and get an idea of the dimensions of the wall. Badaling receives more than 60,000,000 tourists every year and on holidays it can receive more than 70,000 tourists per day . An atrocity!
Of course, to go with children and older people it is ideal. The stairs are not very steep and are equipped with handrails and other facilities. But you must arm yourself with patience with so many people!
How to get from Beijing to Badaling by public transportation
There are a lot of excursions. It is best to hire a private transfer . It won’t cost you more than €40 and will take you and wait for you to finish visiting the Great Wall of China before taking you back to the hotel.
But if you want to Badaling by public transport , it is also possible. In this case there are several options, but the best is to opt for bus line 1 that takes you from Qianmen to Badaling . They leave from the southern part of Tiananmen Square, next to the Zhengyangmen gate and drop you off at the Badaling parking lot. It costs CNY20 each way (€3) and takes approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The first bus leaves at 7:00 and the last one at 11:00. To return, from April to October they leave from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from November to March, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
What is the best time to visit the Great Wall of China
There is no bad time to go to the Great Wall of China from Beijing . When you visit the Chinese capital, you must escape to discover this wonder of the modern world. It is spectacular!
Of course, there are some months that are better than others. We tell you what is the best time to travel to China so that you can plan your trip well.
In general, we recommend visiting the Great Wall of China during the autumn months, especially in mid-November, when the forests turn red and the panorama is incredible.
And above all, if you visit the Great Wall of China from Beijing during the winter months, you must exercise extreme caution . Not only because of the freezing temperatures, but because there is often ice on the ground and the slopes are slippery.
How to get there
The visitable parts of the Chinese wall are located about a hundred kilometers from Beijing. From the capital, prefer the visit with a guide, preferably in small numbers. In just over an hour by bus you will arrive at one of the seven wonders of the world!