Standing on the Great Wall of China is one of those travel-dream-come-true-moments where you just have to pinch yourself to make sure the experience is real. The Great Wall has been deemed one of the New Seven Wonders of the World as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are several sections of the Wall that tourists can visit. Jose and I chose to visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall about 45 miles/70 km northeast of Beijing. It is one of the best preserved sections and less touristy than Badaling, which is closer to the capital, and thus handier for tour groups to explore. Even in the middle of summer, Mutianyu wasn’t very crowded and in some stretches of the Wall we felt as though we had the place to ourselves!
Built in the mid 6th century, the Great Wall at Mutianyu served as the northern barrier defending the capital as well as the imperial tombs. It was reconstructed to strengthen the fortification against nomadic tribes between the years of 1368-1644. Its most recent renovations during 1982-1986 were to reinforce the Wall for hordes of tourists rather than barbarians.
Mutianyu is the longest fully restored section of the Great Wall open to tourists. Twenty-two watchtowers are strung like beads at regular intervals along a winding ribbon of granite hugging the undulating mountain range. Although it feels isolated and peaceful now, this section of Wall was designed with crenellations on both sides of the Wall to better defend enemies attacking from the north or the south.
Mutianyu means “Admire Fields Valley”, however the views of the surrounding woodlands are not just admirable, they are truly breath-taking. Small streams meander through the forests and wildlife (including snakes!) abound.
There are a lot of steps and some very steep places in this section of Wall, so it’s definitely for those who like a bit of a hike. It’s also quite a trek from the ticket booth to the Wall entrance, so I’d recommended ponying up a few extra yuan for the cable car ride to the top of the Wall. Likewise, I’d advise purchasing a ticket for the wheeled toboggan ride that will speed you down along a twisting metal track back to the entrance park area after you’re done exploring the Wall. It’s a really fun way to end the day!
Surf: The Great Wall
P.S. You’ll definitely want to keep hydrated while you explore, especially in the heat of summer. Bring bottled water or purchase it along the Wall while you hike. There are plenty of vendors with coolers of drinks and snacks. Bathroom facilities, however, are only at the ticketing area.
Ciao for now friends! xoxo Karla