Whether or not you consider China as an exotic country, you will agree with me when I say that its most famous landmark definitely falls into the category of unusual sights.
This magnificent giant needs no introduction. It’s long, seriously long, and if you start your journey to walk all the way it would take you around 18 months to reach the end of it. The main wall is 3,460 kilometers long and it has additional 2,860 kilometers in branches and spurs. Once you see this wall, you have seen them all.
The Great Wall of China leaves everyone breathless and impressed, whether they are children or adults, tourists or scientists. This vast structure helps people to grasp the great achievements in human history. It was built for more than 2000 years and it consists of many walls. Some parts date back to the fifth century BC. Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of China. He ordered linking and extending the earlier longwall sections. Also, watchtowers were built to protect the new empire from ravaging northern tribes. The following emperors and dynasties carried on with the construction and spread the Wall to the west into the Gobi desert in order to guard the Silk Road.
Since the Wall was made to defend ancient China, a lot can be learned from its construction about engineering skills and about military strategies.
A lot of early sections eroded over the centuries because they were made of layers of rammed earth and natural materials like red palm fronds, poplar trunks, and others. The Wall, as we know it today was made during the Ming dynasty, which ruled from the 14th to the 17th century. Emperors from this dynasty layered stone and brick over the earth. They built walls that were over 20 feet wide at the base and almost 30 feet high. The wall was surrounded by green hills and its watchtowers almost disappeared in the clouds.
When we think about the people who worked on building this monster we definitely get chilled in our bones. There were forced laborers, who used pulleys to drag stone slabs that weighed a tone up the steep mountains. There were around 10,000 watchtowers and beacons on every 200 to 300 yards. They were used for communication and soldiers used fire and smoke signals to inform about the size of an approaching enemy. Later, during the Ming dynasty soldiers used cannons to warn about the danger.
What makes the Great Wall especially interesting is to look for the signs of pieces that are missing, for example from which direction the soldiers expected the invaders. When you visit the Wall and explore it, you often leave with more questions than before the visit. The Ming wall was built in a different direction than the earlier wall that is still visible. This fact really puzzles you. So, this giant leaves you with a huge question mark in your brain. That’s the point where you really need to use your imagination and logic to figure out some of its mysteries.
We all know that it was built to protect the Chinese empire. Some of its sections were destroyed, but it was rebuilt and expanded by different dynasties. It stretches beside the metropolis of Beijing, through deserts, mountains, and farmlands that look the same as centuries ago.
How to approach the Wall?
Visitors who see The Great for the first time will have the chance to enjoy one of the oldest and most long-lasting structures made by people. You can’t compare anything to this gigantic structure. Also, you can’t escape feeling emotionally overwhelmed when you see this colossal wall.
If you have visited the Great Wall of China more than once, you are surely aware of the fact that each visit is different. Your views change every time you visit, depending on whether it is day or night, summer or winter. Of course, it also depends on how you approach each visit.
One of the most famous sections of the Great Wall is probably Badaling. Most travelers explore this section because it is fully rebuilt and offers some great scenery for taking photos. Also, it is closest to Beijing, just about an hour’s drive.
However, it is crowded, polluted, and also full of vendors. Too many visitors end up exploring it at weekends or on holidays.
If you still decide to get to the wall through Badaling, you can take a tour by helicopter and see the wall from the height. This kind of trip could be really memorable for you. When you lift up in the sky, this gigantic structure that lies beneath can really hit you with powerful emotions. This is when you truly understand the human toll that took to bring those enormous rocks into place. You fly over the beacon towers, the Hero slope, and peaceful grasslands that stretch to the west from the wall.
Perhaps a better section to explore is Mutianyu. It is less visited by tourists and there are fewer vendors. It is about 2 km long and offers plenty of opportunities for awesome photos and quiet moments. It is definitely a great choice for exploring and experiencing this monument to the fullest. It is stocked with pines and fruit trees, and you will enjoy your quiet visit picking fruit and wildflowers.
You can set off at Jinshanling, located two hours from Beijing, and enjoy some amazing views and refreshing hikes. At night one section is illuminated by the lights and it really leaves you breathless.
Or, you can start at Huanghuacheng, which is located about an hour and a half north of Beijing. This part circles Jintang Lake and the crescent-shaped Huanghuacheng Reservoir. If you go in summer you can enjoy beautiful sites of mountain slopes covered with huanghua (yellow wildflowers). That’s how the city got its name. In winter, The Great Wall looks magical, all covered in snow. It looks more like a castle than a fort.
Even though The Great Wall was designed for protection, another part of the defense was the forts. The Yaoziyu Fort, built in the 16th century, is the best-preserved of Huanghuacheng’s six forts. Changyucheng Village was founded 500 years ago to guard one of the wall’s most important passes.
In the end, if you are seeking the ultimate adventure and truly want to conquer the Wall, then your choice would definitely be wild section Jiankou. Climbing this section is a great challenge to see how brave you are and how strong you are.
Jiankou Great Wall is one of the most dangerous Great Wall sections. It is the most photographed one because of the steep mountains that surround it and because of its specific construction style. Jiankou actually means arrow nock, because the shape of the mountain looks like an arrow, and the collapsing long heap opens as its arrow nock.
When you look at it from the distance this construction made of white rock is really striking. It meanders 20 kilometers from the Ox Horn Edge to the Nine-eye Tower, across the Beijing Knot, and joining Mutianyu in the east and Huanghuacheng in the west.
Some of the most beautiful spots on the way are:
It lies at the northern point. The tower has three levels and it used to be an important command past in ancient times. The tower has nine holes on each side that look like eyes. That’s how it got its name.
This is the point where three sections meet. It is a great sightseeing point, surrounded by lush mountains.
Eagle Flies Facing Upward
This section is one of the most dangerous ones. The watchtower and the lofty peaks form a shape of an eagle. The shape of the eagle shows visitors that the stairs are so steep that even eagles need to fly facing upward to get to the top.
This stair is very steep, and it elevates at an angle of 70 to 80 degrees. Also, some parts are so narrow that only one person can get through at a time.
This is the highest point of this section. It was built on the top of steep cliffs. It is the highest point of this section, built on the top of steep cliffs.
After you finish this hike, you won’t be the same person again.
Every trip changes you.
Traveling makes you more open-minded
It makes you feel more human. It helps you find out who you really are. While you travel you overcome some challenges like climbing a steep mountain and you prove to yourself that you can do it and that you are strong. You feel satisfied because you managed to cross the gorge or help villagers clean after the storm. All these experiences make you better people.
Traveling enables you to meet new people
The relationship you create while you are on the road will stay in your most valued memories. You learn about new cultures while listening to the stories these people tell you and enrich your spirit. You change your perspective and see how other people live, think, spend their time.