Great Wall of China
Travelling to China and not visiting the Great Wall of China on your travels is like going to Paris and neglecting the Eiffel Tower. For many, the Great Wall of China is the sole purpose of their trip. For a wall, it really is dominating and somewhat enchanting, but more than that, its history is compelling.
Don’t go expecting a spotless, intact masterpiece however, as the majority of the wall is crumbling from years of erosion and wear, not surprising considering building started as far back as the 5th Century BC. The more touristy areas however, especially around Beijing, have had sections restored and preserved for tourists to experience the Great Wall of China as it was thousands of years ago.
The beginning of what would later be the longest man-made structure on earth, was originally planned as a defence barrier against persistent nomadic groups. Protecting the borders of Northern China was a priority under Qin Shi Huangdi’s rule since the unification of China from 221BC. While construction was underway in the 5th Century BC, it wasn’t until the Ming Dynasty that the wall was improved and more constructed using new modern techniques creating a stronger barrier. Some points along the wall averaging at 7.8m in height and 6.5m in breadth.
Still, the Great Wall had a not so great effect, being breached by both the Mongols and later the Manchu invasion. Now it sits somewhat dilapidated, a testament to its vulnerability, stretching a phenomenal 8,851km from the eastern region of Shanhaiguan to Lop Nur in the west.
It is a must see for anyone venturing into China, a trip that has the capability to blow your mind, with the winding structure towering on high hills and continuous through desserts and plains. From the reconstructed sections you can get some incredible panoramic views, though be sure to bring appropriate clothing as it is also quite exposed to the wind and can get quite chilly. Something else to consider is the steep sections of the wall as it can be challenging for those who are not relatively fit.
Although this Great Wall of China is a World Heritage Site of the UNESCO, environmental and natural elements are proving detrimental to the ancient structure. Some believing that within 20years, a great deal of Gansu’s wall will erode away from sandstorms, an example of the fragility of this piece of history, also a good reason to visit sooner rather than later.
Organising your trip to the Great Wall can be done through your hotel or most tour companies very easily. The most popular part of the wall is located at Badaling, which incidentally was also the first to be opened to tourists. Here you can also visit the Great Wall Museum to learn more about the history of its construction and use, right up to its current form. Admission to the museum is complimentary to your entrance fee to the Great Wall.
Other sections of the wall that can be visited include Mutianyu in the Huairou Country (there isn’t as much tourist traffic here), Huanghua Cheng (a less developed section and limited access) and Simatai which is partially reconstructed.