Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is one of the world’s most famous monuments. This massive construction, once famously believed to be visible from space, is a series of fortifications that surround the vast country of China. The Great Wall of China was designed to protect China from the various nomadic groups that lived outside its borders and would launch raids into the country. The first parts were built as early as the 7th century BC, but the majority of the existing wall dates from the Ming dynasty, placing its construction between 1368 and 1644. The Great Wall stretches over thousands of kilometers, with much of it still standing today.
Throughout Chinese history, the Great Wall of China has served to protect China from potential invaders. For long periods of time, China remained closed off from the rest of the world, and its impressive walls helped greatly to keep the kingdom isolated. Following China’s defeat in the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s, however, the Wall lost its defensive purpose as China opened up to the rest of the world. Afterward, the Great Wall became a popular tourist attraction, and it remains one to this day. Large sections of the Great Wall are still intact, and the Chinese government has restored some sections to show what the Great Wall would have looked like at the time of its construction. For many people, no visit to China would be complete without seeing the famous Great Wall. In fact, the Great Wall is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, visited by over ten million tourists per year.
The Great Wall of China stretches for more than 6000 kilometers. As you can imagine, some parts of it are in a better state of repair than others. At Shanhaiguan, for instance, the Great Wall meets the sea at the Old Dragon’s Head, and this restored section of wall is extremely popular with visitors. Other sections retain more of a wild feel, and in some remote areas, the Great Wall of China seems to have vanished completely. It is possible to explore the Great Wall of China at almost any point along its length. But if you’re dreaming of seeing it all, you may be disappointed - to walk the entire length of the Great Wall would take around 18 months! A better plan might be to concentrate on the most spectacular sections of the Wall, and the parts that are easiest to get to. Because the Great Wall was built along the frontier of the Chinese kingdom, the route it follows is often spectacular, along mighty rivers and through high mountains. And some of the most impressive sections of the Great Wall are easily reachable from Beijing. Be aware that, thanks to its enduring popularity, the Great Wall can often get crowded, especially at busy times of the year such as public holidays. It can be hard to appreciate the long and complex history of this magnificent structure when you’re in the middle of a jostling crowd. It is possible to take a public bus from Beijing to famous sections of the Great Wall such as Badaling and Mutianyu, and many more adventurous or budget conscious travelers choose this option. However, most bus stops only contain information in Chinese, so if you don’t speak the language, you may find it difficult to get to where you want to be. An easier option for exploring the Great Wall of China would be to book a guided tour. This will ensure that you will get a multilingual guide who can explain to you the long and turbulent history of this monument, and the profound effect it has had on Chinese culture and society. Tours are available to suit all tastes and budgets, from simple skip the line tours that will provide you with an audioguide to explore by yourself, to private tours that will give you a much greater understanding and appreciation of the history of the Great Wall. You could spend a few hours seeing the most well-preserved parts of the Great Wall, or go on a multi-day excursion designed to show you far more of the Great Wall than most tourists ever see. The choice is yours. Just make sure you don’t miss the chance to see one of the engineering marvels of the world while you are in China.