Surrounded by tall mountains covered with a coat of bright green vegetation, the Great Wall of China zigzags its way through the northern border of China, like a serpent’s tail made out of brickwork. Whether you visit at autumn, with a dry and comfortable weather, or at winter when the walls are matted by white snow, the beauty and historic feeling of the Great Wall will surely amaze you as you walk the steps that seem to endlessly go up and down and push through the dull ache in your legs from the light exercise. However, this place doesn’t even need an introduction, you just need to visit, admire and walk this wonder. The historical Great Wall of China is definitely one of those destinations that is in every single list made by adventurers and travelers of all kind.
This majestic piece of the world represents a big part of the history of China and the whole continent itself. It is almost disrespectful to travel to this part of the world and not visit it. It is also a great experience, one of those once in a lifetime adventures that we always talk about. Let’s take a flight to China and get ready to take a little walk on the magnificent Great Wall.
Full of history from the very beginning, walking the Great Wall of China makes you imagine brave Chinese soldiers and charging Mongol mobs, an impervious barrier, and purposeless attack. Nearly everybody has this on their schedule when they visit China, yet you can maintain a distance from the big hordes of visitors if you head to the section that begins at Jinshanling.
Jinshanling is nearly 120 km north of Beijing, in the Hebei area, and is supported by various tour administrators in the capital, who will leave you there and pick you up again in Simatai later towards the evening.
Despite the fact that the wall is visible as soon as you enter the Jinshanling entryway, it isn’t until you go up the main flight of steps to look along its winding, crenelated length that makes you stop in shock. Sharp mountain edges that spread as far as you can possibly see, each high pinnacle crowned with a rustic watchtower, this immense bit of engineering challenges gravity as it raises up then dives down slopes steep enough to ski on them.
Extending for more than 6700 km over the severe, spiked mountains, deserts and prairies of northern China, the Great Wall was put together throughout two thousand years. The Badaling area is without any doubt the most famous among visitors. However, since it has been deeply restored, and if you also include the number of visitors it gets daily, it makes it difficult to get the true feeling of the place.
For any individual who is fairly in shape, it’s better to go for the 12-km-long road from Jinshanling to Simatai, where the wall and its environment hold an attractive image of roughness and natural deterioration.
At first, there was just a sequence of separated walls constructed by bellicose dynasties throughout 770 BC and 476 BC. The Great Wall itself was built after 214 BC, amid the Qin dynasty, when the majority of the existing walls were connected and their general length spread out under the reign of emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.
The ineffectiveness of assaulting its 7-meter- to 8-meter-high barricades, combined with the fatigue caused by navigating the mountains that enclose it, more than likely broke the hearts of numerous adversaries. Even the famous Mongol troops of Genghis Khan had trouble rupturing it before taking Beijing in 1215.
The Great Walk
At the moment you leave Jinshanling, the wall is initially in great condition, which warms your legs up for the ruthless series of steps that get you from the closest watchtower to the next. At the pinnacle of China’s power, more than a million troopers watched the Great Wall in case of any incoming attack. Looking out from a watchtower at the infinite, grim creases of the harsh mountainside makes it easy to picture the aggressors’ misery, particularly in winter, as they walked or rode from the north during several months to set up an assault.
However, with every watchtower built to provide broad views, and several horseback messengers prepared to inform other soldiers on different areas of the wall, the Chinese had an incredible advantage.
As you inch closer to Simatai and begin to get a feeling -whether it is only the dull pain in your legs- for the extent of this great, brick dragon, the condition of the wall starts to decay. In some sections where it is too unsteady to walk, the trail leads around the mountainside, giving you the adversary’s perspective of the wall’s overwhelming and transcending brickwork.
The Great Tour
You can find several Beijing tour administrators that offer trips to famous areas of the Great Wall, including Jinshanling. Make sure they give you enough time, around four or five hours, for a calm walk to Simatai. Obstinate local ‘guides’ will try to sell you different postcards and (overpriced) books, just ignore them and you’ll be fine, your way is straightforward and they’ll eventually find another customer. It doesn’t matter if you decide to take a big walk or just a quick tour that doesn’t require a big effort from you, either way, it is definitely a breathtaking adventure.
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