Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall is not visible from the moon, or even Earth’s orbit. Nevertheless, it is one of mankind’s great engineering achievements. The various kingdoms of ancient China had been no stranger to walled fortifications, and when the Qin Dynasty was established in 221 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered several existing walls to be merged together. Succeeding dynasties continued expanding the wall and renovating existing sections.
Most of what remains today dates to the Ming Dynasty, who wanted to keep out the Manchurians. The wall eventually failed in that regard. The succeeding Manchurian Qing Dynasty had no use for it and it fell into disrepair. If the entire length of the Great Wall throughout all of history were put together, it would stretch for 50,000km. The Ming alone built more than 6,000km. Throughout all of history, it’s estimated that more than 1,000,000 died during its construction.
The most popular section of the wall to visit, and the closest to Beijing, is Badaling. Here the wall has been rebuilt, but it is also packed with tourists and hawkers. Mutianyu is less crowded and cheaper. More adventurous types can hike (or even camp) the wall at the unrestored Huanghua and Jiankou sections, among others.
It is best to arrange trips to the Great Wall through your accommodation.
80km NW of Beijing
Telephone: 010 6912 1383
Hours: Daily 06:30-19:00
70km NE of Beijing
Telephone: 010 6162 6873
Hours: Daily 07:00-18:30