I almost didn’t even bother going to see the Great Wall of China. I figured it’s cold, it’s expensive, I’d have to wake up early, and wouldn’t it be easier to just… not go? I mean, it’s a wall. What’s the big whoop?
The whoop, as it turns out, is pretty big. The Great Wall might have been one of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever seen.
The most commonly visited section of the wall from Beijing is Badaling, which is apparently the most well-preserved section, and the closest to the city — but it’s also the busiest by far.
The group I went with started at the Jinshanling section of the wall, and hiked to Simatai. It’s a bit farther from the city (it was about a three hour bus ride each way), but aside from our group, I saw maybe a dozen other people on the wall, so it’s clearly worth it to take the extra effort.
Before I started researching it, I wasn’t even entirely sure what you do at the wall. Do you just look at it? Do you get to stand on it for a bit, then you have to leave?
Yeah, no, it’s a hike. The stretch of wall that my group did was about six kilometres, and it was surprisingly exhausting. A good chunk of it was uphill, with lots and lots (and lots) of stairs.
That isn’t any kind of camera trickery — I just stood at the bottom of the steps and took that photo. They really are that steep.
There were some fairly steep inclines that didn’t even have any steps.
But man, it was so worth it. It’s one of those things that’s impossible to capture in photographs, but it was absolutely stunning. Between the mountain vistas and the jaw-dropping enormity of the wall itself, it was unforgettable, and something that you really should experience at some point in your life.