There are a number of things one has to do at least once in one’s life. I consider hiking the great wall in China as one of those things. The wall is the largest man-made structure in the world, at an estimated 5,500 miles long, containing over 7000 towers.
During it’s construction, the wall was called “the longest graveyard in the world.” An incredible amount of labourers lost their lives while working on the wall. Not surprisingly, if you imagine how every single one of the heavy stones had to be carried up the hills from the villages where they were carved out.
The easiest way to visit the wall is during a stay in Beijing. There are dozens of tour companies offering guided tours. The wall is only a few hours away from the city by car.
There are many parts of the wall open to hikers. Most popular routes include the Jinshanling to Simatai route and the section around Badaling. These parts are restored and easy to hike, but also quite busy. I chose a less well-known section, the Gubeikou to Jinshanling route. A good choice as it turned out, as I didn’t encounter any other hikers during my four hour hike!
Some of the sections are actually fairly challenging to cross and without the presence of fences and handle bars, so taking caution is recommended. The views of the surrounding hills from the wall were amazing.
Halfway through the hike, we came across a closed of section of the wall. According to my tour guide, the Chinese army had a training camp set up nearby and they value their privacy.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the detour that we had to take took us through a small village. This was the perfect opportunity to get a glimpse of what local country life in China looks like: women working quietly on the farmlands while men collected firewood to load onto the backs of donkeys that would haul it to their self-built houses.
The last part of the hike brought us to the Jinshanling segment and the wall becomes much more easy to hike here. It was also quite busy as the wall is accessible from the main road via cable car. There are a few good resteraunts in this area, which is a welcome sight after hiking up and down the Chinese hills for a good four hours!