The Great Wall of China is an ancient network of walls, earth works and fortifications that stretch from one end of China to the other and cover over 8,000 kilometers. The oldest sections of the wall were built over 2,200 years ago while the newest sections are only 400 or so years old. The wall is an engineering marvel, a historical monument and a testimony to the might and ingenuity of the ancient Chinese empires.
Walking the wall is an incredible experience and an opportunity to see Chinese history, an unrivalled feat of engineering and fabulous mountain scenery. A visit to the Great Wall will be one of the highlights of your time in China and no trip to China is complete with out at least one trip to the Great Wall.
Most people will only have the opportunity to visit the sections of the wall near Beijing so this guide will focus on these sections.
The Beijing sections of the Great Wall of China
There are over 10 sections of the Great Wall that are all north of Beijing within a maximum of three or four hours travelling. I have listed the six most popular or impressive sections below with the distance from Beijing then given detailed information on each of the six sections.
Badaling 80 Km
Jiankou 100 Km
Mutianyu 79 Km
Gubeikou 140 Km
Jinshanling 155 Km
Simatai 150 Km
Badaling Great Wall of China 八达岭长城
Back ground – In Chinese badaling means reaches in eight directions. Badaling was given this name because this section of the Great Wall is built on a series of mountain ridges that head off in many different directions. Badaling’s commanding position on head of these ridges, its excellent defensibility and convenient transport routes made Badaling a key strategic position in Beijing’s northern defense.
Badaling is the most popular, most crowded and most accessible section of the Great Wall. For at least half the year from mid Spring to mid Autumn, Badaling is so crowded that walking in some sections is brought almost to a standstill.
History – Badaling is a Ming Dynasty wall that took eight years to build and was completed in 1505. It was the first section of the Great Wall of China to be fully restored and it was opened to the public in 1957 during Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward.
Size – The Badaling section of the Great Wall is 3,741 meters long with 12 watch towers in the northern section and six towers in the southern section. The average altitude of Badaling above sea level is around1,000 meters and the highest point of Badaling is 1,015 meters.
On average the wall at Badaling has a height of 7.8 meters and a width of 5.7 meters. Badaling is rumoured to be wide enough for five horses to gallop on side by side. It is wide but five horses would be a very tight squeeze.
Difficulty and condition of the wall – Badaling is in excellent condition and very well maintained. The main section of the wall is from the ticket office to Tower 8 which is the top of the chair lift. Walking the wall in this section can be tiring but is not difficult and should not be a problem for the elderly or people with walking difficulties. The section of the wall from Tower 8 to Tower 12 at the end has steep sections and is more difficult to walk.
All sections of Badaling have a metal hand rail on either side which makes walking Badaling very safe. The chair lift at Badaling runs from the near the ticket office all the way to Tower 8 which is the highest and the most crowded part of the wall.