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Published on January 26th, 2013 | by Andrew Garcia

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7 Natural Wonders Guide: The Great Wall of China

Discovering the Great Wall of China

It is a known fact that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from the moon but there is much more to this enormous structure than its size. That is why many tourists from all the corners of the world visit the Great Wall each year in order to learn more about this fortification and to  learn more about the Chinese culture and industry that made such a creation possible.

 

mutianyu-great-wall

A photo of the Mutianyu section of The Great Wall

 

A Brief History of The Great Wall of China

 

The Great Wall of China starts from Hushan, Liaoning in the east and ends at Jiayuguan Pass. In the west, it begins at Gansu crossing pass Liaoning, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu all the way to Qinghai provinces. It  was originally built as a series of separate walls by the different warring tribes in Ancient China in order to control and defend their territory.

 

Qin Shi Huang

An artists impression of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor if the Qin Dynasty

In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang conquered all of these tribes establishing the Qin Dynasty, the first dynasty in China. He ordered the old walls to be destroyed and building a series of fortification to surround and protect his empire. Due to the difficulty of transporting materials to the wall, local materials were used to build sections of it and it has been estimated that millions of workers died throughout the construction.

 

terracotta-warrior

Terracotta Warriors like this one protect Qin Shi Huang in the famed mausoleum

 

Most of the wall built by the Qin Dynasty has been destroyed or eroded since then but other dynasties followed the example and built their own section of the wall. The Ming dynasty during the 14th century built the most notable section of the wall in order to keep the Mongols and other nomadic tribes out of its territory. Their version of the wall was much more stronger being made of bricks and stones instead of rammed earth.

An estimated 25,000 watchtowers were built throughout the wall along the northern border of China. The sections surrounding Beijing were built  particularly stronger in order to protect the capital. Contrary to what others know, the Great Wall was not just built for military defense. It also served to limit the migration of people and to effectively control the trade along the silk road. In total, the Great wall spans an approximate area of 8,851.8 kilometers or 5,500 miles.  It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

 

Some Great Facts About The Great Wall

Watch towers along the Great Wall

Watch towers along the Great Wall

 

Aside from being one of the greatest military fortifications ever built, for most people there is little else known about the Great wall and for someone who seeks to visit this great wonder, we’ve rounded up the most interesting facts about the Great Wall of China.

 

  • The average size of a brick used in constructing the wall is not known but it is said that in total, all of the bricks laid out side by side would equal to the circumference of the earth.
  • The height of the different sections of the Great Wall vary but the average height of the section built by the Ming dynasty is 21 feet.
  • It can take quite some time to walk the entire length of the wall and it depends on which route you take. The first man to completely walk from Shanhaiguan pass to Jiayuguan pass completed the journey in two years.

 

Touring the Great Wall

There are many ways to travel to the Great Wall. A tourist can choose among the different tour packages available. These Great Wall tours include other sites to visit so always be sure to review the tour itinerary before signing up in order to be sure that you are going to visit the places you would like o go.

 

The best departure site to start at is Beijing. This will bring you to the heart of the most visited and renovated site known as Badaling. This area has a lot of tourists and hawkers so it is always best to arrive early and the tour can be done in half a day. Weekends however are especially hectic like most other tourists destinations. This area is best for family tours with kids and older people. Most visits to Badaling are coupled with tours to the Ming Tombs.

 

Another great site to visit is Simatai. This area is also very accessible from Beijing. It boast of the best view and drop among the sections of the Great wall. This area is best for well-fit travelers and those who are more into adventure and longer treks. It is best to bring a day pack and your own supply of food and drinks to the area since these things can be a bit pricey in Simatai.

 

If you are looking for an out of the usual and relatively far from the beaten path tour then you can try visiting Jinshanling. This section of the Great wall is relatively underdeveloped than the other sections so you can expect less visitors but it is also more difficult to go to and from the area. It is still accessible from Beijing but it will be best to travel in groups. The tour starts with a 10km walk from Simatai. Walking back is an option but you can make arrangements with the driver as well.

 

There are other tour packages to the Great Wall which may include other activities aside from trekking. Just be sure to plan the activities ahead and bring the appropriate gear. There are also three day r ten day hikes which would allow a traveler to see most of the sections of the wall.

 

 


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