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Climbing the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China was originally constructed to protect the country from invasions and to create a physical barrier from the rest of the world. Now it serves as China’s #1 attraction with over 10 million visitors each year. With prime months to visit and essential packing tips, this guide will provide you with an optimal Great Wall experience.

Best Section to Visit

The Great Wall is over 13,000 miles long. Depending on your tolerance of crowds, some sections of the Wall may be more appealing than others. Badaling is the section most convenient to travel from Beijing, also making it extremely touristy. However, it is an easier option to climb since its renovation included the addition of cable cars and guardrails. Another section of the wall is known as Mutianyu. This section is also fairly well preserved and is less touristy than Badaling. Keep in mind when choosing which section to visit that Mutianyu is known for its steepness. Reward yourself after your steep climb with a thrilling toboggan ride to the bottom. Hikers and photographers, we suggest you don’t skip over this next one. If time permits in your schedule, Jinshanling is a 2 ½ hour drive from Beijing. Jinshanling is known for its distinctive watchtowers and is home to some of the most stunning views the Great Wall has to offer.

Great Wall of China in fall.jpg

Best Time to Visit

Avoid the sweltering heat or freezing cold winds by visiting the Great Wall in either Spring or Fall. Beware that the Wall can become extremely slippery during rain and snowfall. Once you decide which day you will visit, aim for early morning or late afternoon for prime photo-taking lighting and minimal crowds. Allocate at least 2-3 hours for your visit.

What to Wear

With multiple staircases and scattered undeveloped sections of the Wall, ditch your sandals and wear your sneakers for safety and comfort. When climbing the Great Wall in any weather, prepare to sweat. Accommodate this by choosing a loose, comfortable outfit. If you are planning on completing a more intense section of hiking, bring a pair of gloves to protect your hands from the rocks you might be grabbing. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to pack a scarf or an extra layer to account for any harsh winds you might experience on the Wall.

What to Bring

If wanting to save a bit of money, pack a bag before you leave with some water and snacks. If you don’t mind sparing the extra change and are looking for convenience, food and drinks will be available for sale around the more popular areas of the Wall. Although it is important to stay hydrated, be careful not to drink too much water as there are no bathrooms besides the ones near the entrance and ticket office. Whatever is brought with you should be taken back as littering is not acceptable at the Great Wall. And as always, don’t forget to bring your camera. You won’t want to forget this experience.

Post written by: Kirsten Cusack