Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a perennial favorite among tourists, and with good reason. As an attraction it is beautiful, awe-inspiring, daunting, and exciting. The Great Wall, stretching 4,000 miles (6,350km), was built in stages from the 7th century BC onwards, snaking its way across the mountains and valleys of five provinces in northern China as a mammoth defence bulwark against the neighbouring Manchurian and Mongolian peoples.

Several sections of the wall, which has become the most prominent symbol of Chinese civilisation, can be viewed in the greater Beijing area. In Yanqing county, in northwest Beijing, is the 600-year-old Badaling Fortification, representative of the Ming dynasty sections of the Great Wall. Other sections can be seen at Jinshanling, Mutianyu, and Simatai. The more popular sections can be very crowded, but generally if travellers walk a little way they can escape the worst of it. There are some great stretches of the wall to hike, such as the roughly six mile (10 km) section between Jinshaling and Simatai, but visitors should be careful about setting off alone as parts of the wall are unstable and unsafe. It is best for visitors to take their own water and snacks and to pack very warm clothes if planning to go in winter, because temperatures at the wall can be freezing. There are countless vendors, but their goods are usually very expensive and of questionable quality.

Website: www.mutianyugreatwall.net

Telephone: (0)10 6162 6022

Transport: To Mutianyu: Travellers can take the 916 bus from Dongzhimen station (in downtown Beijing) to Huairou, where they can take a minibus taxi to the wall, which should cost no more than CNY50.

Opening times: April to October 7:00am-6:00pm; November to March 7:30am-5:30pm (Mutianyu)

Admission: Adults: CNY40; Children/students: CNY20