China is a treasure trove of sights to see, delicacies to eat and festivals to celebrate. Most people who come to China for a visit aim to see the Great Wall, whether it is in Mutianyu, Jiankou, Badaling, Jingshanling or all the way in Dandong. One of China's most popular historical monuments, it spans thousands of miles and winds through so many beautiful sceneries and landscapes of the country and makes for a wonderful sightseeing experience. However, it is best experienced while hiking, which makes for a great physical exercise.
For fitness nuts who like a challenge but also love adventure and perhaps some culture and history thrown into the mix, a hike on the Great Wall is the perfect activity. It is also a great experience for the moderately fit who are interested in a challenge. It can be an arduous task but the reward is a feeling of adrenalin and a glimpse into history. There are also cable cars for those who might need a break. A little cheating is alright sometimes! Here are three sections of the Great Wall that you must see.
Mutianyu Great Wall (慕田峪)
One of the well preserved parts of the wall is at Mutianyu, which is northeast of central Beijing. It used to be the barrier at the north to defend the Capital and the imperial tombs. Mutianyu is a favored site for hiking in comparison the other sites of the Great Wall. It is surrounded by beautiful streams and woodland and snaking across mountains and valleys. Mutianyu has over 20 watchtowers and it is over 2,000 meters long, which takes about five or six hours of walking. Not an easy feat but the feeling of accomplishment at the end is worth it! Generally, the well – preserved parts of the wall are better for safe hiking. However, those who prefer the wilder, steeper and remote sites will find it in Jiankou.
Jiankou Great Wall (涧口)
Mutianyu is in close proximity to the Jiankou section of the Great Wall, so if you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can plan a second day of hiking at Jiankou. Jiankou also has beautiful landscapes and steep mountains. This section of the Great Wall has not been restored since its creation and is located along a mountain and surrounded by steep cliffs! For those that love photography as they hike, this part of the wall is the perfect spot. It makes for breath-taking sights that you will remember for life! Jiankou takes two to four hours of hiking, so it is not as long as Mutianyu. However, it is not as preserved as Mutianyu so it makes for a very adventurous expedition. Some areas are too steep and may have to be by-passed for safety, depending on the stamina of the hikers. Thrill-seekers will love this trail! This trail is for experienced hikers, as beginners may find it a little dangerous and might be better hiking in a group than alone. Due to the proximity of Jiankou to Mutianyu, both sites are a very popular combined hiking trail.
Badaling Great Wall (八达岭)
The Badaling site of the Great Wall is the most visited and often full of tourists. As a result, the area is full of hotels, restaurants, a museum and other services. The wall at Badaling has undergone restoration, so it is another spot for safe hiking. It takes three to four hours to get from the first watchtower to the eleventh. Because of how popular it is to tourists, hikers who want a serene experience might find Badaling to be a little bit too busy. Thrill seeking hikers may also find it quite tame and too preserved. However, it is a safer hiking experience for those who don't mind the busyness of the area and also for those with children. The best time to visit Badaling is April to June or September to October.
General tips when hiking the trails on the Great Wall: Wear the most comfortable shoes, you don't want hurting bunions! It helps to have sunglasses, hats and tons of sunscreen or gloves, caps and scarves in the winter to keep warm. Also, take water, fruits and any other munchies you can to stave off dehydration and dizziness, as there are no food stalls as you hike. Toilets are not available during a great part of the hike, so it is important to prepare by using the toilet before or after the hike. For hiking in Mutianyu and Jiankou, you need long trousers and not shorts to hike, because the jungle environment is not suitable for shorts. Finally and most importantly, it is important to stay safe as you hike, don't over-exert yourself. Take many breaks and stop if you have to. Have fun and takes lots of photos while you're at it.