Asia, Travel

Travel Guide: The Great Wall of China

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I’ve been fortunate enough to see many amazing things around the world on my travels, but the Great Wall of China is quite possibly the most awe-inspiring sight I have ever seen. I simultaneously wanted to cry and scream with joy! So many feels.

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I had been nervously checking the weather for our Great Wall climb everyday, and it had been raining constantly in the lead up. We arrived at the base of the Wall early in the morning and were greeted by fog… Lots of fog. Can you believe this is actually a full colour image?! That’s how bad the weather was.

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I recommend taking a photo of the map with your phone before you start the climb to avoid getting lost. To be on the safe side, travel in a group, and you will find a local may offer to take you on the walk themselves. Of course they are expecting money, but our lady was a huge help and we bought souvenirs (chopsticks and tshirts) off her afterwards to say thanks.

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We started our climb and were relieved to see the fog starting to dissipate and reveal blue skies. Hooray!

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My view. Yep, those are a lot of stairs. Make sure you wear sturdy shoes with good grip, and watch your step at all times. The steps vary between tiny (too small for my large Western feet) and hideously steep. There were a few tumbles amongst our group but fortunately nothing too serious!

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But it’s all worth it because…. look at that view. I have never felt so humbled by anything in my life. The Wall stretched on and on for as far as I could see.

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Here I am looking very pleased with myself and trying to hide the fact I was completely puffed! And despite the blue skies, it was cold up there. I was wearing 4 layers.

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How to Skip the Crowds on The Great Wall of China

You may have noticed a distinct lack of people in my photos. I often stumble upon images on the internet that look like this:

Great Wall

Image source

So how did I avoid the crowds? Let me share with you some tips.

1. Go to Jinshanling. It is the best preserved part of the wall. As it is a remote and somewhat isolated section of the Great Wall, there are relatively few tourists.

2. Get there early. We arrived at 8am when it opened and were the first ones there. At the end of our 3 hour walk a few huge bus load of tourists turned up. So the early wakeup call was worth it!

3. Avoid peak season. Summer is the peak tourist season, I went at the end of October and the crowds were significantly less. Just make sure you dress warmly!

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How to get to the Great Wall of China from Beijing

I stayed overnight in a nearby hotel, however as Jinshanling is located only 110 kilometers northeast of Beijing City, you can book yourself on a return day trip by bus.

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What to bring

Pack your own water and snacks to last you at least 4 hours (just to be on the safe side). There are a few small kiosks providing drinks and food scattered around the Great Wall, so bring some spare change too.

As the weather can be temperamental, I would recommend you bring both sunscreen and a rain/windproof jacket

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What to wear

Whilst Jinshanling is a popular hiking route, some parts of it are unrestored and involve steep stairs or loose rocks. Good footwear is important, and I highly recommend you wear your hiking boots or sneakers with good grip.

Whether you’re climbing in the cooler or warmer months, I always recommend you dress in layers. And bring a backpack! If you have to take off your coat, you don’t want to be lugging that around.

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It’s times like these I wish I had a selfie stick ;)

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Have you ever been to the Great Wall of China? Do you want to go now after reading this?

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8 Comments

  • Reply Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella May 20, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    Great photos Swah! And I particularly like the one with the man sitting in profile. I never realised that you could get lost there so there are some great tips!

    • Reply Swah May 22, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks Lorraine! I’m a big fan of man photo too, I glanced over and noticed him staring off into the distance. I love trying to capture moments like that whilst away x

  • Reply Nicole - Champagne and Chips May 20, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    That really does look incredible. Such beautiful photos.
    My parents were there recently but my father was far too ill to walk it at all ( food poisoning). So disappointing.

    • Reply Swah May 22, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Oh what a shame for your parents! I hope they at least got to see a bit of it :(

  • Reply Gourmet Getaways May 22, 2015 at 1:19 am

    Lovely photos, Swah! The weather wasn’t hindrance to your taking nice shots. Thanks for the tips and for showing us a true wonder of the world.

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

    • Reply Swah May 22, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      You are very welcome guys, glad you enjoyed!

  • Reply Korinna May 30, 2016 at 12:52 am

    Funny that I didn’t realise that there were few people on the pictures until you said it.. It looks so calm and breathtaking and inspirational. I love places that make you realise how small and insignificant you are in this big world, places that make you humble and make you turn inward and think about what life means to you and what you want to do next. And when you come back from such a trip, you feel new motivation and a new desire to start realising your dreams. Well it’s like that for me, so the great wall is now on my bucket list. Thanks to you!
    Besides I love the pictures and I’m looking forward to read more on your blog
    Kind regards,
    Korinna

    • Reply Swah May 31, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks for your lovely comment Korinna, I am so glad to hear the Great Wall is now on your bucket list! It’s such a humbling and incredible experience :)

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