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.
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.
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.
We started our climb and were relieved to see the fog starting to dissipate and reveal blue skies. Hooray!
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!
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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
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.
It’s times like these I wish I had a selfie stick ;)
Have you ever been to the Great Wall of China? Do you want to go now after reading this?