This year I was lucky enough to go to the Great Wall a grand total of 4 times at 4 different locations. Each and every experience was drastically different from the others, and I hope to compare and contrast the last three visits in this post. The Great Wall has many different "personalities," and for those who are on a tight schedule on their trip to Beijing it's important that you choose the "right" section of the Great Wall for their individual ideals.
My second trip to the wall was to Jinshanling. This section is relatively far out from the city, but it is absolutely worth the hassle to get there. It was my favorite section of all, and I was only able to explore a small portion of its total length. I loved that this section was both restored and safe, while still maintaining some of the challenge and excitement that comes with climbing the Great Wall. Also, since this section is so far out there are relatively few tourists when compared to more popular sections like Badaling, making the visit all the more pleasant.
The third trip was a part of a school field trip, and unfortunately was my least favorite of the four. Shui changcheng, which translates to “water great wall,” is exactly what it sounds like, the Great Wall over water, in this case, a resevoir. The section of the Great Wall open here is very short and restored to pristine condition. Climbing the entire section open at the time and back took well under 30 minutes, even at the leisurely pace we were going. That being said, the views provided were spectacular, especially over the reservoir. I’m only offering so much criticism so that readers preparing their own Great Wall adventures can pick a section of the wall that offers a longer hike.
The last trip to the Great Wall was during my final week in Beijing, and was one planned entirely by my friends and I. We went to the beautiful but unrestored Jiankou section of the Great Wall. While this area is lauded as being one of the most beautiful on the wall, and rightfully so, it also is one of the most dangerous. After only a few hours of hiking and one too many close calls my friends and I decided to turn back, not willing to risk our lives for a single hike. Considering all the other beautiful spots along the Great Wall including the previously mentioned Jinshanling, I definitely don’t think hiking this section of the wall is recommended. Unless you are the most seasoned and prepared hiker who is fully aware of the risks, I would advise against visiting most any “unrestored” sections of the wall. While many are safer than Jiankou, hiking on them is only destroying and damaging the wall further.
I had a vast array of experiences at the Great Wall over my year. I hope in the future to return to some of my favorite spots and explore new (restored) locations!
Abigail is currently spending a year abroad in Beijing, China with the NSLI-Y program. She is excited to share her experiences with family, friends, and others on this blog.