The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, generally built along an east-to-west line across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian Steppe with an eye to expansion [Ref: Wikepedia]
Why Was the Great Wall of China Built?
Originally built as a wartime defense, the Great Wall of China features many towers and passes. When Emperor Qin Shi Huang first proposed the so-called Long Wall, it was meant to defend the Chinese states against nomadic tribes from the north. During the Han Dynasty the Great Wall was extended to protect the Silk Road trade. The Ming Dynasty, which “took a largely defensive stance,” according to History.com, is known for not only extending the Great Wall, but also repairing and reinforcing existing structures.
Getting to the Great Wall (Mutianyu section) from Beijing
The beautiful Great Wall is just 70 miles from Beijing. But getting there can be a bit tricky for travelers making the trek solo. Visitors sticking with public transportation will first need to get to Dongzhimen Station, where you can take an hour-long express bus ride to Huairou Station. Then, you’ll need to transfer to a bus stopping at the Mutianyu Roundabout.
Most experts on travel to the Great Wall will recommend skipping the train and opting for a hired car and a guide. Especially when your time in Beijing is limited I would strongly advice you to go there with a private tour guide. A tour guide will take you early in the morning to the less popular sections of the wall will help you to maximize your time.
We pre-booked a small-Group Great Wall Experience Tour that started at 7:00 in the morning in order to avoid the crowds. The distance from Beijing center is around 73 kilometers (45 miles). It took us around 2 hours to arrive at Mutianyu by mini bus.
Mutianyu is the mostly restored, spectacular section of the Wall and maintains unique characteristics. This section of the Great Wall has 22 watch towers and its 2250 meters long. What is interesting to know about the wall, is that both outer and inner parapets are crenelated (a crenelated wall has gaps in the top or openings through which to fire at attackers.) with merlons, so that shots could be fired at the enemy on both sides – a feature very rare on other parts of the Great Wall.
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It takes about 40 minutes to hike up onto the wall, however, I would advise you to get the cable car up and save your energy to walk on the wall. I really wasn’t expecting that I was going to sit on an open cable car – it was an amazing experience.
Once you reach the wall, trek along the watchtowers and explore the wall and the views. On the day we visited, we were not that lucky with the weather, therefore, you can notice from my photos that we were not able to admire the great views due to fog and the rain.
Some of the watchtowers are seldom seen along other sections and quite rare in the architectural history of the Great Wall. Examples are the Zhengguan Terrace (No. 6 Watchtower) comprised of three hollow watchtowers, and Big Corner Tower (No. 1 Watchtower), named so because only one big corner can be seen from the paths in three sides.
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