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The Greatest Wall Ever! Actually, More Exciting than it Sounds: Hiking The Great Wall of China!

The Great Wall of China, Jinshanling

Stay away from your guidebooks, folks. If you’re researching The Great Wall of China in Beijing, they’ll tell you to go to Badaling or Mutianyu. I’m telling you, you’re going to want to visit Jinshanling.

The Great Wall of China, Jinshanling

After running into The CounterIntuitive in Hong Kong, who gave me the very same advice, I knew this was where I had to go. I spoke with a few other travelers as well and, despite what the guidebooks and the receptionist at my hostel told me, I went where my gut told me was the right place: Jinshanling.

Ruins on the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall stretches for 5,500 latitudinal miles (8,850km) across China. It has a history of more than 2,000 years and, over time, many parts have fallen to ruins or completely disappeared. Many bits are under reconstruction but, of course, the most charming sections are the ones that are entirely falling apart.

The Great Wall of China, Jinshanling

As with everything in China, getting places and doing things can be a little overwhelming. I was not in the mood to spend four hours commuting by bus and train, with limited Chinese speaking ability, to get to The Middle of Nowhere, China. Luckily, there are tour buses that will pick you up and drop you in the right place. For the pure convenience of it, it was worth the extra 20 bucks.

The Great Wall of China, set amongst the mountains

Stepping off the bus, our group was assaulted by hawkers. They didn’t come at us and immediately try to sell us anything. Instead, they became our self-appointed tour guides. There was one stipulation, of course: we were going to have to buy something from them later. The poor old lady trotted alongside me, every step of the way. Her stamina was actually remarkable!

The Great Wall of China

One rather awkward nuclear scientist even whipped out his green belt and started doing karate on the wall.

Because, you know, that’s just what you do…

A nuclear scientist doing karate on The Great Wall

I remember my grandmother telling me about The Great Wall as a child. The way she described it, I was unable to fathom the sheer size of it. It remained a mystery to me and, even to this day, it still maintains a certain level of mystery. There’s something inscrutable about this place. The historical significance, its physical size and the magnitude of its reputation all lend themselves to a certain mysticism. The Wall snakes through the mountains of China, meandering through valleys and over hilltops. It’s hard to even imagine how long this goes on for.

The Great Wall of China, Jinshanling

My grandmother had a love for China. The wall in her bedroom adorned an authentic, silk emperor’s robe, something which will be passed along to me. Though we never visited China together, I feel as though she has indirectly passed along a certain worldly wisdom. She’s no longer with us, but I can somehow relate to her again, on an entirely new level. It’s like I’m following in her footsteps.

I just hope she didn’t go to nearly as many bars as I do.

The Great Wall of China, Jinshanling

I still find it hard to believe that I’m in China.

CHINA.

Of all places, China.

Jeremy on the Great Wall

But I’ve stopped wondering why or how. It’s not worth it anymore!

Instead, I’m making the most of my days, and seeing just where this life of mine wants to take me.

And so far, it’s taken me to some pretty awesome places. No complaints on my end.

Jeremy Foster

Founding Editor at travelFREAK
Jeremy left home in 2010 to embark on a journey to the other side of the world. Years later, he's still on the move and exploring other countries. He is now a traveling cocktail bartender and the head writer for travelFREAK! You can usually find him on either side of the bar, acting wanky and pretentious about booze.

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21 Responses to The Greatest Wall Ever! Actually, More Exciting than it Sounds: Hiking The Great Wall of China!

  1. Derek4Real June 23, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    Impressive! And thanks for the tip, I will definitely be headed there when I make it to China :)

    • Jeremy Foster July 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      When are you coming?

      • Derek4Real July 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

        No clue…some point towards the end of this year, probably around Christmas or New Years. I hardly know where I will be at the end of this week, let alone a few months from now LOL.

        However long it takes me to get from Singapore -> Malaysia -> Thailand -> Laos -> Cambodia -> Vietnam -> China, that’s well I’ll be there. Will keep you updated though bro!

        • Jeremy Foster August 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

          Keep me posted. I’ll be in Southeast Asia in a couple months!

  2. Dad June 23, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Great post and terrific photos! An amazing journey continues…

  3. Laura @Traveloafe.com June 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    Great insight. It’s always great to read posts like this one, of people that have actually experienced the Wall and experienced this wonder. I hope one day to get to the Wall too and see exactly this places.

    • Jeremy Foster June 25, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      I hope you make it one day, too, Laura! It is, of course, quite the tourist attraction in China, but this particular segment was less touristy, and much more glorious!

  4. Amanda Williams June 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Awesome photos. I only got to visit the Badaling section when I was in China (big school tour; no choice), but this part does indeed look even more awesome!

    • Jeremy Foster June 30, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

      Thanks! Badaling is still great, I’m sure, but this was amazing!

  5. Sally Bucey July 20, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    I want to do an extended hike of the wall sometime, and these pictures are giving me some major wanderlust at the moment. Gorgeous!

    • Jeremy Foster July 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

      Thanks, Sally! I’m not sure what hiking options are available for extended hikes, but I know there are a lot of limitations. You might have to get a guided tour for that one.

  6. Noel @ wander2nowhere.com August 16, 2013 at 12:19 am #

    Great photos! I’m surprised at how few people there are in Jinshanling! I only visited Mutianyu when I was in China. I liked it but I will go back to visit Jinshanling and Simatai.

    • Jeremy Foster August 22, 2013 at 4:35 am #

      Definitely worth it. I’ve heard Mutianyu is cool, but Jinshanling is way, way better.

  7. Mathew Duong August 29, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Wow! Amazing photos. It is really worth trying. Thanks for sharing with us

  8. LifeOutside of Texas October 11, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    I love that your photos aren’t full of other tourists. What time of year did you go? How long did it take you to get to Jinshanling from Beijing on the tour bus? We are thinking about going to China next May, but we will only have a few days in Beijing, but the main reason we are going there is to see the Great Wall and this looks like the perfect spot.

    • LifeOutside of Texas October 11, 2013 at 6:29 am #

      And by the way, what plugin are you using for your About the Author section? I really like it.

      • Jeremy Foster October 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

        It’s called WP Biographia. It’s versatile and looks great!

    • Jeremy Foster October 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

      I visited the Great Wall in July so the seasons shouldn’t be too radically different if you’re there in May. I booked a regular tour to Jinshanling with the booking counter at my hostel, which made things really easy. The bus ride was about 3.5 hours each way and took the entire day. There are other places that are closer but will be thronging with tourists and the views aren’t as good!

  9. Green Global Travel October 11, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    These are spectacular images of the wall! I will look forward to following in your footsteps, as you have followed in your grandmother’s!

  10. Jennifer Dombrowski October 14, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    Beautiful photos of the Great Wall! It looks very uncrowded at this section. Some photos I’ve seen are just packed with people.

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