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On the Great Wall


Photo by Brian Jewell

There’s no more memorable outdoor experience in the Far East than hiking on the Great Wall of China, one of the world’s most recognized landmarks. This ancient wall stretches some 4,000 miles, from the seashore in the east to the deserts in the west, with numerous sections easily reached in the mountains surrounding Beijing.

“The wall was first built more than 2,700 years ago to protect China from the Mongols invading from the north,” said local guide Eddy. “Over 1 million workers were involved. Many of them died during the work. Many of them were prisoners, so if they got sick or wounded while they worked, nobody cared.”

Now several millennia later, the wall continues to strike visitors with a sense of wonder. It snakes along the tops of the ridges near Beijing like a long spine on the mountain range. The sections of the wall near the city are wide, tall and easy to walk. During my visit, the place hummed with tourists, most of them Chinese nationals visiting from other parts of that large country.

We had two hours to spend exploring the Great Wall.  I chose to take the challenging hike from our starting place to the Eighth Tower of the North, the wall’s highest point in the Beijing area. The journey included a lot of steps and no small amount of heavy breathing, but the views from the top and the accompanying sense of accomplishment were more than worthwhile.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.

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