The Great Wall of China

The greatest wall of all

'The only man-made object that can be seen from the moon!' is still a commonly heard epithet for this magnificent spectacle. But despite the fallacy of this assertion, if there was a man-made structure as enormous in scale and reach as to be seen from outer space, then the Great Wall of China would be it.

Stretching from Pacific to the east all the way to the west of China, through all manner of terrain, the wall is some 8,800 kilometers (5,500 miles) long, making it one of the largest structures ever built. In 1987 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

The enormity of this structure is reflected in the timescale of its construction. For over two thousand years different dynasties worked on the Great Wall, with construction first beginning in the fifth century BC and continuing right up to the 16th century. It was built to protect the agriculture of the local farmers and to resist the invading tribes from the north such as the Huns and the Mongols. Originally the wall was built using stone, wood, grass and earth until the Ming Dynasty, when bricks were produced in kilns set up along the wall. At its peak during the Ming Dynasty more than one million men protected the wall.

The Great Wall sweeps from Shanhaiguan in the east, to Lop Lake in the west, along an arc that roughly outlines the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. The wall is actually made up of several sections of actual wall and trenches and also of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers.

Northern China has four distinct seasons and the weather here can be extreme. In summer (June-August) the temperature can reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius and you will need lots of water handy whilst exploring the wall. Winter (November-March) can be quite the other extreme with temperatures dropping as low as minus four degrees, for which you will need to dress appropriately as the wall is exposed in many places.

Tucan Travel offers a number of tours that include a day excursion to the Great Wall of China and run all year round. The tours that visit the Great Wall do so at Badaling, the 'North Pass' of Juyongguan pass. This section has plenty of steep hills to hike and can offer challenges to travellers of all fitness levels to experience the sheer scale of this wall in any way that suits.

Tip: As you explore the areas of the Great Wall you will notice names carved into the stone – please do not be tempted to leave your stamp behind or to take a piece home as a souvenir. Authorities may very well take action with fines or worse.

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