One of the world's most mythical and alluring constructions, the Great Wall of China is an imposing series of fortifications, over 30,000 miles in total. Work began on a great wall, to protect China from raids by the barbaric nomadic tribes of the north, as far back as 220 BC, however most of what remains today was built during the Ming dynasty in the late 15th century. Perhaps most astonishing of all is the terrain over which the wall climbs, cutting over and down often precipitous remote mountainsides. It is a long time since it fulfilled its original purpose, but the wall remains a powerful and enduring symbol of Chinese strength and a striking representation of its past adverseness to outside influences.  

There are several points from which to access the Great Wall from the capital Beijing, the most popular being the Badaling Pass, some 40 miles north of the capital and offering panoramic views of re-constructed watchtowers and fortifications.  Slightly less crowded is Mutianyu, where panoramic cable cars can whisk you up to the walls, rather than climbing more than 1,000 steps. Each of these passes can both be combined with a visit to the vast Ming tombs.

For the most authentic experience and to explore a quiter stretch of the wall, it is worth travelling a little further to Jinshanling, 80 miles north of Beijing. Jinshanling offers excellent hiking opportunities and is perhaps the most photogenic part, surrounded by breathtaking mountains and with some older dilapidated walls.

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