The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about travelling to China is the Great Wall. Once an important line of defence that protected the Chinese way of life against foreign powers, its purpose has completely mutated. Today the Wall hosts millions of tourists, who come from all over the world, to marvel at its magnificence. Instead of keeping foreigners at bay, it has become the single greatest draw to China.
Travelling to China without visiting the Great Wall is almost like going fishing and not catching any fish. Rather disappointing, to say the least. Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly interested in walls, you can be sure that the massiveness of this structure will amaze you beyond compare.
Well, that said, we might witness the erection of a modern-day version on the southern border of the US in a few year’s time. Although I doubt it’ll be quite as magnificent. For now, though, there’s no man-made structure that isn’t eclipsed by the Great Wall’s long, winding shadow.
The Great Wall is a structure of epic proportions. It stretches across China like an enormous, slithering serpent, protecting the northern border of ancient China. The gigantic system of walls was built over a time period of almost 15 centuries, with the oldest part completed in 206 BC. In its entirety, the Great Wall spans an astonishing 21ooo kilometres. That is approximately three times the distance to the centre of the Earth. If that didn’t leave you in a state of awe, I’m afraid there isn’t much this world has to offer that will.
During our trip to Beijing, we decided to go to Badaling to gaze upon the greatest wonder of ancient China. Our decision to go to Badaling was partly based on the advice of a co-worker which stated that this section was accessible via the metro. And partly on the fact that we were a party of 5 and six-seater Didi’s are quite expensive, especially over longer distances. Our co-worker had completed his studies in Beijing, so we were quite confident that his inputs were factual. Unfortunately, as it turned out, this was not the case and we were forced to squish into a taxi at the terminal station of the metro. Although things didn’t work out quite as expected, the destination definitely made the trip worthwhile.
Badaling is the most famous and best-preserved section of the Great Wall. It boasts amazing views of both the wall and nature, even during the winter. Approximately 3.7 kilometres have been restored and opened to the public. Entrance to the wall is only 35 RMB, so it’s not going to break the bank. If you’re feeling touristy, Badaling is the place to go.
- This section of the wall is really beautiful and well-preserved.
- Badaling is easily accessible. It is relatively close to downtown Beijing and there are a good number of transport options available to get you there.
- It is the only section, to my knowledge, that has cable cars and pulley cars. However, I wouldn’t recommend the cable cars. We decided to take a cable car to the top just for the fun of it and I honestly don’t think it’s worthwhile. The cable cars drop you off in the middle of the section, forcing you to go one way or the other and having to backtrack to climb the rest. The price is also quite outlandish, draining your pocket of a 100RMB for no real value.
- There’s a fair amount of eateries and food stalls.
- The steeper parts have been outfitted with handrails, which make them much easier to traverse.
Badaling is a great option if you’re on a tight schedule and you really want to see as much as possible. However, all this popularity and accessibility come at a price.
- Because of its popularity, Badaling can get extremely crowded, especially during Chinese holidays. Also, keep in mind that “crowded” in China lends itself to a completely different meaning than in the rest of the world.
- It’s very commercialised. If you’re looking to be engulfed by ancient China, I’m afraid Badaling might not be your best option.
Though not perfect, Badaling is a great place to appreciate the magnificence of the Great Wall. It is considered a must-see by many and once there it’s easy to understand why. If it’s your first or only time travelling to China, I highly recommend going to Badaling. It doesn’t require much planning and there is really no need for a guide.
How to get there
I’m only going to focus on the route we took, but if you want more information you can go to TravelChinaGuide. They provide decent information on all the available routes.
After living in Shanghai for a year I’ve grown accustomed to using the metro. In fact, it has become my preferred mode of transport in Chinese cities. It’s cheap, relatively quick and it provides you with a sense of independence. Therefore, we always try to find our way using the metro.
On our trip to the wall, we operated on bad information and we ended up having to take a taxi after an hour on the metro. On the way back, however, we were able to reverse engineer the route. We ended up finding, what I would consider, the most convenient and comfortable route.
It’s relatively easy to follow, so here we go; First, make your way to Huoying station, which is located at the intersection of lines 8 and 13. From there make your way to the S2 train. Buy your ticket and wait for the train to depart. Tickets are only 6 RMB, so a round trip including your metro tickets will set you back about 20 RMB per person.
The train takes anywhere between an hour and an hour and a half, so having something to keep you busy isn’t at all a terrible idea. There’s a small tuck shop on the train where you can buy snacks, however, I would recommend packing your own snacks just in case.
Here is the link to Google Maps.