On day 3, we woke up early to escape the hustle and bustle of Beijing in exchange for some hiking and beautiful views of The Great Wall 长城.
We went against our best judgement of booking a private car and went with a tour guide on a small bus with seven other people. This situation ended up working out just fine, even though we had to go to the jade and tea factories en route. We typically don't like going to the touristy spots, but meeting the people on our bus added a fun dynamic to our adventure. Our kiddos had never been to either of the factories, so that part turned out to be a good experience for them too, despite the touristy nature of those locations.
- If you want to spend a lot of time (more than two hours) on the Great Wall and don’t care to go to the factories, hire a private car and have them take you early.
- If you are going for photography, insist that the driver get you there by sunrise. You will have to factor in a couple of hours of travel time and hiking time, but you will avoid traffic on the highway as well as people traffic at the Great Wall.
- Head to the Mutianyu section and avoid Badaling at all costs if you don’t like crowds. For an even more remote/adventurous experience, head to Juyongguan Pass and do a 5 hour thru hike to Mutianyu. Here’s a great article about camping on the Great Wall if you would like to plan an even bigger adventure!
When we arrived at Mutianyu it was just a short uphill walk to the cable car. However, upon seeing the cable car line and learning that it would take two hours + to get to the top, we decided as a group to just climb up to the wall instead. There were a series of what we think was 3000 stairs (the equivalent of 93 floors) to just get onto the wall. We stopped a couple of times along the way to catch our breath and pressed on to the top, saving ourselves the two hour wait in line. We reached the wall in about 20 minutes.
Once at the top, we had a decision to make. Go left or right? The last time we were at the Great Wall was about 12 years ago and we had remembered going left, so we made the decision this time to go right and experience a totally different part of the wall. We found that the slope of the wall was much steeper and had a lot more steps along the way. Thinking about when we had previously gone left, we remembered that it had less steps and a more gradual pitch with a smoother path to walk on.
I am glad that we went right this time, starting at watchtower number six, because it was a bit more challenging and we got to see different scenery than we had before. There were some great places to get some video footage and to vlog as we walked up the strenuous stairs. Don't forget to check out our vlog of this amazing day (link at the bottom of this blog post).
No Cement Required?
A mixture of glutinous rice flour and egg whites was used to create the "glue" that held all of the Great Wall stones together.
Did you know that back in 700 BC when the Wall was started, the Chinese didn’t have concrete to mold the bricks together when building the Great Wall? They used a special mixture of glutinous rice flour and egg whites to create the “glue” that held all of the stones together. This one simple fact totally blew me away! They basically built the Great Wall with stone bricks and porridge.
The Great Wall’s official length is 21,196.18 kilometers (13,170.7 miles) and crosses over 9 provinces and municipalities. Despite there being Western accounts and teachings of being able to see the Great Wall from space, most folks in country claim that the Great Wall is not visible from space with the naked eye. The Chinese had five space missions to test this theory and proved it wrong because their astronauts were not able to see it from space. However, here's what NASA has published on this topic.
We learned some interesting facts on our journey along the Great Wall and it was an incredible experience for our whole family. We would all go back again if given the opportunity. We highly recommend taking a trip to see the Great Wall of China. This is a must-see if you are going to be in the Beijing area.
Ok. You've now read the blog post for Day 3 - Beijing China The Great Wall at Mutianyu and I hope that the resources provided above will help you plan your next trip to China. Now go take a look at our short Vlog on YouTube to see first hand, how our Day 3 transpired.
You can also continue reading our Day 4 blog post here.