Walk the Great Wall of China

Walk the Great Wall of China

Walk the Great Wall of China

How-to with: Walk the Great Wall of China

Walking the Great Wall of China can be as ambitious as tackling the entire 1,800 miles from the Gobi Desert to the Yellow Sea or spending a morning or afternoon climbing a section with a tour group. Both approaches demand some physical fitness, the right shoes and preparation. Read about the history of the wall’s construction so you can appreciate those many uneven steps. Obtain the necessary permits for a long trek well in advance of your travel dates.

Step 1

Book a half-day tour right from your Beijing hotel. Bring a bottle of water and a light bag, a windbreaker, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen and, of course, your camera. Pack some extra cash — Chinese renminbi — for souvenir shopping, tips and photographers at the wall. Obtain necessary government permits for a more ambitious independent hike. Start that process months in advance of travel to ensure your trip won’t be delayed.

Step 2

Pack your gear for a walk along all or a large section of the Great Wall and then try to halve its weight. Consult a good camping supply store for the lightest, most versatile tents, pack and gear. Get good maps and study recent trip diaries and guides. Break in your trekking shoes and don’t forget to put lots of bandages and sunblock in the first-aid kit.

Step 3

Decide whether you will begin in the Gobi Desert or at the Yellow Sea. Desert travel is arduous and slow going. The heat is fierce so plan walks for early morning and late afternoon. Create an itinerary and file it with a friend you will contact at regular intervals. This is essential safety procedure for an isolated, hazardous trip.

Great Wall of China - Going up

Great Wall of China – Going up

Step 4

Accept local hospitality but exercise caution. The trip is as much about absorbing cultures as racking up mileage. Villagers may offer you meals and lodging. In remote areas this can be a trip-saver. Travel with a friend if possible; learn some basic Chinese before you go; and engage congenially but prudently with local people in the less-developed regions.

Step 5

Adjust travel plans to suit reality. If your planned day’s travel is too ambitious, slow down and let your contact know your revised schedule. If your pack is too heavy, give away the nonessentials. Travel along the Great Wall can be rigorous but the trip shouldn’t be an endurance test.

Great Wall of China - rest a bit

Great Wall of China – rest a bit

Step 6

Select towns or cities with good Internet capabilities to send blog posts and photos home. Document your trip for your own records and any use you may make of your notes when you return home. By regularly uploading data, you protect it from catastrophic loss in the event of some problem.

Step 7

Keep your passport and important papers with some local currency in a body pack. Hide copies of all permits, visas, passport and credit card numbers in a separate place in your regular pack. Give your contact friend at home backup copies as well. Consider Medevac or travel medical insurance as a safeguard in the event you get sick or have an accident.

Step 8

Enjoy the journey. Few people ever get to walk substantial parts of the Great Wall. Whether you go end-to-end or explore a length in depth, you will connect with Chinese history and culture and test your own limits on a memorable adventure.

Great Wall of China - happiness

Great Wall of China – happiness


  • There are limited longer trips available through tour agencies that will make all the arrangements for two or more weeks’ traveling on and near the Great Wall. This is a practical choice for those constrained by vacation times.
  • Despite popular legend, the Great Wall is not visible from the moon.


  • The wall was built on the highest available points as a strategic lookout. To avoid injury or a trip cut short, attempt a longer, more rigorous trip only if you are fit and an experienced rough terrain hiker.


  • Tour Beijing
  • The Great Wall; “Walking the Wall. Great Wall of China”; Peter Hessler; “New Yorker Magazine”; May 21, 2007
  • Student Traveler; Great Wall Hike; Eddie Davis; February 12, 2011
  • Medevac; Pacific Services
  • U.S. State Department; China — Country Specific Information
  • U.S. Embassy of the People’s Republic of China

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

— article from traveltips.usatoday.com — Click here for original article

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