Know Before You Go: Visiting the Great Wall of China

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North of Beijing lies the Great Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s one of the world’s largest, most iconic architectural wonders—a must-visit in China. Here are a few things to know before making your visit to this Ming Dynasty marvel.

Choose the right portion of the wall.
The Great Wall of China is actually comprised of several sections, each with its own appeal. The Badaling section, the most popular, is an easily accessible option for a day trip; it can also be combined with a day of sightseeing in Beijing. The Juyongguan and Mutianyu sections have both been restored, but they receive fewer visitors; the latter has a cable car. Those looking for a wild wall experience can head for more remote sections, like the stretch between Jinshanling and Simatai known for its Great Wall hiking.

You can visit on your own or with a guide.
Since public transportation to the Great Wall is a challenge, one of the most convenient and informative ways to visit is with a tour guide. Private and small-group tours typically last six to eight hours. Private tours offer even greater intimacy and flexibility.

Opt for a combo tour for an enriched sightseeing experience.
Travelers looking to make the most of their time in Beijing can combine a visit to the Great Wall with other notable area attractions. Enter the Ming Tombs (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) where China’s emperors of old were laid to rest, marvel at the grandeur of the Forbidden City, or stroll through the lavish lakeside retreat of Empress Dowager Cixi.

Know what to wear and bring.
It’s a good idea to wear comfortable shoes when visiting the wall, as many sections require climbing steep stone steps and walking along uneven surfaces. There’s little shade at many of the sights, so don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.
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