The Great Wall

The Great Wall is one of new seven wonders of the world, the longest man-made structure, and nothing can prepare you for the heady sensation of actually looking at the Great Wall as it winds through miles of steep hills and rugged countryside. Standing on the ramparts, kids can easily imagine they're defending against the Mongol hordes.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang (Qin Shi Huangdi) constructed the first Great Wall to keep out the nomadic invaders to the north. The wall, a huge earthworks rampart, took 11 years to build, from 221 - 210 BC, and stretched 3,000 miles. During the Han dynasty, the wall was lengthened and more watchtowers were built to add protection for merchants traveling the Silk Road.

Over the next 1,000 years, the Great Wall crumbled, but the Ming emperor rebuilt the Great Wall bigger and better than ever. Working on the wall from 1368 to 1644, the new and improved Ming wall was thicker, covered in glazed bricks and stone blocks, and lengthened to 4,000 miles, from Jiayuguan in the west, to the sea at Shanhaiguan in eastern China.

The Great Wall is a series of towers, connected by a whopping big double wall, with gates at key locations. Soldiers guarding the wall lived in the watchtowers or forts. Beacon towers were used for communications when invaders were spotted, signal fires were lit (or rockets were launched) all along the wall.
When you visit the Great Wall, you can walk on the wall for miles in any direction, encountering towers as you go - some towers are elaborate multi-story forts, others are just a simple beacon tower.
The most popular place to visit the Great Wall is Badaling,but Mutianyu is your best bet with kids. Mutianyu is less crowded, and it has a cable car that takes you to and from the Wall - the ride itself is fun and is helpful if you have little kids (save their energy for running up and down the Great Wall, not walking to it). Badaling also has a cable car, but if you opt to walk to the Wall, it can take 45 min. to 1 ½ hours.
Tip: The Great Wall is steep, it's quite uneven going up and down, and it isn't a flat walk by any means. This is not the place to bring a stroller.
To visit the Great Wall from Beijing, the easiest way is to arrange at your hotel for a car with driver.

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