5 Things You Don't Know About... the Great Wall of China

Great_wall_of_chinaGreat_wall_of_china
Courtesy gauravks/myBudgetTravel

Contrary to urban legend, this gargan­tuan tourist favorite known as the Great Wall of China is not visible from space, but just about everything else about the travel icon is mind-blowing in scale:

1. Construction began in 214 B.C. and continued for more than 2,000 years. At one point, the massive fortification spanned 6,000-plus miles; these days, only about a third of the original remains.

2. The ups, downs, and curves of the wall are often compared to an immense dragon. Wear comfortable walking shoes, and be prepared for lots of uphill and downhill hiking.

3. Bring your own water, use the restrooms before ascending to the top, and expect some culinary cultural whip­lash, as food vendors range from traditional noodles and dumplings to, yep, Burger King!

4. The most popular place to visit the Great Wall is the two-mile stretch at Badaling, a day trip from Beijing. A little farther from the capital, you’ll find some elbow room if you visit the wall at Mutianyu or Simatai.

5. To get off the beaten path, hike and camp out under the stars on an unrestored, relatively quiet section of the Great Wall via JetBay’s Camp the Great Wall trip (from $238, jetbay.com).

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