The myth that the Great Wall of China was the only man-made object visible from space was shattered when astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) revealed it wasn’t even visible from low Earth orbit. The mighty structure itself, however, still stands strong and very visibly across 13,000 miles on terra firma.
Not nearly the entire stretch is open, nor suitable, for tourism. One of the best spots to both absorb the magnificent scale of the Wall, and to have a memorable adventure doing it, is at Mutianyu.
Mutianyu County is situated 70 kilometers north-east of Beijing and is home to a 2-kilometer stretch of this ancient Wonder restored and maintained specially for national and international tourists. The original construction was done between 386 A.D. and 581 A.D. with major restoration works dating to the Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D.to 1644 A.D.)
The Great Wall at Mutianyu is an exciting draw for military buffs for its extensive defensive elements. Apart from defensive parapets on the outside, there are also inner parapets with melons at regular intervals.
These, combined with an additional 1-kilometer-long wall constructed parallel to the main structure as an added defense shield, indicate the strategic military importance that Mutianyu held in ancient times.
The Wall at Mutianyu required more construction workers than any other individual part. Thousands lived and died (the bodies reportedly left within the foundations) to build watch towers, beacon towers and staff quarters.
There is always an element of physical endeavor when you visit the Great Wall of China – even if you choose to take the cable car or Mutianyu Gondola on the way up – because the stretch follows the undulating hillside in altitude which make it a challenging exploration.
The real fun starts when you have to get back down. The original three options of cable car, gondola and good old human power are augmented by an exciting alternative – tobogganing.
On summer days, between 8a.m. and 5 p.m., scream your way down a run of over 5,000 feet (1,580m) which will fling you across bends and zig-zags down a 330 feet (100 meter) vertical distance. The wheeled toboggan has a user-operated brake so you get to control the descent if it gets too scary.
Needless to say, the view going up, coming down or strolling along atop the wide walkways is extremely beautiful. Lush forests abound on either side, and the hue of the vegetation varies over the seasons. The fresh mountain air will invigorate you.
The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu is an adventure in the mountains calling over centuries. Perhaps it is time you answered.