Heading To The Mountains
We hated to leave the world class service at the Ritz-Carlton Financial Street Beijing. But on our visit to Beijing, we did not want to miss a chance to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling! It was yet one more of the iconic Chinese sites we saw on our 4 weeks in China with Viking Cruises!
The bus headed out at 7am and it took about 2 hours to get to the base at Badaling. There are many spots where you can get up on the Great Wall. But this site was selected to give us great panoramic views. We were so excited at our first glimpse of the Wall from the bus window.
Over time, the Great Wall of China has be built and re-built. Most of what is still standing today was built during the the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The road was built largely for defence and along the wall there are many watch towers. At one point, it was also used as a tariff collection border for people who travelled the Silk Road. Today the wall is about 8,850 km (5,500 mi) long. Popular myth suggests that the Great Wall is visible from space. However, the wall is much too narrow and blends into the earth of the hills making it largely indistinguishable from that distance.
Heading Up On The Funicular
There are three different ways to get up to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling. There is a steep set of stairs, a cable car or a funicular. Our group headed to escalator that took us to the funicular. At the base of the funicular, we stopped for a group picture. As we walked around, we saw the first sign of the changing colours of the leaves for autumn.
The ride up and down in the funicular gave us a great panoramic view. We saw the other car pass us by.
When we exited the funicular there were several sets of stairs to get up on the wall. We looked back and saw the funicular station. And benchmarked where we needed to be to return. The group set off on our own for 2 hours on the Great Wall of China at Badaling.
Walking On Top Of The Great Wall Of China
At the top we got our first view of the wall going off in both directions. It stretched as far as we could see. We walked set off in one direction.
The Great Wall was much narrower than walls we walked on our Yangtze River Cruise in Jingzhou or on our visit to Xian. But much wider and safer than when we walked on top of the city walls in Obidos, Portugal! The flat parts had large blocks underfoot. We went up and down as we walked on sloped walls. At times the slope was more than 30 degrees from the horizontal. In many places there were stairs of different heights, some very high.
When you walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling, make sure to wear good walking shoes. When our guide told us we would take the funicular up and not the stairs, I thought I was ok in walking sandals. That was not a smart choice!
Views From The Watchtowers
At regular points along the wall there were watchtowers. Small holes in the walls were once used by archers as they defended the wall.
We climbed our way to the watchtower we saw off in the distance. Only to find that the path did not continue past here. Much of the wall has not been rebuilt and is unsafe for tourists. The view looking back and forward wound up through the hills. Other watchtowers were in the distance. Behind us we saw the path we would re-walk to get back to the funicular.
From various points along the tower, we stopped to look far off in the distance in the other direction. David’s zoom lens picked up the cable car and a much busier spot on that part of the wall.
At one point, there was a path down to a viewpoint. Several sets of stairs later and there was not really a much better view.
We walked back at a slower pace before we headed back down.
A Jaded Lunch Break
No day is complete without a shopping stop. The bus drove us from our great morning outing to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling. And dropped us off at a massive jade store. We started our tour with a very brief jade carving demonstration. A man carved a jade block from the inside to create three balls inside of each other all from the one solid piece. This was called a Family Happy Ball. On the outer surface we saw a Phoenix (the queen of birds) and a dragon ( the king of mammals). They are a happy couple.
We then got a brief presentation on jade. Jadite is the most expensive in the world. It is harder that diamonds and only used for jewelry. An expensive piece of jewelry was put on one of the women in our group and we saw the colour changed based on body temperature and oils. Because of this, it is often referred to as “live jade”.
We learned that a jade bangle was the symbol of love. The greener the jade, the more expensive. Jade with two colours brings extra happiness. The bangle is worn on the left hand close to the heart.
Other types of jade are used for statues and pieces of art. The clearer the jade, the more pure it is. It was also noted that every statue is unique.
When we moved to the showroom, we got yet another demonstration on how to tell real jade from fake. The glass bracelet was solid and did not let the light through like the jade piece. After we had lunch we had almost an hour to shop. Many people went home with souvenirs or expensive jewelry.
A Walk Along The Sacred Way
We had one final stop on our day to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling. The Sacred Way is located in the area where 15 tombs of the Ming emperors are buried. There are 7 imperial tombs, 7 for concubines and one eunuch’s tomb. On our visit to Xian, we saw the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian. This large army guarded the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. But on our visit to Beijing, we did not have time to visit the Ming Tombs and explore more history of China.
From the main avenue of the Sacred Way, paths branch out to all of the Ming tombs. We started at the north gate of the Sacred Way and walked to the south gate. The south gate used to be part of the wall that protected the large area of Ming tombs. A sign inside the gate provided the history of the Ming Tomb Sacred Way. And some information of each of the statues that led us through the path.
As we walked we saw the wide variety of stone statues that lined the path. The first group were administrators and warriors.
Then came the animals. Horses, camels and elephants lined the path. There were mythical animals along the path too.
In the south gate there was a giant turtle. The Chinese believe that turtles are good luck. So many people stopped to rub the head or tail of the turtle.
See The Olympic Sites
As the bus headed back to Beijing on our day to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling, we had one more site to see. We took the path that went past the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics were held. Several different sites were pointed out. Many of these will be re-used when Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics.
What A Day To Walk The Great Wall of China at Badaling
It was a bright sunny day when we left Beijing to walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling. The leaves were just starting to change as we drove into the mountains. We had quite a short walk on the wall. But that did not diminish the awe we all felt at visiting this ancient site.
Seeing the jade mined in these mountains added another interesting dimension to the day. A final stop on the Sacred Way reinforced the history of this part of China. A truly memorable day trip on our stay in Beijing. And yet another iconic Chinese site we were glad not to have missed on our 4 weeks in China.
Did you walk the Great Wall of China at Badaling? Did you go from another spot?
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This is such a great tour! I did a very similar one when I was in Beijing in 2008 during the Paralympics. I didn’t see the funicular when I was there so had to climb many steps on the wall to get a great view! Looks like you had fun 🙂
Lesley, I am certainly glad we took the funicular up. It gave us more energy on the wall. So glad we got to see this on our visit to China. Linda
I see, that you had a good time! I didn’t even know, that is a special train to get to the wall! I’m planning to visit China in next year!
Andrzej, I was surprised that there are so many ways to get to the top of the wall. Hope you get to visit. Linda
I can’t wait to go to the Great Wall! Your pictures are amazing and you provided excellent tips. I will pin this post so I have it when I plan our trip to China (it’s on my bucket list!)
Andrea, Thanks! I am glad this post was helpful. I do hope you get to put China on your travel plans. It was truly amazing! Linda
Wow! Your pics are amazing! My mom and I are actually looking to do a Viking Cruise next year so this will definitely come in handy! Your post has convinced me even more to go because it looks so incredible! Thanks so much for sharing your experience!
Heather, This is an amazing Viking Cruises trip. Very unlike their traditional river cruises. This one had so many great city visits too. I am glad this sparked more interest in looking at Viking. Linda
I visited the Great Wall in February and I loved it- even if it was very demanding! However, we didn’t manage to do the jade tour/ experience you did and it looks fantastic! I had no idea about the ”live” jade and its properties! Thanks for sharing your experience, it s always nice to read others’ points of view!
Val, I agree that it is always interesting to see other’s perspectives. We had a very busy day and saw so much on the day we went to the Great Wall. I suspect that our access point was not as strenuous as yours! Linda
Nice to see! I think the great wall is something, that you have to visit at least once in a lifetime. You have a good number of things to do, when someone plans a trip there.
Alexander, The Great Wall is certainly on most people’s list for China. But it was good to see the Sacred Way as well. Next trip we will try to visit the tomb area. Linda
The views from the watchtower are truly breathtaking! China does not feature on the top of my bucket list but I do want to get to the Great Wall someday. A cruise sounds like a great way to explore the key highlights. I love the funicular ride and the panoramic views. What a lovely experience!
Medha, We were so glad we got to visit the Great Wall. Certainly one we ticked off on our bucket list. Hope you get to visit one day. Linda
Interesting read! I’ve always wanted to visit the Great Wall of China and this is a great guide to do so. I’d love to see those small holes used by the archers and the watchtower too. Those views are amazing, BTW..
Marvi, I am glad you like the pictures and views. We had a great sunny day. And not too crowded either. There is lots to do in that area if you visit. Linda
I am so shocked that our paths haven’t crossed in the cyberworld yet, but here we are. I think we may be long-lost sisters. 🙂 From staying at the Ritz to a 4 week Viking River cruise, we definitely have the same travel style. 😉 I’m hoping to do a China cruise in 2019 and I would love to see everything you’ve showcased in your post. My favorite part was showing how jade is carved. That was so interesting. Well, I’m Melody. Pleased to meet you.
Melody, It is nice to meet you virtually! If you look at our year end summary, you will find we are even more alike 🙂 I hope you do get to see China our way. It was lovely and created great memories. Linda
What an amazing memory. Bummer that the path ended yet the wall is huge! I would struggle to stop and head back if not forced to do so. The Sacred Way sounds super interesting too
Sherianne, It was great to head up onto the top of the wall. If we had more time, we would have went back the other way. Maybe next time. Linda
Great article!!! And beautiful pictures! We haven’t been to China yet, looks like an amazing tour. Really loved to learn more about jade. Thanks for sharing!!!
I am glad you liked this blog post. It as a great day trip out to the Great Wall. I am glad you liked the little bit we shared about jade. Linda
What a wonderful time the two of you must’ve had out there! I’ve loved following all of your adventures through China thus far, looks like a place we would truly love to be. It’s a dream to walk the Great Wall…when it’s not busy of course! Thanks for the knowledge and pictures of the Jade processing, that was extremely unique.
Jim, I do hope you get to visit the Great Wall. We were happy we had both a sunny and quiet day. Our guide showed us pictures from two days later and it was a zoo! Glad you enjoyed the little we learned about jade. Linda
As classic a walk as it can be! It actually looks more like a trek. The funicular ride also seems interesting. Did not know about this one.
Jitaditya, We were surprised to find so many different ways to get to the top of the Great Wall. The cable car might be fun too! Linda
what an interesting article it is. It kept me held till end. Walking n the great wall of China is a dream and now the urge to visit it has increased. I am impressed by Jade and now feel like buying one for myself.
Suruchi, I love to hear that a blog post kept you right to the end. There was so much to do on our visit to the Great Wall. I do hope you get to visit. Linda
The Great Wall of China has been on my dream list for many years. I hope he will realize them someday. You have had a great trip and great weather. The visibility is not always that good. I love the idea of getting to the wall on a cable car or a funicular. Views From The Watchtowers are breathtaking.
We were so glad we visited China when we did. And were delighted we did not miss a walk on the Great Wall. Hopefully you will get there one day.
I enjoyed reading about your walk on the Great Wall at Badaling. I work as a tour guide in China sometimes and have been to the Great Wall several times myself at different places. Badaling is one of the most convenient and impressive spots. I would like to walk a longer stretch for a few days though.
We were glad we got to see the Great Wall when we visited China. And indeed that we got to China when we did! As many things, it would have been nice to have a longer visit to wander along the wall more.