17 Secrets of the Great Wall of China

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Great Wall of China — and the tips you need to make this dream trip happen.

Like a writhing dragon’s tail, the Great Wall of China snakes its way across China’s northern border. As its name suggests, the Great Wall is an imposing architectural marvel, and it’s often hailed as one of the greatest man-made wonders of the world.

The Great Wall of China’s history stretches back more than 2,000 years, to a time before China was even a unified country.

But the Great Wall of China isn’t really a single great wall. “The first thing to note,” travel expert Stan Godwyn told Travel + Leisure, “is that it’s actually a series of walls and fortifications.”

Godwyn typically arranges for clients to visit one of four main sections — Badaling (the most well-known and accessible for travelers of varying mobility), Mutianyu (well-restored but much less crowded), Simatai (a crumbling, rugged stretch of wall), and Jinshanling (for serious hikers).

Despite its cultural and historic importance, it wasn’t until 1987 that the Great Wall of China was listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Want to discover more Great Wall of China facts and bits of history? Read on for our definitive guide to this bucket list attraction and ancient marvel.

Where is the Great Wall of China?

The Great Wall of China is easily accessible from Beijing, though the massive structure stretches from Hushan, Liaoning in the east all the way to the city of Jiayuguan, in the country’s northwest. Generally speaking, the Great Wall of China defends the country’s northernmost border. A 2012 archeological survey estimated that the wall (taking into account all the dynasties that had worked on the structure) crosses 15 provinces and extends from Xinjiang, in the northwest, to the border of Korea in the east.

How Long is the Great Wall of China?

If you were to measure all the sections ever built, a new reports suggest the Great Wall of China could be a staggering 13,170.7 miles long. The most popular (and arguably the most beautiful) section was erected during the Ming Dynasty, and runs for 5,500.3 miles between Hushan to the Jiayuguan Pass. Even if you only take into consideration the main-line length of the wall (about 2,150 miles) it’s still the record-holding longest wall in the world.

For those wondering how tall the Great Wall of China is, the general answer is that the structure’s height varies considerably, from 15 feet all the way to 39 feet. At its widest point, the wall is 32-feet-thick.

When Was the Great Wall of China Built?

It’s hard to say precisely when the Great Wall of China was built, as so many dynasties and rulers contributed to its construction. It’s thought that the first lengths of the wall were built as early as 770 B.C., though official work didn’t begin until 221 B.C., during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Most of what remains today — that 5,500-mile stretch — was built during the Ming dynasty, between 1368 and 1644.

According to the Travel China Guide, some 20 states and dynasties contributed to the construction of the Great Wall of China over the course of many millennia.

Read more here (courtesy of Travel+Leisure).