Attracting more than 50 million visitors each year, how do you see a piece of the awe-inspiring Great Wall of China in just one day?
Regardless of the reason for visiting Beijing, of course, you can’t leave China without at least seeing in the flesh, a small section of the iconic Great Wall.
You’re in luck as Beijing is well-placed so it’s an easy train ride to the Badaling Great Wall, in the Yanqing District.
A totally unexpected surprise birthday present sees me landing in Beijing for a 9-day birthday getaway to celebrate another decade that’s clocked over. Check Beijing Birthday for how the surprise gift unfolded.
Beijing to the Badaling Great Wall
Deciding to get away from the horrendous congested Beijing traffic and not drive or take a bus to the Badaling Great Wall, the relatively stressless train journey is a much more relaxing alternative.
Make your way to the Beijing North train station as the starting point. Be prepared when arriving at the station as signs are mostly in Chinese and staff speak limited to no English, of course. Travel was in 2012, so not sure whether this has changed.
You need to take the Classic S2 train with Yanqing as the destination. Boarding starts 15-20 minutes before the departure time. How do you know when your train arrives if there isn’t an announcement? Look for locals standing up quickly and getting ready to board the train.
Map: China Discovery
When boarding the air-conditioned and modern diesel train, take a comfortable seat anywhere for the 1.5-hour ride. The train used to offer First and Second class seats, but these days, the ticket price is for whatever seat you can nab first.
The Imperial Peking–Kalgan railway train ride
Worth noting is the S2 train travels along the Imperial Peking–Kalgan railway (built 1905-1909) and traverses through Beijing to Baotou (Inner Mongolia). This is the “first railway designed and built by the Chinese without Western assistance”.
Leaving hectic Beijing’s industrial and built-up areas behind as the city fades away into the distance, snippets of the Wall emerge the further north the train travels over small mountains and through the Guan Valley.
Badaling is the second-last stop. Although just to throw you, around 10 minutes before reaching Badaling, the train turns and then stops at Qinglongqiao Xi station. The doors don’t open. Without any idea of what’s happening as of course, there isn’t an announcement, the train switchbacks the same way until making another turn, to finally continue to Badaling.
Stopping at Badaling (Badalingchangcheng) station, a pre-recorded robotic voice barks in English, repeating several times:
“Get Off! Badaling! Get Off! Badaling”
You’ve now arrived in the Yanqing District. After leaving the station and turning left, follow the hordes of tourists gravitating to the Wall. Passing trinkets and souvenir stalls along the 1.2-kilometre incline stroll, the excitement increases as the Wall’s height increases before you, until reaching the main gate to buy entry tickets.
Just read that the Beijing North train station closed in November 2016 until further notice for reconstruction. As this train travel was in 2012 and no doubt the station will re-open at some point, deciding to leave the journey details in this post.
Badaling Great Wall
Because of its proximity to Beijing, the Badling Great Wall is one of the most popular and most visited sections of the Wall – read a plethora of visitors.
Sections of the Wall overlap in certain strategic areas, which provided maximum security against invaders.
Even the Great Wall hasn’t escaped, succumbing to graffiti over centuries, with visitors compelled and eager to leave their mark for future generations.
Endless hours of strolling along this quintessential fortress only make me wish I had more than one day to absorb and soak up this massive piece of stunning history.
Some choose this iconic bastion to spring a surprise marriage proposal, and this couple asked us to take a photo of this special moment for their keepsake.
Others are content to quietly wander the Wall’s paths, in awe…
…and explore around every stoned corner.
The greyest of days and the cold drizzle today reveal a sombre backdrop, which makes traversing the slippery time-worn stones a little tricky; although, is an excellent day for black and white photography.
Be prepared to walk a lengthy never-ending path as far as the eye can see, and imitated across the vast mountainous horizon.
Sections are as old as 2,241 years but only built from stone and earth, it’s not surprising that parts of the Wall are in ruins, although the Badaling sections appear to be intact…for now.
The notorious Wall is not visible from space, this is a myth.
Taking the lead…
A little on The Great Wall of China
A wall that snakes its way across 21,196.18 kilometres (13,170.70 miles) in length, equal to half the length of the Equator and made mostly of stone and earth, is awe-inspiring. The Great Wall of China (Chángchéng) is hailed as ”the longest feat of human engineering”.
Built to protect northern China from nomadic invaders, during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) rulers strengthened and continuously maintained the Wall to prevent another Mongolian invasion. The Wall’s location twists and coils while stretching across 15 regions in China’s expansive northeast.
With an average height of 6 to 7 metres and the highest point at 14 metres, it’s hard to visualise something as monumental and extensive as this, isn’t it?
More than one million labourers over 2,000 years were recruited to build this imposing wall. Sadly, the Wall’s size has been reduced by 1/3 of its original length, mainly due to vandalism, wars, and time’s relentless wrath.
So, I urge you to visit during your lifetime, even if it’s just once and for only one day…