Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is the world's largest man-made structure. In the eighth century BC, the ancient Chinese began building a series of fortifications from the Jiayu Pass in the west to the Shanhai Pass in the east. In the early years of the third century BC, under the order of China's first Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, the Great Wall was begun. It connects the fortifications extant along its northern borders – a massive undertaking that took 1900 years to complete. And according to an article by Damian Zimmerman of the American University, Washington, the building of the wall took the lives of 2 to 3 million workers over the centuries, including surfs, criminals and military men.

The original fortresses were built to ward off the invading Huns and Monguls – tribes known to be barbarians, although Quin, himself, was thought to rule an evil empire. After his death, there were sporadic periods of construction through various dynasties, with the majority of the work taking place in the 14th century AD Ming Dynasty.

The Great Wall of China is a short 60 km from the bustling and fascinating city of Beijing, and a must-see for visitors. The wall is in a constant state of restoration. Due the passage of time, some areas of the wall, like the Jin Shan Ling area, are simply tumbled, limestone boulders and loosened stone. But this also holds interest for history buffs as there is history in the ruin. Presently, most areas visitors can access are those built from the 14th to early 17th centuries.

For the physically fit visitor, hike along the section known as Si Ma Tai, also "Simatai." It's steep and a bit rugged under foot, but it's in an area known for it's beauty and worth the effort. This section is about 120 km from Beijing and the walk is nearly 6 km long. Most of the wall, runs along a narrow mountain ridge with a series of watchtower lookouts along the route. And for the physically determined, take the 10 km hike along the Jinshanling Simatai route. Expect beautiful scenic views along this route, and don't worry about the hike back. There are cable cars in place for you.

The Mu Tian Yu, also "Mutianyu," is an easier walk at a distance of 1.5 km with stunning views of surrounding mountains. It's still a bit of a climb in spots, but easier on the legs than Si Ma Tai. This area is 60 km from Beijing.

If visitors want to "take the wall less-traveled," they should make their way to Huang Hua. Parts of this section are vastly untouched – the true picture of an ancient ruin with much of it overgrown with flora and fauna. It can be a dangerous climb in places, as it's steep, and in some areas there are no protective walls to stop you from falling off. But if you're fearless, it's worth it. Treat the ruin respectfully to avoid further damage. Few tourists visit this area, and it's wise to travel with a group, especially if you intend to camp.

The Badaling section is close to Beijing with an easy drive along a motorway, making it a worthwhile day trip from the city. It can be quite packed with visitors on any day of the week, but the wall walk is easy. If you're not taking a tour, there are direct buses from Beijing. Badaling was the first section of the wall to be restored and opened to visitors in 1957. While there, visit the Great Wall Museum and the Great Wall Theater.

The Great Wall is one of the world's most visited places. Most people simply take the easy route to Badaling, but there are so many beautiful adventurous walks they might be missing out on. Why not hike them all and enrich your visit to the fullest.