The Great Wall spans thousands of kilometers and has a history that spans over a 1,000 years. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several bits of it, including the Eastern and Western ends of what most people think of when they think of the “Great Wall” which is the one built by the Ming Dynasty in the 14-16th Centuries.
As you can see from the photos, the construction and location of the wall, together with the degrees to which they have been reconstructed varies greatly!
The most impressive part of the wall I saw was at Jingshangling, which is doable as an easy day-trip from Beijing. Here is a post on how you can do this for cheap, avoiding expensive tours offered by hostels. How to get to Jinshanling.
If possible, visit the wall on weekdays, and avoid national holidays. October, as Autumn begins (excluding the national week holiday 1-7 October) is a great time to visit, crowds are down and the leaves are changing colour. Walks can’t get much better than when they combine walking along a world famous monument crunching leaves underfoot at the same time!
My other Great Wall trips came at the Eastern and Western ends of the wall. Visiting the Western End at Jiayuguan was a no-brainer – it was on my route across China from Kashgar to Beijing.
Seeing the Eastern end was more of an indulgance. At Shanhaiguan the Wall meets the sea, and to be honest its somewhat underwealming, but makes up for this with few tourists, and after Beijing it was fun to play “the only foreigner in town” game again.