The Great Wall of China and the world's nine other greatest walls

Built to defend and mark borders, these walls are now popular attractions steeped in history.

GREAT WALL OF CHINA

The Great Wall winds for around 6000 kilometres across China, but its best-preserved sections run like a crazy medieval rollercoaster across hilltops north of Beijing. It's most accessible at Badaling, 80 kilometres north-west, but Mutianyu a little further away is less crowded and more spectacular. Here the Great Wall is wide enough to fit five horsemen abreast. Watchtowers rise on the hillsides, providing magnificent outlooks. See cnto.org

WESTERN WALL

This ancient limestone wall in Jerusalem was first erected as part of the Jewish 1st-century Second Temple and is often called the Wailing Wall because of the temple's destruction. Foundations remain, with Ottoman and other additions above. Muslims believe Mohammed tethered his horse here before ascending to paradise. The wall is under Israeli control, and Jews come here to pray and thrust pray slips into the wall's cracks. See visitpalestine.ps

VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL

Remembering members of the American armed forces who died in the Vietnam War, this minimalist monument on the National Mall is one of Washington's most powerful and moving. Two highly polished black granite walls – in which visitors can see their own reflections – each stretch 75 metres in a V-shape that points towards the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The walls are chiselled with 58,000 names. See washington.org

BERLIN WALL

Not much remains of this icon of the Cold War, since it was mostly destroyed or souvenired when it fell in 1989. Small sections are, however, dotted around the city, the longest along the Spree River, where murals memorably include Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker kissing. The Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse has a reconstructed wall studded with old newspaper reports and photographs. See visitberlin.de

HWASEONG FORTRESS WALLS

Just south of Seoul, this magnificent World Heritage fortress was laid out by Korea's King Jeongjo in the 18th century. Built with cutting-edge technology, Hwaseong Fortress is an outstanding example of military architecture. The walls run for almost six kilometres, punctuated by four massive gates and enclosing 40 towers and brightly painted pavilions. The battlements, linked with walking tracks, provide fine views over Suwon town and surrounding hills. See swcf.or.kr

SACSAYHUAMAN

Above Cusco in Peru, Sacsayhuaman – pronounced 'sexy women', as local guides will ceaselessly remind you – is a fabulous ruined Incan temple (or perhaps fortress) on a monumental scale, dating from the 15th century. It took a century to complete and, though only a quarter remains, its massive blocks of limestone and zigzagging outer walls, originally 20 metres high, are still very impressive. Foundations have scarcely moved despite frequent earthquakes. See peru.travel

GREAT ZIMBABWE WALLS

Royal palace, political capital and trading centre of the Shona people, Great Zimbabwe was enclosed between the 11th and 15th centuries in both inner and outer dry-stone granite walls some five metres high. The most impressive section is the Great Enclosure, with walls 11 metres high, the largest ancient structure in southern Africa. A small museum displays international trade items unearthed at the site. See zimbabwetourism.net

ROLL OF HONOUR

Step through the entrance of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and into the Commemorative Courtyard and you can hardly fail to be moved. Behind the arches, the Roll of Honour is a wall covered in bronze plaques that record the names of 102,000 Australians who have died in war since 1885. Every evening the Last Post is sounded and the story of one of the fallen shared. See awm.gov.au

GREAT WALL OF LOS ANGELES

It took 400 volunteer youth workers five years to paint what is claimed as the world's longest single mural, an 839-metre section of concrete in a flood-control channel in Valley Glen north of Hollywood. At first glance, it looks like random graffiti, but actually presents a highly entertaining (and sometime unflinching) history of California from prehistoric times to the present, in almost chronological order. See discoverlosangeles.com

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HADRIAN'S WALL

When the Romans gave up conquering all of Britain they build a 122-kilometre defensive wall from sea to sea across what is now Northumberland in northern England. A fascinating artefact-crammed museum at Vindolanda, one of several garrisons, provides an overview of life on the Roman Empire's most distant frontier. Housesteads is the only section you can walk on and, since it follows the ridgeline, has fine views. See visithadrianswall.co.uk

Brian Johnston travelled as a guest of tourism offices and at his own expense.

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