A river cruise in China will take you down the The Yangtze River. It is s the third-longest in the world, flowing for more than six thousand kilometres from the Tibetan Plateau to the East China Sea at Shanghai. One of the most spectacular sections of the river is the Three Gorges. A river cruise is one of the best ways to experience this region.
Not only will you be treated to spectacular views as your ship glides through the Three Gorges region, but you’ll also have time to enjoy traditional Chinese cuisine, practice the ancient art of Tai Chi, learn to play Mah Jong or make dumplings, attend a calligraphy demonstration or practice your Mandarin. Many river cruise operators offer extensions before and after your time on the water, giving you the opportunity to visit the cities of Beijing and Shanghai as well.
Travelling in an upstream direction, the first of the three gorges is Xiling, which is the longest of the three and is comprised of several gorges: Precious Sword; Horse Lung and Ox Liver; Soundless Bell; and Shadow Play Gorges. Wu Gorge is sometimes known as the Great Gorge, and stretches for 45 kilometres through the Wu Mountains. Qutang Gorge is the shortest of the three gorges and generally considered to be the most dramatic. It’s only eight kilometres long but at its widest point it’s only 150 metres across, with sheer mountainous sides that soar up to 1200 metres high. Its narrow, twisting canyons make for spectacular views, including the intriguingly-named Hanging Monk Rock and Drinking Phoenix Spring.
One of the highlights of this section is: one of the biggest and oldest temples in the Three Gorges region. It has been rebuilt numerous times since its original construction roughly 2500 years ago.
A dam to help regulate the Yangtze’s flow had been talked about for years, but the sheer scale of the project meant it wasn’t begun until 1994 and took more than twenty years to complete. As well as regulating the flood waters, it generates vast quantities of hydro-electric power. The project has not been without controversy, but it remains an incredible feat of engineering.
The waters of the Yangtze River are filled with sediment, giving them a distinctive brown colour. By contrast, the swift-flowing Shennong Stream, which is a tributary of the Yangtze, is renowned for the clarity of its water. Travelling along this stream by sampan (a traditional Chinese longboat) allows you to absorb the dramatic scenery: soaring cliffs, deep caves, thick vegetation, plank roads that line the cliffs, and ancient hanging coffins which remain something of a mystery to this day.
Fuling is an otherwise sleepy town that conceals an incredible secret: the extraordinary 816 Underground Project. It’s an old nuclear site that’s hidden in the mountains and was constructed during the politically tense days of the 1960s. There are 130 man-made roads and tunnels carved into the mountains of this fascinating glimpse into China’s geopolitical history.
Depending on the direction of your cruise, you will either start or finish your river journey in Chongqing. The city dates to the eleventh century and has an interesting history, but is perhaps most popular today for its zoo, which is home to more than 200 rare and endangered species including the much-loved giant panda.
If you want to witness the dramatic scenery of the Three Gorges, with its ancient temples and pagodas, and experience traditional towns and villages, talk to your personal travel manager today.