Cruising the Yangtze River

Cruising the Yangtze River

Why Take a Cruise on the Yangtze River?

The Yangtze river offers some of the most spectacular river scenery found in the world. The river carves its way through rock walls and snakes its way back and forth through lush green bamboo forests. There are also many cultural and historical sites along the river – although the landscape is by far the most popular.

The Yangtze River Cruise Highlights

For any Yangtze River cruise, you can either take a downstream cruise from Chongqing to Yichang or an upstream cruise from Yichang to Chongqing. The following attractions are included on most cruise itineraries:

Fengdu Ghost city: Delve into the Chinese afterlife and gothic culture in this unique, and a little macabre, Fengdu Ghost City. Sprawling on the side of Ming mountain, this small village boasts several temples displaying ghoulish looking statues and sinister looking instruments of punishment – about a close to “Chinese Gothic” style as you’ll get in China. Among the statues, there are opportunities to learn about Chinese ghost culture and the Chinese afterlife. In China, the social structure of hell is exactly like that of the real world. In hell, a spirit goes through a process before facing a final judgement. Those with a pure spirit will be rewarded and those full of sin will be subjected to severe punishments. Different punishments are given for different sins.

a bridge between Hell and Earth

a Bridge between Hell and Earth

Shibaozhai Temple: The dramatic 12-story, red Shibaozhai Temple is described as "the architectural gem of the Yangtze." It was built in 1650 and legend has it that the higher you ascend, the more your prayers will be answered. It's also worth clambering up the steep steps for the panoramic views over the river and surrounding countryside.

Shibaozhai Temple

Shibaozhai Temple

White Emperor City: An ancient temple complex located atop a hill overlooking Qutang Gorge and interestingly pictured on the back of the 10 RMB note. Once an importantly strategic defensive area during the Three Kingdoms period in 223 AD because it controlled the entrance to Sichuan “the Kingdom of Shu", it has long been a refuge for would-be kings and poets who traveled here for the inspiration of Qutang Gorge’s majestic views. The great Chinese poet Du Fu is believed to have written numerous poems in the Western Pavilion on the mountain slope overlooking the Yangtze.
To ascend to the top, you can slumber up the 300 steps or pay to be carried up in a sedan chair (the iconic Chinese looking tall rectangular box carried by four bamboo poles).

White Emperor City

White Emperor City

Goddess Stream: Known as "Shennv Xi" in Chinese, the Goddess Stream flows is a narrow inlet adjacent to the Yangtze River. It’s narrow, high rock walls covered in lush, green vegetation offers unparalleled, other-worldly views. Passengers board smaller crafts for the 10 mile (15km) ride and some report this is the most spectacular, and iconic, of all the views on the Yangtze. Along the way, travelers may see wildlife including monkeys, mountain goats, deer, and boar as well as some rather touristy local folk songs and dances along the way. The area is also famous for its tea, named "Longevity Tea" or "Mountain Tea", and many varieties of Chinese medicinal herbs.

Lesser Three Gorges: Another iconic tributary to the Yangtze, this section – like the Goddess Stream – allows passengers to get up and close to the astounding sheer cliffs this area is so famous for. Passengers leave their cruise ships and board smaller vessels to sail through the narrow, breathtaking cliffs. Bring binoculars to get a close-up view of the hanging coffins of the ancient Ba people that cling to the rock face, along with the ancient cliffside plank road and perhaps some of the many monkeys that inhabit the banks.

Three Gorges Dam: Begun in 1994 and completed in 2009, the Three Gorges Dam is the largest water conservancy project ever undertaken by man and was built for the purpose of flood control, electrical power production, navigation, and irrigation. The Dam is located near Sandouping, which is in the middle of the Xiling Gorge, the longest of the Three Gorges. The dam is 2,335 meters long, 185 meters high, 18 meters wide on top and 130 meters wide at the bottom. The dam raised the river to a level of 175 meters above sea level and in doing so created a 600-km long reservoir with storage capacity of 39.9 billion cubic meters extending from the dam site all the way to Chongqing. The estimate for construction is 26 billion USD.
Visitors are not allowed to walk on the dam but can get a close-up view from a nearby observation deck.

Three Gorges Dam

Three Gorges Dam

Typical Yangtze Cruise Itinerary

Downstream cruises from Chongqing to Yichang are typically 4 days / 3 nights. For upstream cruises, simply add one day. Please check the set itinerary of Victoria Cruises as an example.

a map of Downstream

DAY 1
Depart Chongqing – 9:00pm: Sail from picturesque Chongqing, “The Mountain City”.

DAY 2
Jade Emperor Scenic Area – Take a shore excursion to the Jade Emperor Scenic Area near Fengdu, which has the largest Jade Buddha in the world. Depending on river conditions, an alternate excursion may be substituted to Shibaozhai, with its impressive wooden pagoda. (B, L, D)
Additional optional shore excursions (river conditions permitting) to Fengdu’s “Ghost City” (daytime), and the elaborate show Fengyan Sanguo “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (evening).

DAY 3
Enter the Three Gorges/”Small Gorges” – Enter the Three Gorges, one of nature’s most extraordinary river sculptures. The excursion first passes through the first two gorges - Qutang and Wu. Qutang Gorge is the shortest (5 miles / 8km), narrowest (500 feet / 150m), and most dramatic. The 25-mile long Wu Gorge is known for its quiet beauty, forest-covered mountains, and cliffs so sheer that the sun barely penetrates the precipices. Transfer to a smaller vessel for a relaxing excursion through the pleasantly attractive gorges of the Goddess Stream. Depending on river conditions, an alternate excursion may be substituted to the gorges of the Shennong Stream. Afterwards, you’ll enter the final, longest (41 miles / 65km), and deepest of the Three Gorges – Xiling Gorge. (B, L, D)
Additional optional shore excursion (available in the morning, river conditions permitting) to White Emperor City, an ancient city overlooking the western end of Qutang Gorge.

DAY 4
Three Gorges Dam/Yichang – Disembark and take a tour of the Three Gorges Dam, which spans the Yangtze River at Sandouping in Xiling Gorge. It is the world’s largest power station. An additional optional shore excursion is also available (preceding the Three Gorges Dam tour) through the recently-completed lock with a ship elevator, the world’s largest. After sightseeing in the morning, Victoria Cruises will provide bus transfer to Yichang Three Gorges Center Cruise Terminal. (B)

a map of Upstream

DAY 1
Depart Yichang – late afternoon/early evening: Take a shuttle from Yichang Three Gorges Center Cruise Terminal to the nearby Maoping pier. Shuttle operates 4:30 pm – 9:00 pm on a first come first serve basis; winter operation is between 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm, until the bus is full).

DAY 2
Three Gorges Dam/Yichang – Disembark and take a tour of the Three Gorges Dam, which spans the Yangtze River at Sandouping in Xiling Gorge. It is the world’s largest power station. An additional optional shore excursion is also available (preceding the Three Gorges Dam tour) through the recently-completed lock with a ship elevator, the world’s largest. After sightseeing in the morning, Victoria Cruises will provide bus transfer to nearby Yichang. (B)

DAY 3
Enter the Three Gorges/”Small Gorges” – Enter the Three Gorges, one of nature’s most extraordinary river sculptures. The excursion first passes through the first two gorges - Qutang and Wu. Qutang Gorge is the shortest (5 miles / 8km), narrowest (500 feet / 150m), and most dramatic. The 25-mile long Wu Gorge is known for its quiet beauty, forest-covered mountains, and cliffs so sheer that the sun barely penetrates the precipices. Transfer to a smaller vessel for a relaxing excursion through the pleasantly attractive gorges of the Goddess Stream. Depending on river conditions, an alternate excursion may be substituted to the gorges of the Shennong Stream. Afterwards, you’ll enter the final, longest (41 miles / 65km), and deepest of the Three Gorges – Xiling Gorge. (B, L, D)
Additional optional shore excursion (available in the morning, river conditions permitting) to White Emperor City, an ancient city overlooking the western end of Qutang Gorge.

DAY 4
Jade Emperor Scenic Area – Take a shore excursion to the Jade Emperor Scenic Area near Fengdu, which has the largest Jade Buddha in the world. Depending on river conditions, an alternate excursion may be substituted to Shibaozhai, with its impressive wooden pagoda. (B, L, D)
Additional optional shore excursions (river conditions permitting) to Fengdu’s “Ghost City” (daytime), and the elaborate show Fengyan Sanguo “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (evening).

DAY 5
Arrive Chongqing – 9:00am: Disembark at picturesque Chongqing, the “Mountain City”. (B)

By Leon Long
Travel Specialist