Experience one of the world’s great waterways and a good way to visit a large part of China
One of the most dramatic stretches of the cruise is the Three Gorges region, where bamboo groves cluster on the lower slopes of mountains wreathed in clouds. Trips on smaller boats are generally offered to allow you to sail the narrow gorges of the Lesser Three Gorges, and a visit to the Three Gorges Dam is on most operators’ itineraries. This vast but controversial construction controls flooding on the Yangtze and took 17 years to complete. Adjacent to the dam is a series of five locks, which your boat will pass through.
Anyone wanting to discover China’s fascinating past will find plenty of opportunities on a Yangtze cruise. Shibaozhai Temple is a 12-storey red building dating back to the 17th century. It is a steep climb, but the stunning vistas over the river make the effort worthwhile. Another popular excursion is to Fegdu, China’s Ghost City, with its abundance of temples and statues. The Hubei Museum in Wuhan is also well worth a visit, as it displays relics from across the region’s fascinating past, including musical instruments from the 433BC tomb of Marquis Yo of Zeng.
During the cruise, you will frequently mingle with the locals, with some cruise operators making visits to local schools. Haggling with stall holders for bargains and eating in local eateries are all part of the trip. While people generally are welcoming, be sensitive to the political situation of the country and avoid taking photographs of anyone official. China is a land of contrasts. While you will spend time in wealthy, westernised areas, you should also expect to see high levels of poverty and deprivation.
As a Yangtze cruise is a fairly brief trip, and China is such a long way to travel for most people, cruise operators often offer a combination trip of cruising to the Yangtze with a land-based stay. Beijing, Shanghai and Xian are all vibrant cities with a wealth of historical and cultural attractions to visit. In Beijing, make an excursion to the Forbidden City, while in Xian, you should not miss the famous Terracotta Army, created by the Emperor Qin Shi Huang to accompany him in the afterlife. However, China’s most famous landmark is undoubtedly the Great Wall, dating back more than 2,000 years. This can be visited either before or after your Yangtze cruise.