21 February 2017 by Alison Nicolle
The Yangtze River has long enchanted the curious traveller, slipping as it does through more than 6,300 kilometres of China’s vast landscape.
Adventurous spirits might find themselves dreaming of steep gorges plunging into the water, misty dawns over a quiet gleaming ribbon of river, and an intimate view of daily life in remote rural villages. The Yangtze offers this and much more – for first-time visitors to China, it also makes a perfect introduction to the sheer size and variety of the country’s scenery.
Read on for our advice to the first-time Yangtze cruise traveller.
Nanjing and the Confucius Temple as seen from the water
- The best time of year for a Yangtze Cruise is between April and October. However the weather is likely to be at its most pleasant in either April or May or September or October.
- Take the time to explore the river at a relaxed pace – I recommend taking a cruise of about five nights, which would be ideal. You then leave some space at either end of the voyage for other activities.
- Many cruises start in the port city of Wuhan – if you start or finish there take time to wander off the beaten track and visit Chairman Mao Zedong’s Villa which is located at the scenic bank of East Lake of Wuchang. It is fascinating to wander round this once luxury and now large forgotten retreat of the top members of the politburo.
- The other end of your cruise is likely to be in the vast sprawling municipality of Chongqing, at the confluence of the Yangtze & Jialing rivers. Take time to visit the imposing Great Hall of the People as well as the Three Gorges Museum, featuring artifacts from the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.
- Make sure your cruise includes visits to:
- The ‘Ghost City of Fengdu’, a huge complex of shrines, temples and monasteries largely relocated to higher ground after the flooding from the Three Gorges Project.
- Shibaozhai Temple, a beautiful and strangely shaped pagoda that hugs the hillside on a steep bank of the Yangtze.
- The lesser Three Gorges, which is narrow but breathtaking, and requires you to leave the main ship to board a smaller vessel.
- Remember to take binoculars to look up for the hanging coffins of the ancient Ba people that cling to the steep rock face.
- Also, consider a school visit if the opportunity arises; this is a charming and memorable experience and gives an opportunity to support local people through a donation to the hosting school.
- Finally, make sure to combine your cruise with time in the gateway cities of Shanghai or Beijing and perhaps also consider a visit to Xian to see unforgettable and iconic sights such as The Great Wall and The Terracotta Army.
The Shibaozhai Temple in Zhong County