The Yangtze River is China’s longest and busiest river, and it also passes through some of this country’s most beautiful scenery.
A cruise down this important waterway typically lasts between three to five days, so it is often combined with land-based stays in some of China’s most interesting and exciting cities.
For example, the 14-day Imperial Jewels of China itinerary offered by Viking River Cruises includes two nights in a Shanghai, two nights in Xian and three nights in Beijing.
The following are just some of the fascinating destinations that may be included on a Yangtze River cruise:
Although not on the Yangtze River, many cruises begin or end in Beijing, the capital of the China. This city, which has a rich and long history, is home to such major landmarks as Tiananmen Square — the world’s largest public square — and the truly amazing Forbidden City, the former imperial palace.
Also known as the Palace Museum, this must-visit site is the largest palace complex in the world. The city is so named because it was once forbidden for anyone to enter it without permission from the emperor. In addition, sections of the Great Wall of China can be visited on a day trip.
This major port city sits at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers. It is home to several sites that–depending on how much time you have–are worth the effort to seek out. The Dazu Rock Carvings, which date back to between the 9th and 13th centuries, are stunning creations well worth the one-hour trip.
Or if you would like to learn about American General Joseph Stilwell, the US Army commander of the China-Burma-India region, visit the General Stilwell Museum—his former residence. Here, you can view artifacts that will give you insight into the general’s life.
This temple is located on the banks of the Yangtze River, about 170 miles from Chongqing. The Shibaozhai Temple, which was built without any nails, is an amazing example of Qing Dynasty architecture.
If you feel up to it, you may want to attempt to climb to the top of the 12-story pavilion. Legend claims that the higher you climb up the temple, the more likely your wishes and dreams will come true.
You’ll want your cameras at the ready when you cruise through the more than 120-mile-long Three Gorges. This region boasts stunning scenes straight out of a coffee table book–verdant bamboo groves, dramatic limestone cliffs and mist-shrouded mountains.
During this part of your cruise itinerary, you will travel through three different gorges. At 47 miles in length, Xiling is the longest and features many smaller gorges. The next is the Wu Gorge, which includes the scenic Twelve Peaks of the Wushan mountains. And then there is Qutang Gorge, which is considered by some to be the most magnificent of the Three Gorges.
This area is also home to the huge, 610-foot-high Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydropower project. Although this dam was a major engineering feat, it was also very controversial. It ended up displacing more than 1.2 million people and also had a large impact on the environment.
Dating back approximately 6,000 years, this city, which has long been a major transportation hub, served as the seat of 20 kings—18 of whom have been preserved in numerous ancient sites. One of its main sights is its well-preserved ancient city walls, gates and watchtowers, offering a striking view along the Yangtze’s banks.
Wuhan, also known as the River City, is the capital of Hubei province. Its most famous attraction is the striking Yellow Crane Tower, which offers visitors panoramic views of the surrounding area. Wuhan is also the site of the sprawling Guiyuan Buddhist Temple complex, which was first established in 1658 during the Qing Dynasty. This temple contains 500 statues as well as more than 7,000 volumes of Buddhist sutras, including one that was written in an ink mixture containing gold dust.
Like Beijing, Shanghai is not on the Yangtze River, but it is often included on a cruisetour, an itinerary that offers both land-based and cruise portions. It is China’s largest city and one of its most prosperous. Notable sites range from the Bund, the city’s famous riverfront promenade, to the Yuyuan Garden dating back to the Ming Dynasty, and the Shanghai Museum, containing a wonderful collection of ancient Chinese art and antiquities.