Yangtze River Cruises in China

A cruise on the Yangtze River is often part of a larger package that includes land tours in some of China's larger cities, such as Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai and sometimes Hong Kong. The tour will usually begin in either Beijing or Shanghai depending on the itinerary. 

The river cruise portion of your trip will usually last about six days; and your river boat will travel between Chong Qing and Yichang, Chong Qing and Wuhan, or Chong Qing and Shanghai. The remainder of your time will be spent on land visiting various cities and UNESCO sites in China.

Packages typically range in length from 11 to 18 days and travel is typically available from March through November.

Qutang Gorge on the Yangtze River in China

Qutang Gorge on the Yangtze River in China

By Tan Wei Liang Byorn (Self-photographed) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Yangtze River Facts

The Yangtze River begins in the Tanggula Mountains in the Qinghai Province of China. It flows for 3,900 miles and is the longest river in China and the third longest river in the world. Although the Yangtze covers a large area, only 778 miles of the river from Chongqing to Shanghai is used for river cruises. 

One of the most prominent geographical features along the Yangtze River is the Three Gorges region, which spans about 75 miles from Fenjgie to Yichang.

The Qutang Gorge is the westernmost, the narrowest, and the most scenic. It is only about 5 miles long with a maximum width of only 500 feet.

The middle gorge is the Wu Gorge. It’s about 30 miles long. 

And finally, the Xiling Gorge is the easternmost of the three. It is the longest at 41 miles and is also where the Three Gorges Dam was built.

Xiling Gorge on the Yangtze River

Xiling Gorge on the Yangtze River

Yangtze River Cruise Destinations

Most Yangtze River cruise itineraries are between Beijing and Shanghai. You’ll spend more time on land, though, than you will on the Yangtze River. Your river cruise will be between Chongqing and Yichang or Chongqing and Wuhan, depending on the package. 

While there’s plenty to see during your cruise on the Yangtze River, such as the Three Gorges and the 12-story Shibaozhai Temple, you will also be able to enjoy a wonderful land tour of China. Several of the sites you’ll visit are UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Beijing, China

The city of Beijing will either be at the beginning or near the end of your trip, depending on your itinerary. It is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and is a very large city in terms of both population and geographical size. Beijing has a population of nearly 22 million people and covers an area of about 6,300 square miles!

Great wall of China (Photo by Fabien Dany)

You will have the opportunity to visit a few UNESCO sites either in or near the city of Beijing. The Great Wall of China, which is referred o as the Great Wall by UNESCO, is located near Beijing in the city of Mutianyu.

A couple of other UNESCO Sites you’ll be able to tour while you’re in Beijing include the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. The actual UNESCO title for the Forbidden City is the Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang.

Also located in Beijing, is the famous Tian’anmen Square. It covers a 100-acre area and is the largest public square in the world.

Xi'an, China

The city of Xi’an is another destination you’ll visit. You will be transported to and from Xi’an by airplane. While in Xi’an, you’ll probably visit the Dayan Pagoda and another UNESCO Site the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. It’s more commonly known as the Terra Cotta Army and is located near the foot of the Lishan Mountain just outside of Xi’an.

Lhasa, China

If you choose an itinerary that is over 14 days, you’ll probably stop in Lhasa, which is about 926 miles west of Chongqing. Transportation to and from Lhasa is by airplane. In this city you’ll be able to to see the Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace – another UNESCO Site. The gold-domed Jokhang Temple within it is considered to be the holiest site in Tibet.

Potala Palace in Lhasa, China

Potala Palace in Lhasa, China

By Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Shanghai, China

The city of Shanghai is located at the mouth of the Yangtze River where it empties into the East China Sea. It will either mark the beginning or the end of your trip unless your package extends beyond Shanghai. Some itineraries also include other cities, such as Hong Kong or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

You’ll fly to and from Shanghai if you travel with Avalon Waterways, Uniworld or Viking River Cruises. Another supplier – Victoria Cruises – actually has a cruise directly from Chong Qing to Shanghai. The other cruise lines cruise as far east as Yichang or Wuchan.

While you’re in Shanghai, you’ll tour the Old Town area and probably visit the Shanghai Museum and the Yuyan Garden.

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Lauri Wakefield is a travel writer who specializes in  river cruises in Europe and the U.S. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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