The Yangtze River has always been synonymous for providing the division between the north and the south of China. The river is the largest in Asia spanning a total of 3,915 miles and the third largest river in the world, behind the Amazon and the Nile. The Yangtze River throughout the whole width of China, enabling river cruise passengers to take in all of China’s key highlights. The east flowing river rises in the Tibet Plateau and takes in a wide range of incredible scenery. From cosmopolitan Shanghai to the fascinating treasures of Beijing including the remarkable Great Wall and of course the Forbidden City. Often 12 day sailings, these itineraries also include the opportunity to explore the stunning Three Gorges region. Xiling, Wuxia and Qutang are one of the main cruise highlights with the chance to experience the magnificent Three Gorges Dam and Chongqing.
A Yangtze River cruise is one of complete discovery and exploration. River cruising is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to holiday and has seen a rapid increase in interest over recent years. For many, however, the preference is to opt for a closer to home itinerary when consider a first river cruise, for example the Rhine or Danube present exciting opportunities without the need to travel long haul. These itineraries are without doubt exceptional but the Yangtze River offers something truly unique and the long distance flight is more than worth the leap of faith into river cruising as you will instantly realise upon arrival. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that China began to place greater emphasis on their tourism industry and welcomed guests to their shores. For many years this thrilling country was considered a closed world to the outside and despite the overhaul of tourism and the many opportunities to visit in modern times, the country still remains somewhat shrouded in mystery and intrigue, factors that only enhance the experience for both first time visitors and even the most hardened travelers.
River cruising boasts the excellent ability to take you were larger, ocean cruise vessel cannot. Such is the uniqueness and fascination of river cruising itineraries, there is clear reason for such a huge attraction to this niche market. Be sure to consider an itinerary that includes a land stay when heading for the Yangtze River. The river cruise experience itself is tremendous but it always pays to spend more time either pre or post cruise, if not both, to immerse yourself in the culture of the area. Land based stays often take place in both Beijing and Shanghai. Such destinations are selected due to their proximity to flight allocations but also due to their wonderful array of sightseeing prospects. A combination of a pre and post stay gives you extra time to combine the effervescent vibrancy of modern cities and the dramatic scenery of secluded rural regions. Such a river cruise itinerary means that day by day the sights you are seeing completely change. Such is the diversity of the Yangtze River cruise, one moment you will be witnessing majestic temples and local villages, the next you’ll be surrounded by modern day metropolises, meandering theatres, designer stores and major museums.
The aforementioned Three Gorges region of the river is incredible. Spanning 150 miles, this sensational area is worth mentioning again. Boasting phenomenal scenery, the landscapes here captivate cruisers with sheer gorges emerging from tranquil riverbanks not forgetting the towering mountainous backdrop. One of the most popular attractions in this region is the Three Gorges Dam. Here you’ll witness the enormity and power of one of the world’s largest engineering projects. Spreading 1.3 miles between the banks and standing at 610 feet tall, river cruise itineraries here always include a scheduled time frame for guests to take it in, whilst passing through the five locks.
What to expect
Cruising the Yangtze River is a once in a lifetime opportunity and if you haven’t realised that before you get there, it usually only takes a few seconds to sink in. During your itinerary you will enjoy a vast array of discovery from sampling local cuisine, experiencing local craftsmen at work, Chinese opera, acrobatics, urban and rural treasures and much more.
The Yangtze region is renowned all over the world as the cradle of ancient Chinese civilisation, so what better way to see this spectacular part of the world than a cruise along the Yangtze River?
Who offers Yangtze River cruise itineraries?
Without doubt, the key cruise line for the Yangtze experience is Viking River Cruises. There are a wide range of river cruise lines that operate such itineraries but none quite like Viking. For 2014, there are two itineraries to choose from operating throughout a range of dates. ‘Imperial Jewels of China’ is a 13 or 12 day adventure whilst ‘China’s Cultural Delights’ offers an 18 or 17 day experience. Both itineraries are full of amazing sightseeing opportunities and Viking River Cruises possess a unique knowledge of this waterway to ensure you get the most from your time.
The itineraries available to choose from are all available with pre/post land stay options as well being inclusive of flights if you wish. A visit to China is amazing so if time permits and budget allows then you should definitely consider a longer itinerary duration with a land stay as well to make the most of your visit.
When to go?
The peak weather conditions here are in the spring and autumn. The best times to travel here are between April and May or September and October, although cruise lines do sometimes operate itineraries throughout April to October.
Must see highlights
Three Gorges Dam – Costing over $30 million to construct and taking over 17 years to finish, the world’s largest dam is an incredible feat of engineering. Excursions here include an overview of the dam as well as an insight into the impressive hydroelectric power station.
Great Wall – Often included as standard with cruise itineraries here such would be the shame of coming here without seeing it. Acting as a powerful symbol of China’s separation from the world, the construction of the wall commenced over 2,000 years ago. Tour guides will be on hand to provide you with instructions on the safest areas to explore and should you wish, you will have the opportunity to scale the steep sections, resulting in the proud tale to tell friends back home, that you have completed the challenge of climbing the Great Wall.
Terracotta Army – A fascinating experience when visiting Xian, this magnificent sight never fails to leave an everlasting impression. Here you will explore over 6,000 warriors that were created to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. Each warrior possesses a different face. The creations were only discovered in 1974 by Xian farmers. Up until this time they had remained hidden to the world.
Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City – Welcome to the largest public square in the world and gateway to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City possesses an incredible collection of well-preserved ancient buildings. The area takes its title as the Forbidden City as it was out of bounds for 500 years to anyone perceived to be of common status. The palace within has been home to the Mong and Qing emperors, both of whom preferred to stay within the palace walls rather than venture out of their exclusive quarters.
Shibaozhai Temple – Often referred to as the Pearl on the Yangtze, this fascinating temple was constructed in 1650. At 12 story’s high, the Shibaozhai Temple portrays are towering vision and it is rumoured that the higher you go, the more prayers will be answered. The only thing we know for sure about ascending the stairs is that you are guaranteed to enjoy the view when you get there. The panoramic scenery is breath taking.
Lesser Three Gorges – Often not on the top of everyone’s wish list but still a beautiful area to discover, Lesser Three Gorges requires passengers to disembark their river cruise vessels and board smaller crafts in order to travel through the narrow waterways of the Lesser Gorges National Parks. Here you will be met by the scenic treasures of sheer cliffs, mountains and the famous hanging coffins of the ancient Ba people. The coffins are easily spotted and cling to the mountain faces above.
Key tips for cruising the Yangtze
Visa Requirements – Everyone that visits China will require a tourist visa and these must be pre organised and paid. When taking a cruise, this can be arranged through your cruise operator or via Bolsover Cruise Club. We are able to provide full advice and assistance with obtaining the appropriate required visa necessities. Your passport will need to have a minimum of two blank spaces left to be allocated and must have a minimum of 6 months left before renewal is needed.
Currency – Renminbi (RMB) is the Chinese currency and the basic unit is the Yuan. As expected with most modern day cities, main stores will of course accept cards but when visiting more intimate areas on your cruise and shopping at the smaller markets, you will need local cash currency so have some prepared. We strongly advise obtaining your required cash currency prior to arrival. Certain passengers have left this till arrival and once the cruise has commenced, it can be difficult obtain. On board you will be able to change currency but when in port, it is often not possible, which can be frustrating if you have to miss out on a souvenir.