The Yangtze River is China’s longest river at 6380 kilometers from western China to the Pacific ocean and the third longest in the world. The river has a long cultural and economic importance for China and was prone flooding and fast flowing rapids prior to the Three Gorges Dam project completed around 2009. The river also forms a natural dividing line between North and South China lending to quite different climate and culture.
For our cruise we started in Chongqing and spent four days traveling downriver to Yichang. Seeing the gorges and river from a cruise ship is the preferred way to go, especially if you only have a week or so to to it. The best time of year is Spring and Autumn avoiding Chinese holidays which will be ridiculously over crowded and summer is very hot and muggy. Below is the itinerary for our trip down the river during the first week of April.
Our Yangtze River Cruise Itinerary
We booked our trip through China Travel and everything worked out great. I recommend reserving a basic room with a balcony and ask for Chinese meals if you prefer that. Also, you should take advantage of the shore excursions, especially the White Emperor City.
- Afternoon (14:30) arrival in Chongqing then go to a local restaurant to enjoy famous Chongqing style hot pot.
- Around 19:00 find our way to the cruise ship docks and board the President 7 boat.
This was perhaps the most rough and tumble trek of our trip, walking from the restaurant to the boat dock through a series of tunnels, construction detours, and up-and-down staircases before ended up at a massive concrete dock complex that still took 15-20 minutes to navigate to the poorly marked Dock 4 embarkation point.
- Shore excursion to Shi Bao Zhai Pagoda which means Stone Treasure Fortress located in Zhong County.W
- We had good time to enjoy sights and activities from the boat.
- Morning pass through the 1st gorge called Qutang Gorge.
- Shore excursion to visit the White Emperor’s City at Qutang Gorge and see the “Money Shot”.
- Passes through the 2nd gorge, Wu Gorge.
- Afternoon shore excursion to Shennong Stream to see hanging coffins, local Tujia people and customs
White Emperor City (Baidi City) is located on Baidi Mountain at the mouth of Qutang Gorge. About 206 BC, general Gongsun Shu believed he saw a white dragon in the mist and so believed it a sign that he should be Emperor. So he established the White Emperor City for himself. Nowadays the city is a historical sight mostly restored from during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). You can see a museum with relics from the era and exhibits of the hanging coffins that were found on the cliffs in the gorges. From a look out point you have a great view of the entrance to the first gorge and this is the scene depicted on the back of the ten yuan bank note.
Entering into the Qutang Gorge is an experience as the sheer walls envelop you and the scale is impressive.
The Shennong Stream is a peaceful place and home of the TuJia minority community. A worthwhile side trip which we all enjoyed.
- Shore excursion to The Three Gorges Dam Site.
- Then bus to the Yichang city center which ends the cruise tour portion of the trip.
The Three Gorges Dam is damn big dam. It’s so big that you sort of loose perspective as it stretches off into the distance.
- Bring layers of clothing as it may be pretty cold some days on the water in early spring and late fall.
- Prepare for wet days with a rain jacket and umbrella.
- Everything on the boat is priced a bit more of course although it’s reasonable. For example, a beer is about $2-3.
- Finding and getting to the boats on the first day will probably take much longer than you think so arriving early is advised.
- Use a backpack for your luggage as dragging a roller bag around will not be fun for long.
- Pack light and have a day bag to carry on the shore excursions.
- There is lots to do to spend your time and it’s not boring unless you are the boring type. Read a book on the deck and relax.