The Three Gorges is a beautiful area of China’s Yangtze River. Indeed, the stretch of river between Yichang and Chongqing is often said to offer some of the most picturesque river scenery in the world.
A stunning destination, the Three Gorges stretch for around 120 kilometres (75 miles). A popular way to enjoy the area’s natural and cultural delights is to take a multi-day river cruise. Various operators provide Yangtze River cruises between Yichang and Chongqing, or vice versa, and cruises that last for four days, with three nights spent sleeping on the cruise ship, are common. Prices vary according to operator, the facilities on your chosen vessel, and shore excursions.
Here’s why you should add a Yangtze River cruise through the spectacular Three Gorges to your China travel bucket list:
Incredibly scenic views of the Three Gorges and river
The Three Gorges are individually called the Xiling, Wu, and Qutang Gorges. Each displays rugged beauty, and sailing through each superb gorge is sure to leave you spell-bound. Dramatic towering cliffs either side of the river will make you feel rather tiny in comparison! The craggy rocks are covered in greenery, and, if you’re lucky, you might spot some of the local wildlife. Monkeys can sometimes be seen basking by the edges of the water, and birds flit through the air.
Soak up the misty morning vistas
Waking up on a boat moored at the side of the river means that you have prime viewing of the river first thing in the day. Mists hang in the humid air, cloaking distant peaks, and adding an aura of enchantment to the area. Some of the interesting rock formations take on a completely different appearance in the hazy light. Look out for smaller boats traversing the wide waters and people getting ready to begin their day outside the small homes at the edges of the river.
Join fabulous and diverse shore excursions
The banks of the Yangtze River not only have some fascinating attractions, but getting off your boat allows you to appreciate the area from a different perspective too. Some cruise operators include trips as standard, others offer excursions for additional costs, and some have a combination of inclusive and optional trips. It really is recommended to join as many off-boat excursions as possible to make the most of your time in this stunning part of China. After all, your cruise ship will just be waiting stationary anyway.
White Emperor City, also known as Baidi Temple, is a historical city with ancient architecture and displays of interesting artefacts, such as hanging coffins and beautiful pieces of calligraphy. The site also offers amazing views of the Qutang Gorge. Fengdu Ghost City has numerous grisly and grotesque statues depicting demons and symbolising various sins.
Traverse the Shennong Stream
If you have the chance, don’t miss a trip to the Shennong Stream, a picturesque tributary of the Yangtze River. A narrower and shallower waterway, you will likely need to transfer into a smaller boat to access the area. The final part of your journey will be in small boats, which seat around 15 people. As the waters are too shallow for a boat to be rowed, you will experience the brute strength of the trackers, men who pull the boats along the stream. A tradition that is no longer found along most parts of the Yangtze River, this is a great place to see some of the local culture. Look high in the soaring cliffs and you can see the mysterious suspended coffins wedged into cracks and crevices. These are believed to have been put in place by members of the Ba people.
Sail through the Three Gorges Dam and visit the Three Gorges Dam Visitor Centre
The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s biggest hydroelectric dam. Harnessing the power of water, the Chinese government uses the dam to generate electricity and reduce the use of coal. It also serves as a flood-prevention measure and improves navigational-ability along the Yangtze River.
Your cruise along the Yangtze River will take you through the locks of the dam, and you can watch as the water level changes, raising and lowering boats as they traverse the waters.
You can learn more about the dam’s construction and effects, including the relocation of thousands of people, at the Three Gorges Dam Visitor Centre. There is a scale model of the project, and engineering enthusiasts will be in their element!
Experience the heat of one of the Three Furnaces
No matter which direction you sail, you can experience one of the so-called Three Furnaces. The nickname was given to three Chinese cities – Chongqing, Wuhan, and Nanjing – because of their very hot and humid temperatures.
You’ll either begin or end your journey in Chongqing. Take the time to explore the local attractions, brave a bowl of the local hot pot, and find out why locals whole-heartedly agree with the furnace tag – hot weather, hot food, and hot tempers!
Book your cruise along the Yangtze River and through the Three Gorges and take away fantastic memories and images of China.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.