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The Yangtze is the third longest river in the world, flowing roughly 4000 miles from the Tibetan Plateau in southwest China to Shanghai and the Yellow Sea. For hundreds of years, the Yangtze has been a foundation of Chinese civilization, spanning across most of the country and being used for irrigation, transport, trade, and war. The river basin alone holds one-third of China’s population and the great cities that now sit on its banks provide great opportunities to see China and its culture.

Upper Yangtze

The Yangtze is navigable up to Yibin in Sichuan Province, allowing riverboats to sail to the cities of Yichang and Chongqing. At Chongqing, tourists can see sights such as the Baiheliang Underwater Museum, and it’s Grand Theatre. Moving down river, riverboats will cruise through the Three Gorges, a series of iconic and picturesque gorges that are a popular highlight of river cruising in China. Waiting past the Gorges are another selection of ancient towns: Shibaozhai, Jinzhou and Yueyang, among others.

Three Gorges

Named for its three beautiful gorges, Xiling, Wu and Qutang, the Three Gorges are an unmatched part of Chinese river cruising, providing the best natural scenery along the Yangtze. The first gorge, Xiling Gorge, stretches for 41 miles (66km) in a number of rapids. The Wu Gorge, known as the Witches Gorge, is a mountainous gorge that is believed to be holy protectors against 12 legendary dragons. Last of the Gorges is the incredibly small 5 mile Qutang Gorge, lined with Meozoic limestone peaks that tower 4000ft above the Yangtze. Among the Three Gorges, landmarks include the Meng Liang Staircase, the Plank Road, the Seven Gate Cave, and more.

Lower Yangtze

Upon reaching Jiangxi and the freshwater Lake Poyang, the Yangtze enters its Lower course.  The Lower Yangtze consists of a short path through the provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu which meets with Shanghai on the coast of the East China Sea. Anhui and Jiangsu boast an incredible number of smaller rivers and lakes that pour into the Yangtze.

Weather & When to go

Cruising on the Yangtze runs from March to November. During late spring and summer, there are temperatures of up to 36°C (97°F) but average at 30°C (90°F) in July and 10°C (50°F) in January. The mildest periods are during spring and autumn. Heavy rains can occur during summer, causing the water levels to rise.

Where will my cruise start?

The shining cities of Beijing and Shanghai are the starts of most Yangtze itineraries, although the home of the Terracotta Warriors, Xi’an, also serves as an occasional stay.

Popular ports in Yangtze

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