Yangtze River



China has built the world's largest dam on the Yangtze River, the world's third-longest river, a project that caused rising of the its waters along the scenic Three Gorges area. Most of the marvelous old temples, landmarks and towns along the river are now underwater.

Major cruise companies offer cruises from Chongqing to Yichang or from Chongqing to Wuhan, and longer cruises operate between Chongqing and Shanghai. Most people take the boat downstream from Chongqing to Wuhan (about 900 mi/1,300 km), which takes about three days. The upstream trip is two days longer, and you may be the only tourist on board.

The Three Gorges (Qutang, Wu and Xiling), the highlight of the trip, lie between Chongqing and Yueyang. With cliffs rising thousands of feet/meters above the river, Wu (20 mi/32 km long) is the most impressive. The cruises usually include an excursion up one of the streams feeding into the Yangtze as well—on the trip up the Shennonjia Stream near Badong, trackers pull the boats upstream with shoulder harnesses and let the vessels float silently back down through narrow gorges.

You can travel by cruise ship or public passenger ferry. The cruise ships are at the top end of the luxury scale—some have swimming pools and beauty salons, and all have English-speaking guides. It's best to arrange these trips from your home country, although you can book them at many travel offices in China. The cruise ships stop in towns of interest to tourists, whereas passenger ferries don't stay long enough for sightseeing.

The passenger ferries are less comfortable. If you do make it on board a ship, try to get a second-class ticket (the best offered) to reserve a two-berth cabin and—most important—to ensure a seat in the second-class lounge, which has the best views.

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