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The third longest river in the world, and the longest in Asia, the majestic Yangtze River flows for little under 4,000 miles. From the Tibetan plateau in the west the river makes its way across the country, through several distinctive regions, before ending up at Shanghai, on the East China Sea. About one third of the population of the Chinese Republic call the Yangtze’s river basin home. It is of huge economic importance to the country but its cultural significance to ordinary Chinese people is what makes it such a fascinating destination for tourists to discover.
When considering holiday options, an guided tour to China makes a lot of sense for those who have never visited East Asia before. Even for more experienced travelers touring with experts can help with problems of language and day-to-day organisation. For those wanting to take a leisurely approach, avoiding some of the hustle and bustle of the country, but who still want to travel, a river cruise is an unrivaled choice. And a Yangtze river cruise offers much more than you might expect.
Beginning at the western city of Chonqing, following a short internal flight, cruises start after a guided tour of the Old Town and a visit to the city’s zoo, famed for its giant pandas. The river cruise continues through stunning mountains to Fengdu which has a so-called ghost city, associated by Chinese with the afterlife. From there, several tributaries increase the water flow of the river as it heads toward the Three Gorges.
Designated by the Chinese National Tourism Administration as an AAAAA scenic area (yes, all those “A”s are a legitimate tourism designation in China.), the Three Gorges comprise a region of the Yantze stretching from Yiching to Hubei province. The gorges have a global reputation for being a captivating area of spectacular beauty. Further downstream, the Three Gorges dam, which was completed in 2008, has created a large lake. The project led to the relocation of some towns and villages but the hydro electric output of the dam has brought green energy to the region. The dam is the biggest hydroelectric power station in the world and is an experience not to be missed.
Further down the Yangtze, the cruise passes the Yellow Mountain of Huangshan, itself a World Heritage Site, before arriving in Shanghai. Full of history from ancient to colonial times, the former capital has a distinctive and popular cuisine you will want to sample before returning home.