China’s largest river (and the world’s third-longest at nearly 4,000 miles in length), the Yangtze River snakes its way down from the Tibetan Plateau to the estuary of the East China Sea close to Shanghai. Cruises focus on the section in south central China where the Three Gorges, a series of dramatic limestone walls that tower over the waterway, are located. Many Yangtze River cruises are offered year-round (though the weather is best between April and October) and most run a week or less. They are typically combined with land tours to Shanghai, Beijing, and other cities in this massive country.
What We Love
Transiting the Qutang Gorge: Of the Three Gorges, this steep and narrow passage is the most dramatic — just 5 miles long and 500 feet wide.
Sampan Rides: To see the nooks and crannies of the Yangtze's gorges and tributaries, excursions in small motorized sampans get you closer to the natural landscape and the local population.
Best Known For
Three Gorges: Gliding through this fjord-like trio of natural wonders is the whole point of a Yangtze River cruise. The sheer rock walls rise to some 4,000 feet at the highest point.
Hydroelectric Dam: A controversial engineering project of epic proportions, due to the many communities that were displaced because of it, the colossal Three Gorges Dam is still a fascinating thing to get a look at.
Shop for Cruises
Yichang: From here, join an excursion to the Three Gorges Dam for a fascinating overview of the energy-producing marvel that was first conceived by Sun Yat-Sen in 1919.
Jiuhuashan: One of the four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism, Jiuhuashan, or “Mountain of the Nine Lotuses,” is known for its natural beauty and serenity. Shore excursions explore its ancient temples, waterfalls, and streams.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Smog: Unfortunately there’s more than a good chance that your views will be obliterated by encroaching pollution, so keep your fingers crossed.
Lots of Time On Board: The main attraction of a Yangtze River cruise is passing through the Three Gorges, so keep in mind that you’ll be mostly on the ship, with excursions lasting no longer than two or three hours.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.