Hubei and Chongqing, China, Asia
The mighty Yangtze River cuts right across the geographical and imaginative heartland of China, and it’s most famous stretch through the Three Gorges ranks among the world’s most beautiful places. The gorges offer unparalled scenery and are renowned in Chinese poetry and painting for their history and love.
The Three Gorges – Qutang, Wu, and Xiling – encompass 126 miles of the almost 4000-mile-long river, the third longest in the world. River cruising is popular here, with some trips from Shanghai to Chongqing taking a leisurely week or longer, while other, shorter itineraries concentrate on the Three Gorges alone. At Wushan, most cruise ships stop to shift passengers to smaller, more manoeuvrable boats for a detour to the Three little Gorges along the narrow and even more dramatic danning river.
The Three Gorges made headlines in 1995 when work began on the world’s largest dam and hydroelectricity project, a multi-billion-dollar effort that resulted in the relocation of more than a million people. Completed in 2009, it has partially submerged the gorges’ vertical cliffs, rapids, and dozens of cultural sites and ancient temples, not to mention hundreds of villages and cities. The sheer scale and beauty of the gorges remains impressive, though it is true that the peaks are not as high nor is the bottom of the ravine so narrow. Visitors often find a shore excursion to view the immense hydroelectric project an unexpected highlight of the cruise.
The new Viking River Cruises “Viking Emerald” carries 256 passengers in rooms and suites that all have private balconies, while Sanctuary’s MS Yangzi Explorer accommodates just 124 passengers, in cabins and suites that feature private balconies and elegant imperial style.
Where: Chongqing 895 miles/1440 kms west of Shanghai, is usually the start or end point for the especially scenic Chongqing-Yichang section of the Yangtze cruises.
When: Apr – Oct
Best Times: Apr – May and Sep-Oct for warm weather and generally blue skies.