Cruising the Yangtze

The Yangtze River flows through nine of China’s provinces, stretching 6,400 kilometres from the glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau to the East China Sea by way of Shanghai. Known as the cradle of Chinese civilization, the river seems to be made of myth and legend as much as water.

Historically referred to as ‘Da Jiang’, the Great River, the Yangtze is more modernly known as ‘Chang Jiang’, the Long River, in Mandarin. Its named trait ranks it the third longest river in the world, coming in just behind the Amazon and the Nile. The Chinese like to say, “If you haven’t travelled up the mighty Yangzte, you haven’t been anywhere”, and with modern river-faring vessels sailing up and down it daily, living up to the challenge has never been easier.

Cruising down the Central Yangtze between Yichang and Chongqing is a popular option for locals and tourists alike because of the picturesque scenery of the Three Gorges Dam. An ambitious construction project that drew criticism for years over the destruction of hundreds of villages, flooding of archaeological sites and the displacement of millions of residents, the dam was finally completed in 2006, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from boarding ships bound for it the past five years.

There’s still plenty to see while making your way down the middle reaches of the Yangtze. Cruisers can expect breathtaking views of the Three Gorges, from the fog-shrouded precipices of Wu Xia’s 12 peaks to the mountainous gate unlocking the entrance to Qutang Xia. Side trips include the remains of Fengdu, the famed City of Ghosts, and the Three Gorges Exhibition Centre, a monument to the massive blockade that proclaims the virtues of mankind triumphing over the untameable river and extols the 18 million kilowatts of electricity the dam provides.

A trip through the eastern Yangtze arrives at the mouth of East China Sea in Shanghai after cruising through the historically relevant Wuhan, Huangshan and Nanjing. Stops in each city and scenic spot ensure you won’t miss a thing if you opt to vacation via boat. You’ll see Sun Yat-Sen’s mausoleum, an appropriate tribute to the man who in 1919 became the first to express a dream of subjugating the “wildest, wickedest river on Earth”, and the ancient tolling of the bells at Wuhan’s Hubei Provincial Museum.

Scores of ships make their way down the mighty Yangtze, including several luxury brands to ensure you’ll be cruising in comfort. Viking, the premier river cruise line, is well known for its on-board gourmet cuisine and state-of-the-art luxuries. Its Viking Emerald boasts 128 comfortable staterooms, each with a private veranda for secluded river views. Victoria Cruises’ crown jewel, Victoria Katarina, offers floor-to-ceiling windows to maximise the views, as well as the line’s trademark top-notch service. If you can’t book the Katarina, don’t fret. All seven of Victoria’s Yangtze cruise ships received five stars from the China National Tourism Administration, guaranteeing you’ll have a ball no matter what ship you board.


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