Yangtze River Cruises
China's Yangtze River is the world’s longest river within a single country, weaving nearly 4,000 miles from the glaciers of western Qinghai Province through central China and on to Shanghai where it joins the East China Sea. Journeying along just a short segment of this mighty river, Yangtze river cruises paint a canvas of wondrous scenery, diverse cultures and beguiling history, creating one of the most fascinating and rewarding journeys the world has to offer.
The Yangtze runs like a golden thread through China’s life, landscapes and traditions. Flowing through regions distinct for their cultures, countryside and cuisine, and linking medieval towns, rustic villages and modern cities, it offers a unique glimpse into everything China is, what it once was and what it promises to become.
The river also looms large in China’s past. Traces of settlements dating back 2 million years have been discovered along its path, testifying to its pre-history origins. Over the course of time, its fertile basin gradually took on more and more agricultural importance, turning into a coveted prize for China’s imperial dynasties. By the Song dynasty of 960-1279, the Yangtze valley was was one of the country’s wealthiest regions, and by the 17th century Qong dynasty, it produced almost half of the national income. By the 19th and 20th centuries, the Yangtze was the focus of imperialist incursions, kindling commercial activity in towns along its shores, most notably that of Shanghai. Recent economic growth has been fuelled by the Three Gorges Dam. Completed in 2012, the world’s largest dam generates enough electricity to power Switzerland and took 17 years to build.
Why Yangtze river cruises?
Avalon Yangtze cruises travel the most scenic length of the river: the Three Gorges situated between Eastern Sichuan and western Hubei province. Here, the Yangtze cuts a 650-mile swathe through deep canyons, brooding mountains and strange rock formations, providing a voyage of extraordinary beauty and theatre.
Yangtze river cruises with Avalon start at the vast city of Chongqing, China’s capital during World War II but now best known for its zoo, which houses rare giant pandas. From here, the Yangtze snakes towards the Three Gorges, passing dream-like Shibaozhai en-route. Built into a steep riverbank bluff, this vermilion-painted, 12-storeyed pagoda makes a magical sight. The Yangtze then winds past Beidi Cheng, a beautiful ancient island temple known as ‘White Emperor City’. Next comes the first of its Three Gorges, Qutang Gorge. Short but dramatic, this narrow canyon has almost perpendicular walls you can almost reach out and touch. From here, the wooded mountains of gentler Wu Gorge take over before the river meets its idyllic Shennong Stream tributary, an emerald-watered channel where sampan boats sail between plunging, forested cliffs. Back on the Yangtze, the next highlight is zig-zagging Xiling Gorge, whose banks are speckled with caves and rock pinnacles. Close by lies the mighty Three Gorges Dam, which having displaced over a million of China’s peoples, now produces vast amounts of environmentally friendly power.
Yangtze cruises & China tours
Avalon Yangtze river cruises also include tours by land of China’s greatest cities and sights, revealing the full historic, scenic and cultural tapestry of this incredible country. Our itineraries include Beijing, China’s enigmatic capital and home to the dazzling Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, ancient Hutong alleyways and nearby imperial Summer Palace. Other tour highlights include the legendary Great Wall, Xian’s astonishing Terracotta Warriors and Chengdu, with its Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. Our tours also visit UNESCO-protected medieval Lijiang and exhilarating Shanghai, with its stunning Bund waterfront, before offering you visits to the breathtaking, karst-dotted landscapes of Guilin and glittering Hong Kong as finales.