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Known locally as Chang Jing the might Yangtze River has long been revered as an area of great beauty and held an iconic place in Chinese art, literature and culture. It is the worlds third longest rivers flowing 6300 kilometres from the snowy heights of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to the East China Sea, just north of Shanghai.
The river winds through some of China’s most spectacular scenery. In the western Wu Shan (Witch Mountains) it meets the world-famous Three Gorges renowned for their dramatic beauty, cultural treasures, religious and historical sites, and most recently for the building of the controversial Three Gorges Dam.
The stunning scenery makes the Three Gorges cruise along the Yangtze a ‘must do’, either alone or as part of a longer trip. It is true that the rising waters mean that some sights have been lost but the phenomena has created newly navigable tributaries with amazing new sights and not to forget, the Dam itself, which is akin to something from a giant science fiction movie set! It is world’s largest hydroelectric power plant generates the equivalent of 15 nuclear plants and controls the age-old problem of devastating floods as well as allowing navigation well into the interior. (A quarter of China’s ocean cargo enters the river between Shanghai and the sea).
The river has always been a major transport thoroughfare and has had a colorful and exciting history. Ships used to be pulled by hand through some of the more dangerous reaches and the pilots and captains that picked their way through the whirlpools, rocks and wildly fluctuating water levels have achieved legendary status. Today however, you can cruise the mighty river in total comfort on 3-4, 4-5 and 7-9 days cruises.
When to cruise?
Yangtze River cruises operate year round but generally speaking Chinese autumn (Sep-Nov) and spring (Mar-May) are the optimum times to travel although due to the local public holidays in May and October mean the ships are often booked to capacity and the rates are higher. In winter (Nov-Mar) the newer ships with climate control still allow cruising in comfort and without the crowds, due to lower rainfall in winter the low rivers can occasionally necessitate amendments to the scheduled itineraries.
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