China River Cruise Tours Highlighting the Best of the Yangtze River between Yichang and Chongqing
Rising in the Tanggula Mountains in west-central China, the Yangtze at 6,300km is the third longest river in the world behind the Nile and Amazon.
During the 3-day upstream cruise aboard a luxury ship, you’ll enjoy three shore excursions that introduce you to historic sites as well as newly completed Three Gorges Dam. Highlights of this spectacular China river cruise tour also include the Forbidden City and the Great Wall at Mutianyu.
- Expert local guides hand-picked by company owners.
- Small group size – 20 maximum.
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers included.
- No annoying forced shopping stops.
- North American standard premium accommodations.
- Quality meals at non-tourist restaurants.
- Unlimited supply of bottled water during group activities.
- Visit to chambers in Forbidden City that most tour companies leave out.
- Great Wall visit at Mutianyu with cable car.
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Day 1/Thu: Departing for Shanghai
The China river cruise tour begins with your transpacific fight from from a city of your choice. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Fri: Arrival in Shanghai
Meet the driver on arrival and transfer to the hotel. You’ll have the balance of the day at leisure. The guide will get in touch with you tonight.
Day 3/Sat: Shanghai (B/L/D)
With a population of 24 million (2015), Shanghai is China’s biggest city. Rapid economic growth in the past 30 years has again turned Shanghai into a leading global city with significant influence in commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology and transport. Today’s visitors to Shanghai are delighted by its futuristic skyline that blends so well with its treasured historical landmarks.
Following tour orientation we visit Jade Buddha Temple located in an old neighbourhood, the famous waterfront promenade known as the Bund, and the Yu Garden at the old town centre. We wrap up today’s sightseeing with a drive through the glitzy financial centre opposite the Bund on the other side of the Huangpu River.
Enjoy a delicious welcome dinner.
Day 4/Sun: Shanghai (B)
Free day to explore on your own. We recommend a tour of Shanghai Museum and the Urban Planning Exhibition Center nearby. Shanghai Museum, a great place to explore on your own (audio guide available for a fee), is frequently cited by visitors as one of the best of its kind in China with a treasure trove collected from around the country.
Day 5/Mon: Shanghai – Yichang (B/D)
More free time this morning to recover from jet lag. We flight to Yichang in the afternoon and board the Yangtze river cruise ship after dinner.
Day 6/Tue: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)
At 6,380 km the Yangtze is the longest river in China and the third longest in the world after the Nile and the Amazon. The most impressive section of the Yangtze is the 119km stretch collectively known as the Three Gorges (Xiling, Wu and Qutang).
Before sailing through Xiling (41 km), the deepest of the Three Gorges, we embark on an excursion to the Three Gorges Dam at Sandouping. The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world and you’ll hear all about it from the local guide.
Day 7/Wed: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)
This morning we transfer to a smaller vessel for a relaxing excursion through the attractive gorges of Goddess Stream. Depending on river conditions, this may be substituted with an excursion to Shennong Stream.
Admire nature’s grandeur while passing through the spectacular Wu Gorge (45 km) and Qutang Gorge (8km).
Day 8/Thu: Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D)
Today’s shore excursion is a visit to Shibaozhai – an impressive wooden pagoda built on a cliff overlooking the Yangtze. Depending on river conditions, a visit to a relocation village may be provided instead. This is one of the many such villages built for locals affected by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.
Day 9/Fri: Chongqing – Beijing (B/L)
Our Yangtze cruise concludes in Chongqing this morning. Our sightseeing in Chongqing takes in the local zoo (giant pandas) and Stilwell Museum. We fly to Beijing in mid-afternoon.
Day 10/Sat: Beijing (B/L/D)
We begin today with a visit to the Forbidden City. Officially known as the Palace Museum, the Forbidden City was the place where the emperors of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties lived and carried out their administration. Construction of the Forbidden City took 14 years (1406-1420) to complete. The complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 hectares or 180 acres. It exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1912 but the royal family was allowed to continue to live in the Forbidden City till 1924, when the last emperor, Pu Yi, was driven out of the imperial palace. One year later the Forbidden City was turned into a museum. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, this is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
After lunch we proceed to the Summer Palace, a well preserved UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The imperial resort was first named Garden of Clear Ripples, which was burnt down by the allied forces of Great Britain and France in 1860 during the Second Opium War (referred to as Arrow War by the British). Reconstruction started 25 years later and was completed in 1895 when the name was changed to Yi He Yuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony). The design gives prominence to Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, south of the hill. The sprawling complex covers an area of 290 hectares and the buildings inside consist of over 3,000 bays.
Today we enjoy a delicious dinner at a popular Peking Roast Duck restaurant. Peking Roast Duck is a famous Beijing dish prized for the thin and crispy skin with authentic versions serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners. The meat is eaten with pancakes, shredded scallion, cucumber, and a sweet and salty sauce made of wheat flour. Condiments may also include pickled garlic and white sugar.
Day 11/Sun: Beijing (B/L)
Today we embark on a full-day excursion to the legendary Great Wall at Mutianyu, 75 km northeast of the city.
Zigzagging over 6,000 kilometres from east to west along the undulating mountains, the Great Wall was built to hold off tribal invaders from the north. As history shows, the Wall failed the Chinese rulers miserably, especially in the case of Kublai Khan who and his men swept across China from the Mongolian steppe, thus the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368).
Construction of the earliest sections of the Wall started in the 7th century B.C. A major renovation started with the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 and took 200 years to complete. The wall we see today in Beijing is almost exactly the result of this effort.
Day 12/Mon: Beijing (B/L)
We begin our sightseeing today with a visit to a traditional hutong neighbourhood. Hutong refers to an ancient alleyway with siheyuan or ”4-sided courtyard house” on both sides. The name hutong dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368 A.D.). According to some experts, the word originated from the Mongolian language, in which it is pronounced as hottog and means “well.” In ancient times, people tended to gather and live around wells. So the original meaning of hutong should be “a place where people live around”.
We then visit historic Jingshan Park. The park to the north of the Forbidden City was part of the imperial palace serving the royal families as a convenient site for farming, recreation and ancestor worshipping. The man-made hill (46 metres above ground, 89 metres above sea level) overlooks the Forbidden City and provides a great spot for bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.
Next up is Tian’anmen Square. Located in the heart of Beijing, the square measures 880 metres from north to south and 500 metres from east to west. Said to be the largest public plaza in the world, Tian’anmen Square has the capacity to hold one million people. The imposing Tian’anmen Tower sits at the north end of the square while the Monument to the People’s Heroes dominates the centre. The square is flanked by The Great Hall of the People (west) and the National Museum (east). Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum and Qianmen (Front Gate) are located in the south of the square. One of the top 16 tourist attractions in Beijing, Tiananmen Square is also the witness of the Chinese people’s great struggles for democracy and personal freedom since 1919.
Afternoon sightseeing at the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated in southeastern Beijing the Temple of Heaven is China’s largest extant sacrificial temple where, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the emperors conducted the elaborate and most exalted sacrifices addressed to “the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.” Construction of the temple started in 1406, during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, and took 14 years to complete. The temple was expanded under the Qing emperors Qianlong (1736-1796) and Jiaqing (1796-1820). Occupying 2.73 square kilometres (roughly 1,700 by 1,600 metres), the area of the Temple of Heaven is more than twice that of the Forbidden City.
The famous Hongqiao Pearl Market, the largest pearl market in the world, is right across the street from the Temple of Heaven. The market is recommended in numerous guidebooks as a good place to buy fresh water pearls, a market segment dominated by China. If you are interested, please ask the guide to drop you off there. However, you’ll need to get back to the hotel by taxi, which costs about 50 yuan or US$8.
Day 13/Tue: Return Home (B)
Your China tour ends this morning. Transfer to the airport any time for return flight. Guests flying back to North America will regain a day upon re-crossing the International Date Line, thus arriving home the same day as departing from Beijing.