The world’s third-longest river and the lifeblood of China, the Yangtze extends for almost 3,900 miles through the country’s heartland.
The most spectacular scenery along the river is to be found in the Upper Reaches at the Three Gorges, a 100-mile stretch that is home to a trio of dramatic gorges as well as the world’s largest hydroelectric project. The river offers a diversity of vistas that is hard to imagine. One day, it’s verdant mist-veiled mountains and rural riverbank communities. The next, it’s the bright lights and architectural marvels of skyscraper-packed megacities.
Yangtze River Cruises are typically combined with visits to other major Chinese cities, including Xian (where you can see the Terracotta Army), Beijing (the jumping-off point for the Great Wall) and Shanghai (the country’s most cosmopolitan metropolis).
Watch a traditional Chinese opera, a distinctive art form as old as ancient Greek theater that was almost destroyed during the Cultural Revolution
Explore Fengdu Ghost City, a 2,000-year-old site devoted to the afterlife
Discover White Emperor City, an ancient hilltop temple complex
Visit a silk factory to see how the precious fabric is spun
Sail up the Shennong Stream in a traditional wooden sampan boat
Just a stone’s throw from Shanghai’s bustling Nanjing Road, the Pei Mansion Hotel is set in a converted 1930s villa with a stylish east-meet-west décor that incorporates art deco features as well as more traditional Chinese elements. Rooms are spacious and well-equipped with antique furnishings, jacuzzis and rain showers. It makes a great pre- or post-cruise base.
It would be remiss to visit Chongqing without tasting its signature spicy meal, the hotpot, which involves cooking meat and vegetables at the table in a Sichuan pepper-spiked broth. Jin Yao Xuan, a glass-walled restaurant situated on the 53rd and 54th floor of the Westin hotel on Liberation Square, serves an upscale version of this classic.
Gain exclusive access to Shu Fang Zhai in Beijing’s Forbidden City. This 15th-century palace is where the imperial family hosted sumptuous receptions and opera performances, and is out-of-bounds to the regular visiting public.