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Yangtze River Cruises in China

Updated on February 21, 2009

a unique experience on the longest river in Asia

Taking a cruise along the Yangtze River in China is a very unique experience, due not only to the scenery that you will pass through but also due to the experience of living on a boat amongst Chinese tourists for a few days. You will get a firsthand look at Chinese culture and have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world while viewing some incredible scenery in the heart of China. The Yangtze River itself is the longest river in China and all of Asia, and the third longest river in the world. At about 6,380 kilometers (3,964 miles) in length, the Yangtze (also sometimes spelled as Yangzi or Yangtse) supposedly has its origins in a glacier on the Tibetan plateau, and it flows to meet the East China Sea at Shanghai. Due to its massive size and route through the center of China, the Yangtze river has been an important part of Chinese culture, history and politics for millenia.

River cruises along the Yangtze can either travel upstream (slower, obviously) or downstream and there are several cities that serve as starting points for the different cruises. The longest cruise runs from Shanghai to Chongqing, which takes about 9 days. The shortest cruises that are commercially available start in Chongqing and travel downstream and pass through the massive Three Gorges Dam just before arriving in Yichang, where the 4-day, 3-night cruise ends.

In addition to the varying duration of Yangtze River cruises, travelers can choose the type of cruise ship, which vary widely according to cost and which company is running them. There is one cruise line that is owned and managed by an American company, but these tend to be among the most expensive of the Yangtze river cruises. There are also numerous Chinese-owned cruise lines along the Yangtze, and these range from downright luxurious on the high-end to "better-avoided-unless-you-are-absolutely-desperate" on the least expensive end. Some Yangtze river cruises can be booked directly on the internet, but usually a reputable travel company in China can get a better deal for you. When combined with a Beijing tour or a tour through other Chinese cities, a Yangtze River cruise can be a memorable addition to any China vacation.


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