Global Travel Media » Blog Archive » Slow boat to China. Highlights of the mighty Yangtze.

Home » River Cruising » Currently Reading:

Slow boat to China. Highlights of the mighty Yangtze.

April 27, 2017 River Cruising No Comments Email Email

The phrase “on a slow boat to China” was popularized by the Broadway composer Frank Loesser in the 1940s, and it’s hard to think of a better way to experience the Yangtze region – the cradle of ancient Chinese civilisation – than with a cruise along the river of the same name.

The Yangtze (sometimes referred to as the Golden River) is China’s lifeline. Rising from its source in the plateaus of the northern Tibetan highlands, it flows east across the entire width of China through 18 provinces and cities, past the river cruise port of Chongqing, then through the plains of Jiangsu and Shanghai until it empties into the East China Sea. At 3,915 miles, it’s Asia’s largest river (much longer than the region’s other well known waterways, the Mekong River and the Irrawaddy) and is the third-longest river in the world, after the Nile and Amazon. Historically, it has marked the division between north and south China.

A cruise along this mighty waterway in a country that was closed to the outside world for centuries is a real voyage of discovery. China began to develop its tourism industry in the late 1970s, and to many outsiders it’s still a land shrouded in mystery, making it an exciting and fascinating destination for even the most seasoned travellers.

‘Must see’ sights.

The most dramatic part of the Yangtze is undoubtedly the Three Gorges region, a 160-kilometre stretch between Nanjin Pass in the east and White King City, boasting jaw dropping landscapes replete with misty mountains, sheer gorges, lush bamboo groves and serene riverbanks. A highlight of any cruise along this section of the river is the spectacular – and somewhat controversial, Three Gorges Dam. Begun in 1971 and completed in 2009, today it remains one of the world’s largest-ever construction schemes. Designed to combat annual flooding and consequent loss of life it created the world’s largest reservoir, and raised the level of the Yangtze River by almost 175 metres, submerging entire towns and villages in the process.

The project, now the world’s biggest electricity-generating facility, supplies a staggering 15 per cent of China’s hydroelectricity power, and a tour of the dam – which is almost 200 metres high and runs over 2 kilometres from bank to bank – is an opportunity to marvel at the immensity of one of the world’s largest engineering projects, with ships taking around four hours to pass through the five-level lock.

When to visit?

July and early August are extremely hot and humid. So the best time to take a river cruise in the Three Gorges region is May to June or from late August to October. Indeed, the Yangtze is at its dramatic best in Autumn as maple trees turn from green to gold to red, bathing the surrounding landscapes with a kaleidoscope of autumnal hues.

Who to sail with?

While there are a number of cruise ships operating in the Three Gorges region, the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer is widely regarded as the most luxurious option on the Yangtze River. Recently re-launched after a major refurbishment, it offers the largest cabins and suites – all with private balconies.

Twenty sumptuous suites have all been fully refitted with new furniture, authentic Chinese artwork, stylish textiles and soft furnishings and ‘silver-leaf’ wallpaper designs featuring the ‘mudan’, or peony, which is native to the Yangtze region. The 38 deluxe cabins have also been extensively enhanced, as have the ship’s two large specialty ships – the Celestial and Imperial Suites, which have been refreshed in a contemporary-Colonial Chinese style.

Cruise Options

Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer offers a choice of either a three-night cruise from Chongqing to Yichang or a four-night cruise from Yichang to Chongqing, bringing guests as close as possible to central China’s most captivating landscapes. Itineraries have been carefully created to provide a fascinating insight into history-steeped cities and rural stories to be found along Asia’s longest river, with highlights including, a traditional sampan boat ride along the unspoilt Shennong Stream and visits to urban metropolis Chongqing and ancient river town Fengdu.

As well as exciting excursions, experiences on the ship are also designed to immerse guests into Chinese culture. From captivating talks about Chinese history and traditions to Thai Chi and Chinese massage, and from the art of calligraphy to learning about the all-important tea ceremony, these guest experiences have been created to offer an authentic, yet luxurious experience of China.

Special Offer

To be amongst the first to experience the newly refurbished Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer, take advantage of the company’s extended Early Booking Offer. Book and pay in full three months before any 2017 sailing and receive a 25% discount and a free cabin upgrade for bookings made for the Shoulder and High seasons and a 10% discount for bookings made in the Peak season.

Shoulder Season 1 June – 7 September 2017.
Save from US$675 per couple per cruise twin share.

High Season 2 – 16 November 2017.
Save from US$935 per couple per cruise twin share.

Peak Season 10 September – 29 October 2017.
Save from US$396 per couple per cruise twin share.

Comment on this Article:

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Platinium Partnership


Elite Partnership Sponsors


Premier Partnership Sponsors


Official Media Event Partner


Global Travel media endorses the following travel publication