The language barrier and vast cultural differences that exist between eastern and western society has prevented many westerners from taking advantage of the amazing travel opportunities that exist throughout China. China has a rich, complex history and culture that makes it a great destination for any world traveler. One of the best, and easiest, ways to see China is by taking a Yangtze River cruise tour. This will expose you to some of the greatest natural and man-made wonders that exist in the region. If you have never considered a Chinese river cruise, here are just a few of the reasons to do so.
The Gateway to China
One of the most significant aspects of a Yangtze River cruise is that it allows you to experience some of the magnificent sights that China has to offer. Many popular Yangtze River cruises will start with a few days on land in a major city such as Beijing or Shanghai before moving on to the cruise portion of the trip. Viking River Cruises offers a 14-day Imperial Jewels of China trip that includes nights in Beijing and Xian before the trip and finishes in Shanghai. All the trips are planned and guided by the cruise line, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in Chinese culture, making it a great low-stress option for first-time visitors.
See Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City
Should you choose a trip that begins or ends in Beijing, you will be able to explore a city with a rich heritage that dates back more than 3000 years. One of the highlights of visiting Beijing is seeing the expansive Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest square at a staggering 100 acres. Tiananmen Square is so large that it can accommodate over 1 million people at a time. Tiananmen Square also acts as the gateway to Beijing’s Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of nearly 1,000 buildings surrounded by 26-foot-high walls. The Forbidden City is not only China’s largest group of ancient buildings, but it is also the world’s largest surviving palace complex. Tour the Forbidden City named for being ‘forbidden’ to commoners for more than 500 years. See the opulent palaces, pavilions, courtyards, and gardens where two dynasties of emperors, the Ming and the Qing, once lived.
Immerse Yourself in China’s Wondrous History
China has a rich and lengthy history, with many historians believing that the region was first inhabited by humans approximately 45,000 years ago. A Chinese cruise tour will expose you to many of the most famous sites significant to Chinese history, and it will also expose you to some of its most ornate, and impressive, architecture. Should your trip include a Beijing segment, this will allow you to see one of the most impressive, and best-preserved, sections of the Great Wall of China. This 4,000-mile-long sandstone fortification was built over 2,000 years ago during the Qin dynasty and was maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century AD. On your visit, you will have a chance to explore its winding paths and take in the stunning views from its ramparts.
Xian and The Legendary Terracotta Warriors
After the Beijing segment, many Yangtze River cruise tours also include a stop in Xian, central city to the Tang Dynasty from 618 to 907 AD. Xian will give you the opportunity to tour the mausoleum where Emperor Qin Shi Huang was buried over 2,000 years ago. It is also where the astonishing and magnificent Terracotta Army was discovered in the 1970s. This army of life-sized warriors, archers, and infantrymen was created for the emperor and buried with him to protect him in the afterlife. The 6,000 warriors and horses are each molded with their own distinctive look and features, leading some scholars to believe that the army was molded after real soldiers. Walkways will give you a bird’s-eye view of this vast army once hidden from view until its discovery in 1974.
Spend 2 Days in Stunning Wu Gorge
From Xian, you will then travel to the mighty Yangtze river where you will board your river cruise. One of the highlights of your Yangtze River cruise tour will be the 150-mile scenic stretch of the river you will travel down as it forces its way through a series of limestone ridges known as the Three Gorges. You will first travel through Qutang Gorge, the shortest, narrowest, and arguably most spectacular of the Three Gorges. Then board smaller boats that will take you through the Lesser Three Gorges region, where you will sail through canyons lined with towering cliffs. Here, you will see extraordinary sites including the hanging coffins of the Ba people, and the ancient plank road carved into the cliffside. The cruise will also sail through Wu Gorge, renowned for its majestic scenery.
Tour The World’s Largest Dam
After passing through the natural wonders of the Three Gorges, you will then come face-to-face with the great wonder that is the Three Gorges Dam. Three Gorges Dam is an extraordinary feat of engineering that took 17 years to construct at the cost of more than 28 billion dollars. Three Gorges Dam is not only the world’s largest dam, but it is also home to the world’s largest hydroelectric power station. You will be able to marvel at the river-taming dam as you tour its exterior and experience its power firsthand as you sail through its 5-stage lock system while you continue down the Yangtze.
A Yangtze River cruise tour is a great way to experience all that China has to offer, as there are countless historical sites you will take in on this trip and memories that you’ll keep forever.