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What to do along the Yangtze River

The longest river in China and the third longest river in the world is the Yangtze River. A trip to China isn’t complete without a tour of some of the attractions along this river that stretches from Qinghai in western China to Shanghai in the east. The area that the Yangtze River covers is so vast that it would take months to see even a fraction of the attractions the river has to offer.

Ancient Route

Ancient Route

The Three River Gorges – A Cruise Must

The two most famous attractions on the Yangtze River are the Three River Gorges and the Three Gorges Dam. The Three River Gorges is an area that spans from Chongqing to Hebei Province in central China. The gorges cover an area of 120 miles, with about 75 of those miles taken up with the three most famous gorges - the Qutang, Wuxia and Xiling Gorges. Nearly everyYangtze River cruise goes through this stunning area. The Three River Gorges are filled with caves, old cultural sites and wall carvings, some of which are only accessible by getting off your big cruise boat and getting into a smaller, flat-bottomed boat.

One of the best attractions to see is the Three Travelers’ Cave. The area around this cave has been turned into a tourist attraction, and tourists can get a great view of the river, visit a pagoda, and see this cave all in one stop.

When you are going through the gorges, look closely about 30 feet up in the air. You might get a glimpse of the ancient plank roads, which were built hanging off the side of the gorges. Some of these roads date back to more than 2000 years and were built to help the locals avoid the dangerous currents of the Yangtze. While some of the plank roads have been flooded out by the dam, you can still catch glimpses of many of them if you look closely.

One controversial addition to the Yangtze River is the Three Gorges Dam, which was completely finished in 2012 (although it has been in operation for several years now). The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam and has become a tourist attraction in the area, making it another popular stop for cruises along the river. During your tour of the dam, you’ll learn about the workings of the dam, its history and why the dam is important to China. One result of the dam is that bigger ships can travel parts of the Yangtze River because parts of the river are deeper.

The Three Gorges Dam has changed some of the tourist attractions in this area, and some of the most important cultural and historical sites have been moved to higher ground to avoid being submerged under water. For example, the Chalk Wall, a one kilometer long wall that was carved with Chinese characters during the Song Dynasty, was moved to higher ground.


Shennv Peak

The Beginning of the Yangtze River

There are other parts besides the Three Gorges Area that are worth visiting along the Yangtze River. If you’re looking for natural beauty along the Yangtze River, then Yunnan Province is the place to go. High in the mountains, there are fewer big cities in this area and travel is more difficult, but adventure travel is possible. Travelers not content to just cruise down the Yangtze on a big ship can get closer to the Yangtze and some of the tributaries by take rafting trips.

Cities along the Yangtze


here are countless big cities along the Yangtze for those who want comfort. Chongqing is one of the largest cities in China, and your first stop upon arrival should be the Three Gorges Museum, which introduces visitors to the history of the area. After seeing this attraction, you’ll understand more about the Three Gorges area and the history of the Yangtze River. The Yangtze has a big impact on the city and tourists will see traces of the river in nearly every other attraction they visit here.


The final stop going down the Yangtze is Shanghai. There are two famous landmarks that every traveler must see in Shanghai – the Bund and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The Bund is the waterfront area, and while you may think that the river is the Yangtze, it isn’t – it’s the Huangpu River. At night, the Shanghai skyline is lit up and is worth a second visit.

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower gives you a bird’s eye view of Shanghai. When you see this building, with globes stacked on top of each other with a larger globe on the top, you’ll see how the building got its name. Inside, there is a museum, a viewing tower, shops and a rotating restaurant. One of the best deals is to eat in the restaurant, which gives you an admission ticket to some of the other parts of the tower included in the price of the buffet meal.

Top Ancient Towns along the Yangtze

The grand Yangtze River is not only the location of many big cities, but also is home to several ancient towns which stand still alongside the river to witness the history. Click for more about ancient towns along the Yangtze River.

Travelers to the Yangtze River have countless cultural and historical sites to visit along the nearly 4000 miles it stretches across China. By taking a cruise of the river, a lot of the logistics are taken care of for you, but you lose the flexibility of stopping, taking your time and seeing what you want to see. Travelers have to see if the convenience outweighs the freedom when booking their cruise. Because of the length of the Yangtze, travelers should plan ahead to make sure they have enough time to see the sites that interest them the most. The Yangtze River includes mountains, big cities, and beautiful gorges, which will appeal to all travelers.

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