Taking a cruise down the Yangzi through the Three Gorges

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
62 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 250
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
199th/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 60% SUMMARY RATING: Great experience


Taking a boat down the Yangzi River through the heart of China is a great, if very Chinese, experience.  Whilst the Yangzi is the longest and mightiest river in China, and the 3rd longest in the world, this part of the trip focuses only on the journey from Chongqing (a giant of a city with 31m people) to Yichang in a route that is around 20km and takes around 40 hours / 3 nights (you leave Chongqing in the evening). The highlights on the way are the impossibly steep and huge Three Gorges of Qutang, Wu and Xiling, the more picturesque Little Three Gorges which is an offshoot of the Yangzi, the vast Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest dam, and a series of Ghost Towns that were deserted when their residents were moved across the river


Overall, its a must-do experience if around this part of China.  Only downside is that it does get very busy – a true Chinese experience!


My key tip though is around the choice of cruise companies to go with.  You can go with the international cruise companies, which will be the high level standard you expect and around US500, or with the local companies which are 100% catered towards the Chinese market, which means public tannoy systems, early starts, the classic megaphone-flag-style tours and typically more crowded (Chinese people have ZERO understanding of personal space).  We went with the local boat option because we were living in China at the time, a bit money conscious and wanted the full blown experience.  On balance, I’d say that if you can afford it, go with the international cruise company – I’m hesitant to use the word “better”, but you’ll most likely have a more relaxing and serene experience . . . without the megaphones.  But, if you are looking to save a bit of money, the local boat will at least give you that full-on Chinese experience which will also be a great memory (once your ears recover)


Second tip – make sure to check what it is that you are paying for with the cruise company.  Key items are that you are not paying for every ticket for every one of the temples etc along the way – they are a bit dull and samesy after a while and you can buy the tickets when there; and that your cruise includes a trip through the Little Three Gorges – the international ones will, but the local Chinese ones will often expect you to have arranged and paid for it


#1 Taking one of the separate boat tours through the gorgeous Little Three Gorges

#2 The journey itself - being on the boat with 200kms to cover and sharp sides of the gorge practically the entire ride

#3 Seeing the colossal Three Gorges Dam, the largest in the world and, initially, generating 10% of China's electricity

#4 The huge gorges as you drift through the main section of the Yangzi's Three Gorges

#5 Wandering through some of the ghost towns long deserted to make way for the giant dam

#6 The local boat itself - amazed it stayed afloat!

Some broader tips for travelling through China

  • China is vastboth in terms of its sheer land area, population, economy, but also its history and culture.  You could spend a lifetime travelling China and still only scrape the surface.  Very much like a continent on its own and, in recommending a book to read or movie to watch, it’s a bit like recommending a book to read on “Europe”.  However, I did find that the book Wild Swans by Jung Chang, gave me good context on modern Chinese history.  The book tells the true story of 3 generations of women living in China from 1909 to modern day and I’d highly recommend
  • The Chinese peopleit’s often difficult to interact with locals in China – there are certainly strong cultural differences that go deeper than you would experience in most other parts of the world, but the main problem is of course the language.   Get out google translate for simultaneous translation.  You’ll be surprised how keen the locals will be to speak to you, and just how interesting you may find their stories
  • Frustrationstravelling in China can often be difficult . . . scream-out-loud, pull-all-your-hair-out, call everyone a c**t, never-ever-going-back style difficult.   The language barrier, the often radically different way of doing things, the combo of an often world leading digital country mixed in with archaically manual processes can all make it feel at times like a challenge rather than a joy.  I lived in China for 2 years and experienced a lot of these frustrations.  My advice is simply to go with it, its all part of the adventure, and above all don’t lose your temper.  Shouting at someone or generally showing frustration will just be viewed by the Chinese as embarrassing and, at worst, a loss of face for them, which means you’ve got very little chance of them helping you.  Patience, politeness and a smile will often see them wanting to help you.  They’re not trying to be difficult . . . most of the time 🙂

Experiences nearby

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone