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Top Trip Memories

  • Sailing through the fabled Three Gorges that have made Yangtze river cruises famous.
  • Stopping at the Three Gorges hydro-electric dam, the world's largest construction project, which provides 15% of China's electric power.
  • Marveling at the canals in Suzhou, China's "Venice," a stop on many Yangtze river cruise itineraries.
  • Visiting Shanghai at the end or beginning of the cruise, a remarkable blend of an ultra-modern and colonial urban setting.
  • Touring Beijing, China's capital, and its historic Forbidden City.
  • Making a side trip to view the Great Wall of China near Beijing.
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Tour Tips

  • More than 60 vessels currently ply the Yangtze, so you'll have a choice of a number of different lines, of varying degrees of comfort and price. 
  • Westerners may want to choose one of the cruise lines that cater to Western preferences in food (including Chinese food done to Western tastes) and use English as their primary language, such as Uniworld, Viking, Avalon, or Victoria Cruises. 
  • Allow plenty of time to get your China visa before your trip. 
  • Despite improvements in visitors being able to arrange their own transportation, a tour of China is still the safest way to go if you don't speak the language, and taking tours largely free you from bureaucratic hassles.
  • Yangtze cruises are often included in longer tours of China, which may also visit Shanghai, Beijing, the Great Wall, Guilin, and Xian. 
  • Mid-summer gets very hot and humid on the Yangtze, so it's best to avoid July. Late August to October and May into June are generally the most pleasant months for a cruise.  
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Yangtze River Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.7 out of 5



38 Reviews

  • Excellent 27
  • Great 11
  • Average 0
  • Disappointing 0
  • Terrible 0

Rating Details

  • Value
  • Guide
  • Activities
  • Lodging
  • Transportation
  • Meals

Tour Reviews

November 2016
Recommend: Yes
On October 13, 2016, we left for our trip to China & the Yangtze River Cruise. 27 people who couldn't wait to meet each other and most of all our tour guide, Mark Ma. To say that he's the best would be an understatement. Our trip was fabulous from the moment we met him til we boarded the plane, homeward bound. His knowledge of China is vast and his English is perfect. This is my 3rd trip with Smart Tours and I love traveling with them. The price is unbeatable for what we always get. From hotels, to transportation, tours and food Smart Tours can't be beat. The trip is physically demanding but the upside is I lost 6 pounds from so much walking. I can't wait for my next trip. Thanks!!
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November 2016
Recommend: Yes
We hit the road running, flight from LA to Shanghai...our guide Mark was waiting for us and we set off for the hotel. Mark Ma spent the entire time with us. For most of us that have travelled a lot, we all felt he was one of the best ever. He was patient, intelligent, knowledeable, and informative. There were 26 in our group of varying ages and abilities. At the end of the day, we saw so much and were ready for bed at night. There is so much to see, but the crowds of people for us proved very tiring. China proved to be a remarkable country, we were all blown away how they have advanced mainly since Tienamen and then of course where they are going from here. The cities were all new and amazing, and very, very clean. We were hard pressed to find any litter anywhere. All of the major attractions were amazing....The Terra Cotta Warriors were almost beyond one should miss seeing this piece of history. At every place we went, Mark and smarTours had arranged for a tour guide for us for that area....they were able to give us great insight to that days activities from a local perspective.For your information, we saw tours from much more expensive tour companies all along the way...they were seeing most of the same sights, staying at many of the same sure to realize the value of this trip
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September 2016
Recommend: Yes
My second smarTour trip was simply amazing. The value for money incredible, Harry our tour director just perfect and China mind blowing. I just can't say enough about this amazing experience, except to say "just do it". You won't have any regrets.
August 2016
Recommend: Yes
I traveled to Beijing and Shanghai with smarTours in April 2015. I had a wonderful time. Our tour guide, Tiger, was amazing and very knowledgeable. The sites and excursions were fun. I am hoping to find a great rate for a Hong Kong and Tokyo combined trip before my visa expires. I still have eight years remaining.
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August 2016
Recommend: Yes
SHANGHAI Hotel: Excellent. Shanghai Tours: Excellent. BEIJING Hotel: Excellent. Beijing Tours: Excellent

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Yangtze River Trips & Tour Advice

The Yangtze River flows for nearly 4,000 miles through the heart of China, essentially dividing the country between north and south and offering a relaxing way to escape China’s traffic-choked streets and urban air pollution. The full-length river cruises cover about 1,400 miles of the 4,000. 

You don't have to miss out on China’s two major cities: many cruise itineraries start either in Beijing, China’s capital, or Shanghai, its most vibrant city. Yangtze River cruise itineraries often include multi-day visits to both on either end of the river voyage.

If you start in Shanghai, you can explore both old colonial-era Shanghai, along the waterfront Bund District, as well as the ultra-modern new city (using your ship as hotel and restaurant). If you start in Beijing, sightseeing includes the 15th-century-era imperial Forbidden City, huge Tiananmen Square -- regarded as the center of the Middle Kingdom -- and a trip to see part of the Great Wall, which lies outside the city.

Once on the cruise itself, the itinerary may include a stop in the ancient Chinese capital of Nanjing and another at Suzhou, known as the “Venice of the East” for its network of canals.

Three Gorges

Yangtze cruises of whatever length all stop at the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydro-electric dam project. While extremely controversial during its construction because it displaced more than a million people -- as well as flooding archaeological sites and altering the landscape of the scenic Three Gorges -- it's still an engineering marvel.

The ships all sail in daylight through the Three Gorges, which, though flooded by the dam and are now a reservoir, remain a scenic wonder. The Three Gorges are Xiling -- the longest -- Wu (which includes the gorgeous 12 Peaks), and Qutang, where you'll pass by sheer cliffs. 

The river ships typically stop at villages along the route to visit pagodas, sacred mountains and other sites.

Cruise Lengths

Some itineraries cover just the distance between Chongging and Yichang, which includes the Three Gorges. These take four or five days, depending on whether you're traveling downstream or upstream (Chongqing to Yichang is downstream and the faster trip).

Some longer Yangtze itineraries (approximately 11 to 16 days), will split more land time with time afloat.

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