But even that reputation will not prepare you for the astonishingly ethereal scenery, the dramatic rock formations, the unreal serenity that sailing along the Yangtze reveals.
You’ll cruise for 400 miles through the Three Gorges region, acknowledged by the Chinese themselves as the most picturesque in their entire country. Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge, the Shennong Stream, Xiling Gorge…just when you thought you had seen the ultimate, another jaw-dropping scene appears. Culminating in the splendid city of Shanghai – an unmissable combination of old and new China.
You will be welcomed to Chengdu by your guide and escorted to your hotel.
Stay: Four nights in a Chengdu hotel
Chengdu is variously known as the City of Hibiscus, or the Brocade City. Either name has a romantic tinge which the city certainly reflects. It is the capital of Sichuan Province and dates back over 2000 years to the Qing Dynasty.
The day after your arrival you will visit the Panda Conservation Centre at Dujiangyan – a world class research, conservation and education centre. It houses over 80 pandas and as an honoured guest you will be able to join a volunteer programme that includes feeding the bears – they like apples as well as bamboo – and hugging and holding them. As well as hosing them down in hot weather!
Next day you’ll drive to Leshan to embark on a picturesque boat cruise to a giant, 71 metre tall Buddha carved into a mountain to the east of the city. You’ll also stop at a traditional tea garden.
Chengdu – Chongqing – Yangtze River
A first class rail journey aboard the Bullet Train whisks you through beautiful scenery to the town of Chongqing, where you’ll board the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer for your cruise to Yichang. You’ll sail for over 400 miles through the breath-taking Three Gorges region – taking photographs all the way; this region is considered by the Chinese themselves to be the most scenic in all of China.
Stay: Three nights aboard the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer.
Fengdu – Xiling Gorge
Take traditional Chinese exercise before disembarking to visit the relocated village of Fengdu with its charming kindergarten and bustling market selling all manner of local products. You can also try reflexology, Chinese painting and calligraphy. There is a captain’s reception in the evening.
Have your camera ready. The following day sees the Yangzi Explorer enter the fabled Qutang Gorge followed by the equally picturesque Wu Gorge. You’ll cruise along the Shennong Stream to Badong where you’ll experience a different type of vessel; a traditional sampan poled by a local Tujia boatman. In the afternoon the serene Xiling Gorge awaits.
Three Gorges – Yichang – Shanghai
This morning you arrive at the Three Gorges Project Dam Site and Exhibition Centre. The dam itself is a marvel of modern engineering; 1.2 miles across and 600 feet high. But perhaps its scale is best demonstrated by what lies beneath its surface; 13 cities, 140 towns, 1352 villages and the homes of over 1.2 million people. You’ll arrive at Yichang to be met by your local guide and taken to your Shanghai hotel.
Stay: Two nights in a Shanghai hotel.
This is a busy city full of wonders. You’ll visit the beautiful Yu Yuan Gardens with its ‘Willow Pattern’ bridge before experiencing a traditional tea ceremony. Then it’s time for shopping on the bustling Nanjing Road – one of Shanghai’s leading commercial streets – before calling into the Bund on the banks of the Huangpu River, just north of the old city. For a 360˚ panorama of Shanghai, climb the 468 metre high Oriental TV Tower with its revolving viewing lounge and waxwork museum.
Shanghai – Home
Transfer to Shanghai International Airport for your return flight home.