Scenic Spots by Route Chongqing to Wanxian
The cruise starts at Chongqing, the biggest city in Southwest China and key port of departure and destination for Yangtze River cruises. For the first few hours the river is lined with factories, but this gives way to some pretty, green terraced countryside with the occasional small town.
One of the first stops is usually the town of Fengdu. Nearby Pingdushan is said to be the abode of devils. Here the famous ‘ghost City’ is deserved to visit. Numerous temples containing sculptures of demons and devils have been built on the mountain since the Tang dynasty, with heartening names like ‘Between the Living and the Dead’, ‘Bridge of Helplessness’ and ‘Palace of the King of Hell’. Travelers have given mixed reviews to this little ‘Hell World’ exhibit.
The boat then passes through Zhongxian County. North-east of the county seat of Zhongzhou is the Oian Jinggou site, where primitive stone artefacts, including axes, hoes and stone weights attached to fishing nets, were unearthed.
Soon after comes the Shibaozhai (Stone Treasure Stronghold) on the northern bank of the river. Shibaozhai is a 30m-high rock, which is supposed to look something like a stone seal.
Next is the large town of Wanxian, where most morning boats tie up for the night. It’s a neat, hilly town and a great place to wander around for a few hours while the boat is in port.
Wanxian to Yichang
Boats overnighting at Wanxian generally depart before dawn. Before entering the gorges the boat passes by (and may stop at) the town of Fengjie (Yong’an). This ancient town was the capital of the state of Kui during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods from 722 to 221 BC. The town overlooks the Qutang Gorge, the first of the three Yangtze gorges.
Just east of Fengjie is a 1 km long shoal where the remains of stone piles could be seen when the water level was low. These piles were erected in the Stone and Bronze ages, possibly for commemorative and sacrificial purposes, but their remains were removed in 1964 since they were considered a danger to navigation. At the entrance to the Outang Gorge, Baidicheng, or White King Town, is on the river’s northern bank.
The spectacular Sanxia (Three Gorges), Outang, Wu and Xiling, start just after Fengjie and end near Yichang, a stretch of about 200 km. The gorges vary from 300m at their widest to less that 100m at their narrowest. The seasonal difference in water level can be as much as 50m.
In between the Qutang and Wu gorges, most boats will stop for five to six hours so passengers can shift to smaller boats for tours of the Lesser Three Gorges. Flanking the Daning River, these gorges are much narrower than their larger counterparts and, some travellers say, more dramatic. You have the chance to get out and view the rock formations up close.
Xiling Gorge is the longest of the three gorges at 80km. At the end of the gorge everyone crowds out onto the deck to watch the boat pass through the locks of the huge Gezhouba Dam.
The next stop is the industrial town of Yichang, which is regarded as the gateway to the upper Yangtze and was once a walled city dating back at least as far as the Sui dynasty. Near the Yichang railway station you can take bus No.10 to White Norse Cave (baima dong), where for a fee you can boat and walk through taverns with impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Five minutes’ walk from the other end is an equally impressive place - Three Visitors Cave (sanyou dong), along with a cliff trail that overlooks the Yangtze River.
Yichang to Wuhan
After leaving Yichang, the next major town is Shashi, a light-industrial town. After Shashi there’s not much to look at: you’re out on the flat plains of central China, the river widens immensely and you can see little of the shore. The boat continues down the river to pass by (and possibly stop at) the town of Chenglingji, which lies at the confluence of Dongting Lake and the Yangtze River.
East of Dongting Lake is the town of Yueyang. Another nine hours will bring you to Wuhan, at which point most travellers are quite ready to part ways with their boat.