Your China bucket list: The Yangtze River

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While not as well-known as some of China’s other must-see attractions - like the Great Wall or Terracotta Warriors - the Yangtze River is by no means missable and offers a welcome relaxed pace compared to the hectic cities of Beijing and Shanghai. Awe-inspiring natural beauty, iconic World Heritage sites and cultures enhanced over centuries are just some of the riches waiting to be discovered along China’s legendary waterway.

With three- and four-night cruises between Chongqing and Yichang, the new look Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer combines the very best aspects of the river - Daoist temples, forest-cloaked peaks and history-steeped cities – with an immersive and cultural on board experience.

Here’s what to expect on a three-night cruise:

The port of Chongqing in the Sichuan Province – famous for its pandas – is the gateway to the 3,915-mile Yangtze and acts as the starting point for our three-night cruise of the Yangtze River. Known as the ‘Mountain City’ thanks to its stunning location, the city is best appreciated at night with a cocktail in hand at the Explorer Bar.

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Sailing away from the city lights, start the first full day of your cruise by leaving your daily stresses behind thanks to an early morning Tai Chi session. This traditional Chinese martial art has been practiced for centuries, with proven health and wellbeing benefits – the perfect introduction to your Yangtze cruise and available each morning for your enjoyment.

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Feeling rejuvenated, we’ll visit the ancient river town of Fengdu where you’ll get a unique glimpse into some of China’s most remote communities. Fengdu Ghost City is a collection of historical shrines, temples and monasteries which celebrate the afterlife, drawing visitors from around the world. In Chinese legend, the stone Bridge of Helplessness from the Ming Dynasty is said to provide the ultimate test of good and evil.

During this excursion, we’ll take you to meet some of the residents of Fengdu, giving you the opportunity to ask them about their lives and how they’ve had to evolve with China’s urbanisation. It’s an honest and enlightening experience, made all the more special with a visit to a kindergarten.

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Back on board, try your hand at the ancient art of calligraphy with our expert. Viewed as an art form rather than simply a style of writing, the elevated status of calligraphy reflects the importance of the written word in China – with such knowledge often relating to higher status.

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Day three of the cruise is all about the striking Three Gorges; Qutang, Wu and Xiling.

Each of the gorges has its own character and scenery: Qutang Gorge is known for its dramatic waters and towering cliffs; Wu Gorge is characterised by majestic peaks crowned by lush forests (legend has it that Yao Ji loved this area so much that she and her 12 attendants were transformed into the graceful peaks you can see here along the river); Xiling Gorge is special for the many smaller gorges and canyons that punctuate its picturesque banks. Visit the nearby Three Gorges Tribe to gain an insight into the historical way of life of the Tujia community.

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As we sail through this truly spectacular natural phenomenon, there’s time to experience a ride along the Shennong Stream on a sampan - a traditional longboat rowed by expert Tujia boatmen. As we gently sail through this stunning riverine gorge flanked by verdant forest, you’ll see evidence of early settlements in the form of hanging coffins stowed high within the limestone cliffs.

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Between excursions, unwind in our spa which offers a range of treatments from facials to body massages. You can further supercharge your wellbeing with use of the fitness centre or a visit to the on-board Chinese Medicine Doctor to experience traditional Chinese reflexology first-hand.

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Of course, what journey through China would be complete without sampling the country’s renowned cuisine? Throughout your cruise, our experts are on hand to give you an introduction to various aspects of China’s gastronomic fare, including a dumpling making class and the all-important tea ceremony.

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Our last stop is Yichang, remarkable for its grand mountains, historical relics, and the Three Gorges Project Dam Site and Exhibition Centre. It’s here you’ll disembark for your onward journey, but we recommend staying the night to experience the city’s vibrant night market.

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Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer operates three-night cruises from Chongqing to Yichang and four-night cruises from Yichang to Chongqing from March to November.

 Brand new photography is now available for Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer and can be found on our Image Library.