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How to Plan a China Tour with Yangtze River Cruise in 2022/2023

For most first-time travelers to China, they would like to enjoy a long China vacation to explore the most aspects of vast China with different amazing sceneries, splendid cultures, delicious food and diverse lifestyles. Yangtze River cruise with 4 or 5 days along the beautiful Yangtze River between Chongqing and Yichang, offers great chance to relax both onboard and onshore. The cruise is often regarded as the must-do thing in their China travel bucket list and served as the short break for the long China trip. It will be once-in-a-lifetime experience when you have seen Great Wall and Forbidden City in Beijing, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xian, the haunting karst landscape in Guilin, cosmopolitan Shanghai and original Yangtze River in central part...

So, how to plan a China tour with a Yangtze River cruise in 2022/2023? Check our ultimate planning guide which includes best time to visit China and take a Yangtze cruise, top destinations to go in China, how to stay, how to combine a cruise into the China tour, as well as how to get to the cruise port to board your ship, to make sure you see everything you want to see and go in smooth way. If you don’t know how to plan a Yangtze River cruise yet, please go to read Yangtze River Cruise Ultimate Planning Guide 2022/2023 first. After having a basic understanding about the cruise planning, you can continue to plan your China tour with Yangtze River cruise. Start planning now!

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Best Time to Travel in China & Yangtze River

China a a vast country and has the most extreme variety of climates, ranging from subtropical in the southern hills to subarctic in Manchuria. As the rich China climate, the weather in China varies from region to region by different temperature zones - tropical monsoon zone, subtropical monsoon zone, temperate monsoon zone, temperate continental zone and alpine-cold zone. The average temperature of the year in China is around 8℃ ~ 18℃.

  • North China: This region includes Beijing, Datong, Pingyao, Luoyang and more destinations, featuring the temperature monsoon climate with four distinct seasons. It is hot in summer and bitterly cold in winter. Spring and Autumn enjoy comfortable weather which belongs to the best seasons to visit North China.
  • Northeast China: It belongs to temperate monsoon climate with huge temperature differences in summers and winters. The average temperature in summer is around 25℃ and the average temperature in winter is around -20℃. The best time to go is during winter time for the Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province.
  • Northwest China: This region covering most desert land include Gansu, Xinjiang, Qinghai. It belongs to the temperature continental climate and the summer can be burning hot in daytime and quite cold at night. Spring and Autumn are quite dry and temperature varies dramatically from day and night. The best time to visit northwest China region is from May to October.
  • South Central China: This region such as Wuhan, Zhangjiajie, Guilin is affected by the subtropical monsoon climate with hot, wet summers and dry, clod winters. While in spring and autumn, the temperature is mild and pleasant for outdoor activities.
  • Southwest China: It includes Sichuan, Yunnan, Tibet and more regions. Chengdu sits in this area on the flat plain with distinctive four seasons - spring and autumn are comfortable, hot stuffy summer and relatively warm winter. The other regions like Tibet and Yunnan enjoy both subtropical monsoon climate and plateau climate with changeable weather even during one day.
  • Southeast China: This region include Hangzhou, Huangshan, Xiamen, and more. It features semi tropical summers and cool winters. The weather in southeast region tends to be milder and wetter. It can be visited all year round.

Yangtze River Weather & Best Time to Visit

The most classic part for a Yangtze River cruise is between Chongqing and Yichang, with a distance of 648 kilometers. This section belongs to the upper and middle reaches of Yangtze with monsoon subtropical climate and enjoys distinct four seasons around the year. As for the weather, temperature and sceneries along the river, the best time to take a Yangtze River cruise is in Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November)

Beijing Mutianyu Great Wall in Autumn

Visit Beijing Mutianyu Great Wall in Autumn

Guilin Li River in Spring

Visit Guilin Li River in Spring

Best Time to Cruise

Three Gorges in Autumn

Best Time to Cruise Yangtze

Three Gorges in Spring

To sum up, the best time to visit China depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. You just take some time to consider your travel date, travel length and destinations you will visit. There is no need to worry about your exact cruise time since Yangtze River cruise is available all the year round. You are guaranteed to select an ideal cruise to match your schedule.

Please Note: try to avoid the three big holidays in China: Chinese National Day (October 1 to October 7), Labor Day (May 1 to May 5) and Chinese Spring Festival. During these holidays, it will be crowded in the tourist spots, and the hotels and flight prices will be relatively higher.

Learn more about: Yangtze River Weather, Climate & Temperature | Best Time to Take a Yangtze River Cruise

Where to Go in China - Top Hot Destinations to Explore in China

Vast and diverse, China is a giant of travel destination. Being the fourth largest country in the world, it is no surprise that you can find a wide array of unreal landscapes, iconic tourist attractions, splendid cultural highlights, and endless list of amazing things to see and do. Besides, China has a variety of adventurous activities and landscapes that are bound to get you inspired and excited. Check the following 8 best places to go in China and you can combine some of them into your Yangtze River cruise for a long China tour!

No.1 Beijing - Capital of China & Rich in History and Culture

Beijing is the capital of China, usually served as the first destination (or last destination) for a China tour. Combining both modern and traditional architecture, Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, with a history of over 3000 years. This world famous city is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, parks, gardens, tombs, walls and gates. It has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian, parts of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal. Besides the imperial sites and genius wonders, you have chance to seek for the local Hutong lifestyle and taste for Peking Roasted Duck. Learn more about Beijing Yangtze Tours >>

  • Must-see Attractions: Mutianyu Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, Traditional Hutongs
  • Recommended Travel Length: 3 or 4 days
  • Recommended Beijing + Yangtze Cruise:
    7 Days Ancient Beijing & Yangtze Cruise Tour (Beijing / Chongqing / Yangtze / Yichang)
Beijing Forbidden City

Beijing Forbidden City

No.2 Xian - Capital of 13 Ancient China Dynasties & Famous for Terracotta Warriors

There is a saying “If you have not been to Xian, you have not been to China”. Xian, with a history of more than 3000 years, was the capital for 13 China dynasties and a total of 73 emperors ruled here. Taking a short visiting here, you can have a marvel at the incredible man-made wonder Terracotta Warriors, either stroll or bike on Ancient City Wall, enjoy free roaming along Muslim Quarter, or take an educational visiting in Shaanxi History Museum, etc. Surely, you will learn a lot in this lively historical museum. Learn more about Xian Yangtze Tours >>

  • Must-see Attractions: Terracotta Warriors, Ancient City Wall, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Muslim Quarter, Shaanxi History Museum
  • Recommended Travel Length: 1 or 2 days
  • Recommended Xian + Yangtze Cruise:
    6 Days Ancient Xian & Yangtze Cruise Tour (Xian / Chongqing / Yangtze / Yichang)
Terracotta Warriors in Xian

Terracotta Warriors in Xian

No.3 Shanghai - Metropolis in East China & Witness Fast Development of China

Shanghai, called the Paris in the East, is also served as the first or last stop in China. It is the largest and most developed city in China that it used to be a shabby fishing village and now has been turning into the metropolis with fast development. Its skyline on the bank of Huangpu River is filling with skyscrapers while shiny shopping malls, luxurious hotels and prestigious arts centers are rising alongside. With 1-2 hours’ driving, you can enter into the peaceful water towns with poetic scenery where you can totally get relaxed. Learn more about Shanghai Yangtze Tours >>

The Bund of Shanghai

The Bund & Oriental Pearl Tower of Shanghai

No.4 Guilin - Relaxing Resort with Picturesque Karst Landscape

Guilin is a leisure paradise in South China. It will absolutely give you to the fullest fun with the most beautiful karst landscape and interesting outdoor activities. When stepping on the land, you can release your eyes and intense mind when viewing the painting-like scenery by taking a cruise along the hundred-mile long Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo. While Yangshuo is the hidden gem dotted with scattered karst hills in eye-pleasant emerald and jasper. Extend to Longsheng County in north of Guilin to feast your eyes with unbelievable man-made agricultural Longji Rice Terrace landscape in the ethnic region. Imagine how fun it will be in Guilin! Learn more about Guilin Yangtze Tours >>

Guilin Yangshuo Countryside

Guilin Yangshuo Countryside (Yulong River Bamboo Rafting)

No.5 Chengdu - Hometown of Giant Pandas & the Land of Abundance

Chengdu is in the southwest of China, known as “Hometown of Giant Pandas”. To see the adorable pandas, you can head to Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding where has more than 100 giant pandas. To have memorable experience, you can transfer to Dujiangyan Panda Base to do the panda volunteer program that you can take care of the pandas and feed them in person. Besides, Chengdu is famous for “laid-back” living pace and UNESCO’s City of Gastronomy. Go to the local city park to enjoy a cup of tea and try hot pot to taste the spicy Sichuan food. Furthermore, Chengdu is sitting on the Land of Abundance, being the gateway to other destinations in Sichuan. You can easily get to see Leshan Giant Buddha, Mount Emei and Jiuzhai Valley and Huanglong National Park from Chengdu. Learn more about Chengdu Yangtze Tours >>

  • Must-see Attractions: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Wenshu Monastery, Jinli Old Street, People’s Park
  • Recommended Travel Length: 1 to 3 days
  • Recommended Chengdu + Yangtze Cruise:
    6 Days Yangtze River Cruise Tour from Chengdu (Chengdu / Chongqing / Yangtze / Yichang)
Chengdu Panda

Chengdu Panda at Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

No.6 Zhangjiajie - Avatar Mountains & Heart-beating Sceneries & Activities

Zhangjiajie is located in central China in Hunan Province. It is a popular choice to combine it into your tour before or after the Yangtze cruise. Zhangjiajie is very hot in recent years well known for its striking surrounding surreal landscape. The UNESCO-protected Zhangjiajie National Forest Park represents the main attraction in Zhangjiajie, with over 3000 quartzite sandstone columns providing one of the region’s most arresting natural sights. The thrilling Glass Bridge experience over Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon is another cool experience you can try. I am surely the Avatar Mountains will make you breathe accelerating, needless to say the adventurous activities bring you more fun. Learn more about Zhangjiajie Yangtze Tours >>

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

No.7 Yunnan - Home to 25 Ethnic Groups & Amazing Plateau Natural Landscape

Yunnan is in southwest China, offering a diversity of both people and landscape that makes it a dreamy paradise for travelers. It has 25 ethnic minority groups living harmoniously together in the vast province. The unique song and dance, culture and folklore, etc. of each distinct group make Yunnan Province the most colorful and majestic region in entire China, providing an extraordinary glimpse into China's mixed garden of humanity with great joy. Most travelers would like to go the classic golden route (Kunming - Dali - Lijiang - Shangri-La), the No.1 tour in Yunnan giving you a chance to see the most iconic sights in Yunnan and meet Yi, Bai, Naxi, Tibetan people and explore their stunning culture. If you have more time, go to visit Dongchuan Red Land and Yuanyang Rice Terrace for more natural masterpieces.

  • Must-see Attractions: Stone Forest (Kunming), Three Pagodas, Erhai Lake (Dali), Lijiang Old Town (Lijiang), Tiger Leaping Gorge, Songzanlin Monastery (Shangri-La)
  • Recommended Travel Length: 6 to 8 days
Lijiang Old Town

Lijiang Old Town Panoramic View

No.8 Tibet - Roof of the World & Center of Tibetan Buddhism Culture

Tibet, well linking with Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Xinjiang in mainland China, is a uniquely spiritual place offering fabulous monasteries, breathtaking natural views, stunning high-altitude treks as well as one of the friendliest people. By visiting Tibet, you will not only appreciate a visual feast and but also experience a lifetime cultural encounter. For travelers who has limited time, they will go to visit Lhasa for around 3 days. The most outstanding highlight here is its magnificent palace and temples, such as the famous Polata Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, and Norbulingka. If you have more time, you can go to Namtso Lake, Shigatse, Guantse, Mount Everest, etc.

  • Must-see Attractions: Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery
  • Recommended Travel Length: 3 to 7 days
Lhasa Jokhang Temple

Lhasa Jokhang Temple

To fully learn what to see and explore in China and along the Yangtze River with different arrangements and experience, you can turn to All China Yangtze Tours for more inspiration.

Decide How Many Days to Stay in China

Your cruise experience on the Yangtze River won’t be long, usually lasting about 4 to 5 days. No matter you are looking forward to a simple cruise vacation or want to put cruise into your long China trip, 4 days or 5 days on the river will be perfect for a comfortable break. Besides, other places in China usually take about 2 to 3 days for each destination.

>> 4 Days Chongqing Essence Tour with Yangtze Cruise (Chongqing / Yangtze / Yichang)

>> 5 Days Yichang Tour with Yangtze Cruise Experience (Yichang / Yangtze / Chongqing)

So, if you have 4~7 days, you can enjoy Yangtze River cruise with Chongqing and Yichang. And also, spend 2 or 3 days in each of the destination, like Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Zhangjiajie, Guilin, Chengdu. If you want to cover two destinations with Yangtze cruise, the itineraries will be very tight. This is often chosen by second time or multiple time to China for relaxing cruise experience.

If you have 8 to 10 days for a China tour, it usually can cover 2 or 3 destinations with a Yangtze River cruise. You can go like this: Beijing - Xian - Yangtze Cruise; Beijing - Yangtze Cruise - Shanghai; Xian - Yangtze Cruise - Zhangjiajie; or Guilin - Yangtze Cruise - Zhangjiajie, and so on.

If you have 11 to 15 days, it can include most hot destinations in China, like Beijing - Xian - Yangtze Cruise - Shanghai, Beijing - Xian - Guilin - Yangtze Cruise - Shanghai, Beijing - Xian - Yangtze Cruise - Zhangjiajie - Shanghai, Beijing - Xian - Chengdu - Guilin - Yangtze Cruise - Shanghai, and more. This is the popular choice for most first-timers to China.

If you have more than 15 days, you can put Yunnan, Tibet and other destinations into the China trip for panoramic experience around huge China.

Chongqing Chaotianmen Dock

Chongqing, An Important Starting Point of Yangtze Cruise

Yangtze River Cruise

Yangtze River Cruise Experience on Century Ship

Yichang Three Gorges Dam

Yichang Three Gorges Dam

>> 6 Days Chongqing, Yangtze River & Zhangjiajie Exciting Tour (Chongqing / Yangtze Cruise / Yichang / Zhangjiajie)

>> 11 Days China Golden Triangle Tour with Yangtze River Cruise (Beijing / Xian / Chongqing / Yangtze Cruise / Yichang / Shanghai)

>> 13 Days Classic China Tour with Yangtze Cruise (Beijing / Xian / Guilin / Yangshuo / Chongqing / Yangtze Cruise / Yichang / Shanghai)

>> 15 Days China Yangtze Tour with Zhangjiajie Landscape & Guilin Karst (Shanghai / Guilin / Chongqing / Yangtze Cruise / Yichang / Zhangjiajie / Xian / Beijing)

How to Combine a Yangtze River Cruise into a China Tour

In 2022, there are two routes for you to choose: (1) Downstream Cruise from Chongqing to Yichang - 4 Days & 3 Nights; (2) Upstream Cruise from Yichang to Chongqing - 5 Days & 4 Nights.

That’s to say, you’ll board a Yangtze cruise either in Chongqing or Yichang. For more than half travelers, they would like to take the downstream cruise from Chongqing to Yichang. Chongqing is a megacity in southwest China, with convenient transportation network well linking with Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Guilin, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, etc. If you get to China via these cities, then, you are recommended to choose Chongqing to start the cruise. While, Yichang is a small port city in Hubei Province, close to Wuhan, with limited flights and high speed trains connecting with other cities. If you get to China via Shanghai, then you can choose Yichang as the start for the cruise.

Yangtze River Cruise Port Map

Yangtze River Cruise Port Map (Click to Enlarge)

How to Get to Chongqing or Yichang to Board Your Ship?

Getting to Chongqing

If you take the 4 days and 3 nights downstream cruise from Chongqing to Yichang, you will need to get to Chongqing first and then make a transfer from Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport or Railway Station(s) to Chongqing Chaotianmen Dock.

Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport (重庆江北国际机场)

Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport provides continent flight services to/from more than 200 cities in domestic China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Huangshan, Guangzhou, Guiyang, Kunming, Lhasa, etc. Besides, there are also more than 80 overseas flights routes to/from Chongqing Jiangbei Airport, including flights to/from New York, Singapore, London, Sydney, etc.

Chongqing Railway Stations & High Speed Trains

There are 4 frequently-used train stations in Chongqing. They are Chongqing Railway Station (重庆站), Chongqing North Railway Station (重庆北站), Chongqing West Railway Station (重庆西站) and Chongqing Shapingba Railway Station (重庆沙坪坝站).

Every day, there are more than 400 high speed trains running from/to Chongqing. You can catch bullet trains to Chongqing from Beijing (12 hours around), Shanghai (11.5 hours around), Xian (5.5 hours around), Chengdu (2 hours around), Lanzhou (7 hours around), Guiyang (2 hours around), Guilin (4-5 hours around), Guangzhou (7.5 hours around) and so on.

Chongqing Chaotianmen Dock (重庆朝天门码头)

Chaotianmen Dock has 14 separated piers. Different cruise companies use different piers. It is recommended to use our private car service that we can take you to the correct port and pier directly without any trouble. If you go by taxi, you can check the following info to make a transfer.

Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport

Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport

Chongqing Chaotianmen Dock

Map of Chongqing Chaotianmen Dock (Click to Enlarge)

From To Distance Estimated Time
Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport Chaotianmen Dock 28km About 0.5-1 hour
Chongqing Railway Station 6km About 20 minutes
Chongqingxi Railway Station 21km About 0.5-1 hour
Chongqingbei Railway Station (North Square) 11km About 30 minutes
Chongqingbei Railway Station (South Square) 10km About 20 minutes
Shapingba Railway Station 16km About 30 minutes

Learn more about: Chongqing Transportation: How to Get to & around | Xian Chongqing Transportation | Guilin Chongqing Transportation

Getting to Yichang

For travelers who take a 5 days and 4 nights upstream cruise from Yichang to Chongqing, you need to get to Yichang first and then transfer from Yichang Sanxia Airport or Yichang East Railway Station to Yichang Three Gorges Center Cruise Terminal.

Yichang Sanxia Airport (宜昌三峡机场)

Yichang Sanxia Airport has frequent scheduled flights go from more than 20 domestic destinations including Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Guiyang, Kunming, and Tianjin etc. It is about 26 kilometers from Yichang downtown area.

Yichang East Railway Station (宜昌东站)

Yichang is well connected with Shanghai, Wuhan, Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen by high speed train. It takes about 2.5 hours to Wuhan and 7.5-8.5 hours to Shanghai, 4.5 hours to Chongqing, 7 Hours to Chengdu, 5 hours to Nanjing, 7 Hours to Guangzhou, etc., offering you great convenience to get to or away from Yichang. Also, normal trains connect Yichang with Zhangjiajie (5.5 hours), Xian (10.5 hours), etc.

Yichang Three Gorges Center Cruise Terminal (宜昌三峡游客中心)

Yichang Three Gorges Center Cruise Terminal is the gathering place that all the cruise companies arrange buses running to Yichang Maoping Port or Sandouping Port to board your ship.

Yichang Sanxia Airport

Yichang Sanxia Airport

Location Map of Yichang Ports

Location Map of Yichang Ports (Click to Enlarge)

From To Cruise Company Running Time Time Consuming
Three Gorges Center Cruise Terminal Maoping Port Century Cruises
Victoria Cruises
President Cruises
Yangtze Gold Cruises
Yangtze 2 Cruise
Yangtze Explorer Cruise
16:00~21:00 About 2 hours
Sandouping Port Yangtze 1 Cruise 19:00 - 20:00 About 1.5 hours

Learn more about: Yichang Transportation: How to Get to & around | Get to Yichang from Shanghai | Get to Yichang from Zhangjiajie | Get to Yichang from Guilin

Tailor Make Your China Yangtze Tour

No matter you want to put port cities (Chongqing or Yichang) into your Yangtze River trip or cover several destinations together or even extend your Yangtze cruise tour all over China, www.yangtze-river-cruises.com can provide you best tour guides and experienced drivers with comfortable private cars in any of the destinations. Our English-speaking tour guide will accompany you all the way, showing you the best traveling route and telling beautiful stories in each of the destination.  The tour can be tailor-made according to your group size, time, physical condition, plan, interests, budget and other special need.

  • Explore your interests at your own speed;
  • Select your preferred style of accommodation;
  • Taste the local cuisines or western dishes;
  • Create the trip with the help of our professional one-on-one travel consultants.
Yangtze River Cruise Experience

Yangtze River Cruise Experience (with Victoria Cruises)

Please feel free to contact us if you need any help or customize the tour with free quotation!

Top Recommended Yangtze River Ships

Still feel trouble? Check How to Choose Your Best Yangtze Ship to get inspired now!



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