Why you should put the Yangtze River on your China bucket list
While not as well-known as some of China’s other must-see attractions – like the Great Wall or the 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 3 and 4-night cruises between Chongqing and Yichang, the 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.
The elegant Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer sets the standard for luxury cruising in China, with strong environmental commitments. Friendly and intimate, on board service is a highlight with an atmosphere more private club than cruise ship.
Occupying 4 decks, the ship boasts the largest and best-appointed cabins on the river. Each has floor to ceiling picture windows, private balconies and ensuite bathroom. Dining is also a delight, with a team of internationally trained chefs delivering innovative à la carte menus featuring the finest of Chinese and continental cuisine.
Here’s what to expect on a cruise on board the River’s most luxurious river cruise ship…
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 the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer’s 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.
On day 2, visit an intriguing, secret 816 Underground Project secret project, hidden in the mountains of Fuling. The 816 Underground Project is the world’s largest artificial military cave. Over 50 years ago, more than 60,000 constructers, came to Jianzishan, an uninhabited place among mountains and forest, to start work on a top-secret construction of a monumental scale. The work continued for 17 years and was nearly completed when the government decided to suspend it, before any nuclear material could be produced. Now as the secrets of military caves are revealed, you will be able to look at the true face of 816 project hidden for 50 years. Or explore the White Crane Ridge Underwater Museum. The museum takes you some 148 feet under water to admire the river bed and the intricate ancient rock carvings left there many years ago.
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.
Day 3 of your cruise is all about the striking Three Gorges – Qutang, Wu and Xiling. Each gorge 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 twelve attendants were transformed into the graceful peaks you can see here along the river); and Xiling Gorge is special for the many smaller gorges and canyons that punctuate its picturesque banks. You’ll also visit the nearby Three Gorges Tribe to gain an insight into the historical way of life of the Tujia community.
As you sail through this truly spectacular natural phenomenon, there’s also time to experience a ride along the Shennong Stream on a sampan – a traditional longboat rowed by expert Tujia boatmen. As you 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.
In between excursions, take time to unwind in the Huang Ding Spa on board the Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer, which offers a range of treatments from facials to body massages. Plus you can further supercharge fitness with a visit to the ship’s fitness centre or the on-board Chinese Medicine Doctor to experience a little traditional Chinese reflexology first-hand.
Of course, what journey through China would be complete without sampling some of its sensational cuisine? Throughout your cruise, Sanctuary Retreats’ 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.
Your 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 it is definitively worth staying overnight here to experience the city’s vibrant night market.
The Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer offers 3 and 4 night cruises between Yichang and Chongqing. 3-night cruises depart Chongqing on Thursday and travel downstream to Yichang, arriving on Sunday. Alternatively, guests can travel upstream over 4 nights, leaving Yichang on Sunday and arriving in Chongqing the following Thursday, with prices starting from just USD1,350 per person twin share.
However, why not take advantage of Sanctuary Retreat’s extended Early Booking Offer. Book and pay in full 3 months before any 2019 sailing and receive a 25% discount and a free cabin upgrade for bookings made for the Shoulder and High seasons, and a 10% discount for bookings made in the Peak season.
Shoulder Season from 2 June – 5 September 2019.
Save from USD675 per couple per cruise twin share.
High Season from 31 October – 10 November 2019, 28 November 2019.
Save from USD1,017.50 per couple per cruise twin share.
Peak Season from 8 September – 27 October 2019.
Save from USD451 per couple per cruise twin share.
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