The Yangtze River gets its name from the Chinese for "long river." Not surprising, since it is, at 3,964 miles, the longest river in all of Asia - not to mention the third longest in the world. A map of the Yangtze river winds itself from the mountaintops of Tanggula Shan, directly through the center of China before ending just north of Shanghai at the mouth of the East China Sea. Thus, the Yangtze River is one of the most important methods of transportation, as you can pretty much move from one end of the country to the other by boat. Especially when you consider the vast amount of tributaries sprouting from the enormous river, the import of the waterway cannot be ignored.
But one of the most scenic and unique experiences for the tourist is to take a boat trip down a section of the river - usually between Chongqing and Wuhan. Yangtze River cruises are beautiful, economic, and a wonderful way to take in the country outside of its bustling major cities. These cruises pass through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, including the beautiful Three Gorges, and often will visit the amazing Three Gorges Dam. The cruises are almost alway sold as vacation packages that include stays in Beijing and visit Xian to see the remarkable Terra Cotta Warriors.
As you travel down the river, you can see remnants of the ancient Chinese civilizations that called the shores of the great river home. All kinds of ancient temples and villages and other relics from a long-forgotten age dot the landscape, and you will see small traditional fishing boats and agriculture that is still practiced as it was hundreds of years ago.
Though a map of the Yangtze river can be a bit intimidating, most of the river can be traveled in smaller segments: the Upper Reaches from the source of Qinghai Province to Yichang, the Middle Reaches from Yichang to Hukou, and the Lower Reaches from Hukou to the estuary. The Upper Reaches is the most scenic, with ragged mountain ranges to unbroken ravines and dangerous rapids, this area is popular with those who enjoy spending hours just gazing at the unspoiled nature of the riverside.
The majority of tourists, though, check out the Yangtze river near the end of its route, just to the north of Shanghai, where it empties into the Pacific. Transportation from Shanghai is easy. Nanjing, Zhenjiang and Jiangyin are the most common sites to take in the giant river, with each being a usual stop on any Yangtze River cruise. If you follow along with a map of the Yangtze river, however, most major cities are a port to some cruise line, or maybe just a local fishing boat willing to take on a few extra passengers.
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