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The Three Gorges on the Yangtze River

The Three Gorges on the Yangtze River

The Three Gorges is perhaps the most well-known of all highlights along the Yangtze River. Found within a section of the river that spans just 200 kilometers of the full 6,300 kilometer length of the river, the Three Gorges refers to the Qutang, Wu and Xiling Gorges which are located en route between Chongqing and Yichang.

Qutang Gorge is found within the Chongqing region of the Three Gorges. Although it is the shortest and narrowest of the three gorges - just 8 kilometers long - Qutang Gorge is considered the most spectacular. The entrance to Qutang Gorge is called Kuimen Gate (夔门), which is the point at which the river passes between two mountains. And while it can be found on the 10 yuan RMB note, it’s much better to see it in person from the river itself. Incredibly, the widest point of Qutang Gorge is just 150 meters (or 500 feet), while mountains within this stretch of river tower up to 1,200 meters. Along this gorge, expect to see:

  • The curious Meng Liang Stairway; a set of meter deep rectangular holes which are believed to have been used as a pathway up the mountain
  • Ancient pathways at the foot of the mountains that run parallel to the river. Used even in more contemporary times, this footpath was designed and built for ‘barge haulers’ - people who’s profession was to tow boats upstream. The sheer grit required to work these pathways will cause you to reflect on the ingenuity, resilience, and commitment of local people, both past and present.

Wu Gorge is located between the Wushan county of Chongqing and Badong county of Hubei. It is the deepest of the gorges, winding 45 kilometers in and around the mountains that line the Yangtze. Discover Goddess Peak, one of the Twelve Peaks of Wushan, which is undoubtedly one of the most iconic highlights to be found anywhere along the river.

In the Yichang section of the Three Gorges is Xiling Gorge. This is the longest gorge of the Three Gorges, and with the construction of the Three Gorges Dam project (completed in 2003), it is effectively ‘divided’ in two from east to west. When choosing your Yangtze River tour, ask about whether the included cruise is traveling up or downstream as this impacts on whether you travel past the dam project during the day or night. Locals are extremely proud of the Three Gorges Dam, and it’s easy to see why. It is the world’s largest power station and its establishment has impacted the lives of many millions of people.

Qutang Gorge

Qutang (/chyoo-tung/ 'Qu (a family name) pond') Gorge begins at the county town of Fengjie, about 500 km (300 miles) downstream from Chongqing City, in Chongqing Municipality.

Wu Gorge

Wu ('Witch') Gorge begins where Daning River joins the Yangtze at Wushan.

Travelling up the Daning River takes travelers through the Lesser Three Gorges, a compact version of the Three Gorges, which has a still narrower set of gorges, called the Mini Three Gorges, at the far end.

Wu Gorge is also about 40 km long, and joins Xiling Gorge at the county town of Badong (/bar-dong/ literally: 'east of East Sihuan and Chongqing', just over the border in Hubei Province).

It is about 40 km (25 mi) long, and ends at Wushan (/woo-shan/ 'witch mountain') County Town.

Xiling Gorge

Xiling (/sshee-ling/ 'west mountain range') Gorge starts from Badong, where Shennong Stream and the Yangtze meet.

The crystal clear waters, suspended walkways, and hanging coffins of Shennong Stream draw tourists for mini-cruises to explore this side attraction.

Sanyou Cave (/san-yo/ 'three travellers'), where three famous ancient poets are said to have stayed, is the best cave in the Three Gorges area. Sanyou Cave is about 10 km (6 mi) from Yichang on Xiling Gorge.

Xiling Gorge is about 100 km (60 mi) long and finishes at Yichang City.

Recent Changes to the Three Gorges — Huge Dams

The Three Gorges were once a dangerous stretch of the river, nevertheless frequently used for shipping, with the inland industrial center of Chongqing as the hub.

Since the construction of the Three Gorges Dam (structurally complete in 2006) the river level has been raised by up to 180 m (590 ft), and the river has become much quieter and more navigable.

  • The world record smashing Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest dam and hydroelectric power station, is in Xiling Gorge.
  • The earlier Gezhou Dam(completed in 1988) is at Yichang City, the Three Gorges Dam is 35 km (23 mi) upriver.

Cruise ships now travel between Chongqing and Yichang on placid, lake-like waters, enclosed by steep cliffs, giving passengers a better chance to see the beauty of the gorges.


Three Gorges Bungee Jumping

In Three Gorges, tourists can experience the highest gorge bungee jumping in China – Three Gorges Bungee Jumping, which is 61m high, higher than 20 floors. The process of bungee jumping is a challenge to physical and psychological quality. Besides that, there is flying swing, which is 18m from the water and the largest swing can reach to 68m. All these facilities are located in the Happy Valley in Three Gorge Scenic Area in Yichang City.

Open Time for Happy Valley: 8:00 ~ 17:00

Ticket: ¥200/person

How to Travel Three Gorges

The best way to travel Three Gorges is taking a cruise ship, and in this way, you don't need to carry the heavy luggage around and keep transferring from one hotel to another. At present, the most popular two routes are: 4 days & 3 nights downstream cruise from Chongqing to Yichang and 5 days & 4 nights upstream cruise from Yichang to Chongqing. In these two routes, when passing through the Three Gorges, tourists can make shore excursions to Shibaozhai Pagoda, Fengdu Ghost City, White Emperor City, Shennv Stream and Three Gorges Dam. The cruise travel will give tourists a full experience of the beautiful scenery in the Three Gorges. There are many cruise ships in Yangtze River, and all of them are equipped with advanced facilities and personalized services.


To visit the Three Gorges, tourists need to get to Chongqing or Yichang first, then take the cruise ship from there.

By Flight:

Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport and Yichang Three Gorges Airport are the closest airports to Three Gorges.

Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport has airlines to over 40 major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xian, Wuhan, Kunming, etc. and it also has international flights to Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, etc.

While Yichang Sanxia Airport has airlines to major cities to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xian, Chongqing, Kunming, etc. and it also has regular airlines to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Busan.

By Train:

Tourists can also take a train to Chongqing and Yichang first, then head to the scenic spot. Chongqing North Railway Station has bullet trains to/from Chengdu, Hankou, Wuhan, Xian, Shanghai, etc. while Chongqing Railway Station has regular trains to/from Guiyang, Neijiang, Zunyi, Kunming, etc. Yichang Railway Station has direct trains to/from Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Wuxi, Xian, Taiyuan, Wuhan, etc.


If you choose a cruise ship, then you don't need to worry about the accommodation. The ship will provide star-hotel level accommodation for its passengers, and tourists can also appreciate the scenery out of the window in the ship. If you choose to visit the Three Gorges one by one from the land, then you can stay overnight at the closest county or city to the scenic area. In Chongqing and Yichang, there are many hotels to choose, from starred hotels to youth hostels. While in the small counties, like Fengjie Couty and Wushan County, tourists can accommodate in youth hostels. Most of the youth hostels are cheap, yet with a good facility and environment.

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit is spring and autumn. During these two seasons, the weather is warm and sunshine is abundant, no matter the green trees and pink blossoms in spring or the red leaves and fresh fruits in autumn, both them are gorgeous. While in summer and winter, the weather is not comfortable as spring and autumn, but the sceneries still have special flavors. In winter, there will be full mountains of fiery red leaves during November and December, which is praised a lot by tourists.

Dressing Code:

The weather in the gorge is humid and fickle, so it's better to bring warm coat and rainproof. If you take a cruise ship, the wind is rather strong when the ship sails, thus, don't stay too long in the deck in case of getting a cold. Average temperature in spring and autumn is between 10℃ and 20℃, sweater, jacket and rainproof wind coat are good choices. Shore excursions of Yangtze River will require tourists to climb mountains, so one pair of comfortable and light hiking shoes are definitely necessary.

The Map of the Three Gorges

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