Chongqing Three Gorges of Yangtze River

Chongqing Travel Guide of China

Things to do in Three Gorges

  • Dazu Rock Carvings

    Dazu Rock Carvings

  • Wulong Furong Cave

    Wulong Furong Cave

  • Three Gorges Museum

    Three Gorges Museum

  • Old Chongqing, Ciqikou Old Town

    Old Chongqing, Ciqikou Old Town

  • Downstream Yangtze River Cruise

    Downstream Yangtze River Cruise

  • Second Day Cruise on the Yangtze River

    Second Day Cruise on the Yangtze River

The top sites in Three Gorges >>

When talking about the three gorges of the Yangtze River, we think directly about the famous dam with the same name which is controversial worldwide. The social, environmental and economic consequences are a double-edged sword. Yet, by reading our Chongqing and the three Gorges of the Yangtze River travel guide, you will discover that the three Gorges remain one of the most beautiful national treasures of China. The region with its cliffs plunging along the longest river in Asia is mysterious and divine, perfect for a fascinating and relaxing trip.

Overview of Yangtze River and Three Gorges Dam

The Yangtze River, also written Yangtse, is the longest river in Asia, is an impetuous river difficult to control. Originating on the Tibetan plateau, it crosses China from west to east before emptying into the East China Sea, north of Shanghai. With a length of 6,300 kilometers, it crosses fantastic landscapes including the Three Gorges Dam on the border between Sichuan and Hubei in central China. 
The vagaries of the Yangtze or Blue River, are such that the government built a dam near Yichang, Hubei, in the middle of the third gorge. One of the goals of the Three Gorges dam is to control flooding of the Yangtze River and prevent deadly floods that occur in the region. However, above all, the dam is designed to produce 15% of renewable energy in China and to develop the economy of the  surrounding cities including, Chongqing and Shanghai.

Huge Project of Three Gorges Dam 

The Three Gorges Dam is a huge project whose construction lasted more than 15 years. Launched in 2009, it is one of the largest dams in the world neither by height nor by the capacity of the tank, but by its hydroelectric production. It covers nearly 2.5 kilometers wide with a height of 185 meters, 5 meters above the maximum level of the tank. Since July 2012, it produced more than 88 Terawatt-hours (TWh), but the dam should quickly reach 100 the bar of TWh! By comparison, all renewable energies of France only reach 65 TWh. The dam also allows ships of more than 10,000 tonnes to browse most of the Yangtze which was impossible before. A lock at 5 levels allow these ships to cross the 120 vertical meters in both directions. Spanning 1.5 kilometers, it takes about 3 hours to complete the maneuver.

Controversial Three Gorges Dam 

Initially, the Chinese government kept silent on the negative effects of the Three Gorges Dam. It wasn’t until 2011 that they officially admitted the consequences of such a construction.

  • The key problem since the announcement of the project was the displacement of the population in the area. Indeed, when creating the reservoir of 660 km long, a whole valley was submerged under water. There were thousands of towns, villages were partially or fully submerged.
  • Lost cultural and archaeological treasures of which were extreme value and there were more than 1.4 million people (official data) who were forced to leave their homes. Although the government has provided US$5 billion for displacement, this amount was not sufficient to meet the entire population. Some end up better off, but for many of them they were relocated to temporary housing or in poorer regions.
  • Another negative consequence of the construction of the dam is the loss of habitat for the fifty protected or endangered species in the region. Thus, the Baili dolphin was declared officially extinct, due to the total change in habitat with the accumulation of pollution, algae and shipping.
  • The stage of the Yangtze River is now much lower. The lands are less fertile for farmers who are now forced to use pesticides. Downstream reservoirs are dried up in summer which result in the problem for domestic water use. The accumulation of garbage in the reservoir of the dam has destroyed the habitat of fish. The risk of land runoff has become more important with the accumulation of water on the sensitive plate although no direct link has been made with the 2008 earthquake that killed 87,000 people.

Yangtze River Cruise 

Between Chongqing and Yichang, Hubei, a distance of over 600 kilometers, it is enjoyable to take a cruise to visit the fantastic Three Gorges area. In line with nearly 100 kilometers, Qutang Gorge, Wuxia Gorge and Xiling Gorge are a valuable treasure of the Chinese. With the construction of the dam and rising water stage, the gorges have lost some of their former glory. Nevertheless, they are still considered a marvel in China and continue to breath visitors with its towering cliffs and peaks. The cruise on the Yangtze River that would be one of the top things to do during trip in China.

Things to do on Yangtze Cruise 

It's not a perfect trip in the Chongqing region without a Yangtze River cruise, of which the scenery along this hundred kilometers are among the finest in China. Sometimes lost in the mist, the cliffs reach towards the sky creating a mystical atmosphere appropriate for these places filled with history of the Three Kingdoms. Although the Three Gorges Dam is not accessible, an observation platform provides an overview of the system with one side of the dam and other locks in 5 levels.

Best time to travel to Three Gorges area

There is no best time to visit the Three Gorges Dam. For the cruise, simply avoid the period of Chinese New Year where all cruise ships are packed with Chinese people and often sold out. Spring and autumn are cool and pleasant seasons that allow you to enjoy the serenity of the gorges. In winter, the water level is low, the landscape is even more impressive, but it is much colder.

  • Best time to visit

    Apr. May. Jun. Sep. Oct. Nov. 
  • Altitude

    400M Altitude Chongqing
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