Friday, 10 February 2012 10:38 AM
China is a country packed with history, culture and stunning scenery, which combine to make it the perfect destination for a holiday. One of the best ways to enjoy this, and ensure you do so in luxury, is to book a river cruise on the Yangtze.
This vast waterway rises in the mountains of Qinghai province and runs all the way to Shanghai, where it flows into the East China Sea. It is not possible to see all 3,988 miles in a single break, but you should be able to find a trip that takes in many of the real highlights of a journey on the Yangtze.
When reading online cruise reviews, you should keep an eye out for mentions of a number of places, as you will want to make certain the package you eventually book visits them.
This sprawling port is the most modern city in China and you could be forgiven for thinking you are in the US as you look up at the skyscrapers of the Pudong financial district.
Shanghai also has plenty of attractions of a more traditional nature, such as The Bund. This beautiful waterfront area is home to a variety of buildings that date back to the city's emergence as a trade centre in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including a number of stunning art deco office and hotel complexes.
Before you depart on your cruise ship, make the time to visit Shanghai Museum. It has sizeable collections of sculptures, ceramics, art and furniture from ancient China and the Ming and Qing dynasties.
It is difficult to imagine that there could be a more scenic part of China than the Three Gorges, which cover a 120-mile stretch of the Yangtze.
Xiling Gorge is the longest of the three at just over 40 miles and you will be treated to stunning views of Mount Xiling and rugged forest-covered hills as you cruise through it.
You will also travel through Qutang Gorge, where the fast flowing water is bordered by towering cliffs, and Wu Gorge, which will lead you through the Wushan Mountains, the Valley of the Fragrant Stream and to the town of Badong.
The cruise will also take you to the Three Gorges Dam, a magnificent, but controversial, feat of engineering. The hydroelectric dam spans the full width of the Yangtze and provides energy for the world's largest power station, but environmental campaigners claim it has damaged the habitats of a number of bird and fish species.
One of the most spectacular sights on a Yangtze cruise is Shibaozhai, a temple built on a craggy hill that overlooks the river. The wooden structure is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of the Qing Dynasty era and looks magnificent from the water.
You should also be able to disembark and take a tour of the 12-storey building, which is dedicated to the memory of Guan Yu, a general from the Three Kingdoms period. It is packed with artefacts, including paintings and sculptures, but its most eye-catching feature is the Duck Well. Legend has it that you can drop a duck down the well at the top of the hill and it will emerge swimming in the Yangtze.
It is not just the attractions located next to the river that you can enjoy during this type of holiday. Some operators offer packages that include a cruise, coupled with a stay in the Chinese capital Beijing and a day trip to see the Terracotta Army at Xian.