The longest river in China, the Yangtze River, is 6,307 kilometers (3,919 miles) long, running from Tibet to Shanghai. Therefore, it is difficult to summarize the weather of the Yangtze River as a whole.
The classic Yangtze River cruise is between Chongqing and Yichang, which belongs to China’s subtropical monsoon climate zone. Temperatures there range from around 30°C (86°F) in the summer to 10°C (50°F) in winter and there are four distinct seasons, with a comfortable spring, hot summer, drier mild autumn, and cool dry winter.
- The Best time to cruise the Yangtze River
- Spring Yangtze Cruises (March–May)
- Summer Yangtze Cruises (June–August Weather Tips)
- Autumn Yangtze Cruises (September–November Tips)
When is the best time to cruise the Yangtze River? Seasonally, spring, summer, and autumn are preferred for Yangtze River cruises. This period is known as the Yangtze cruise high season (April to November), when there are most cruise options.
Winter might also be considered a good season despite the cool/cold weather. In winter, the prices for Yangtze River cruises are lower, often only half of that in the high season. In addition, the Three Gorges (the most impressive section of the Yangtze) shows another seasonal breathtaking view (taller cliffs), because of the much lower water level in winter. Inquire us for the best time to cruise the Yangtze River
Spring Yangtze Cruises (March–May)
In spring in the Yangtze River middle reaches, the weather gets warmer rapidly with big monthly and day-to-day fluctuations. Average spring temperatures in the Three Gorges area reach around 24°C (75°F) in the daytime and 17°C (63°F) at night. March is about 5°C (9°F) lower and May 5°C higher.
What to Wear
In general, spring is warm and rainfall is moderate. It is suggested to wear a long-sleeved shirt, and take a raincoat/umbrella (for shore excursions). With high winds or lower morning temperatures, you’ll be glad of at least a jacket. For people who feel the cold, it is wise to pack some warm clothes, especially in March.
Yangtze Spring Scenery
At the start of spring water levels are low due to low rainfall, but rainfall is moderate by May. The river is clear green. Flowers blossom along the banks of the Yangtze River, and in the Three Gorges you can see colorful scenery. In addition, the comfortable temperatures should bring you a good shore excursion experience.
Summer Yangtze Cruises (June–August Weather Tips)
In the hot central China summers, the average temperature range is 25–35°C (77–95°F) daily. June is about 3°C (5°F) cooler. Summer is also the rainy season. Flooding is not uncommon in the Three Gorges during the summer as water levels reach their highest.
What to Wear
It is suggested to wear shorts, t-shirts or short-sleeved shirts, and sandals, but please also don’t forget to prepare an umbrella in the rainy season: it can be used for UV protection in the sunny times as well.
Yangtze Summer Scenery and Travel Tips
Summer is high season for family vacations due to the school holidays. Taking a Yangtze River cruise is a good way to avoid the summer heat. All the cruise ships are equipped with advanced central air-conditioners, which will bring you a cool journey.
As it is really hot outside, easy and comfortable shore excursions are recommended, such as Shennü stream and Shennong Stream: you do not have to walk a lot when taking a raft trip up the Yangtze’s tributaries.
Autumn Yangtze Cruises (September–November Tips)
In fall in the Yangtze lower middle reaches, the average temperature is 23°C (73°F) in daytime and 17°C (63°F) at night. September is about 5°C (9°F) warmer and November 5°C cooler. As the rainy season has passed, fall is considered one of the best seasons for a Yangtze River cruise. Hot weather may last to the end of September.
What to Wear
There can be a big difference in temperature between morning and evening in autumn, and particularly from day to day. Though in September you can still comfortably wear a t-shirt in the daytime, you should also bring sweaters or jackets for the evening and colder mornings.
Yangtze Fall Scenery and Travel Tips
In late September, when the cool breezes start to blow, the Three Gorges green leaves turn red and yellow. They cover all the hills on the two steep banks of the spectacular gorges. Fall hues are especially spectacular in Wu Gorge.
Meanwhile, autumn is suitable for various shore excursions, especially where the cooler weather lends itself to climbing up steps for lovely views. Shibaozhai pagoda and visiting Fengdu Ghost City to learn about the interesting Chinese ghost culture are particularly recommended.
Winter Yangtze Cruises (December–February Tips)
In the Yangtze cruise winter low season, the weather is cold with low rainfall. Temperatures from 4 to 13°C (40–55°F) can be expected. The majority of cruise ships stop sailing from December to February for routine maintenance. There will be only few cruise ships running between December and March.
What to Wear
Warm shoes/boots and heavy coats are necessary. We also advise that you take warm indoor clothes as many of the public buildings you may visit along the river are unheated in winter. Cruise ships’ central AC will provide comfortable temperatures onboard.
Yangtze Winter Scenery and Travel Tips
In winter, you can enjoy Yangtze River cruises with the lowest costs of the year. Besides, you can have more peaceful shore excursion experiences due to the absence of crowds in winter.
The scenery in the gorges is similar to autumn’s. Especially in December, there are still may unfallen red leaves decorating the hills splendidly. Less daylight to enjoy the scenery with is a downside.
Weather/Sights in Yangtze Cruise Port Cities
Cruise trips between Chongqing and Yichang are the most classic and popular. It is suggested to know more about the weather and attractions in these two port cities so that you can better prepare a cruise trip.
Weather in Chongqing
Chongqing in China’s subtropical monsoon climate zone. It gets really hot in summer! Chongqing is known as one of the three “furnace cities” of the Yangtze River, where the temperature has reached 43°C (110°F). The other two being Wuhan and Nanjing. It is also a foggy city. The average low temperature in winter is about 6°C (43°F). Check out more on Chongqing Weather.
The Main Attractions in the Chongqing Area
Ciqikou Old Town is on a hill above the Jialing River in the west of Chongqing city. It is a small part of the city with about two city streets and back allies that are set aside as pedestrian shopping and dining areas. You can feel the local marketplace atmosphere there.
Three Gorges Museum is also called Chongqing Museum. It displays Chinese art and artifacts saved from the construction and inundation of the Three Gorges Dam. It is good to have a comprehensive understanding of Three Gorges Dam area before a Yangtze River cruise.
Dazu Grottoes: The Dazu Rock Carvings are great pieces of China grotto artwork. The 60,000 stone statues skillfully combine the scientific principles of mechanics and optics with clairvoyance (imagination) and the landforms. The Dazu Rock Carvings are accoladed as the "Artistic Palace of the Tang and Song Dynasties" (618–1279).
Wulong Karst Region: Wulong with its stunning natural scenery and hiking highlights is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Weathered karst hills, cliffs, rocks, deep gorges, and stone bridges are the main attractions in Wulong Karst Region.
Recommended Chongqing tours:
Weather in Yichang
Yichang has a similar climate to Chongqing’s but is a little cooler (2°C or 3°F on average) and it has a later monsoon rainfall peak: August instead of June. It is very hot and humid during summer, but damp and close to freezing in winter. The best time to visit Yichang is therefore during spring and autumn.
The Main Attractions in the Yichang Area
- Sanyou Cave is in a sheer cliff on the northern side of Xiling Gorge about 10 kilometers (6 miles) west of Yichang City. It offers possibly the best cave scenery in the Three Gorges area.
- Chinese Sturgeon Museum: The Chinese sturgeon has been dubbed "The King of Fishes" in the Yangtze River because of its size. An adult sturgeon can reach more than 5 meters (16 feet) in length and weigh over 500 kilograms 1,100 lb). The Chinese Sturgeon Museum is located on an islet in the Huangbo River in the northern Yiling District of the city of Yichang. It displays the life-cycle stages of the Chinese sturgeon, as well as 10 different species of sturgeon from around the world.
If you are interested in these places, please contact us for a customized tour.
Recommended Yangtze River Tours for 2021
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Our tours can be tailor-made according to your group size, travel time, interests, budget, and other requirements. Please contact us if you want a bespoke tour.