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How to Plan a Chongqing Tour – Chongqing Trip Planner

Located at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, Chongqing is a popular gateway to start or finish an unforgettable Yangtze River cruise. Highlights in this mountainous city include the vibrant hotpot culture and culinary scene, straightforward and warm-hearted people, multi-level transportation system and layered street layout, and numerous historic relics. We have prepared the following Chongqing travel guide on how to plan a Chongqing tour to help you have the best possible trip in this “8D Magic City”.

Chongqing is dominated by a mountainous terrain. Uniquely different from those flatland cities, Chongqing has developed its distinctive urban planning and landscapes. It is where you can witness light rail trains passing through buildings and see the winding mountain roads intertwining with the skyscrapers. Read on this Chongqing tour planner to find all things to know about this complex and large city, including the best attractions, top things to do, how to get to and travel around, how many days to stay, etc.

Chongqing Yangtze River Cablewayfojie

Best Tourist Attractions in Chongqing

Wondering what to see in Chongqing? The following Chongqing attraction list will give you some ideas. Based on your preferences and time, you can either take a leisure cruise to marvel at natural and cultural wonders along the riverbanks of the Yangtze River or explore the natural and cultural highlights in its downtown or suburb areas.

1. Three Gorges 

Type: A shore excursion site of a Yangtze River cruise

The Three Gorges is one of the most magnificent segments of the Yangtze River, encompassing the Qutang, Wu, and Xiling Gorges. Stretching about 193 kilometers, this section will introduce visitors to a variety of towering cliffs, majestic peaks, deep valleys, and many other dramatic landscapes.

Three Gorges Wu Gorge
Wu Gorge

2. Fengdu Ghost City

Type: A shore excursion site of a Yangtze River cruise

A popular shore excursion site during a Yangtze River cruise, Fengdu Ghost City is a culturally and historically rich attraction that can be traced back to nearly 2,000 years ago. It once served as an important city of the ancient Ba State, standing as a testament to the Ba people’s tradition of worshipping ghosts and spirits. During a visit here, you will see many ancient structures and hear many legends associated with the underworld and ghosts, gaining a fascinating glimpse into China’s Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism cultures.

3. White Emperor City

Type: A shore excursion site of a Yangtze River cruise

White Emperor City is another famous shore excursion site on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, marking the starting point of the Three Gorges. Sitting on the Baidi Mountain at the entrance of Qutang Gorge, White Emperor City offers a great platform for marveling at the majestic landscapes of Qutang Gorge.

4. Shibaozhai Pagoda

Type: A shore excursion site of a Yangtze River cruise

An iconic landmark during a Yangtze River Cruise, Shibaozhai Pagoda is impressive for its 56-meter-tall 12-story wooden pagoda-like pavilion. The wooden pavilion features flying eaves and upturned corners and appears to be embedded in the mountain from afar, presenting a spectacular marvel of architectural ingenuity and natural integration.

5. Hongya Cave

Type: A culturally rich site in downtown Chongqing

A cultural icon at the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, Hongya Cave is one of the ancient gates of old Chongqing which once served as a vital military stronghold in ancient times.  Currently, it is a popular tourist destination featuring enchanting night scenery and unique “hanging house” style buildings along the mountainside.

Chongqing Hongya Cave
Hongya Cave

6. Ciqikou Ancient Town

Type: A culturally rich site in downtown Chongqing, featuring ancient architecture

Ciqikou Ancient Town was once an important land and water port along the Jialing River during the early Qing Dynasty. It got its name for producing and shipping porcelain. Until today, this ancient town still well-preserved numerous ancient buildings, temples, and shops from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It offers visitors great chances to look into ancient Ba-Yu culture and experience traditional crafts.

7. Dazu Rock Carvings

Type: A culturally rich site in suburb Chongqing

The UNESCO-listed Dazu Rock Carvings are an outstanding representation of cave art in South China. The carving of Dazu Rock Carvings lasted from the Tang Dynasty to the Ming and late Qing dynasties, showcasing diverse artistic achievements and religious features in ancient China. Here you’ll find certain carvings and grottoes depicting ancient daily life scenes, Buddhist stories and tales, and subjects and beliefs of other religions.

Chongqing Dazu Rock Carvings
Chongqing Dazu Rock Carvings

8. Wulong Karst Landscape

Type: A culturally rich site in suburb Chongqing

Wulong is home to some of the most spectacular karst formations in the world, featuring colorful stalactites and stalagmites, the largest natural bridge cluster in the world, rich biodiversity, and profound Tujia and Miao traditions.

Top Things to Do in Chongqing

Enjoy a Leisure Yangtze River Cruise to Discover the Scenic Three Gorges

Running between Chongqing and Yichang, the Yangtze River cruise is a great option to marvel at the breathtaking natural wonders along the river and witness the world-renowned Three Gorges Dam Site in a leisurely way. Shore excursions to many cultural sites in different counties are included during the 4-5-day cruise. Each cruise is facilitated with amenities such as restaurants, entertainment rooms, gyms, and observation decks, and offers traditional Chinese cultural experiences, like Tai Chi lessons, traditional tea ceremonies, Chinese calligraphy classes, and more. Blending both stunning scenery and deep cultural immersion, this is a can’t-miss for any China tour with Chongqing.

Challenge the Yangtze River Cableway for a Panoramic View of Chongqing

Opening Hours: 7:30-22:30 (from March 1 to October 31), 7:30-21:30 (November 1 to late February)

Riding the cableway across the longest river in China is definitely a memorable experience. Initially, the Yangtze River Cableway mainly served as a public transportation tool connecting Yuzhong District and Nan’an District across the Yangtze River. With the improvement of local urban transportation facilities, the cableways now serve more as a tourist attraction for visitors to enjoy the stunning panoramic view of Chongqing’s skyscrapers and cityscape and the natural beauty of the Yangtze River. If possible, arrange your cableway ride at night when you can admire the dazzling night scenery of this mountainous city.

Catch the Moment of the Light Rail Passing Through a Building

The complicated mountainous terrain of Chongqing has resulted in the city’s unique urban planning and multi-level transportation system. Liziba Station on Chongqing Rail Transit Line 2 is just a typical example of the city’s innovative urban space utilization and city planning. To adapt to complex terrain, at Liziba Station, visitors can catch the exceptionally unique urban wonder of a light rail train passing through a 19-story building. The best spot to catch this scene is from the pedestrian bridge below the building.

Chongqing Liziba Light Rail
Liziba Light Rail

Admire the Glorious Nightscape of the Mountain City

Located at the junction of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, and nestled within mountainous terrain, Chongqing’s Yuzhong Peninsula is like a gem shining between the two rivers. As night falls, skyscrapers on both sides of the rivers are lit up by dazzling lights and cast a shimmering reflection on the water, creating an otherworldly nightscape.

Some of the most iconic night sights in Chongqing include:

  • Jiefangbei: The commercial center of Chongqing is filled with brightly lit skyscrapers.
  • Hongya Cave: The illuminated traditional stilt houses along the hillside are just like the mysterious town in “Spirited Away”.
  • Nanshan One Tree Viewing Platform: An ideal spot to photograph a night view of Chongqing, offers a 360-degree panoramic view of Chongqing.
  • Eling Park: The Two Rivers Pavilion in the park offers a brilliant night view of Jialing River and Yuzhong District.

Taste the Spicy Chongqing Hotpot

Just the thought of Chongqing hotpot will tantalize taste buds and make mouths water. A cultural highlight of the mountain city, Chongqing hotpot is known for its irresistible spicy and numbing flavors. When preparing the spicy broth, the soul of the hotpot, many spices and seasonings are added to ensure its irresistible taste. For locals, the hotpot is not only a culinary delight but also a social activity to strengthen bonds with their families and friends. Whether you want to entertain your taste buds or enjoy an immersive cultural experience, tasting hotpot is a can’t-miss when traveling in Chongqing. You may like Top 10 Food to Eat in Chongqing

The hotpot restaurants are throughout the city, you can easily find one on any corner. Choose the broth based on your tastes, and create your personalized dipping sauce as the locals do.

How Long to Stay in Chongqing?

Below are recommendations on how long to plan for your Chongqing tour based on different preferences. We also included detailed information to help you spend your time in Chongqing reasonably.

2 Days for Chongqing City Exploration

For a relatively in-depth Chongqing city exploration, it is recommended to arrange at least 2 days to visit highlights in both urban and suburban areas. The first day is for arrival. Spend your afternoon and night at Hongya Cave or Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street in the city center area. Day 2 is for you to explore Ciqikou Ancient Town and Dazu Rock Carvings, Liziba House-crossing metro, or experience the Yangtze River cableway.

Recommended Chongqing Tours:

4-5 Days for Yangtze River Cruise

To only experience the Yangtze River cruise, it will take 4 days for the downstream cruise from Chongqing to Yichang. The first day is for you to board the ship from Chongqing Chaotianmen Dock. Day 2 to day 4 is for you to enjoy the leisure time onboard. You’ll pass through some of the most essential natural wonders along the Yangtze River. Many shore excursions are arranged during the cruise for you to explore the historical and cultural sites along the way.

Or, you can also take the upstream cruise from Yichang to Chongqing which will take 5 days.

4-6 Days for Both Chongqing City Exploration and Yangtze River Cruise

If have only 4 days available, it’s recommended to arrive at Chongqing in the morning, take the following time to explore the essence of the city, and board the ship in the evening.

5-6 days allow you to enjoy a relatively leisure and deep discovery in the Mountain City before boarding the Yangtze River Cruise. If you are traveling to Chongqing with your children, don’t miss the Chongqing Zoo.

Recommended Chongqing & Yangtze River Tour:

When is the Best Time to Visit Chongqing & Yangtze River

Chongqing’s subtropical humid monsoon climate is characterized by high humidity, frequent fog, and abundant rainfall, with summers being extremely hot and winters being highly humid and frequently foggy. Spring and autumn are the best time to visit Chongqing when the city enjoys moderate temperatures, more sunshine, and vibrant natural views.

If the Yangtze River cruise is your only travel plan to Chongqing, then you can schedule a trip at any time of year. Sceneries along the Yangtze River show different charms in different seasons. You just need to avoid some peak public holidays in China, like Labor Day in May, and National Day in October.

yangtze-river-cruise
Yangtze River Cruise

How to Get to Chongqing? Trains & Flights to Chongqing

There are several transportation options for visitors to travel to Chongqing conveniently and flexibly. Trains and flights are the two most common ways to get to Chongqing.

By Air:

Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport is the main airport in Chongqing, about 20 kilometers from the city center. It operates direct flights to/from most domestic cities, including Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Chengdu, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. International flights are also available, mainly to/from Singapore, London (UK), Sydney (Australia), Moscow (Russia), Milan (Italy), etc.

By Train:

As a major transportation hub in southwest China, Chongqing has a well-developed railway network, offering direct high-speed train services to various parts of China. Chongqing North Railway Station in Yubei District is the major high-speed railway station in Chongqing. There are also high-speed trains reaching Chongqing West Railway Station and Shapingba Railway Station. All these train stations have subway lines passing through, making it convenient for tourists to transfer to either downtown areas or other scenic spots.

Where to Stay in Chongqing?

You may wonder where to stay in Chongqing if you plan to stay one or two nights here. The choice should based on the attractions and activities you want to experience. Commonly, the following three areas are most recommended:

  • Hotels near Jiefangbei: Jiefangbei is the commercial center of Chongqing, offering dense metro lines and bus routes for tourists to travel around. This area is within walking distance from Hongya Cave, Jiefangbei Pedestrian Street, and Bayi Food Street.
  • Hotels near People’s Square: History fans can stay in areas around People’s Square for easy access to the Three Gorges Museum, and the Chongqing Museum. Metro lines 1, 2, and 3 are served here for convenient transfer to other parts of the city.
  • Hotels in Nan’an District: The Nanbin Road in Nan’an District is where you can enjoy the awe-inspiring scene of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers converging. Nanshan One Tree Viewing Platform is also in this area.

Popular Tourist Destinations Near Chongqing

Best China Tours including Chongqing & Yangtze River Crusise

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