The five best river cruise destinations

© Benson Kua (licence)

© Benson Kua (licence)

A river cruise is a perfect way to get acquainted with a new country, or to see a part of the world you know well from a whole new perspective. The languid pace of a cruise is the perfect way to get an intimate view of some of the most beautiful regions on the globe, whether you’re looking to explore European heartland or exotic climbs.

On a river cruise package, provided by firms such as you can put your feet up and relax with everything already arranged and paid for. Upon arrival at each of your destinations, you’ll dock in the heart of the city and enjoy enlightening day excursions, led by an expert guide.

If all this appeals, here’s a pick of five of the best river cruise destinations to give you some ideas for your next holiday.

The Nile – Egypt

A cruise down the river Nile, Egypt’s lifeline since the age of the Pharaohs, is the perfect way to get an intimate view of this iconic country. At 4,160 miles, the Nile is the world’s longest river, although most cruises operate between Luxor and Aswan, a 120-mile stretch. Stopping off at the temples of Kom Ombo, Edfu, and Esna, this journey is the perfect way to trace the passage of Egypt’s history while witnessing modern life along the famous river up close.

The best time to visit is between December and February (high season) when it’s hot, but not so humid. No matter what time of year you choose to visit, Egypt’s sunsets are among the world’s best, and you’ll be able to enjoy them in style and comfort aboard a river cruise.

Rhine – Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland

Stretching for 900 miles, the Rhine, Europe’s most popular cruising river, crosses through six countries: Austria, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, The Netherlands and Switzerland.

Seeped in history and incredibly picturesque, the Rhine is dotted with fairy-tale castles and terraced vineyards. It is home to the legendary Lorelei Rock, onto which sirens are said to have lured sailors to their deaths by distracting them with their singing. On a river cruise, you’ll visit Basle’s cobbled old town and the half-timbered houses of Mainz, as well as the neoclassical palace and Roman basilica at Koblenz and Cologne’s UNESCO World Heritage gothic cathedral.

For a truly unforgettable experience, take a cruise during the Christmas holiday season, when you’ll see vibrantly decorated Christmas markets fill the squares of the cities and sparkling lights form a magical backdrop at night.

Hunagrian Parliament buidling as seen while sailing into Budapest on the Danube

Hungarian Parliament building as seen while sailing into Budapest on the Danube

Danube – Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany

A journey down the length of the Danube, from its source in Germany to the Black Sea 1,800 miles away, will take you through eight countries. On the way, you’ll witness Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, Austria’s principal cities, Vienna and Salzburg, and the outstanding countryside, including the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

During the warm, dry summer months, the Danube’s water level can be too low for navigation, so we recommend a springtime cruise to get the most of this incredible part of the world.

The Amazon – Brazil

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most genetically diverse regions on the planet, home to more than 30,000 plant species, 1,800 fish, 1,300 bird species, 311 mammals and 165 types of amphibian.

By far the most comfortable way to explore the largest and most otherworldly forest in the world is by cruise. You’ll stop at the picturesque city of Santarem, where the River Tapajós meets the Amazon, as well as the wooden village of Boca de Valeria, and Manaus, the State of Amazonas capital. For a chance to see some incredible and exotic wildlife, make sure to join the rain forest hikes, birding walks, and nocturnal river safaris on offer.

The rainy season runs from November to June (though Ecuador has a dry season between January and March), which makes many more channels passable as the river rises and floods the low-lying forests that lie along the banks. However, the dry season, from July to December, sees rising temperatures which lower the mosquito population, as well as less rain, which exposes otherwise hidden trails and beaches.

The Rhône – France

A trip along the Rhône, France’s mightiest river, is an absolute must for wine aficionados and foodies. The river flows through France’s gastronomic heartland, taking you past the vineyards of Burgundy and Provence. You’ll also pass the beautiful city of Lyon, the gourmet capital of France, where you’ll be able to dine at one of its famous restaurants and purchase local delicacies at the picturesque markets.

From the ship, you’ll be able to enjoy the region’s rolling hills and fields overflowing with lavender and sunflowers, which served as inspiration for so many of Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces. You’ll also make stops at historic European sites and cities, such as the fortified city of Avignon and the Roman ruins in Arles, as well as Chalon-sur-Saône, with its half-timbered houses and 11th-century cathedral, and Tournon-sur-Rhône, a magnificent 10th-century castle.

The cruising season lasts from March until November, the perfect time to experience the region’s renowned cuisine and bask in its vibrant history.

Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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