One might imagine cruise lines as typically massive luxury vessels coasting along the seas. And while popular cruises generally stop by gorgeous seaside ports, there is unbeatable romance and beauty to be indulged in during the best river cruises in the world. Here are just a few:
Europe is one of the prettiest continents to take in from the river. Medieval architecture, small towns and beautiful mountains are best seen from a river cruise. As Europe’s second longest river, the Danube offers excellent opportunity for sightseeing. And since Central and Eastern Europe have many countries packed tightly together, this river runs through more countries than any other in the world.
From its starting point in Germany, it flows 2850kms to the Black Sea via Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Servia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine. There are also a number of islands in the Danube, and it is one of the most popular rivers for cruising. During peak season, there can be more than 70 cruise liners plying its waters.
Russia throws up worlds of mystery and distinct architecture. For many Americans, it’s a mixed bag of emotions leftover from Cold War perceptions to intrigue about its local culture and natural beauty.
River cruises in Russia run along a complex system of canals, lakes, rivers and inland seas which take River Volga leisurely towards the Baltic Sea. Along the waterways lie some of Russia’s most picturesque cities including Moscow and St Petersburg. This is the most famous stretch to cruise down with stops at smaller towns such as Volgograd, Yaroslavl, Nizhniy, Novgorod, Kazan, and even far off the beaten path to places like Uglich. Food and beverage is distinctly Russian including traditional dishes like borsch, chicken Kiev and kulebyaka.
Its 6,300km span offers a plethora of opportunities for river cruising, from the Tibetan Plateau to the East China Sea. The Yangtze has many endemic species of flora and fauna, and some sections are now classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the gorges of western Yunnan.
With more than 700 tributaries, the potential for river cruising on the Yangtze is immense. Cruises allow guests to take in the mountains of Tibet, the plains of Jiangsu and the coastal region near the East China Sea. Important sections include the Three Gorges with the world’s largest dam and the river cruise port of Chongqing, taking in Witches Gorge, the walled city of Wushan and the beautiful Twelve Peaks.
Guests typically visit ancient monuments along the way such as the 12-century Shibaozhai Pagoda, with excursions to the Great Wall, and stops at Guilin, Shanghai and Xian.
Cruising down the Nile is one of the most popular river cruises in the world. According to travel company Kuoni, the Nile topped the list for best-selling river cruises in its report for 2020. Options for river cruising down the Nile, include regular cruise vessels, yacht cruises, steamer cruises or dahabiyas, a traditional shallow-bottomed vessel with two or more sails that have been used to sail the world’s longest river for thousands of years.
Major points of interest along the 6,650km-long Nile include the majestic pyramids, the Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, Hatshepsut Temple, the Philae Temple and the famous rock-cut temples at Abu Simbel. Most cruises sail between Luxor and Aswan, with separate cruises on Lake Nasser nearby.
The Amazon region is considered one of the most exotic and far-flung locations to cruise, owing to the thick rainforest cover along the 6400-km long river. It’s the perfect place for guests to immerse themselves in the lush environment, mystical shamans and natural wonders.
There are cruises through Peru, Brazil and Ecuador that touch on various themes from wildlife and adventure to food and culture. Guests have the opportunity to visit Iquitos in Peru, the world’s largest city unreachable by road – just by air or river, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, as well as local villages and wildlife that live in the Amazon Basin.