A river cruise is a truly unique holiday experience, wherever in the world you decide to explore. In Europe, you can travel along such iconic rivers as the Rhine, the Danube and the Seine, experiencing some of the most incredible destinations across such countries as France, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Perhaps you’d like to sail in the wake of mighty past civilisations with a Russian or Egyptian cruise or experience the mystery and wonder of the Far East with a trip through China or Cambodia and Vietnam? Wherever you’d like to go, there are plenty of exciting destinations to explore on a river cruise getaway.
Depending on the itinerary you choose, a Danube river cruise can be your gateway to some of Austria’s most iconic cities and historic places of interest. This beautiful river passes through the northeast of the country after beginning its journey in Germany and indeed, it is fitting that Strauss (who composed his Blue Danube in honour of the river), was born in Austria.
Whatever your itinerary, you can experience the country’s musical pedigree with a port call at its capital Vienna, while your Danube cruise can also offer you the opportunity to see some of Austria’s other celebrated cities and prestigious landmarks.
Before the Rhine ends its journey in the North Sea, it passes through much of the Netherlands and Belgium by way of the Dutch and Belgian Waterways. A river voyage in this tranquil and scenic corner of Europe offers a great way to see some of Belgium’s most popular and rewarding towns and cities. From the lively city of Antwerp with its rich diamond export heritage to Bruges, which is famous for a treasure of an altogether more edible kind, a river cruise in Belgium will give you a perfect taste of this diverse country and its rich heritage.
A cruise along the mystical Mekong is the perfect way to explore some of Cambodia’s rich history, from the time of the Khmer Empire through to the country’s French colonial period, with a chance to soak up a little of the traditional lifestyle along the way. On a Cambodia river cruise, you’ll be able to explore the country’s rich capital Phnom Penh for yourself and have the opportunity to see its greatest architectural and historic treasure , the incredible Angkor Wat temple complex. Stops at smaller river ports along your journey will give you a taste of traditional Cambodian life, from seeing local artisans at work to taking a scenic boat ride.
A China river cruise involves an unforgettable trip along Asia’s longest waterway, the Yangtze, but whichever itinerary you choose, it offers much more besides. Depending on which direction you’re travelling along the river, you’ll begin your journey in one of the country’s most celebrated cities and end it in the other. Shanghai and Beijing both feature on China river cruise itineraries either before or after you set sail and serve to make the experience all the more special. There’s often the opportunity for an excursion to see the awesome terracotta warriors of Xian and one you’ve set sail, the chance to soak up some of the country’s most beautiful scenery in the Three Gorges region and see one of its most impressive feats of engineering, the Three Gorges Dam.
The Nile is one of the world’s longest and most legendary rivers, weaving its way through the history of one of the world’s most influential and intriguing civilisations, the ancient Egyptians. Even today, the majority of this country’s people live and work close to its banks, proving that it is still a vital part of so many Egyptians’ lives. Egypt river cruises are the perfect way for you to step back in time , to walk and indeed to sail in the wake of Pharaohs and kings past and explore some of the awesome legacies which they left behind. Pyramids, monuments, ancient temples, burial chambers – even ancient cities are all yours to explore on an Egyptian river cruise.
France represents an excellent choice for would-be river cruisers as it boasts a number of different waterways on which you can travel during a voyage, each of which offers its own distinct blend of history, culture and stunning scenery. The most well-known is certainly the Seine in the north of France, not least because it offers river cruisers the opportunity to explore France’s legendary capital Paris. The Rhone is a great way to experience the south of France and the celebrated beauty – and indeed wine – that it is famous for and also provides the chance to briefly sample another French river – one of its tributaries the Saone. The Moselle offers another opportunity to experience the country’s capital before you set sail. From awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Sites to lush wine-growing valleys, you can experience the best that France has to offer with a river cruise.
Germany is a country rich in both waterways and heritage and a river cruise is a perfect way to experience both and something which makes for a truly memorable holiday. Indeed, the country is one of the most popular with river cruisers and with good reason. It’s home to one of the world’s most famous and scenic rivers, the Rhine, which acts as the perfect showcase for some of Germany’s most noted areas of natural beauty along the Rhine Valley.
The Main is possibly the Rhine’s most well-known tributary and lies entirely in Germany, meaning it’s a great way to explore the country’s history. It delivers an authentic taste of the Europe of old, a voyage through the Bavarian heartland and the chance to explore some truly memorable towns and cities. Another Rhine tributary is the Moselle, which offers the perfect laid-back German river cruise experience and is a must for wine-lovers, passing as it goes through one of the country’s celebrated wine-growing regions. The Elbe is one of Europe’s major rivers and the perfect way to see what Eastern Germany has to offer, including the beautiful region of Saxony and the chance to explore the country’s historic capital, Berlin.
Before ending its journey in the North Sea, the Rhine makes its way through much of Holland and Belgium by way of the Dutch and Belgian Waterways. A cruise along these idyllic rivers offers a great opportunity to experience some of the Netherlands’ most celebrated cities, engaging national heritage and rewarding natural beauty. From the world-famous tourist favourite, Amsterdam and the bustling contemporary port of Rotterdam to smaller settlements rich in Dutch history like Hoorn and Arnhem, river cruises in Holland are a thoroughly rewarding way to experience what this picturesque country has to offer.
The Danube passes right through Hungary from north to south and many Danube voyages either begin or end in the country’s legendary capital, Budapest. All itineraries along this famous river make a stop in the city at some point, often with an overnight stay or two included. While some itineraries travel northwest from the city or finish there, others move further east and also include a stop at the Hungarian port of Kalocsa before exploring a number of eastern European countries.
The Po offers a European river cruise unlike any other, as you’ll have the opportunity to experience one of the continent’s most unique and celebrated cities, Venice, before or after you set sail. The Po travels eastward across the north of Italy for over 400 miles before ending its journey close to Taglio di Po, which lies just south of the Venice lagoon on the country’s east coast. Shorter itineraries on this historic waterway are Venice round-trips, but longer ones involve land excursions to some of Italy’s most treasured cities, including Verona, Florence and even Rome on extended Po river cruise holiday packages.
Rich in culture and history, the former Burma makes for an enthralling holiday experience and at 1,348 miles long, the Irrawaddy River passes north to south through much of it, offering an unforgettable river cruise and the chance to explore many of this ancient country’s most celebrated sites. From its ancient Imperial days and its Buddhist heritage through to the time of British occupation, Myanmar has a long and varied history and a river cruise along the Irrawaddy is the perfect way to explore it. As well as some of the country’s largest and most historic cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, you’ll experience tradition and culture as you call at a host of smaller ports during your journey.
Portugal river cruises involve a voyage along the country’s celebrated River of Gold, the Douro, which originates in Spain and makes its way westwards across Portugal before ending its journey in the Atlantic Ocean at the country’s historic second city Porto, where Douro river cruises typically begin. Following this picturesque waterway towards its place of origin, cruises along the Douro call at a number of picturesque towns which offer a fascinating look at Portuguese history and culture . Though Portugal’s capital Lisbon lies many miles further south from the Douro, it’s often part of river cruise packages here, with many Douro holidays beginning with a stay in the city before transferring to Porto.
Romania is an ancient eastern European country with a wealth of history to its name, not to mention some beautiful natural scenery to experience. It borders several other European countries and indeed, one of these borders is one of the most satisfying ways in which you can experience it, as the Danube river forms much of its border between Romania and Serbia. Many Danube itineraries which start in Hungary’s capital Budapest work their way east following this watery border, through the fabled Iron Gate stone gorge and onto Romania’s celebrated capital, Bucharest by way of the port of Giurgiu.
Thanks to a network of waterways, canals and lakes, Russia river cruises offer the chance to experience both of this awesome country’s most famous cities, Moscow and St Petersburg and explore the history they hold. Russia river cruises always involve the country’s celebrated Volga River but they also act as a fascinating opportunity to see some of Russia’s other expansive landscapes, from huge natural lakes to man-made canals and reservoirs. Not only will you explore major cities, you’ll also take a journey through the country’s history and experience its traditions with a trip through its ancient Golden Ring towns, which offer a fascinating glimpse at some of Russia’s most impressive and absorbing architecture. Whether you choose to begin your cruise in Moscow or St Petersburg, you’ll have the chance to experience some of the finest history and scenery that this spectacular country has to offer .
Serbia is one of Eastern Europe’s southern-most countries and though land-locked, it is in fact partially bordered by at least some water, in this case, the mighty Danube River . This legendary waterway forms part of the border between Serbia and Romania and river cruises along it are a great way to experience a little of this historic country. A number of Danube cruises concentrate more on Eastern Europe, beginning their journey in Hungary’s capital, Budapest. One of the first stops they make is Serbia’s capital Belgrade, one of the oldest cities in Europe and home to a wealth of historic sites. From there, the river continues onward through one of Europe’s most splendid natural wonders, the awesome Iron Gate.
Gaining independence from Czechoslovakia in 1993, Slovakia is a country which has continued to grow in tourist popularity since joining the European Union in 2004. Because the Danube forms much of the south-western border of it, it’s also a key port of call on many itineraries which explore the river, especially when you consider that its capital Bratislava sits on the shores of the Danube. If you’re joining your Danube cruise in Hungary’s capital, you’ll sail through Slovakia next, while if travelling in the other direction, it will likely be the last country you visit before entering Hungary. Because the Danube passes so close to the country, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to drink in the passing scenery including the Danube National Park Flood Plains, which extends from neighbouring Austria to the Slovakian border.
Though cruises along the Douro river do not tend to venture very far into Spain, most of them offer a chance to experience the impressive UNESCO World Heritage site city of Salamanca – one of the country’s most significant historic treasures. Salamanca does not sit on the banks of the river itself but cruisers will have the chance to soak up some of glorious scenery on offer in the Iberian countryside during their coach transfer. For those wanting to explore more of Spain itself, the Guadalquivir River offers river cruisers the chance to do this, with itineraries operating from one of the country’s most popular cities, Seville.
Switzerland enjoys the distinction of being the country in which the Rhine, one of the world’s most famous rivers, begins its journey. From high up in the Swiss Alps it flows down into the country and forms its border with neighbouring Germany, before continuing onward. It’s possible to visit Switzerland on Rhine river cruise itineraries which concern themselves with that particular region of the river and also those which offer an epic voyage from the Netherlands along its entire length, or indeed the reverse of this route. A river cruise which visits Switzerland will offer you the chance to explore both the beautiful Rhine port of Basel and Lucerne, which sits on the shore of the lake of the same name and acts as a gateway to the centre of the country.
Ukraine river cruises take place on one of Europe’s longest rivers, the Dnieper. Though the river originates in Russia, most itineraries which explore it begin in the historic Ukrainian capital Kiev before taking river cruisers on a journey through some of the country’s most beautiful countryside, quaint villages and historic sites. Itineraries vary depending on the river cruise line you choose to travel with and offer a choice of excursions which can introduce you to a range of traditional Ukrainian experiences. No matter which line and excursion you choose, you’ll likely visit many of the country’s most historic and popular towns and cities, namely Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta and get a taste of its beautiful Black Sea region.
A Mekong river cruise is the perfect way to experience Vietnam’s most celebrated cities as well as getting a fascinating taste of the country’s history, traditions and cultural attractions, too. Vietnam forms a curved narrow strip which borders China in the north, Laos and Cambodia – a country which you’ll also experience on your Mekong river cruise. Mekong itineraries typically begin and end in Vietnam, in its two most well-known cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, depending on the direction in which you travel. Though Hanoi is situated far north of the Mekong, Vietnam River cruises involve transfers to or from it, offering you the chance to explore more of the country either before or after you set sail. During your river cruise, you’ll visit towns, villages and sacred sites which offer a tantalising glimpse of this ancient country’s rich cultural fabric.