From the mighty Mississippi to the magical Mekong, the world has its fair share of iconic rivers. They’ve helped form modern and ancient civilisations, provided cities with their lifeblood and lent themselves to works of fiction – and exploring these rivers has never been so simple as on a cruise.
In the latest River Cruising Guide, we glance over some of the most notable rivers the globe has to offer, and the incredible itineraries that will take you there.
The River Rhine
Running from the Alps right through to the North Sea, the Rhine is one of Europe’s most important waterways. The name of the river varies depending on which country it flows through; in the German language, it’s known as the Rhein, in French it’s the Rhin and Dutch speakers refer to the river as the Rijn. Its origins lay in the Celtic language, with the word stemming from ‘renos’, meaning large, flowing water or raging flow.
The Rhine runs through a fair few UNESCO World Heritage sites as it weaves its way through the European mainland. Popular sites include Germany’s Cologne Cathedral and Upper Middle Rhine Valley, the City of Luxembourg’s Old Quarters and Fortifications and Strasbourg’s Grande-Île and Neustadt.
The Rhine is one of the most picture-postcard places you’ll ever visit on a river cruise. Imagine fairytale castles, rolling hills and majestic mountains – if it’s vast and varied scenery you are looking for, this is undoubtedly the place to find it.
The River Danube
Lending its name to the famous work by Johann Strauss, the Danube is unsurprisingly picturesque. Rising in the Black Forest mountains of western Germany, the river flows through 10 different countries including Austria, Slovakia, Croatia and Moldova.
Keen cyclists will be in their element, as one of the most popular cycling tracks in Europe runs right alongside the Danube. Spanning 1,800 miles, the track passes from Germany right the way through to Austria – but the good news is that if you’d rather leave your helmet behind, you can explore from the luxury of a river cruise ship.
The river itself might be far from blue, but the scenery it passes through will more than make up for it. Lush forests and castles perched atop hills make for fascinating viewing, and with a whole host of locks to pass through, this is a sailing experience that will fondly live on in your memory.
The River Seine
Art fanatics are sure to recognise the Seine, which has provided the subject of many Impressionist paintings. These days, it’s home to a number of romantic sightseeing boats known as bateaux mouches – hardly surprising given the river plots its way through Paris, considered one of the most loved-up locations in the world.
The Seine is the third-largest in France, and winds right through the heart of the capital. Expect to see landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the many famous bridges as you sail along this legendary waterway, which supplies around half of the water used in Paris.
Once you’ve left the city, other fascinating destinations throughout France emerge along the route; medieval Rouen and the taste sensations of Le Roche-Guyon all become within easy reach during your cruise.
The River Rhône
The Rhône springs in the Swiss Alps at a height of 2,208 metres and is the only major river that flows directly into the Mediterranean Sea. It boasts three distinct personalities: Alpine landscapes, the section between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and the inner-city Lyon, where the river meets the sea.
From mountains to flat areas, remote destinations to cities, a journey along the Rhone is as vast as it is varied. Depending on when you travel, expect to see swathes of lavender and sunflowers in the summer, and quiet villages surrounded by snow-sprinkled mountains when winter comes around.
Important status has been given to the Rhone throughout the generations. The Greeks and Romans realised its value, using the river as a primary trade route throughout Europe when they wanted to reach east-central Gaul from the Mediterranean.
The River Douro
Rio Douro translates as River of Gold in Portuguese and, when the sun hits it at just the right angle, you can see why. The river starts in Spain, but when it reaches the Northern Portuguese countryside, stunning landscapes and tranquillity really start to take hold.
The Douro Valley is perhaps most famous for being the oldest demarcated wine-growing region on earth. In fact, a large section of it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, which only cemented its position as one of the world’s premier wine-producing areas.
The land is dotted with dozens of wineries, some of which you can visit while on a Douro river cruise. One of Portugal’s most famous exports is a rich and syrupy port wine, so why not take the opportunity to try it for yourself, right here in the place of its origin?
The River Nile
The Nile is one of the world’s most captivating rivers, often first introduced to school-age children – and with good reason. Its integral role in Ancient Egypt that cannot be understated, as it plays an important part in myth and legends throughout the region.
What you might not realise is there are actually two other Nile rivers; although this is the main river, there are other tributaries, the Blue and White Nile. In Ancient Egypt, it was believed that the Nile River was the pathway between life and death, which is why they built tombs on the west side of the Nile, and the east side was the place of birth.
Unlike its European counterparts, the Nile serves up quite different landscapes. Imagine arid landscapes dotted with ancient structures, where temples and pyramids catch your eye from the comfort of your river ship.
Experience the wonders of the Nile with Riviera Travel, call our River Cruise Experts on 01246 819 819 for details.
The River Mekong
More than 60 million people rely on the Mekong as their primary source of income or sustenance, whether that’s through fishing, agriculture or some other means. It’s also integral for sanitation, cooking and irrigation throughout south-east Asia – and not to mention transportation.
It’s hardly surprising then that the Mekong is a mecca for river cruises. The river is fed by melting snow in the Tibetan Himalayas before making its journey through the steep mountain gorges of China’s Yunnan province. The river weaves through the heart of the Golden Triangle, as well as other stunning destinations such as the Khone Falls in southern Laos, before widening out into the Mekong Delta.
From paddy fields to riverside dwellings, the scenery along the Mekong is nothing short of breathtaking. These are views you won’t experience anywhere else in the world, making a Mekong river cruise one of those bucket list adventures that every traveller should try at least once in their lifetime.
The River Mississippi
*Viking Mississippi renderings are intended as a general reference
The Mississippi might be the second-longest river in the USA, but it is arguably the most famous. Measuring an incredible 11 miles at its widest point, this iconic river has long been the inspiration for songs, films and local folklore.
Two people have been brave enough to swim the entire length of the river – no easy feat at a considerable 2,350 miles – but with river cruise lines offering to transport you there in ultimate luxury, getting wet is entirely optional.
One of the advantages of a Mississippi river cruise is you can explore some of the most notable locations the southern states have to offer. From the famous cajun and creole cuisine to the incredible music cities of Memphis and Nashville, the Mississippi makes it easy to get your fix of everything that’s good and great about North America.