Last Updated on April 12, 2023
There’s nothing quite like sailing along the flowing waters of some of the world’s most treasured waterways. Not only is stunning natural beauty on the agenda but you can also take in the culture of the beautiful riverside villages, ports, and towns you drift through along your way. It is truly one of the most picturesque and hassle-free ways to travel and it comes with a new opportunity every day.
Whether you’re climbing aboard one of the small cruise ships or their bigger counterparts, there is so much to see on a river cruise.
Here are our top 5 picks for the best river cruise destinations in the world:
Beginning at the Swiss canton in the southeastern Swiss Alps and flowing across to the North Sea, the banks of this river are brimming with historic treasures, vibrant cities, and natural beauty. There are plenty of reasons to go on a luxury cruise on the Rhine, including the opportunity to explore some of Europe’s lesser-known cities.
The Rhine River is a beautiful and diverse waterway that flows through multiple countries, each with its own unique cultural and historical highlights.
Here are some particular highlights of the Rhine River:
Rhine Gorge: The Rhine Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage site that stretches from Koblenz to Bingen. It is a spectacular stretch of the river that is lined with castles, vineyards, and picturesque villages.
Cologne Cathedral: The Cologne Cathedral is one of the most iconic landmarks in Germany and is situated on the banks of the Rhine. This stunning gothic cathedral took over 600 years to complete and is one of the largest in Europe.
Marksburg Castle: Marksburg Castle is a beautifully preserved medieval castle that dates back to the 12th century. It is situated on a hill overlooking the town of Braubach and offers stunning views of the Rhine Valley.
Strasbourg: Strasbourg is a beautiful city that is situated on the Rhine River in France. It is known for its stunning cathedral, beautiful canals, and charming old town.
Basel: Basel is a picturesque city in Switzerland that is situated at the confluence of the Rhine River and the Birsig River. It is known for its beautiful architecture, world-class museums, and vibrant cultural scene.
Wine Country: The Rhine River Valley is known for its excellent wine, particularly Riesling. The region is dotted with vineyards and charming wine villages that offer tastings and tours.
Lorelei Rock: The Lorelei Rock is a legendary rock formation on the Rhine River that is said to have lured sailors to their death with its enchanting siren song. It is a popular tourist attraction and offers stunning views of the Rhine Valley.
Windmills of Kinderdijk: Another particular highlights is the 18th-century architecture of Cologne and the charming windmills of Kinderdijk.
The river Nile is one of the most renowned and takes the top spot for the longest in the world. Immerse yourself in ancient civilisation with Nile cruises as it moves from Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea. Take in the magnificent sights of the Pyramids of Giza, the towering statues of Abu Simbel, and the breathtaking architecture of Karnak Temple.
The Nile River is one of the most famous and historically significant rivers in the world.
These are some particular highlights of the Nile River:
The Pyramids of Giza: The Pyramids of Giza are some of the most iconic landmarks in Egypt and are located just outside of Cairo along the Nile River. They are the only surviving structures from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and are a testament to the incredible architectural achievements of the ancient Egyptians.
Valley of the Kings: The Valley of the Kings is located on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt. It is home to the tombs of many pharaohs from the New Kingdom era, including Tutankhamun and Ramses II.
Temple of Karnak: The Temple of Karnak is a vast complex of temples, chapels, and other structures that were built over a period of 2,000 years. It is located on the east bank of the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt and is one of the largest religious sites in the world.
Abu Simbel: Abu Simbel is a complex of temples that were built during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II. The temples are located on the west bank of the Nile River in southern Egypt and are known for their stunning statues and carvings.
Aswan High Dam: The Aswan High Dam is a massive dam that was built across the Nile River in the 1960s. It is one of the largest dams in the world and is a major source of hydroelectric power for Egypt.
Nile River Delta: The Nile River Delta is a vast, fertile region that is located at the mouth of the Nile River. It is known for its agriculture, particularly cotton and rice, and is an important source of food for Egypt.
Felucca Sailboat Rides: Felucca sailboat rides are a popular way to experience the Nile River. These traditional wooden sailboats offer a peaceful and scenic way to travel along the river and take in the beautiful landscape.
Sail along the peaceful, tropical network of lagoons, lakes, and canals that stretch for 900km and are located just adjacent to the Arabian Sea. This region of Southern India is famous for its natural beauty and the dynamic ports that dot its banks.
Houseboat cruises on the local vessel known as kettuvallam – these are former rice barges that have been put together using ropes and coconut fibre. This is a sustainable way of travelling on the Kerala Backwaters, which is key to being an ethical and eco-friendly tourist.
The Kerala Backwaters is a vast network of lagoons, lakes, and canals that run parallel to the Arabian Sea coast in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
Here are some particular highlights of the Kerala Backwaters:
Houseboat Cruises: One of the most popular ways to experience the Kerala Backwaters is by taking a houseboat cruise. These traditional wooden boats have been converted into luxurious floating homes that offer a comfortable and scenic way to explore the backwaters.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary: The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a paradise for birdwatchers and nature lovers. It is situated on the banks of Vembanad Lake, the largest lake in Kerala, and is home to a variety of bird species, including migratory birds from Siberia.
Alappuzha Beach: Alappuzha Beach is a popular tourist spot that is situated along the Arabian Sea coast. It is known for its long stretch of golden sand, clear waters, and beautiful sunsets.
Kuttanad: Kuttanad is a picturesque region in the backwaters that is known for its paddy fields and farming activities. It is often referred to as the “rice bowl” of Kerala and is an important agricultural area.
Snake Boat Races: The backwaters of Kerala are famous for their traditional snake boat races, which take place during the harvest season. These races are a major cultural event and attract a large number of tourists.
Ayurvedic Spa Treatments: Kerala is known for its ancient Ayurvedic treatments, which are based on natural herbs and oils. Many resorts and hotels in the backwaters offer these treatments, which are designed to promote relaxation and wellness.
Fort Kochi: Fort Kochi is a historic town that is situated on the coast of the Arabian Sea. It is known for its colonial-era architecture, charming cafes, and art galleries.
The Mekong River is the longest and most important in Southeast Asia and is approximately 4,900km long. It flows from its source on the Tibetan Plateau in China through Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. On its banks are some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world and you can immerse yourself in the history and cultures of the villages and cities you float past.
There are some particular highlights of the Mekong you might want to know:
Angkor Wat: While not directly on the Mekong River, the famous Angkor Wat temple complex is located in Cambodia, which the Mekong flows through. Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the largest religious monument in the world.
Pak Ou Caves: The Pak Ou Caves are located on the banks of the Mekong River in Laos and are a popular tourist destination. The caves are filled with thousands of Buddha statues, and visitors can take a boat ride from Luang Prabang to explore them.
Floating Markets: The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is home to several floating markets, where vendors sell fruits, vegetables, and other goods from boats. These markets are a unique and colorful experience and offer a glimpse into the daily lives of locals.
Kuang Si Falls: Kuang Si Falls is a series of waterfalls located in Laos, and can be accessed via boat from Luang Prabang. The falls are surrounded by lush jungle and are a popular spot for swimming and picnicking.
Tonle Sap Lake: Tonle Sap Lake is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and is located in Cambodia. It is fed by the Mekong River and is an important source of fish for local communities. Visitors can take a boat tour to explore the lake and its floating villages.
Golden Triangle: The Golden Triangle is the area where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak Rivers. It is a remote and mountainous region that was once a hub for opium production, but now offers stunning views and cultural experiences.
Mekong River Delta: The Mekong River Delta in Vietnam is a vast and fertile region that is known for its agriculture and fishing. Visitors can take a boat tour to explore the delta and its floating markets, rice paddies, and fruit orchards.
Rising from the Black Forest mountains in Western Germany and reaching the mouth of the Black Sea, the river Danube is a wondrous sight. It passes through 10 countries, including Austria, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine, making it a hotspot for European history and culture.
The Danube River is the second-longest river in Europe, making it a popular destination for river cruises and travelers.
Here are some particular highlights of the Danube:
Wachau Valley: The Wachau Valley is a scenic stretch of the Danube between Melk and Krems in Austria. The valley is known for its picturesque vineyards, historic towns, and medieval castles.
Budapest: Budapest is the capital of Hungary and is often called the “Pearl of the Danube.” The city is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and the Hungarian Parliament Building.
Iron Gate: The Iron Gate is a gorge that spans the Danube between Romania and Serbia. It is one of the most scenic stretches of the river and is home to several historic sites, including the Trajan’s Bridge ruins and the Golubac Fortress.
Vienna: Vienna is the capital of Austria and is known for its rich history and cultural heritage. The city is home to several famous landmarks, including St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Schönbrunn Palace, and the Vienna State Opera.
Bratislava: Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and is located on the banks of the Danube. The city is known for its medieval old town, Bratislava Castle, and the UFO Tower, which offers panoramic views of the city.
Belgrade: Belgrade is the capital of Serbia and is situated at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers. The city has a rich history and is home to several historic sites, including Kalemegdan Fortress, St. Sava Church, and the Nikola Tesla Museum.
Danube Delta: The Danube Delta is a unique and biodiverse region that is home to several rare species of flora and fauna. The delta is situated in Romania and Ukraine and is a popular spot for birdwatching, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
In conclusion, river cruises offer a unique and immersive way to explore some of the most beautiful destinations in the world. From the winding Rhine River in Europe to the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, each river has its own particular highlights and cultural experiences to offer.
Whether you’re interested in history, culture, food, or natural beauty, there’s a river cruise out there that’s perfect for you. By experiencing these destinations from the comfort of a river cruise ship, you’ll have the chance to see them from a new perspective and make memories that will last a lifetime.
So why not book your next adventure today and set sail on a river cruise to one of these five amazing destinations?