In many countries and continents, their rivers are the life-givers that have seen villages, temples, traditions and even religions built up from their shores. A river is often ground-zero for the history and culture of a nation. For many travellers the option of exploring a foreign land by boat is enticing and exciting, allowing the most unique view of the landscape and culture of a new destination in comfort and security.
If you’re considering seeing your destination from the water this year then consider these top three picks for international river cruises in 2013.
One of Europe’s and the world’s most famous and longest rivers, it flows 1320km through some of Europe’s most beautiful and widely varied scenery. A lengthy cruise along the Rhine will take you thorough Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France and The Netherlands, however the most popular regions for cruises and sightseeing are throughout the Middle Rhine.
On a typical Rhine cruise, travellers can expect to see medieval castles, incredible cliffs, forests, traditional villages and famous landmarks like the famous Lorelei rock.
July and August are popular for cruise-goers but June is when the area is really at its best. May and September are also favourable periods and you can expect smaller crowds, outside of peak season.
Most cruises last 5-10 days but if you’re keen on further travel you can find longer cruises which travel along the Rhine, through a connecting canal and on to the famous Danube.
Cruises along the Mekong are truly inspirational for any traveller who loves to experience a vastly different culture. Cruises usually start in Vietnam and some cross into Cambodia also – highly recommended for keen explorers. From the hectic city sprawl, through traditional villages and spectacular floating markets, there’s never a dull moment along the Mekong.
The flora and fauna are sure to make you feel like you’re in a wild world, with temples and shrines dotting the riverside, embellishing the shore with a taste of the rich history and culture that makes this river so sacred and unique. You’ll also be able to visit the temples and local markets and craft workshops on foot.
The Upper Mekong cruises are best suited to the more adventurous traveller who doesn’t mind dealing with a change of plans due to changing river conditions. The Lower Mekong is the more typical tourist choice and usually more comfortable. You can easily find cruises that last from anywhere between 2 and 14 nights.
Weather in this part of the world is highly unpredictable, but generally the prime months for a Mekong cruise are January and February. April to November is the wet season when the air becomes hot and humid and monsoonal rains occur.
Whether you’re interested in history or simply wish to be blown away by both natural and manmade wonders, then the Nile will leave you breathless. From ancient monoliths to sun-drenched sand dunes, peaceful farming villages to historical ruins, Egypt has some of the most unique history, culture and landscape that can be found in the world today.
A cruise along the Nile will spoil you with an unforgettable look at all of these elements that make Egypt so intriguing. You’ll see temples still standing in honour of ancient gods and tombs built in homage to long-dead pharaohs.
Most cruises run from 3-7 nights and will allow for plenty of exploration ashore too, so you get more than a glimpse at the spectacular structures and historic landmarks and villages.
From April to September the sun is very hot and some cruises may require you to swap ships due to some of the river not being accessible during that period. Avoid the Christmas and New Year period too, as prices become exceptionally high.
Adventure and luxury go hand in hand when exploring your destination by way of a river cruise, it’s really a mode of transport that lets you experience the best of both worlds.
Written by Sasha O’Shea
It is almost as good as dream comes true for Sasha when she got an offer as a travel writer, infusing her love for travel and her passion to share wonderful moments with her fellow travellers. Sasha also loves yoga and teaches part-time in a local studio.