The world's greatest river journeys

Recently updated on August 14th, 2023 at 05:05 pm

Whether you’re gliding through remote backwaters or sailing through historical cities, a river journey is sure to be an unforgettable experience. In honour of World Rivers Day on 30 September, we’ve put together some of the world’s best river cruises. From the Nile to the Rhine, the Mekong to the Mississippi, you’ll go where roads can’t on these extraordinary river journeys. 

The Danube

Danube River flowing through Budapest Hungary

You’ll waltz across Europe on the Danube. This dreamy river passes through ten European countries and four historic capital cities including Budapest, Vienna, Belgrade and Bratislava. Packed with everything from cultural and historical gems to natural wonders, the Danube is undoubtedly one of the world’s best river cruises. Marvel at the stunning scenery from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. Spot vineyards in Austria’s Wachau Valley, the Iron Gates gorge in Romania, the Little Carpathians of Slovakia, and the rolling hills of Bulgaria along the way. And discover cultural and historic highlights in gorgeous towns like Salzburg, Český Krumlov and Nuremberg.

Best time to go: All year round, except the hotter months of June and July when water levels are lower.

GET INSPIRED BY: Highlights of Eastern Europe

The Mekong

people sailing through the jungle Mekong River

Experience one of the world’s best river journeys on the mighty Mekong in Southeast Asia. The remarkable river is full of emerald paddy fields, steaming jungle, glimmering temples and colourful floating markets. The Mekong flows through six countries from China to Vietnam, and you can go from the serene city of Luang Prabang in Laos to the vibrant, neon-lit streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Soak up the mouthwatering cuisine at the markets and make stops at the incredible temples of Angkor. Be sure to learn about the harrowing legacies of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Vietnam War with excellent museums and former war camps and tunnels. 

Best time to go: November to February are the cooler months, but also the busiest. The wet season from June to October brings heavy rain but you’ll see fewer tourists.

GET INSPIRED BY: Vietnam and Cambodia Uncovered

The Nile

sail boats on the Nile River Egypt

As the world’s longest river at over 6,500 kilometres, the Nile is one of the world’s best river cruises. While it flows through 11 countries in Africa, it’s most famous in Egypt. Here you’ll journey through ancient history, with temples and tombs that are thousands of years old. Hop onboard a riverboat and watch the scenery pass by from lush fields and traditional villages to shimmering desert. You’ll stop at the most incredible sights in Egypt including the ancient temples of Kom Ombo, Karnak, Edfu and Abu Simbel. You’ll even cruise to the grand necropolises in the Valley of the Kings, and the vibrant city of Aswan.

Best time to go: Boats cruise all year round, but October to April is the best time with the coolest temperatures.

GET INSPIRED BY: Best of Egypt

The Ganges

boat silhouettes orange sunset Ganges River India

The Ganges is like no other river on earth. Renowned as the holiest river in India, you’ll find it all here from culture and history to moving spirituality. Wake up at dawn and see the morning mist coating the water, while people wash colourful clothes on the steps beside the water. Come by in the evening and smell incense floating through the carved temples as funeral pyres burn on the banks. As you cruise the Ganges you’ll see ancient forts, palaces and temples, and get a remarkable insight into daily life on the river. And don’t forget to witness the sunrise or sunset (or both!) over the Ganges – it’s truly spectacular.

GET INSPIRED BY: Golden Triangle, Tigers and The Ganges

The Amazon

aerial view over the Amazon River and rainforest

Wondering where to go on a river cruise? It doesn’t get much more impressive than the Amazon, the world’s largest river by water flow. Spanning almost 7,000 kilometres and snaking through six countries in South America, the Amazon takes you on a moving journey into the jungle. The majority of the river runs through Peru and Brazil, and each holds its own unique treasures. In Peru, you can cruise to the Tambopata National Reserve where you’ll marvel at all the plants and animals including giant river otters, monkeys, caimans, birds and the elusive anaconda. In Brazil, you can watch how the waters of the Rio Negro merge with the Solimões. Or take a canoe trip through the jungle to try piranha fishing or even spot capybaras or anacondas. 

Best time to go: The rainy season from December to May. This is when the smaller tributaries of the Amazon fill up, meaning better cruising access and incredible wildlife watching.

GET INSPIRED BY: Icons of South America with Brazilian Amazon

Chobe River

elephants lining the Chobe River Botswana

With extraordinary wildlife and scenery, the Chobe River has got to be one of the world’s best river cruise trips. Stemming from the great Zambezi River, the Chobe River runs through Botswana into the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park. The park is famed for its massive wild herds of elephants and stunning natural landscapes. You’ll also spot hippos, buffalos, lions and zebras splashing at the river banks, and hundreds of bird species flying overhead. Whether you want to float through the reeds in a makoro (dugout canoe), or cruise the length of the river in a sightseeing boat, a trip down the Chobe River will be full of wonders.

Best time to go: The dry season from April to October. As inland water sources become scarce, the animals gather around the Chobe River, giving you the best chance of spotting some incredible wildlife. 

GET INSPIRED BY: Victoria Falls Experience

The Yangtze

sail boat Three Gorges Yangtze river cruise China

The Yangtze is one of the world’s best river cruises. It’s the longest river in Asia, spanning over 6,000 kilometres through China, and it’s full of magical scenery, culture and history. As you cruise along the emerald waters, snaking through rugged mountains shrouded in green forest and mist, you’ll spot ornate temples and peaceful villages. There’s also plenty of wonders like the Three Gorges Dam, the soaring gorges of Wuhan, and the eerie ghost city at Fengdu. With stops at vibrant cities like Chongqing and Shanghai along the way, you’ll experience the incredible diversity of China with a Yangtze River cruise.

Best time to go: You can go all year round. Our favourite seasons are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) with milder temperatures and gorgeous scenery.

GET INSPIRED BY: Best of China with Yangtze Cruise

The Mississippi

Mississippi river boat Natchez USA

Winding through 10 states from Minnesota to Louisiana, the Mississippi is one of the world’s most famous rivers. Having inspired countless writers, poets and musicians, it’s sure to fascinate any traveller. The Mississippi is full of history with American Civil War memorials, battlefields and antebellum plantation houses where the horrors of slavery in the United States took place. And it’s also full of life. You’ll rock ‘n’ roll your way from the blues bars of Memphis to the jazz clubs of New Orleans. Or indulge in the finest soul food and bourbon, and cruise the swamps in search of alligators and birds. Whether you want to soak up the food, culture, history or nature, the best way to discover the soul of the USA is a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi. 

Best time to go: Avoid the extreme temperatures of summer and winter and enjoy the Mississippi River in spring (March to May) and autumn (September to October). 

GET INSPIRE BY: Tastes and Sounds of the South

The Rhine

aerial view over the Rhine River

Want to see the best of Europe? A Rhine river cruise takes you through six beautiful countries including Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Glide through iconic cities like Amsterdam, Cologne, Strasbourg and Basel. Marvel at the natural wonders like lush vineyards, towering gorges and the stunning Black Forest. Step through history as you make stops at Baroque palaces, fairytale castles and medieval towns. Sip the famous wines and indulge in the delicious local cuisine. A river cruise down the Rhine is sure to be one of your most memorable journeys yet.

GET INSPIRED BY: European Highlights

Planning for an iconic 2022 trip? Request the latest Trafalgar brochure and start dreaming

Have you experienced any of the world’s best river cruises? Let us know in the comments below!

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