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7 Top World Rivers to Cruise

Consider a River Cruise for a Unique International Trip

Taking nothing away from ocean cruises, a river cruise is an entirely different recreational animal. Which style suits vacationers largely depends on the experiences being sought. It’s an apples-vs.-oranges scenario. River cruises typically are smaller, more intimate outings. They also provide immediate and almost constant access to the scenery, history, and culture of the regions they explore — which, of course, vary wildly around the globe. With that in mind, here’s a primer for some of the best international river cruises.

The Rhine

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The Rhine River flows gently through a number of premier travel destinations, including Switzerland, Germany, France and Holland. For eons, the Rhine has been one of the busiest waterways in Europe — with good reason. Beyond transporting goods throughout the region, it visits some of the continent’s most beautiful landscapes, and this river journey showcases them with aplomb. Trips range from four days to two weeks, traveling along a river beset by medieval castles, picturesque towns, and a bucolic, vineyard-laden countryside that has inspired countless art pieces. Some extended cruises also can include the historic Moselle River.

The Douro

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From the docks of Portugal’s Porto, the Douro River veins up through Portugal and Spain, as well as some of the oldest and most renowned wine regions in Europe. In addition to warm Mediterranean vineyards, the waterway visits expansive valleys, charming Iberian villages, and culturally iconic cities, including Lisbon. This is a brass ring trip for lovers of fine food and wine. The typically week-long cruises also visit the wonderous International Douro Natural Park before culminating in the vibrant university town of Salamanca.

The Volga

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The Volga River, which is the longest in Europe, also might double as the soul of Russia. From the Valdai Hills to the Caspian Sea, the Volga is as much a part of Russian culture and tradition as the cities, villages and rural communities that it passes through. The pace can be a bit more relaxed than some other European cruises, with trip lengths running from seven to 14 days. This is the cruise for those who want an immersive Eastern European experience. Stops include historic St. Petersburg as well as the magnificent but rarely visited townships of Mandrogi, Goritsy and Yaroslavl.

The Danube

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There’s a reason why Strauss composed a waltz celebrating it. The Danube is the second longest river in Europe and passes through 10 countries: Austria, Bulgaria Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine. Typical trips last from one to three weeks, often starting in Nuremberg and floating through Austria to finish in the ancient Hungarian capital of Budapest. Longer, once-in-a-lifetime versions of this cruise incorporate the waterways of Amsterdam and sections of the equally impressive Rhine and Main rivers before entering the Danube Canal in Nuremberg and occasionally reaching out into the Black Sea.

The Amazon

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The world’s largest river runs predominately through Brazil and Peru. Commensurately, Brazil is where most of the river traffic can be found, particularly between Manaus and the Colombian border, which is why most river cruises focus on alternative sections. Peru is where agile riverboats abscond from Iquitos and up into the Amazon’s tendrils where the river is born. Trips range from 4 to 7 days exploring streams, islands, and jungles teeming with wildlife. Stops in remote villages along the way provide cultural accouterments that accent the most biologically diverse corner of the planet.

The Nile

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The banks of the Nile are all but composed of indispensable human history. A cruise between Luxor and Aswan lasts between three and seven days and displays headline attractions known around the globe — not the least of which being the temples of Karnak, Kom Ombo, and Edfu, and the necropolises within the Valley of the Kings. When the journey concludes in Aswan, consider a side trip to Abu Simbel. The imposing rock temples etched into the mountainside near the Sudanese border are eerily awe-inspiring. Or head north to the pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza, perhaps the most well-known icons of the ancient world.

The Yangtze

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The Yangtze River is the third-longest river in the world and the longest in Asia. It also happens to pass through what many consider to be some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful and rugged terrain found anywhere. The Three Gorges Dam has raised water levels, altering the landscape and forcing many who lived along the river between Chongqing and Shanghai to relocate. The scenery, however, has remained intact and visitors need look no further than the Xiling Gorge or the ghost city of Fengdu for tangible proof. Many trips are between three- and 10-day voyages from Chongqing to Shanghai.

– Written by Adam Sawyer

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