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5 of the best scenic river cruises to enjoy

( 13 March 2017 )

Planning to take a scenic river cruise, but not sure which one to book? We’ve pulled together some of the most beautiful options you can enjoy.

Tulips at the keukenhof gardens in Holland
Discover the Keukenhof Gardens on a river cruise through the Dutch and Belgian waterways.


Cruise some of the world's most beautiful waterways. Find out more about river cruises here

All of these holidays feature all of the benefits of our river cruises, including superb organised trips but the freedom to make your own plans if you wish. 

So, take 10 minutes to fire up your imagination by reading about five amazingly picturesque possibilities.

1. Wonder at Dutch waterways in spring

The waterways of Holland are a place of great beauty at any time of the year, but they really come into their own in springtime. 

The world-famous tulips of the Netherlands are flourishing as the country shrugs off the cold. It’s the ideal time to kiss goodbye to winter blues and embrace the year ahead.

You can take part in optional excursions to stunning destinations, or organise your own schedule. We would recommend the Keukenhof Gardens, a breath-taking flower park that is ablaze with blooms in spring. 

You’ll find an incredible 4.5 million different tulips and dozens of species of tree across 32 hectares of parkland. Definitely one trip not to be missed.

There are plenty of other spectacles to savour, too. The Dutch capital of Amsterdam, with its canals, Skinny Bridge, and Anne Frank’s House, is worth touring. 

And the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen provides a slice of 18th century Holland, complete with reconstructed windmills.

Whether you choose Springtime in Holland or Holland in Bloom, there are multiple departures in 2016 and 2017, so you have plenty of time to plan ahead if you want to organise your own itinerary.

Set sail on a wonderful river cruise through the Belgian and Dutch waterways. Find out more here

2. Delight in the Danube and Wachau Valley

The Danube winds through so many of Europe’s beautiful cities that it’s genuinely difficult to choose one cruise from the variety on offer

However, we’d like to offer something to fans of architecture and natural beauty, and for that reason we suggest sailing from Salzburg to Vienna via the Wachau Valley.

Salzburg offers you spectacles such as Mozart’s house and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Altstadt (Old Town). You’ll then be taken to Linz, once centre of the Holy German Empire, and then Passau, the ‘Venice of Bavaria’.

Next comes Melk, with its beautiful Baroque abbey overlooking the river. You will also have the opportunity to appreciate views of vineyards in the Wachau Valley, another UNESCO site, before making your way to the charming town of Krems, where turrets and steeples rise high above you.

Finally, you’ll spend the last couple of days in Slovakia and Bratislava, before arriving at Vienna, historic centre of the Hapsburg Empire. 

With architecture ranging from the Baroque to the Neo-Moorish, there are many sights to explore in the cities on this remarkable journey.

There’s plenty of time to plot your trip, as this cruise is available in April, July and October 2016.

Few rivers can match the sheer variety that the Danube has to offer. Find out more here

3. Explore the romance of Rhineland

Take a scenic river cruise with a difference – for a taste of historic Europe, try the Middle Rhine for a route perhaps less well known than the Danube or Dutch waterways.

The Rhine and her tributaries offer stunning views of cliff-top castles, riverside fortresses, and architecture through the ages. 

Starting in Cologne, you can visit a range of locations including Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn, the ruins of Drachenfels Castle, or Ahr Valley.

As you sail further, along Moselle and the Rhine herself, you’ll see villages like Bernkastel-Kues, with its quaint gabled houses and Renaissance architecture including a fountain. 

You’ll also stop at Cochem and Reichsburg Castle, a restored 11thcentury hilltop keep surrounded by vineyards, which it would be rude not to visit!

In the last few days, you’ll cruise by the poet-inspiring view of Lorelei Rock, and dock at Rüdesheim for wine and adventures. 

The final destination – Cologne – offers the Gothic majesty of Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of inspiring beauty.

For dramatic views, fantastical architecture, and quaint medieval villages, a cruise down the Rhine is second to none. 

You have plenty of planning time, as cruises are running from May through to September 2016, and starting again next year.

Discover a fairy-tale world of hilltop castles, wooded hills and lush vineyards on a Rhine river cruise. Find out more here

4. Explore Egypt and the Nile

It would be remiss of us to only look at Europe when discussing scenic river tours. A major cradle of civilisation, the Nile naturally features some ancient and spellbinding architecture.

Sailing along the Egyptian Nile and touring its most historic sites is a magnificent experience. You can enjoy all the luxuries of the ship between mildly challenging treks to sites like the tombs of the Pharaohs or Karnak Temple Complex.

The cruise starts with tours of Karnak and Luxor, ancient religious centres with several temples. Next day you will visit the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings, as well as Hatshepsut Temple and Tutankhamun’s Tomb.

Moving along the Nile, the cruise allows touring of sites such as the Temple of Kom Ombo, noted for its unique double design. Next day, you will visit the Unfinished Obelisk, which gives clues to ancient construction methods, and then the 20thcentury engineering feat of the Aswan High Dam that gives life to the region.

There are plenty more sights besides, including ancient temples and contemporary botanical gardens. A cruise along the Nile offers an enchanting blend of views both historical and modern.

Cruise some of the world's most beautiful waterways. Find out more about river cruises here

5. Cross continental Europe by river

Thinking of something more expansive? The Voyage Across the Continent is a (perhaps) once-in-a-lifetime trip through Europe from the North Sea to the Black Sea. 

This trip simply dazzles with its diversity, taking you through countries ranging from Holland and Germany, through Slovakia and Hungary, to Bulgaria and Romania.

At a little over three weeks long, the trip tends towards the epic side of river cruises, but that only means that you will see so much more than shorter voyages. 

And covering the Rhine, Main and Danube, you’ll hit many of the sights we’ve described and more!

There are the canals of Amsterdam, Gothic Cologne, and Baroque Koblenz leading to the River Main. 

Then the next few days will let you explore historic German villages such as Miltenberg and Bamberg, before the cruise joins the Main-Danube Canal and eventually the Danube herself.

The journey then takes you through Baroque Melk, before arriving at iconic cities such as Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest. That’s three cities of acclaimed beauty in four days!

The final leg sees you sailing to the Black Sea and back to Budapest, via stunningly diverse Eastern European locations such as Belgrade, Tulcea and Novi Sad. 

After 24 days, it’s time for your flight home, so you can share all your photos and experiences with family and friends!


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.