There is more to cruising than exploring than expansive oceans and short ports of call. From the Amazon to the Irrawaddy, these rolling rivers are among the most famous waterways in the world. They offer a different kind of cruise experience, one that emphasizes the passing surroundings rather than on-board festivities and flair. Whether a single day or several weeks, these seven cruises will take you along some of Earth’s most iconic rivers.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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India is home to an abundance of culturally, historically and religiously-significant sites, from the Taj Mahal and the tea fields of Darjeeling to the sacred Ganges River. It's hard to picture the Ganges without eliciting images of the holy city of Varanasi. Locals bathe and launder their clothes in the river, Hindus burn their deceased on the ghats that descend to the water, and sadhus pray along its shores. If you can only see one portion of the Ganges, Varanasi is the place to do it. Book a sunrise boat tour and watch as the pastel-hued city comes to life along the river. However, longer-itinerary cruises are available. Many depart from Kolkata and take you, via a combination of water, land and air, all the way to Varanasi.
Photo by Andrea Santoni, CC BY-ND 2.0
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Europe's Danube River will take you through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and the Ukraine if you travel it in its entirety. There are no shortage of operators offering shorter tours of segmented portions of this 1,777-mile-long waterway. Depending on what you choose, you'll likely port at a number of Europe's most famous cities, including Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest.
Photo by DomiKetu, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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The Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River is the vein that pulses through ever-enchanting Myanmar. Cruising the river, which runs the length of the country from north to south, is a great way to get a taste of Myanmar with a little more ease and comfort than you might going it alone and on land. Ananda Cruises offers a variety of itineraries aboard the Sanctuary Ananda, a downright lavish boat that was built by local craftsmen to boot. Most itineraries include stops in Mandalay and Bagan with its thousands of temples--a must-see for anyone visiting the country.
Photo by Ken Hayden Photography, via Sanctuary Retreats
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From Tibet to Shanghai, the Yangtze River flows nearly 4,000 miles across China. A trip along the Long River, as it's known in China, takes you by an abundance of varied landscapes and destinations. If circumstances only allow you to see a portion of the river, don't miss the Three Gorges between Chongqing and Yichang. This 120-mile stretch is among the most scenic the river has to offer and features towering cliffs that the Yangtze meanders through.
Photo by Bernd Thaller, CC BY-NC 2.0
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A quintessential means for exploring South America's Amazon Rainforest is, of course, via the more than 4,000-mile-long Amazon River. While each of the countries it passes through offer a unique perspective, both culturally and ecologically, you'll be treated to verdant jungle views and a once-in-a-lifetime experience no matter your destination. Peru's Avalon Aria is a perfect example of how river cruises forgo the big ships without sacrificing luxury. The 16-cabin boat includes floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall windows so you won't miss a single sight as it passes you by.
Photo via Avalon Waterways
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Pack your favorite Mark Twain novel and board an iconic paddlewheel boat as it sets sail down the Mississippi River, crossing the U.S. from north to south. If you plan to travel the river in its entirety, you'll pass through 10 states on your more than 2,000-mile journey. There is no shortage of destinations along the way, from St. Louis and St. Paul to Memphis and New Orleans.
Photo by Roderick Eime, CC BY 2.0
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At more than 4,000 miles long and passing through 11 countries, the Nile is the longest river in the world and undoubtedly one of the most famous. Egypt's section of the river is by far the most popular to visit. Depending on the length of the cruise, trips range anywhere from a single day to several weeks, you'll see a number of the country's bucket list-worthy offerings like the UNESCO World Heritage Abu Simbel and its monumental statues of Rameses II and Nefertari.
Photo by Michael Gwyther-Jones, CC BY 2.0