Wildlife, stunning scenery and culture – these waterways offer some of the best sightseeing in the world
THE AMAZON Winding through the jungles of nine South American nations and the most expansive rainforest in the world, the Amazon is the second longest river on Earth.
A sanctuary for more than 400 indigenous tribes, there’s also enough flora and fauna here to satisfy even the most curious of David Attenborough-types – from pink and grey river dolphins to jaguars, giant otters and piranhas.
Luxury riverboat the Delfin II offers a five-day cruise through some of the most unspoilt areas of the jungle with activities including swimming in pristine lagoons, meeting locals and visiting wildlife rescue centres. DELFINAMAZONCRUISES.COM
THE SEINE Synonymous with the City of Light, at 777km long, the Seine is the most important river in northern France and has been at the centre of life in Paris since the Middle Ages.
Today, its UNESCO-listed riverbanks are lined with some of the city’s top landmarks, including Notre-Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
Emerging in the Burgundy wine region of northeastern France, the river flows north-westerly through Paris before veering to the Normandy coast into the English Channel.
Scenic runs multiple cruises that wind their way through the lauded waterway, including Normandy & Gems of the Seine, and Gems of the Seine and Beautiful Bordeaux. Both itineraries take in historic sights, amazing wineries and the natural scenery. SCENIC.COM.AU
THE NILE Ancient pyramids and temples, tomb-laden valleys and bustling modern day cities – a trip down the Nile is a journey through 5000 years of history.
Officially the world’s longest river (at 6650km), while the Nile flows through 11 countries, it’s Egypt that offers the quintessential experience.
Accommodating up to 64 passengers, Sanctuary Nile Adventurer cruises between Luxor and Aswan and offers itineraries led by some of the country’s top Egyptologists. Think Agatha Christie’s book, Death on the Nile, and you’re halfway there. SANCTUARYRETREATS.COM
THE DANUBE The longest river within today’s European Union – and second longest on the continent – the Danube originates in Germany’s Black Forest from where it flows south through central and eastern Europe to the Black Sea.
Long known as the “river of kings” it has been used for trading for centuries, as far back as the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
These days, its pretty banks are
THE GANGES Holy Mother River, Ma Ganga, Mother Ganges – the Ganges is known by many names and is easily the most revered waterway on this list by an aquatic mile.
Worshipped as a goddess by millions of Hindus worldwide, the 2500km-plus river flows through the nations of India and Bangladesh from its mountainous source in the Himalayas. And although it’s far from the cleanest waterway – in fact it’s polluted with everything from human waste and partially cremated bodies, to chemicals and rubbish – being the most populated basin on Earth, it’s a feast for all the senses.
APT offer several luxury cruises on the Ganges taking in highlights such as Bengal’s terracotta temple, the bustling city of Kolkata and various pretty villages on the Lower Ganges. APTOURING.COM.AU
THE DOURO Cutting across northern Portugal, the Douro loosely translates as “river of gold” thanks to the effect the setting or rising sun has on its waters making it appear as liquid gold.
A more off-the-beaten-path option than the popular neighbouring Rhine, the pretty stretch of water snakes 917km to the Atlantic Ocean covering rugged Spanish wilderness and the pretty UNESCO-listed old town of Porto.
Uniworld’s Douro cruise routes follow the river through Portugal and into Spain, cruising past olde-worlde villages, quaint market towns and acres of vineyards.
Wine hounds should take note – the grapes grown on the banks here have been harvested to produce a famed port wine for centuries. UNIWORLD.COM
THE MURRAY We can’t put together a list of the world’s great rivers and not include a homegrown one.
At more than 2500km long, the Murray is Australia’s longest river – and one of the longest navigable waterways in the world.
Flowing through three states (the river forms a natural border between NSW and Victoria), the Murray originates in the Great Dividing Range and flows in a northwest direction before turning south near Adelaide then emptying into the Southern Ocean.
A home since time immemorial for Aboriginal tribes, its waters and banks are packed to the rafters with birds, mammals, fish and reptiles.
Today you can experience the river in many ways, from a slow paddle or a lazy fishing trip attempting to net a prized Murray cod, to cruising on a historic paddle steamer, or even captaining your very own luxury houseboat. HOLIDAYSOFAUSTRALIA.COM.AU
THE MEKONG Flowing through six countries (China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) the Mekong is the real lifeblood of South-East Asia.
Journeying from its source on the Tibetan border south before finally flowing into the South China Sea, the Mekong buoys the lives of a rural population of 60 million or so people living in its basin who depend on the 4350km waterway for food, water and transport.
Second only to the Amazon River in terms of biodiversity, the Mekong is home to a veritable A to Z of critters, including more than 1000 species of fish and hundreds of reptiles and birds.
It also boasts unrivalled archaeological and cultural treasures, and exotic cuisine.
Mekong Cruises offer multi-day trips in and out of Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Saigon (Vietnam) taking passengers through a riverside landscape of traditional villages, old temples, lush paddy fields, floating markets and bustling cities. CFMEKONG.COM