The most spectacular waterways in the world

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine, Germany

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine, Germany

Whether snaking through clutches of pretty small towns, winding the entire length of countries or docking on the shores of the world’s biggest cities, travelling over water is both relaxing and thrilling.

Enchanting Danube
One of the most popular river-cruising waterways, the Danube plays host to charming small European towns, delightful cities and views for days. Europe's second-longest river flows through 10 countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. A popular route links Budapest, an elegant city on the banks of the Danube, with famously progressive Amsterdam, following the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. En route, river cruises pass by Vienna, Austria's stunning capital, and Germany's fairytale castles. Longer cruises that follow the Lower Danube build on itineraries that travel through Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria.

Mighty Mekong
As South East Asia's life-giving waterway, the mighty Mekong winds its way through some of the most fascinating countries in the region. Travelling along the river is to understand the important role it plays in the daily lives of locals. Dozens of hill tribes have settled along the river's banks, and many offer their handmade arts and crafts at lively outdoor markets. Traditional fishing villages still line the waterfront in many regions, while golden-domed temples make a breathtaking sight at sunset. A journey along the Mekong is an exploration of diverse and fascinating cultures.

Exploring the Rhine
Among the most lively and beautiful waterways in Europe, the Rhine is one river that holidaymakers can't get enough of. It's also one of Europe's longest and most important, winding through Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Expect to see a melting pot of old and new scenery along the way, as medieval villages and dramatic castles give way to thriving modern cities where industry and innovation has superseded tradition. Keep your ears open for local folklore and legends, as tales of beautiful mermaids driving sailors to distraction are as prevalent here as Hansel and Gretel in the forest.

A taste of Bordeaux
You don't have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy a cruise around France's celebrated Bordeaux region, but it sure doesn't hurt. Immerse yourself in country life as you pass through rural French towns where the daily fresh market is the central meeting place, sheep roam impossibly green, verdant hillsides and the welcome is as warm as the wine is terrific. Bordeaux, a gorgeous city with UNESCO World Heritage status, sits on the Garonne River and is one of France's culinary and cultural gems. Cruises here tend to focus on port stops where wine appreciation, indulgent cuisine, beautiful gardens and stately homes are the order of the day.

Doing the Douro
Flowing some 900 kilometres through Spain and Portugal, the Douro river finally empties into the Atlantic Ocean where the city of Porto meets the coast. Along the way, it splashes by terraced vineyards where grapes are grown for Portugal's acclaimed wines, under the shadow of imposing monasteries and historic castles. Translating as Portugal's River of Gold, it weaves through sun-drenched towns and rustic farmland, where some of Europe's most delicious produce is sourced. On the steep banks of the Upper Douro, vast reserves of Port wine grapes drink in the sun for a bountiful harvest. Expect to see fewer river cruises on this body of water than in other parts of Europe.

This article is presented by helloworld and APT River Cruises.

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