10 of the Best River Cruises for Winter Sun

Zambezi Queen AmaWaterways

by Nick Trend, The Telegraph, December 3, 2018

Nick Trend suggests some balmy escapes from the Amazon to the Zambezi.

1. Easy Zambezi

The banks of Botswana's rivers are home to some of the richest wildlife in Africa and the vast Chobe National Park is one of the best places to spot elephants, lions, giraffes and hippos. Zambezi river cruises embark at Kasane with expert guides taking safari and birdwatching excursions. You’ll also see Victoria Falls, and the itinerary includes visits to Cape Town and Johannesburg. 

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Discover Africa departs all year round from £7,531 for nine nights including four full-board on the Zambezi Queen and transfers, but not flights. AmaWaterways (amawaterways.co.uk).

2. Irrawaddy from Mandalay

The Irrawaddy links the highest Himalayan glaciers with the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, via the wide plains of Myanmar. The best cruising weather is November to February, when days are warm and humidity levels are lower. From Mandalay, ships head south to the world heritage site of Bagan with its temples and monasteries. Excursions include the hill town of Maymyo and the Buddhist temple of Ananda. 

The Ayeyarwady Adventure from Bagan departs October to March from £2,143 for seven nights full-board, on the Belmond Road to Mandalay river cruiser, departing Jan 5, 2019, excluding flights and transfers. Belmond (belmond.com).

3. Tea and rhinos

From central Tibet, through India’s north-eastern state of Assam, the 1,830-mile (2,945km) Brahmaputra river flows on to Bangladesh before joining the Ganges and reaching the Bay of Bengal. Week-long itineraries sail between the Indian cities of Guwahati and Jorhat, passing through tea plantations, dense jungle and the Kaziranga National Park, home to greater one-horned rhinos, pied kingfishers, eagles, water buffalo and river dolphins. Best for November to April departures. 

The Brahmaputra cruise departs November to March from US$2,890 (£2,250) for seven nights full-board on RV Indo-China Pandaw, excluding flights and transfers. Pandaw (pandaw.com).

4. The Nile in style

Most Nile cruises focus on the 120-mile (193km), three or four-night voyage between Luxor and Aswan, which takes in the most spectacular archaeological highlights including the Valley of the Kings and the temples of Karnak, Edfu and Kom Ombo. There is also (usually) a chance to sail on a traditional felucca at Aswan. The cruise is best combined with a stay in the capital Cairo and a visit to the Pyramids at Giza and Saqqara. The best season is December to February.  

The Cairo to Cairo tour departs September to May from £2,495 for nine nights with four full-board on MS Hamees, including transfers but not flights. Emerald Waterways (emeraldwaterways.co.uk).

5. Southern Mekong

Mekong River

Photo by superoke/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images    

The Mekong flows through six countries, from the Tibetan plateau to the South China Sea, but cruises focus on the southernmost sector, sailing between Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap in Cambodia, with the chance to see the temple complexes of Angkor Wat. Winter temperatures reach the high 20Cs, and it is the driest time of the year in this region.  

The Magnificent Mekong tour departs October to March from £4,635 for 14 nights with seven full-board on Viking Mekong, including flights and transfers. Viking River Cruises (vikingrivercruises.co.uk).

6. Indian nights

Quiet backwaters and tropical scenery make the estuaries of Kerala in southern India ideal for a gentle cruise past the villages, rice paddies and temples that make the area distinctive. Tailor-made itineraries offer the chance to combine a cruise with a stay in the buzzing port of Kochi for city sightseeing and, for example, cooking demonstrations. Winter temperatures are in the high 20Cs. 

The Greaves Kerala tour departs October to April from £2,550 for eight nights with three full-board on Oberoi MV Vrinda, including transfers and flights. Greaves India (greavesindia.com).

7. No hurry on the Murray

From its source near Adelaide to the sea south of Canberra, this gentle river meanders through outback and provides a rare habitat for bird life. Paddle steamer cruises embark and disembark from the South Australian town of Mannum, offering itineraries which include wine-tasting, nocturnal wildlife excursions and guided tour of the Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Reserve. 

The Murraylands and Wildlife Cruise departs November to March from A$1,683 (about £950) full-board on PS Murray Princess for seven nights including transfers, but excluding flights. (murrayprincess.com.au).

8. Ganges tribute

Follow in the wake of the East India Company along the Hooghly river, a West Bengal tributary of the Ganges. Departing from Kolkata (with its grand avenues and cricket ground) through remote regions peppered with rice paddies, mustard fields and mango orchards. Highlights on cruise itineraries include the terracotta temples of Kalna, Clive of India’s battlefield at Plassey and the Moghul-style garden of Khushbagh.  

The Along the Banks of the Hoogly upstream cruise departs November to April from £2,495 for 11 nights including seven full-board on the RV Rajmahal or RV Sukapha, including flights and transfers. Jules Verne (vjv.com).

9. Peruvian perfection

Cruises set sail from the port city of Iquitos where temperatures reach the high 20Cs throughout the winter months. You join the Peruvian Amazon beyond the confluence of the Ucayali and Marañon rivers. Itinerary highlights include Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve for exotic bird life and jungle walks. Tours combine time on the water with stays in Cusco, Machu Picchu and the country’s capital, Lima. 

From the Inca Empire to the Peruvian Amazon departs year round from US$4,669 (about £3,650) for 10 nights with three nights full-board on Delfin III, excluding flights and transfers. Avalon Waterways (avalonwaterways.com).

10. Amazon adventure

Vying with the Nile as the world’s longest river, the 4,000-mile (6,440km) Amazon flows through a huge variety of landscapes and supports a rich and exotic wildlife. Departing from the Brazilian city of Manaus, cruises offer the chance to see river dolphins, taricaya turtles and manatee (sea cows) as well as the colourful bird life of the tropical rainforest. Excursions take in Anavilhanas National Park which includes the island archipelago of Rio Negro, with forest boat tours in search of alligator-like caimans. 

The Amazon River Adventure departs Jan 31, 2019, from £2,399 for 14 nights full-board on the Braemar, including flights and transfers. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines (fredolsencruises.com).

 

This article was written by Nick Trend from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

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