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Best Worldwide River Cruises

1. The Temples of Angkor, Cambodia

Temples of Angkor Wat

The Angkor archaeological area is a World Heritage site home to amazing sights and structures, with the massive temple of Angkor Wat probably the most famous.

Near the Cambodian town of Siem Reap the site at Angkor was the centre of the Khmer kingdom between the 9th and 15th centuries. Its temples are noted for the art, carvings and symbols in their stonework and the area has extensive water systems built to support the large population.

Angkor Wat is a large well preserved temple complex with courtyards and different levels reflecting the Khmer social order. Major temples such as Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm can also be visited, with the atmospheric Ta Prohm left as it was discovered, with trees and roots growing through its walls and buildings.

Siem Reap and Angkor are visited at the beginning or end of a Mekong river cruise tour. More information and cruise collection at Mekong River Cruises.

2. The Cities of the Mekong River

Ho Chi Minh City

Two of the major cities of south east Asia are joined by the Mekong river - Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the former capital of South Vietnam, and Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

Ho Chi Minh City is connected to the Mekong via the Saigon river, and is now a thriving and busy city reflecting the growing economic power of Vietnam. Impossible to ignore is the main local transport of 5 million motor bikes! Phnom Penh is noted for its royal palace complex opposite the Mekong river promenade, and cyclos are more gentle transport! Both cities show signs of their French Indo-China past.

Vietnam and Cambodia are rated as two of the safest countries to visit. Yet each possesses a sombre recent history. In Ho Chi Minh City the Cu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum recall the Vietnam war. In Phnom Penh the former Tuong Sleng prison and the 'Killing Fields' reflect the fate of the millions of people who disappeared under the infamous Khmer Rouge rule.

Many Mekong cruise-tours start or end with a stay in Ho Chi Minh City. Mekong ships moor at a quayside in central Phnom Penh. Find cruises visiting Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh at Mekong River Cruises.

3. The Terracotta Army and the Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

The Yangtze River crosses central China to reach the sea at Shanghai. In addition to the cruise and sights of Shanghai, many river cruise tours also include Beijing and the Great Wall, and visit Xi'an to see the remarkable Terracotta Warriors.

Allegedly the only man-made structure visible from space, the Great Wall of China extends almost 4000 miles across China, travelling up and down hills and over mountains. Sections are easily walked, and can be visited on day trips from Chinese capital Beijing as part of a longer stay within the cruise tour.

The Terracotta Army was discovered by accident in 1974 when local farmers digging a well broke into a pit containing 6000 life-size terracotta figures. To date the remains of nearly 8000 warriors have been recovered - life-size, and individually modelled in clay. They guarded the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, builder of the Great Wall, and some 2000 are visible at this World Heritage Site in Xi'an.

The cruise portion of a Yangtze cruise-tour travels the river in the Three Gorges Dam area. Beijing and Xi'an are visited on most cruise-tours, with sightseeing to the Great Wall and Terracotta Army, and internal flights included. Check out China cruise-tours and more information at Yangtze River Cruises.

4. The Irrawaddy River from Bagan to Mandalay, Burma

Bagan Temples

Following the democratic developments in Myanmar (Burma) the country is expanding its tourism capability. Top attractions are Bagan and Mandalay, joined by the Irrawaddy River.

Bagan was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan during the 9th and 13th centuries. The kings ordered over 10,000 Buddhist temples and monasteries to be built, spread over the Bagan plain. Approximately 3000 still remain. Highlights include the spectacular Shwezigon Pagoda, the holiest site in Bagan, and the temple of Gubyaukgyi with ancient well-preserved wall frescos.

The old British colonial capital of Mandalay is the second largest city in the country after Yangon. Ascend Mandalay Hill for a view over the city, and appreciate the impressive walls and moat of the huge Mandalay Palace destroyed by fire in World War II. The Kuthadaw Pagoda houses the 'largest book in the world' with a page in stone in each of 729 stupas. The holiest temple in Mandalay is the Mahamuni Buddhist Temple with a huge bronze Buddha covered in gold leaf. At nearby Amarapura is the U Bein Bridge, the world's longest teak wood bridge.

River cruises on the Irrawaddy river now extend from the capital Yangon (Rangoon) through the temple city of Bagan to Mandalay and further upriver. Some may take a shorter route; others may travel into more remote areas or add a stay at the Inle Lake. Find out more about Irrawaddy cruises and view our cruise collection at Burma River Cruises.

5. Delhi, Agra and Jaipur - India's Golden Triangle

Taj Mahal

India is a fascinating mixture of old and new, wealth and poverty. A tour of the Golden Triangle coves all aspects, and features some of the most outstanding sights in the world - including the Taj Mahal.

In Delhi the relative calm around the government and diplomatic areas contrasts with the hectic activity in the narrow streets and markets of Old Delhi as the traffic of cars, tuk-tuks and public transport grows daily. The massive Red Fort built in 1648 and the Qtab Minar, started in 1200 and the tallest brick minaret in the world, are much visited World Heritage Sites.

The road to Agra passes Delhi's new commuter suburbs to reach Agra, a city of 1.5 million inhabitants best known for the Taj Mahal. Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is a massive building recognised the world over and attracting 7 million visitors a year. It is the centrepiece of a 42-acre complex on the bank of the Yamuna River.

From Agra travel west to Jaipur, the 'pink city' in recognition of its pink painted buildings. A major attraction is the huge Amer Fort situated on a hill outside the city, a World Heritage Site as is the Jantar Mantar, a fascinating outdoor collection of ancient astronomical devices for telling time and date located near the Maharajah's City Palace.

The Golden Triangle is featured as part of cruise-tours based around a Granges or Brahmaputra river cruise from the old British colonial capital of Kolkata. Extensions may include the spiritual centre of Varanasi on the Ganges. View our cruise-tours visiting the Golden Triangle at India River Cruises.

6. Steamboat cruising on the Mississippi from New Orleans

Steamboat cruising on the Mississippi

Sailing from New Orleans on a traditional style paddlewheeler evokes the heyday of the Mississippi, and cruises to the 'Blues City' of Memphis give added opportunities to explore the music and traditions of the US Deep South.

New Orleans is famous for its 'laid-back' vibe, distinctive cuisine, and the sounds and sights of its historic and atmospheric French Quarter. Don't miss the jazz sensations of Bourbon Street.

The paddlewheelers resemble the great steamboats of the past, but with modern amenities. The river route passes great houses on former plantations, sites of American Civil War battles, and towns with fascinating pasts and historic buildings.

Memphis is noted as the home of the Blues, and an evening stroll on Beale Street is unmatched for the sounds and atmosphere. In contrast visit the Civil Rights Museum housed in the Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated. Outside town is Graceland of Elvis Presley fame.

Our most popular Mississippi cruises travel between New Orleans and Memphis, and give access to vibrant Nashville in Tennessee. At certain times of the year routes may extend as far as St Louis or Pittsburgh, and maybe further. View our voyages from New Orleans at Mississippi River Cruises.

7. Tigers in Assam on a Brahmaputra river trip

Bengal Tiger in Assam

The Brahmaputra flows from high in the Himalaya mountains through Tibet before joining the Ganges in Bangladesh. The Assam Valley in North East India is one of its highlights with UNESCO protected national parks offering wildlife to match Africa.

Our river cruise on the Brahmaputra sails through the scenic Assam valley to national parks, visiting remote rural villages where tourists are an unusual sight. It includes excursions to tea plantations as well as exotic monasteries and temples.

The highlights of this adventure are the elephant, boat and jeep safaris into the World Heritage Kaziranga National Park to seek one-horned rhinoceros, Bengal tigers, bison, vultures and a variety of animals. With one of the greatest varieties of wildlife outside Africa, Kaziranga is known as the 'Serengeti of India'.

The cruise starts with a night in Kolkata and a flight to Assam. On some dates a visit to the mountain kingdom of Bhutan may be possible. More details at India River Cruises. For an alternative wildlife cruise-safari see our Africa Cruises section for a cruise-tour combining safaris with a Chobe river voyage.

8. Upper Mekong river through the mountains of Laos

Luanf Prabang Laos

The Mekong river flows from China through Laos, then via Cambodia to the sea in Vietnam. The river cruise in Laos travels deep into the forests and remote areas through dramatic scenery and gorges.

Starting with a one-night stay in Vientiane, the old French colonial capital of Laos, this river expedition crosses Laos to the Thai border. It includes two nights at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, the ancient Laos capital and temple city.

There are visits to tribal villages and explorations into jungle and countryside, and a visit to the famous Golden Triangle between Laos, Thailand and Burma, once the heart of opium growing and now being opened to tourism.

This cruise travels into remote areas, and the itinerary is flexible to meet changing conditions. On certain dates an extended cruise travels from Vientiane to Jinghong in China. More information at Mekong River Cruises.

9. The Amazon River into the heart of South America

Amazon Jungle

Large ocean going ships can travel the wide River Amazon as far as the inland city of Manaus. Small river cruise ships can penetrate the upper reaches of the Amazon to get up close to the plants and animals of the tropical rainforest.

From Manaus travel by small ship upstream into the Brazilian Amazon or sister river Rio Negro to explore small tributaries and see abundant flora and fauna at close quarters. With naturalist guides, observe exotic birds, anteaters, caiman and porcupines amongst a treasure trove of fauna and flora.

An alternative river adventure travels the Peruvian Amazon from Iquitos, again with opportunities to see wildlife close-up, and search for elusive river dolphins and nocturnal animals.

There are many different cruise options on the Amazon River. The Peruvian Amazon small ship itinerary includes hotel stays in Peru capital Lima, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Check out the options available at Amazon River Cruises.

10. Halong Bay to Hanoi and rural north Vietnam

Ha Long Bay

Inland from the amazing limestone formations of Halong Bay, Vietnam's capital Hanoi lies on the right bank of the Red River, named because of the reddish brown silt carried down from the rural areas to the north.

Based around Vietnam's fast growing capital of Hanoi, this river adventure starts with an overnight cruise amongst the limestone islands and floating villages of Halong Bay before returning to Hanoi for sightseeing. It then travels as far as navigable up the Red River deep into the highlands of north Vietnam through mountain scenery.

As this voyage travels into remote areas the itinerary is flexible to meet changing conditions. It could be combined with a Mekong cruise from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City. More information on the Red River voyage at Mekong River Cruises.