Insight / India, Laos, Egypt, Ecuador

Authentic Experiences

River Cruising

Explore the world’s rivers on an exploratory boat cruise which will allow you an unparalleled view onto riverside nature, wildlife and rural life. From the wilds of the Amazon, the pharaoh-littered banks of the Nile to India’s Brahmaputra river and the mighty Mekong, read our recommendations for Real Holidays’ favourite river cruises.

Nour El Nil, The Nile, Egypt

The lowdown

  • When to Go:

    The best time to visit Egypt is the cooler months from September to May.

  • Combine with:

    We’d recommend at least 2 full days in Luxor before you embark on the cruise to be able to see all the sights. You might also want to add in stops in Cairo and extend the time in Aswan at the end to visit the temples at Abu Simbel.

This is slow travel at its best on Africa’s longest river. Drifting along the Nile on a traditional dahabiya with the sails billowing in the warm breeze and the lush banks of the river passing by while you sit back on a soft cushion is an unforgettable feeling. Boat trips take six days to travel from Luxor to Aswan, with an emphasis on local connection, which feels like a much more intimate way to travel than the larger steamers that populate the river.

What sets Nour El Nil apart is the attention it gives to off-the-tourist-track activities like tea with a local farmer, walking in the desert, swimming in the Nile and visiting a quarry, alongside historical sites. With a fleet of seven boats, each with eight to ten cabins, cruising with Nour El Nil is a small-scale affair – you could even take over a whole boat for the ultimate cultural getaway with family or friends.

Mekong Cruise, Laos

The lowdown

  • When to Go:

    Cruises operate all year but high season is between October and March when it is drier.

  • Combine with:

    A Thai beach holiday for a perfect combination of culture and relaxation. Or why not make this part of a more extensive Indochina trip – this cruise links well with itineraries to Cambodia and Vietnam.

Meandering along the Mekong is as exotic as it sounds, particularly when your vessel of choice is Heritage Line’s small boutique ship Anouvong, a brand new ship that starts its inaugural voyage in autumn 2023. With just ten cabins, Anouvong has an elegant French-colonial style that mixes tastefully with Laotian artistry. All the cabins have a balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows making down-time in your room all part of the journey.

Sailing a lesser visited stretch of the upper Mekong in Laos, Anouvong takes three nights to reach Luang Prabang, starting in Huay Xai on the Laos/ Thai border. Known in Laos as the ‘Mae Nam Khong’ (Mother of Water), your ship passes through rural life unchanged for centuries and untamed nature that flourishes on the banks of the Mekong. Cultural stops are an important part of the trip including a blessing for your journey from the elders of the Tai Lu ethnic minority, time at an elephant sanctuary, meeting the Hmong and Khmu tribes, visiting Buddhist temples and caves before drifting into the temple-dotted, incense-swirled town of Luang Prabang.

Amazon Cruise, Ecuador

The lowdown

  • When to Go:

    During the Amazon’s dry season (July – December), water levels are low with more accessible hiking trails; rainy season from January – June sees milder weather and good opportunities for spotting animals.

  • Combine With:

    A visit to Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hike, bike or horse ride up the Andean peaks and visit Cotopaxi, one of the world’s tallest active volcanoes

The Amazon rainforest has always been swirled in mystery and intrigue, and such is its enormity, coming here is an intrepid adventure which few people are privileged enough to experience. We think the best way to immerse yourself in the Amazon is by boat, where you’ll go further by river and explore deep in the forest on expeditions.

The Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest is a unique ecosystem flitting with extraordinary wildlife from butterflies to reptiles, mammals to birds and aboard Anakonda, a luxury river expedition vessel with comfortable cabins that have floor-to-ceiling windows, you can be immersed in the riparian views around you. Over the course of 3, 4 or 7 nights your itinerary will show you the hidden sides to this pristine, little-known paradise including night-time forest walks, meeting the Secoyas people – a minority ancestral culture, climbing an observation tower that gives you a magnificent viewpoint over the Amazon and kayaking the river’s tributaries.

Indian Cruise

The lowdown

  • When to Go:

    The best time to travel is between October to April which is the dry season.

  • Combine With:

    Extend your time in Kazaringa National Park to do a more extensive safari. It is also possible to add in Kolkata, Darjeeling and the mountain region of Sikkim.

A beautifully restored houseboat, M.V. Rudra Singha is an evocative and romantic way to cruise the Brahmaputra River, located in India’s north-eastern Assam region. With just two twin-bedded cabins, this is a cruise for a couple or small group and you will revel in the privacy of your surroundings and access to riverine nature.

Your seven-night cruise will travel from Kaziranga National Park (which has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it hosts two-thirds of the world’s Indian rhinoceroses) to Silghat and Majuli, allowing you to enjoy the tranquil, lush riverscapes while appreciating your Assamese- influenced décor on board, dotted with authentic northeast Indian crafts. Bicycles are on hand so you can take off exploring or cycle alongside the boat. Highlights include tracking rhinos on safaris in Kaziranga National Park, discovering the magical dancing monks at Majuli, visits to Hindu monasteries and local fishing villages and homecooked dinners under the stars to the peaceful soundtrack of the river at night.

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