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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 19 March, 2024
Expert travel writer: Sue Bryant

A voyage along the Rhone has to be one of the most scenic river journeys in Europe, as the river carves its way through the countryside of the Rhone-Alpes and Provence regions to the Camargue and its marshy delta.

Medieval villages and craggy castles cling to the hillsides, while vineyards and swathes of purple lavender stretch away into the distance. Cultural attractions are plentiful; the Romans have left their mark here in the magnificent amphitheatre at Arles and the stunning Pont du Gard. This is a river cruise for adventurers, too, with hiking, cycling and kayaking on offer.

All Rhone cruises call at magnificent Avignon, famous for its bridge and for the 700-year-old Palace of the Popes, epicentre of the medieval Christian world. Another highlight is the Roman city of Arles, gateway to the wild, marshy Camargue, famed for its cowboys, its bulls and white horses. The light here inspired Van Gogh to create more than 200 paintings and it’s easy to see why.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: 6+ days

Getting there & doing it

Most cruises operate between Lyon and river ports in the south; some stop at Avignon and others head further, towards Arles and Tarascon. Some cruises operate round-trip, while others sail one-way, in which case, the southbound route tends to be more appealing, with magnificent Avignon or the wild Camargue as a grand finale.

While you could visit any of these ports by road, what’s appealing about a cruise, the ease of travel aside, is that in pretty towns like Viviers and Tournon, you’re moored within easy stroll of the historic centre and can come and go as you please from your ship.

When to do it

The best time to sail the Rhone is summer, from late April to October. Mid-July is the best time to see great swathes of purple lavender, though July and August can be extremely hot.

Who to go with: tour operators

4

Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

CroisiEurope [River Rhone]

CroisiEurope [River Rhone]

France

A river cruise specialist operating a fleet of 50 moderately-priced boats, mainly on European Rivers, but also some exotics like the Mekong and Lake Kariba. They offer affordable, all-inclusive cruises on the Rhone for an international audience.

Emerald Cruises [River Rhone]

Emerald Cruises [River Rhone]

France

Award-winning European river cruise specialist. Their highly-regarded, modern ships have boutique hotel-like interiors. There’s even a swimming pool on board, with a retractable roof for sunny days.

Uniworld [River Rhone]

Uniworld [River Rhone]

Los Angeles, California, France

River cruising specialist operating a fleet of 21 ships serving the major rivers of the world. The last word in river-going luxury, their all-inclusive S.S. Catherine, which sails the Rhone, offers opulent fittings, Murano glass chandeliers and a mosaic-tiled pool.

Viking Cruises [River Rhone]

Viking Cruises [River Rhone]

Basel, France

The world’s largest river cruise company and the market leader for River Rhone cruises. They have a modern fleet of luxurious, Scandinavian-inspired ships with multiple itinerary combinations. Luxury, over 18s only.

Destination guides

2

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Provence

Provence, France

Field of bright purple lavender in front of an old church

Gorgeous landscapes peppered with beautiful villages, sunflowers and lavender, art-filled towns, lively cultural festivals and exquisite food and wine. Provence is everything you imagined it would be.

Lyon

Auberge-Rhone-Alpes, France

Man on horse statue in foreground, basilica behind

The gastronomic capital of France, if not the world, is not just a foodie hotspot. With UNESCO-protected architecture and awe-inspiring Roman ruins, its one for history lovers too..

Round-ups

1

Round-ups that include this experience