A Resource for Riverboat Travel

Climb aboard a riverboat to explore a new destination from a unique point of view, or return to someplace you love to see it with new eyes from the ship deck. Take a study cruise along the Amazon to learn about the rainforests of Brazil. Visit the Holy Ganges to learn more about the daily rituals that take place along its spiritual shores. Enjoy an epic voyage along the Mighty Mississippi to study the life of Mark Twain. Or sail along the calming waters of the Dordogne or Loire Rivers, stopping to learn about winemaking along the way. Experiencing a region of the world via its waterways can be an amazing way to get to know the landscapes, flora, fauna and more at a relaxed pace and from a different perspective. Bon voyage!


“Of all the 15 Road Scholar trips we have taken, Egypt was over the top! I had been fascinated with its history since I was a girl, and I came home even more fascinated. To see the pyramids and ride on the Nile in a felucca with a real Egyptologist was an experience of a lifetime.” 

Rosemary from San Luis Obispo, CA

— Class of 2006 —

Top 15 River Adventure Books
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
by Mark Twain
Float down the Mississippi River with Huck, a wily teenager from Missouri, and Jim, a runaway slave, and delight in the adventures they find along the way. Or try Mark Twain’s memoir, “Life on the Mississippi.”
“Three Men in a Boat”
by Jerome K. Jerome
Join three men in a boat on a two-week boating holiday along the Thames. Intended to be a serious travelogue, this 1889 British comedy shares nonfiction accounts of the author and his friends with a brand of wit that is relatable over 100 years later.
“The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Colombia”
by Michael Jacobs
Travel down the Magdalena River in the heart of Columbia with British writer Michael Jacobs via tugboat as he copes with his mother’s dementia. You’ll encounter Gabriel Garcia Márquez along with Jacobs as he explores this mystical river.
“Mississippi Solo: A River Quest”
by Eddy L. Harris
This memoir follows Harris’ solo canoe journey down the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to New Orleans with insightful prose that acknowledges the experience of a black man traveling alone.
“Heart of Darkness”
by Joseph Conrad
Travel along the Congo River with Charles Marlow in this classic turn-of-the-century novel that analyzes colonialism, racism and European imperialism.
“The Lost Steps”
by Alejo Carpentier
This novel, originally published in 1953 and since translated into 20 languages, follows the journey of a composer trading his life in New York City for an adventure along a South American river with his mistress.
“Deep River”
by Shusaku Endo
In this work of fiction, join a group of four Japanese tourists on a pilgrimage along the Ganges River in India, and learn about the unique motivations, demons, expectations and spiritual discoveries of each traveler.
“To the River: A Journey Below the Surface”
by Olivia Laing
Walk along the Ouse River in Sussex, UK from source to sea — the same river where Virginia Woolf drowned in 1941. Laing weaves together biography, history, nature writing and memoir to examine the roles the river plays in the lives of those who have lived along it.
“The River's Tale, A Year on the Mekong”
by Edward Gargan
Join New York Times correspondent Edward Gargan on an exploration along the Mekong, studying the lives of the people who live along its shores.
“The Journals of Lewis and Clark”
by Lewis and Clark
Through the journals of two of America’s greatest explorers, Lewis and Clark, follow their adventures with Sacajawea and 32 men along the Missouri River, America’s longest river, to the North Pacific and back.
“River of Doubt”
by Candice Millard
This piece of historical nonfiction documents Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing journey along the River of Doubt, a previously unmapped tributary of the Amazon, with his son and a Brazilian explorer in 1912.
“Goodbye to a River: A Narrative”
by John Graves
Join John Graves on his wild adventures as he canoes solo along the Bravos River in north-central Texas in an attempt to bid farewell to the river as it is now and was in his childhood, before an inevitable series of dams changes the environment forever.
“Highland River”
by Neil M. Gunn
Journey to Scotland with a scientist as he returns to his home in the Scottish Highlands and Dunbeath River after experiencing the horrors of WWI.
“Exploration of the Colorado River”
by John Wesley Powell
This 1874 nonfiction classic recounts the expedition of pioneer John Wesley Powell and his crew as they travel down the Green and Colorado Rivers through the Grand Canyon and into the American West, surviving famine, attacks and vicious rapids along the way.


“A wonderful program for those interested in the antebellum South. Very informative lectures and field trips. We Road Scholars learned and saw so much more than did those who simply took the river cruise.”

Pat from Asheville, North Carolina

— Class of 2014 —


The Best Rivers to Discover by Riverboat

We’ve compiled our list of the world’s best rivers to experience by boat, starting with the most popular and well known and ending with some more off-the-beaten-path rivers you may not know much about. 

Nile River, Egypt
The Nile

The longest river in the world begins with two branches in Ethiopia and Lake Victoria. They merge in Sudan and split again before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile and its branches flow through 10 countries in East Africa. Its name is derived from the Greek word “neilos” for “river.” The river’s water supply and fertile banks allowed the civilizations of Ancient Egypt to thrive and gain wealth and power. Visit ancient temples along the river and learn about the Nile’s famous dams that serve as major feats of engineering.

Missisippi River, New Orleans, USA
The Mississippi

Beginning in Minnesota, the Mississippi River flows south through a total of 10 U.S. states to Louisiana and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. It ranks as the fourth-longest river in the world. The Mississippi has played important roles in U.S. history as a vital source for Native Americans, a means of western expansion, trade and transportation. Cruise on the Mississippi River to charming port towns and famous cities like Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans as you learn about southern heritage, Civil War history, American jazz and more.

Amazon River, Brazil
The Amazon

The Amazon is South America’s largest river and discharges 20% of the world’s river waters into the ocean, greater than any other river in the world. It flows through Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Brazil; the length of the river is about the same distance between New York City and Rome. The Amazon Rainforest, along the river’s basin, is home to half of the Earth’s remaining rainforest. Sail along the river to enjoy stunning rainforests and reserves and learn about Amazon ecology.

Danube River, Slovenia
The Danube

The Danube flows east from Germany, through a total of 10 European countries to Romania, emptying in the Black Sea. It is the second-longest river in Europe and flows through more countries than any other river in the world! The Danube is lined with miles of bicycle trails, and its waters are home to a graveyard of mid-20th-century German ships, visible in the summer when the water levels fall. Explore medieval villages and learn about the history of castles and cathedrals as you travel along the river by boat.

Mekong River, Thailand
The Mekong

The Mekong River begins in China and runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the Mekong Delta of the Pacific Ocean. The river is home to intense rapids and beautiful waterfalls, and it provides a major route for trade in Asia. Cruise the Mekong and stop in tiny fishing villages and at Angkor Archaeological Park to learn about its ancient temples.

Rhine River, Germany
The Rhine

Starting in Switzerland, the Rhine flows north through Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands, where it empties into the North Sea. There are many historic castles and forts along its banks from the days of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as the many vineyards of the Rhine wine region in Germany. Visit the fairytale landscapes and multi-cultural cities as you sail down the Rhine, learn about UNESCO Heritage Sites and visit the magnificent Rhine Falls.

Lena River, Russia
The Lena

The Lena River is the third largest in Asia. It runs north from its source in the Baikal Mountains and empties into the Arctic Ocean. The river is home to a variety of flora and fauna, but only for about five months. The rest of the year, the river delta is frozen tundra. Visit (in summer) to learn about the prehistoric peoples and animals that inhabited its shores, and visit fishing villages for a glimpse of daily life in the Arctic region on your Lena River cruise.

Brahmaputra River, India
The Brahmaputra

The Brahmaputra River begins in China and flows through India, Bangladesh and India again in an incomplete loop. Its origin is the Angsi glacier in the Himalayas, and it’s one of the few rivers across the globe that experiences a tidal bore. It is known by many names, including the Indian “Brahmaputra,” which means “son of Brahma.” Cruise along the Brahmaputra River to stilted local villages, and learn about stunning temples and magnificent wildlife.

Quadalquivir River, Spain
The Quadalquivir

The Guadalquivir runs from the Sierra de Cazorla in Southern Spain to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean. The name of the river comes from the Arabic word for “great valley.” It serves as a mode of transportation and trade for southern Spain. Its shoreside ecosystem is home to one of the richest flora and fauna in Europe. Sail along the Guadalquivir River to Seville to walk its cobblestone streets, explore its magnificent cathedral and visit the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

Irrawaddy River, Burma
The Irrawaddy

The Irrawaddy River flows from north to south through Myanmar and is the country’s largest river. It empties into the Adnaman Sea. It is famous for its mention in Rudyard Kipling’s Poem “The Road to Mandalay,” has been a major route for trade and transportation for centuries and is an important source of irrigation for the country’s rice paddies. Cruise on the Irrawaddy River to visit the pagodas and Buddhist temples left behind by empires of the past and learn about the Pagan Dynasty’s 250-year rule.

“The boat was a very relaxing way to cover a lot of ground. Since we primarily traveled during the day, we got to see how the landscape and way of life changed as we moved... If you are interested in learning about the past, experiencing an extremely different present and glimpsing the future of Asia and the world, this is the trip.” 


Ruth from Dublin, OH

— Class of '14 —

Top 5 Reasons to Travel by Riverboat with Road Scholar
Smaller Ships Mean Greater Access
Riverboats are smaller than ocean liners, which means Road Scholar riverboats have access to smaller port towns. Our ships can dock in the center of town versus a remote cruise port, giving you greater access to inland destinations. You get to explore smaller port towns where “everyday life” is happening, which gives you a chance to dive deeper into the culture of the place you’re visiting.
Full Immersion in the Destination
Exploring a destination by riverboat is like taking the backroads instead of the highway. You’ll feel like you’re truly “in” the destination. You get a chance to see daily life as you pass by. Imagine sitting on the deck in the morning as you watch the sunrise and wave to the villagers as you cruise by. It’s total cultural immersion.
You’ll Visit a New City Every Day
Because you’re traveling along a river rather than hitting the open sea, you’ll drop anchor in a new port city every day on most of our riverboat programs. You’ll spend less time out to sea and more time on land immersing yourself in the local culture!
You Can Unpack
Traveling by riverboat is a great way to see many different towns or cities without having to pack and unpack your bags as you move from hotel to hotel. We often say that riverboats are like “floating hotels,” and that’s just the experience you’ll get on a river program. You can really settle in and let the riverboat become your home away from home for your journey!
More Boat Means Less Bus
Your riverboat will likely do most of its cruising from port to port at night, giving you more time to experience each destination during the day. Even when you’re moving during the day, you can enjoy a glass of wine with your view from the deck and endless amounts of space and fresh air. You can also enjoy a Road Scholar lecture on board most riverboats, or cozy up in your cabin with a good book as you travel.



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