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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 —
“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 —
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 —