Featured image from: Japan Discovery
In these turbulent times, one can only dream of traversing in an unhurried, soothing pace through the heart of a country. Of gliding by ancient woods and riparian beaches where wild horses roam. Of meandering through a city’s fabled waterways, or soaking up the atmosphere of a quaint village, and drifting off into the sunset in a strange land.
Ah, the allure of cruising – the prospect of sunnier climes and favorable winds, local cuisine, engine noise barely discernible, and the unlimited chance to soak up whatever scenery the vessel cuts through. To inspire your future travels, here’s a rundown of the world’s most scenic stretches of water and cruises to save up for.
Of Moats and Boats and Afternoon Tea: Yanagawa City
Yanagawa City in Fukuoka Prefecture is known to be a friendly gateway to Kyūshū. But this tourist town has plenty more to offer than fresh seafood, ramen, and nori. At the heart of the city lie the vestiges of a castle town surrounded by water-filled moats. The cruise is only 4 kilometers long and takes about an hour of crisscrossing the town in a leisurely speed while the guide hums folksong. Stay in awe for hours as the punt (dankonube) passes by charming minkas, ruins, low bridges, and animated sidewalks.
This previous waterway is not rich in history; its atmospheric beauty has also captured the hearts of many artists and poets, and for obvious reasons. Wearing a kasa or traditional Japanese hat is a must but the sunlight is not too harsh thanks to the canopy of willow and cherry blossom trees lining the river. The trip ends with a tasting of tea and the town’s celebrated seafood delights.
Delightfully Adrift in East-Central France
Exploring the canals of Burgundy on a barge is truly a leisurely affair. This scenic floating takes you deep into the region’s rich culture, picturesque villages and landscapes, and sun-drenched vineyards. Best enjoyed with local wine, cheese, and picnic lunches, this cruise offers a one-of-a-kind perspective on France’s east-central region. You can rent your own self-drive barge or take the hotel cruise for some slowed down civility. Be sure to drop by the local markets and experience the terroir at its finest.
Sailing into the Exotic in Oman
The Musandam Peninsula is a remote patch of land that juts out into the Strait of Hormuz, spreading out like a skeleton with its jagged coastline and fjordlike inlets. Its natural splendor and proximity to Dubai make this Omani governorate a popular destination for dhow cruising. Unlike the tranquil coasts of Oman facing the Arabian Sea, the peninsula appears wilder, conjuring up images of bold seafarers who plied the monsoon winds. The clear, blue water lends a striking contrast to the honey-colored cliffs and foreshores. While the action happens all day with local fishermen plying their trade, the sseaside villages become sleepy coves by sundown.
Slipping into a Dream in NZ’s Sunken Valleys
New Zealand is never short of awe-inspiring destinations, from peaceful holidays to extreme sports. But whatever your purpose in this far-flung country, don’t pass up on the opportunity to explore its sunken valleys. From Picton or Havelock, take a cruise boat or charter your own into Marlborough Sounds’ 1500-kilometer meandering fjords and idyllic beaches. There are short and long trips, eco tours on the side, and the prospect of watching dolphins leap from the waves alongside the boat. Nestled between the North and South Islands of NZ, this network of islands has plenty more to offer, including water sports, peaceful walks across towns, mountain biking along tree-lined tracks, and, of course, food and wine.
History Unfolds on the Ganges
Soak up the jewel-green color of the Ganges River and discover India from the slow lane on this cruise of a lifetime. Unlike the attractions in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, this river journey is anything but fleeting. The boat takes a relaxing pace, allowing you to take in the crumbling remnants of ancient India, observe villagers hard at work along the muddy foreshore, and patiently wait for the pink dolphin to emerge from the water. The week-long cruise is never boring as it’s accompanied with excursions to busy towns, remote villages, and ancient temples, sometimes in trishaws and horse-drawn carts. If you have a taste for nature, culture, and history, this cruise will certainly appeal to you as it covers all three.
Long-Haul and Luxurious Mekong Cruise
As the lifeblood of Southeast Asia, there’s no doubt that the Mekong River offers a special, bucket list-worthy cruise. The might river rises in China’s Qinghai and floods through the Tibetan Plateau, down to Myanmar, between Laos and Thailand, all the way to Vietnam, where it drains into South China Sea. It’s a long-haul route so be ready to feast your senses on rural communities, thriving cities, floating markets and villages, endless rice paddies and jungles, ancient pagodas, crumbling temples, and more. Short side trips include jungle walks, visits at historic sites, plus shopping for handicrafts and dining at roadside cafes. The entire trip lasts 13 days, enough to let you immerse in the region’s diverse cultures and natural wonders.
Columbia and Snake River Cruise
North America has its share of fantastic cruises, as well. But nothing compares to the Columbia and Snake River cruise in terms of both natural wonder and cultural significance. The route through the Columbia River Gorge itself is historic and symbolic, as it’s the same route that led explorers Lewis and Clark to discover the western half of the continent. Follow the footsteps of these pioneers in steamboat luxury, with tastings of the best local wines, excursions to Mount St. Helen’s volcano and Multnomah Falls, and exploring the shoreline by kayak. The trip takes eight days, but you’d be wishing for more, as the ships are dressed with all the fine things life has to offer.
Whether moored up or all aboard, river cruises are an immersive and enjoyable form of travel. It’s like staying in a hotel room with every-changing scenery, unexpected delights, and a full-sensory experience, minus the stress.