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4 Lesser-Known European Rivers To Explore
26th May 2015

Europe has some fantastic waterways and our European river cruises can help you discover them all. Itineraries along the Danube, Seine, Rhine and Douro are always excellent choices, but if you are looking for something slightly less mainstream (see what we did there), there are plenty of other alternatives.

As the demand for river cruising grows, operators are adding more ships, more facilities and more itineraries. This means that new rivers are always being considered as they look to branch out and offer something new and exciting to their guests. Here are some lesser-known rivers you may like to consider when you plan your next getaway.


Garonne River

With competition from the Rhone, Seine and Loire in France, it’s no surprise that the charming Garonne River barely gets a look in. Rising just over the border, in Spain, the Garonne weaves its way through southern France and cities such as Toulouse and Marmande, before emptying into the Bay of Biscay.

Just before it finds the sea, though, it crosses one of France’s most famous wine regions: Bordeaux. Itineraries along the Garonne often include stops in the city of Bordeaux itself, as well as other places that are well-known for their superb vintages. You’re sure to taste a few tipples in various vineyards along the way and this is also a great part of the world for truffles and oysters.

Many operators will combine the Garonne with other rivers in the area, such as the Gironde and Dordogne. AmaWaterways have a wine themed itinerary that sails throughout 2016, on all three rivers, taking you to places like Pauillac, Saint-Emilion and Cognac.


Guadiana River

The exact source of the Guadiana River is disputed in the surrounding areas, but it can be found where Spain’s Extremadura and Castile-La Mancha regions meet, near the Cijara reservoir. From there, it flows eastwards into Portugal, before reaching its mouth at the Gulf of Cadiz. For the last part of its journey, the Guadiana forms the border between these two Iberian countries.

The river was given the name ‘Flumen Anas’ by the Romans, but this was developed over the years, first by the Moorish and then by the Castilians, to become Guadiana. It can be translated to mean ‘The River of Ducks’. CroisiEurope have cruising itineraries that combine the Guadiana with the Guadalquivir River to create a tour that includes lessons in Moorish history and scenic sailing through national parks.


Elbe at Hamburg

The Elbe is probably the most well-known river on our list, but it is still one on which few operators sail. It is well known for being a German river but actually starts its life in the Czech Republic, where it is referred to as the Labe. It flows for a mammoth 680 miles in total on its way to the North Sea, making it the 13th longest river in Europe.

Along the way, the emphatic Elbe takes in the history of cities such as Hamburg, Dresden and Magdeburg. Your river cruise will help you discover the treasures of the former East Germany in the form of stunning architecture, beautiful urban parks, and handcrafted wares made from materials such as porcelain. Viking River Cruises currently have an ‘Elegant Elbe’ itinerary which is perfect for anyone wanting to traverse this historic waterway.


River Po

The River Po travels almost the entire distance across the north of Italy. It rises in the mountains near Pian Del Re, close to the French border, and travels north towards Turin, before heading east across the whole country and emptying into the Adriatic.

Uniworld have two different itineraries that will take you along part of the Po. In a tour that combines land-based stays with a river cruise, you will be able to discover the wonders of major cities such as Venice, Florence and Rome, as well as sailing between Taglio di Po and Polesella on the river. Throughout your time in Italy, you will get to taste the country as well as see some of its best sights. Seafood dominates the menu in the fishing town of Chioggia and there’s the chance to taste an authentic spaghetti Bolognese with an excursion to Bologna.

These European rivers offer an excellent alternative to some of the more heavily plied routes. They can help you explore hidden corners of the continent and will make you fall in love with river cruising. Contact us today for more information about sailing the Garonne, Guadiana, Elbe and Po.

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