Watch African wildlife from the swimming pool onboard the Zambezi Queen river cruise ship.

River cruising is becoming more popular than ever, with dozens of river ships plying the waterways in Europe, Russia, Asia and even in far more remote corners of the world.

Riding this wave of popularity, it’s no surprise cruise lines always have their creative hats on and are dreaming up new itineraries and experiences for first-timer and repeat passengers to enjoy. If you think river cruising is merely an activity found on the Rhine / Main / Danube stretch between Amsterdam and Budapest or in France, think a lot bigger.

If river cruising is your speed but you’re tired of the well-trodden itineraries, we’ve rounded up some of the hottest river cruising options to pique your interest for 2017.

Mystical Irrawaddy – Scenic – 14 Days

Scenic Aura on the Irrawaddy River in Pyay, one of the newest ships to join the line's fleet.
Scenic Aura on the Irrawaddy River in Pyay, one of the newest ships to join the line’s fleet.

While late to the party, Myanmar has finally awoken to realise its potential from a tourism perspective. In one such way, its lengthy Irrawaddy River has in turn caught the attention of the world’s river cruise lines, which have all jumped on the bandwagon. Scenic is one such operator which has invested heavily in what Myanmar has to offer.

The exotic ‘Mystical Irrawaddy’ itinerary starts in Mandalay and finishes in Yangon (and also travels in the other direction) aboard the all-suite Scenic Aura, which completes the luxury feel with butler service and Scenic’s customary all inclusive nature.

Also included are a range of Scenic Enrich activities such as placing a Gold Leaf on the Mahamuni Buddha and partaking in the traditional oil lamp lighting ceremony at Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. All included activities are a comprehensive introduction to the country, with the final three nights spent in Yangon, capping off what is sure to be an amazing trip.

Wonders of India – APT – 16 Days

The RV Ganges Voyager travels along the Ganges River in India
Travel along the Ganges River in India on the luxurious RV Ganges Voyager.

India is one destination which can be a bit daunting, yet it never seems to lose its alluring and mysterious appeal, particularly among travellers looking for something a little more out of the ordinary.

It’s quite easy though to mix this mystery with familiar surroundings, such as on APT’s ‘Wonders of India’ itinerary. This 16-day Delhi to Kolkata sailing on the RV Ganges Voyager takes in all the major sights of India in quite a high level of luxury. Furthermore, guests won’t spend hours on buses moving between the port and the attractions, many of which are within a relatively short distance of each port.

The itinerary docks for the whole night in Delhi, Jaipur and Agra to ensure guests have a chance to see as much as each city offers, such as witnessing a spectacular sunrise over the Taj Mahal and private excursions to the Mullik Ghat Flower Market, a spot which usually provides a bit of a sensory overload.

Jewels of Russia – Scenic – 15 Days

Scenic cruises in Russia on a chartered luxury ship it periodically renames as the Scenic Tsar.
Scenic cruises in Russia on a chartered luxury ship it periodically renames as the Scenic Tsar.

In the words of the immortal Winston Churchill, Russia has always been “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” and and its rivers hide most of the secrets. Finding an easy way to crack the code and discover the true Russia has always been a monumental task.

Scenic cruises in Russia onboard the boutique Scenic Tsar. It might not look like much from the outside but inside, it is fitted in the palatial standard of luxury five-star travellers with the company come to expect.

This cruise allows you plenty of time to discover both St. Petersburg and Moscow and is further boosted by chances to discover regional towns and local highlights such as the Volga-Baltic Canal and the Svir River.

A reasonably sizeable ship, Scenic Tsar still sails with a relatively small number of guests to ensure an intimate experience for passengers. Off the ship, some of the experiences on tap include opportunities to enjoy a private Russian ballet performance at the Palace of Prince Vladimir and a chance to meet a cosmonaut. It’s all in a day aboard the Jewels of Russia.

African Journey – APT – 15 Days

Imagine watching the wildlife wandering about the plains from comfort such as this?
Imagine watching the wildlife wandering about the plains from comfort such as this?

Africa isn’t a destination normally associated with river cruising however a number of opportunities do exist and are quickly becoming all the rage for those looking for something different. Australian tour firm APT has a number of itineraries offering this very thing and they are hugely different to the more ubiquitous land-based safari lodges and game drives.

Taking place on the rivers and waterways of the Chobe National Park, guests are taken into some of the most densely populated elephant communities in the world onboard the Zambezi Queen river vessel. To ensure a nice well-rounded trip to Africa, guests are also taken to Kruger National Park for a chance to see the ‘Big 5’, while the trip is bookended with a magnificent steam train ride to Victoria Falls.

Most of the itinerary is spent on land, however for a few nights at least, you’ll have a great view of Africa at its raw, primal best.

Pathways to the Pharaohs – Viking River Cruises – 12 Days

The Viking Princess cruising the Nile River in Egypt.
The Viking Princess cruising the Nile River in Egypt.

Much like India, Egypt is another of those destinations which manages to maintain its appeal despite the rather volatile internal security situation. If things seem to be peaceful for a while, the tourists start coming back to marvel at the ancient wonders on which the country banks much of its reputation.

While of late it hasn’t been a place appearing too often on the itineraries of many travellers, 2017 is expecting to see the country return to the radar. Well aware of the blossoming desire of its guests to head back to Egypt, Viking River Cruises has relaunched river cruise sailings down the Nile and on Lake Nasser.

As part of this itinerary, guests are free to explore the Great Pyramids of Giza, the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing. The magnificence that is Abu Simbel – sitting high above Lake Nasser – is also one of the highlights sure to captivate attention.

Where are you planning to river cruise in 2017? Let us know in the comments below!