The Amazon, South America
Accounting for around 20% of the world's total river flow, The Amazon River teems with rare, exotic and endangered wildlife including piranhas, pink river dolphins and the infamous anaconda snake. As well as containing more species of freshwater fish than any other river in the world (there are more than 3,000), the river also gives life to an amazing array of flora from orchids to bromeliads and palms. A natural wonder, the world’s largest river is also home to the most expansive and diverse rainforests on earth and most cruise routes start in the port town of Iquitos, Peru and journey downstream into Brazil stopping at the port towns of Manaus and Boca de Valeria.
The Nile, Africa
The longest river in the world, the Nile has, for thousands of years, been the lifeblood of Egypt, nurturing an entire civilization along its banks. Travelling in traditional feluccas, most cruises start in the city of Aswan (Egypt's gateway to Africa) and run downstream to Luxor, known as the ‘city of palaces.’ Along the way pass ancient temples and even the odd mummified crocodile, aware all the while that you are sailing in the wake of Cleopatra and the Pharaohs.
The Danube, Europe
Starting from the Black Forest in Germany, Europe’s most inspiring great riverwinds its way through spectacular medieval and renaissance cities, cutting through eight countries before finally emptying into the Black sea. World heritage sites and areas of outstanding beauty litter the river’s banks, with highlights including the 11th century town of Bamberg, Germany, the baroque buildings of Linz, Austria, the elegant splendour of Vienna, and the gothic architecture of Budapest, Hungary.
The Ganges, India
The great Ganges River is the heart and soul of India, both economically and spiritually. Stemming from the Himalayan Mountains, it is the largest river in the Indian subcontinent and also the holiest – It is mentioned in one of the earliest Hindu scriptures. Sail to the holy sites of Haridwar, Allahabad and Varanasi, where ancient and ornate temples accommodate thousands of people as they file in and out of the water during their daily devotions.
The Yangtze, Asia
This living border, which separates north from southern China, crosses ten provinces and covers 3915 miles (6,300 km) on its journey from the remote province of Qinghai, to the East China Sea at Shanghai. A source and inspiration for some of China’s most ancient legends, the river flows past the ghost city of Fengdu and on to Xian where the legendary terra cotta armies stand guard over Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China.
The Congo, Africa
The world’s most mysterious river and unnamed star of Joseph Conrad’s African masterpiece, The Heart of Darkness, the Congo River stretches 2,920 miles (4,700 km) from the East African Rift mountains, south through Kinshasa until it flows out into the Atlantic Ocean at the small Democratic Republic of Congo town of Muanda. The world’s deepest river (up to 750 feet/230 metres at points), the Congo is most safely and easily travelled between the towns of Mbandaka and Kisangani.