RIVER CRUISES ALONG THE SAONE AND RHONE
Chalon ~ Macon ~ Lyon ~ Viviers ~ Avignon ~ Arles
Aside from discovering one of Europe’s most magnificent waterways, a Saone-Rhône river cruise is also a journey through France’s gastronomic heartland taking you from Beaujolais and Burgundy to Provence, through simply idyllic countryside.
Clare, our award-winning river cruise expert at Ponders Travel
will find you the perfect
river cruise in France
Typical Saone-Rhone Cruise Itineraries
Most itineraries begin or end in Chalon-sur-Saône, on the Rhône’s main tributary the River Saône. For wine lovers this could well be heaven on earth, being the at the centre of some of the world’s finest wine producers in Givy, Rully, Mercurey and Montagny. Vineyard tours and tastings are very much on the agenda here, but the charming town of Chalon itself is well worth a visit.
Beaune is the capital of Burgundy’s wine trade and it is also an extremely pretty town brimming with fascinating history, from the medieval ramparts to the gothic Hospices de Beaune. There’s also a market here that foodies just won’t want to leave. Just downstream is Macon, another picturesque town made for wine lovers, gourmets and those who appreciate fine scenery. The countryside here is filled with beautifully kept vineyards and peppered with fairy-tale chateaux.
A day in Lyon is one that will linger in the memory, being filled with elegant buildings and fine restaurants – it’s no wonder it’s known as France’s gastronomic capital. It’s also an ancient city with fascinating historical sights, from the Romans onwards.
As the Rhône flows southwards, you enter what is perhaps the most picturesque stretch of the river featuring some of the finest Roman heritage. In Vienne you’ll find well preserved temples and theatres to explore, while in nearby Tournon, there’s a magnificent 10th century castle. This is also prime Côtes de Rhône country and so a visit to the fabled Hermitage vineyard, set on steep slopes above the river, is incredibly rewarding.
Travelling through the Ardèches gorge, with its spectacular sheer cliffs, is truly a wonder of nature and you might well stop at the charming walled town of Viviers, full of ancient buildings and a 12th century cathedral, the smallest in France.
A little further on is Arles, famed for its astoundingly well preserved Roman amphitheatre, but also for its beauty that inspired some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous works, including Sunflowers and The Yellow House.
The majestic walled city of Avignon is the final destination for many Rhône cruises, a stunning historical treasure, rich in papal history especially. It’s also a beautiful city, so you may well wish to simply wander its streets and marvel at the scenery.
From the vineyards of Burgundy to the fragrant fields of Provence, there’s something to delight wine lovers, history buffs and gourmets of all types on a Rhône river cruise.
Chalon ©M Chanaud | Beaune ©Michael Evans | Avignon ©Yann de Fareins | Others ©FW, wikimedia, n/a