Rhône River Cruise: Sailing the South of France

The South of France is a place of rare enchantment. Sample one of the world's most celebrated cuisines and delve into the many local histories & appreciate the world's most refined wine culture.

11 Days
Lyon to Lyon
From (GBP)
£ 4,200
Dates & Pricing

2020 Lyon > Lyon

Glide along the Saône and Rhône Rivers, through the heart of the sun-baked, lavender-scented countryside of southern France.
Discover medieval hilltop towns, follow in the footsteps of the ancient Romans in Arles and Avignon, and marvel at prehistoric cave art. Explore the enchanting landscapes that inspired Vincent van Gogh on hiking, biking, and kayaking excursions. Along your journey, sample the region’s culinary splendors, tasting your way through Lyon—the gastronomic heart of France—and sampling wines from acclaimed vineyards, including the world-renowned wine estates of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As we sail these storied waterways, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—and benefit from the insights provided by the National Geographic Expert and the National Geographic photographer who accompany us on the journey.
Tour Map
Tour Code:
11 days
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Selected Itinerary

Stephen Alvarez

National Geographic Photographer, Stephen Alvarez

Departure date: July 30, 2020

Stephen Alvarez is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker covering stories on archaeology, exploration, culture, and adventure. He has published more than a dozen feature stories for National Geographic magazine, traveling on assignment from the highest peaks in the Andes to some of the planet’s deepest caves.

His latest National Geographic story, “The Origins of Art” (January 2015), led from early human sites on the southern coast of Africa to Paleolithic art caves in Europe, including Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc in southeastern France. Moved by the power of humanity’s earliest artworks, Alvarez founded the non-profit Ancient Art Archive, which is dedicated to using the photography and the newest image-based VR technology to explore, preserve and share humanity’s oldest artworks.

Stephen is also a frequent consultant and commentator on how new photographic technology is changing the world; in 2016, he set out to photograph the seven natural wonders of the world using Microsoft smartphones. His images have won awards in Pictures of the Year International and Communication Arts, and have been exhibited at Visa Pour L'Image in Perpignan, France.

Don George

National Geographic Expert, Don George 

Departure date: July 30, 2020

Travel writer and lifelong Francophile Don George is an editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, as well as host of the National Geographic Live series of conversations with notable authors.

In four decades as a travel writer and editor, Don has visited more than 90 countries on five continents. He has traveled throughout—and written extensively about—Europe and Asia. He studied French, English, and American literature at Princeton, and has lived in France, Greece, and Japan, working as a translator in Paris, a teacher in Athens, and a television talk show host in Tokyo.

Don is the author of The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George, and has received dozens of writing awards, including the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year Award.

11 Day Itinerary

  1. Day 1 - Lyon, France

    Arrive in Lyon, situated at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers. Board the Scenic Sapphire and settle into your spacious suite.

  2. Day 2 - Tournus

    This morning, cruise north on the Saône River towards Tournus, a charming town known for its Romanesque abbey. As we sail, get to know our onboard National Geographic Expert and National Geographic photographer, as they share insights into the regions we’ll explore in the days ahead. Upon arrival in Tournus, choose from a variety of experiences to begin your experience in Burgundy. Opt to try your hand at the craft of tonnellerie or barrel making; for those drawn more to the gastronomic tradition of Burgundy, enjoy at cooking class with the staff of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Alternatively, visit Château de Cormatin, a 17th-century castle featuring exquisite gardens and sumptuous gilded rooms; or join a group of hounds and their owners on a truffle-hunting expedition in a nearby village.

    Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  3. Day 3 - Chalon-sur-Saône/Beaune

    As we navigate further upriver today, choose from three unique experiences in the heart of Burgundy. Visit the renowned Nicéphore Niépce photography museum in Chalon with our National Geographic photographer, where the world’s first photograph was captured in the 1820s. Alternatively, explore Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. Admire the delightful Flemish architecture and colorful tiled roofs of the Hospices de Beaune, a museum and wine estate, and stroll through its 15th-century wine cellars. Or, visit an esteemed local chateau, set amongst rolling vineyards, and taste some of the region’s acclaimed Pinot Noir.

    Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  4. Day 4 - Tournon

    Sail down the Saône and along the Rhône River on your way to the enchanting medieval town of Tournon. Upon arrival, set out on a guided walking tour of Tournon’s “twin city,” Tain-l’Hermitage, set on the opposite side of the river. The French gourmet chocolate manufacturer Valrhona is based here, and we’ll have the opportunity to visit their interactive museum and chocolate shop—an experience capped off with a sampling of their mouthwatering confections. You may also opt to embark on a bike excursion outside the village, or climb up the scenic terraced slopes of Hermitage hill, enjoying a tasting of local wines at the end the hike.

    Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  5. Day 5 - Avignon

    Continuing south to Provence, learn to prepare classic French dishes and regional delicacies with our ship’s chef as we sail. Disembark in Avignon and tour the city’s architectural landmarks on foot, including the Popes’ Palace—the seat of the Catholic church in the early 14th century, and the largest medieval Gothic palace in the world. Alternatively, taste the celebrated wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape at a Côtes du Rhône vineyard. This evening, return to the Popes’ Palace for an unforgettable experience: after the doors of the palace close to the public, enjoy an exclusive gala dinner and concert.

    Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  6. Day 6 - Avignon/Luberon

    Enjoy an opportunity to shop with our ship’s chef at an Avignon market, then cook up a delectable French feast in our ship’s kitchen. Or, choose to explore the picturesque hilltop villages of the Luberon region. You may also venture to the quiet, romantic town of Uzès, nestled among olive groves and cypress trees, and visit the Pont du Gard, an impressive ancient Roman bridge-aqueduct. Relax onboard this evening, sipping a cocktail and sharing stories with fellow travelers.

    Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  7. Day 7 - Tarascon/Arles

    Today, we anchor at Tarascon, a red-roofed Provençal town that exudes medieval charm. Choose to spend your last day in the region in a variety of ways. Explore Roman history in nearby Arles, a thriving trading center in Roman times. Visit the Museum of Ancient Arles and Provence with a local expert to view a recently unearthed 2,000-year-old Roman cargo boat; and discover the city’s magnificent Roman amphitheater. Or, take a stroll through the stunning coastal wetlands of the Camargue alongside a naturalist. Alternatively, venture to the hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence before touring a family-run olive farm, or choose to visit the Saint Paul de Mausole Monastery, the mental health institution where Vincent van Gogh committed himself and created many of his celebrated works. Enjoy Tarascon at your leisure this afternoon, or opt to remain onboard for a lecture or workshop with your National Geographic Expert or National Geographic photographer.

    Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  8. Day 8 - Viviers

    Cruise to the dreamy village of Viviers, where we’ll be treated to an organ recital at the Cathedral of St. Vincent. You have several options for the rest of the day: explore the lava cliffs of Monts d’Ardèche Regional Natural Park, by navigating the Ardèche canyon—one of Europe’s largest canyons—by kayak, or visit the fascinating Pont-d’Arc Cavern, a replica of the renowned Chauvet Cave, home to some of the world’s best preserved prehistoric drawings. Alternatively, stop by the aromatic Lavender Museum in St.-Remèze to observe the process by which lavender oil is extracted from the flower.

    Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  9. Day 9 - Lyon

    Take in the vistas of the Rhône River as you sail towards the gastronomic heart of France, Lyon. Cap off your day with an a capella choir performance in the 17th-century Trinity Chapel, one of Lyon’s most beautiful baroque buildings.

    Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  10. Day 10 - Lyon

    Enjoy a wealth of activities to choose from: Venture outside the city to explore the fascinating Roman ruins of Saint-Romain-en-Gal in Vienne, including a well-preserved Roman town and amphitheater; or explore historic Lyon, traversing its hidden traboules—centuries-old passageways that were used by silk workers to transport their goods—and climbing up to the neo-Byzantine Notre Dame Basilica for a panoramic view.

    Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

  11. Day 11 - Lyon

    After breakfast, disembark our ship and transfer to the Lyon airport for your fight home.

    Meals Included: Breakfast

Tour inclusions

Trip Highlights
  • Discover the Roman heritage of southern France on a visit to the Museum of Ancient Arles and Provence and Vienne’s ancient amphitheater.
  • Delve into the mysterious marshland of the Camargue alongside a local naturalist, on the lookout for wild horses and myriad wetland bird species.
  • In charming Tournus, learn the art of crafting oak wine barrels and prepare delicious Burgundy specialties at a cooking class.
  • Alongside our National Geographic photographer, visit the home of French inventor Nicéphore Niépce—one of the “fathers of photography.”

Pricing & Availability