Exploring by e-bike
Exploring by e-bike (Photo: Viking)

Adventure River Cruising With Viking

Exploring by e-bike
Exploring by e-bike (Photo: Viking)
Cruise Critic contributor
Rebecca Toy

Last updated
Mar 27, 2024

Read time
8 min read

Sponsored by Viking

Cruising Europe's regal rivers offers castles and villas, historic cities and idyllic villages and culinary treats that will have you wanting to bring an extra suitcase packed full of goodies home. Yet, outdoor lovers also have plenty to celebrate because, with Viking, journeying down these waterways also packs in plenty of adventure.

Hike through vineyards and castles. Let an electric bike make pedaling down a river path a joyful breeze. Kayak under a UNESCO site in France. Or journey to the countryside to birdwatch in a national park or make wine at a vineyard. There's something for every ability and interest, and this guide will help you discover the best adventures on each route.

From Waterways to Vineyards, Discover the Rhône's Wild Side

Lavender Fields, Provence
Lavender Fields, Provence (Photo: Viking)

This French river conjures up bucolic farmland and the region's rich culinary delights. While famed food and wine are in the spotlight with Viking's Lyon & Provence cruise on the Rhône, there are many opportunities to get a more intimate look at life in this varied landscape.

For Everyone: Just off the Rhône at Arles, where the river meets the Mediterranean, you'll find the Camargue, a marshland wonder, with one of the world's oldest breeds of horse running wild, birds migrating from Africa, and a sub-culture of French Mediterranean life with flavors of Spain. Guests who choose this day trip take a gentle, self-paced stroll through a bird preserve teeming with flamingos, egrets and herons. The day also includes visiting medieval cities that gaze out on pink salt flats and experiencing one of the manades, the region's traditional cattle ranches.

Viking also takes guests along the Ardèche River, stopping at lavender farms before exploring further into the Ardèche Gorge, where you'll cross a massive natural bridge that spans the gorge.

For More Adrenaline: Steep slopes north of Avignon rise almost immediately from the Rhône, providing the perfect place to grow world-famous grapes; hiking down through a vineyard in Tournon is a from-the-source experience for wine lovers.

Guests are bussed to the top of the hills with a guide and led down through stone and dirt paths (Viking provides walking poles). The views down through the vines to the river are spectacular. The tour ends with a wine tasting and sampling the town's famous Valrhona chocolates.

You can get even closer to the Rhône in Avignon on a five-mile canoe trip which starts upriver at a nature island with a picnic. Then, leisurely float down to Avignon and sail beneath the UNESCO Heritage Site medieval bridge before ending your paddling excursion.

Biking and Hiking Adventures Along the Elbe Take You to the Hidden Corners

Couple Riding Bicycles Dresden
Dresden, Germany (Photo: Viking)

The palaces, castles and stunning sites of historic cities like Dresden on this serene river deserve your attention. With a gentle electric bike or a view from the top of a rocky outpost, local guides will show you what delights lie further afield on Viking's Elbe voyages.

For Everyone: The rock castle of Bastei offers a craggy contrast to the elegant cities along the Elbe. On this included stop, Viking guides take guests to this bastion looming over the river, its natural rock walls have protected Neurathen Castle inside since 1289. A seven-arch, 250-foot sandstone bridge to connect the formations was built in 1824. This dramatic lookout point is unlike any other on your journey.

For More Adrenaline: E-biking abounds on the Elbe with Viking. During a pre or post-cruise stay, tours in Berlin start in the picturesque residential neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. One route offers sites in East Berlin — the remains of the Berlin Wall, Museum Island, Lustgarten, and the Holocaust Museum — that provide a great moving map for further exploration on your own. Another route goes deeper into East Berlin, taking bikers to less-known sites representing medieval, imperial and world war history.

In Dresden, bike on a well-maintained path along the river, gliding on an e-bike that adds gentle power to your pedaling. Roll past the famous Baroque Frauenkirche and the Pillnitz Castle. Stunning villas give way to vineyards as you approach your destination of Pirna, a Renaissance town at the base of the Sandstone Mountains.

Learn More About First Time River Cruising

Pedal With Electric Power into the Rhine's Fabled Landscapes

Kinderdijk  windmills in the mist (Credit: Claire Droppert)
Kinderdijk windmills in the mist (Credit: Claire Droppert)

For Everyone: Journey to Germany's Black Forest on a Viking Rhine cruise, the setting that inspired the Brothers Grimm's enduring fairytales. Your tour drives through vineyards and villages to the crest of the forest at the Hofgut Sternen Hotel. Here, guests can choose between strolling in the woods, learning about the region's cuckoo clocks, watching glassblowers, or making a mouthwatering Black Forest Cake.

With a journey down the Rhine, guests can also board an exclusive boat tour in the Netherlands, taking you to the famous Kinderdijk windmills via a historic cargo vessel. Visit the Blokker Windmill, which dates to 1630, and learn from the family that lives there about life as millers and water management in the Netherlands.

For More Adrenaline: Three biking options on Viking's Rhine journey help travelers enjoy a peaceful pace and a ground-level experience of fabled places. An eight-hour excursion takes you on a pedal into the Black Forest with an e-bike and your guide.

Through forests and valleys, you'll learn more about the heritage of this region and visit a traditional home with intricate wood details and a roof that dips close to the ground.

In Cologne, a guide glides you through history on this three-hour tour past highlights like the oldest City Hall in Germany with 900 years of history and the magnificent cathedral that famously survived heavy bombing in World War II.

If you prefer to visit the Dutch windmills by land, take a bike tour through the low-lying polders, sections of land 5 feet below sea level. Cycle through a warren of windmills and canals as you learn the complex keys to water management in this sunken land. This tour also includes visiting the Blokker Windmill before returning to the ship through cottage lanes.

Discover the Danube's Delights As You Roll Along This Continental Waterway

A Viking Longship in Passau Germany
A Viking Longship in Passau Germany (Image: Viking)

The Danube stretches through the heart of Europe, from the edge of Germany through Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine as it flows through the Balkans to the Black Sea. Whether you learn more about how horses changed empires or grab a bike to follow the river, Viking's trip down the Danube highlights how this river connected unique European cultures.

For Everyone: Hungarian horsemanship is legendary. On Viking’s Danube Waltz itinerary, you can travel to the countryside and observe how equestrians are keeping this heritage alive. A guide takes you through the history of this horse farm, Lázár Equestrian Park, and Hungarian traditions on horseback. Then, under a covered tribune, the horses and their riders put on a show with tricks and pageantry. Enjoy a carriage ride around the farm before you go.

For More Adrenaline: There are three opportunities to pedal through European cities on a guided e-bike tour: Vienna, Krems, and Passau. In Vienna, your path will take you by Klosterneuburg Abbey, the restored Donaupark and the Danube Tower as you follow the river. In Krems and Passau, Viking e-bike tours take you along the Danube Cycle Path, an international trail that follows the river to Romania. Your ride is shorter but has all the charms of rolling hills, vineyards, and dreamy villages.

One of the Viking excursions in Passau involves a vigorous climb up through the city to the fortress perched atop. Views of the confluence of the Ilz, Inn, and Danube rivers give you a sense of why this location was so important in history.

From Artist Gardens to Craggy Castles, the Seine Adventures Through History

Château Gaillard, Les Andelys, France
Château Gaillard, Les Andelys, France (Photo: Viking)

Paris and Normandy have iconic status worldwide, and visits to each do not disappoint. Yet with this Seine river cruise between the two, Viking guests can explore the very different homes of two famous men and what the landscapes meant to each of them.

For Everyone: Just outside of Paris, Viking delivers a rare opportunity to step into a famous painting. You don’t have to be an art-lover to experience the enchantment of the gardens at Monet’s Foundation in Giverny. Monet’s home is now a museum, open from April through October. On this included Viking excursion, wander the artist’s home and gardens, teeming with color from the pink-hued brick home, weeping willows, water gardens and Japanese bridge.

For A Bit More Adrenaline: If you’d like more speed with your artistic experience, join a bicycle ride through Monet’s hometown. Stops in Giverny include the artist’s burial site and the town’s Romanesque church. Continue to the Monet Foundation and stretch your legs by strolling the gardens. Then, it’s off to the Old Mill in Vernon for French bread and cheese with delicious macarons.

A Viking excursion in Normandy gets you stepping as you explore Château Gaillard, the 12-century fortress that helped the English king, Richard the Lionheart, hold this region of Normandy. This fortress is known as the most imposing castle on the river. Scrabble about exploring the castle and looking down on the Seine River valley. 

How was this article?

Get special cruise deals, expert advice, insider tips and more.By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

© 1995—2024, The Independent Traveler, Inc.