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 splendours, 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.  

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.”

Itinerary - 11 Days

1 Lyon

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

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. Freechoice: Experience the marvellous, 17th-century Château de Cormatin or alternatively head out truffle hunting with locals and their intelligent hounds in a nearby quaint village where you will be able to sample classic French truffles. (B,L,D)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

9-10 Lyon

Return to Lyon and 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. Cap off our journey with an a capella choir performance in the 17th-century Trinity Chapel, one of Lyon’s most beautiful baroque buildings.

11 Lyon

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

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