Africa, an outdoor enthusiasts dream. An entire continent of open space filled with five ecosystems each offering a unique aspect to the landscape. Deserts, mountains, savanna’s, rain forests and coastline. One of the few places on earth where despite being the second most populated continent still contains many locations that look just as they did hundreds or maybe even thousands of years ago.
Visiting Africa for its amazing scenery, landscapes and its most endearing feature it’s biodiversity. Containing the most flora and fauna still in existence Africa is one of the most desired locations for travelers looking to step into a world completely different then their own.
Excited passengers whisking off in 4 x 4 vehicles on protectedwildlife Safarisled by a local guide to search for the Big 5 (Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros) among others. But there is another experience, one less considered and yet an amazing more intimate way to see wildlife in a natural and sustainable way.
The one source that all animals need for existence is water. Which is what makes very important to the existence of Africa’s wildlife, the rivers.
Africa has dry and wet seasons that occur annually interacting with the animal behavior driving them to and from the rivers, their main source for water. On average Africa’s wettest season is from April to early June and they see some rain October – December. However June through September is the dry period when animals begin migration to and along the rivers for sustainability.
Like the animals, traveling along the rivers can offer explorers a unique experience for up-close wildlife sightings and viewing of wildlife in their natural habitats as they play, socialize, feed, bathe and rest.
*Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways River Cruises
Traveling the Chobe and Zambezi rivers into the Chobe National Park in Botswana, brings guests to the source that attracts wildlife from hundreds of miles to the only water available during the African dry winter months. Offering unobstructed views of herds of elephant, giraffe, hooved animals and hundreds of birds all visiting for the season.
In addition to the wildlife experience, the scenery along the river offers many opportunities for unexpected views of the river and the African landscape. Don’t be surprised if you also come across some other unexpected surprises like the breathtaking sunsets that you can see from your cabin balcony.
The best part of an African river cruise is you don’t miss out on the land safari’s. Time is also spent exploring on safari in the Chobe National Park among other areas within Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda.
Visit national parks, iconic locations like Victoria Falls and private game reserves all while enjoying the best available five star accommodations that are arranged for you based on the itinerary that you choose.
Enjoying an African river cruise can offer many opportunities for immersing in the local culture, exploring the best sites and experiencing the bucket list adventures that most interest you.
The Douro River flows west from central Spain through Northern Portugal to the mouth at the Atlantic Ocean in Porto, Portugal. The region is agricultural, known for prehistoric archeology and the entire region is a UNESCO World Heritage site as one of the most scenically impressive locales in the world but Douro is most notable for its fortified wine production of port.
Even if you are not a wine drinker, the beautiful landscapes of the region and the active experiences of exploring the terraced vineyards, olive groves, meeting the friendly people from the small villages and stopping along the way for some authentic local gastronomy makes this a special place to visit and must add to the bucket list.
I have already mentioned that Douro is a UNESCO World Heritage site. What does this mean? In general, as one of the oldest regions in the world, the landscape is almost unchanged from hundreds, maybe even thousands of years ago. As you travel the roads along the river you will experience the terraced vineyards high above the river. Along the lower banks you will find a landscape of trees meeting with vineyards and villages filled with churches and rows of houses along narrow roads along with the Douro quintas that sit as major landmarks.
The valley offers absolutely amazing landscapes and the best way to experience them is hiking through the valleys where for generations terraced staircases were built on a terroir of steep hillsides along the river transforming unusable lands into award winning vineyards.
You can start your experience in the town of Pinhão known as the “Valley of Enchantment” for its beautiful hillsides and never ending valleys. Not what you would expect for being the heart of the wine country, Pinhão is a small town in the Northern Douro region. It is here where some of the best wines in Portugal are grown, vinified and fortified into the popular Port and table wines.
From arrival at the beautiful train station as you embark on the preserved historic trails you will find a different view of the Douro river from every bend. As you walk the beautiful Vineyard trail exploring the area from Quinta to Quinta (wine estates) sampling both the local Ports and the stunning views of the river and river valley from their terraced vineyards.Some of the Quintas will offer their own hiking maps of trails located within their properties for you to explore.
As you travel the area you can visit a Quinta of choice (Portuguese for the country estates that act as a base for the wineries throughout the region) and there are many of them throughout the area. These are also where you will find some of the best restaurants in the region. If you are looking for a unique experience, some of the Quintas offer overnight accommodations to relax and immerse deeper into a Quinta bed and breakfast experience.
Tip: If you are interested in wine, when visiting the town of Pinhão schedule time to visit the Quinta Nova. One of the larger Quinta’s features a wine tour and tasting plus the Museu do Vinho (Wine Museum) takes you on a tour of the history of the region, the ancient practices and how winemaking has developed over the past few hundred years. They also offer one of the top restaurants in the region and a winery home that can be rented out for extended visits.
The weather in the Douro Valley is always temperate with annual highs around 85°F and the lows averaging about 60°F so you can truly visit anytime of year. However, for the best scenery while hiking, visit in the spring, April to June when the tree’s and vine’s begin to bloom or in the fall September to November, although a little more chance of rain, the colors will provide the best scenery with the best temperatures for hiking. Note that September, depending on that years weather is typically harvest season and may be more active with visitors and annual activities.
Pinhão is but one example of a hiking experience that is available in the Douro Valley. There are multiple other options for hiking tours from the popular trails to off the beaten path scenic hikes that also vary from 3 – 6 hour tours to multi-day excursions hiking throughout the entire region. The perfect opportunity to immerse in the landscape, culture, vinology and people of the Douro River Valley.
Note that when looking for a more extensive hiking experience, there are public hiking trails marked with red and yellow stripes on signs, posts, stones and trees leading you from point to point. Note that these may not be maintained to levels that you will find in the United States. For extensive longer hiking experiences, hiring a local guide is highly recommended and will enhance your experience on hikes from a few hours long to a few days, also providing information and historic details you will not get exploring on your own.
Hiking is one of the included activities on a 7 night river cruise from the city of Porto, known for the production and distribution for Port Wine. Travel along the scenic Douro River stopping along the way to hike, bike or explore the villages, Quintas and amazing sites that this beautiful region has to offer. For more information on river cruising check out our River cruise page.
With mountains, forests, rivers and even beaches, the landscape of Germany is vast and offers many opportunities to explore.
Here are the reasons why Germany needs to be on your travel bucket list.
1. Perfectly Located for Exploring
Among the best of Europe’s countries, centrally located east of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, South of Denmark, West of the Czech Republic and Poland, Northwest of Austria and North of Switzerland and the Alps. Perfect for extensive travel throughout the Western and Central European region to immerse in the German experience or with visits to one of the various nearby countries. Germany is made up of 16 state regions, with open borders between its states and too adjacent countries. Many flights entering and leaving Europe will connect through Munich or Frankfurt airports. Ease of travel by auto, train, plane and ships on the waterways in and around Germany provide many reasons to add Germany to your Europe travel itinerary.
2. Cruise to and through Germany
Touching the shores of the Baltic and North Seas bring you access to Germany by ocean cruise on itineraries to the United Kingdom and/or the Scandinavia region. Germany has many rivers, the Rhine, Danube, Moselle, Main & Elbe that can transport you through her beautiful countryside and to some of her best cities which sit along the rivers. Not to be missed is Cologne on the Rhine, Regensburg on the Danube, Koblenz on the Mosel, Frankfurt on the Main and Dresden on the Elbe just to name a few. Cruising offers the opportunity to explore many regions with limited unpacking and numerous options for reaching even more of her amazing cities, towns and villages.
3. Experiences All Around You
One of the largest countries in Europe, the Federal Republic of Germany was originally part of the Holy Roman Empire. The center for Protestant Reformation in Europe, Germany grew in the 18th Century into a super power until its demise after World War II when it was split into Eastern and Western Germany until reunification in 1990. Quaint old villages and historic city centers, castles, cathedrals, religious, secular and historical landmarks, World War II sites, memorials and government buildings offer sites to explore and immerse in all around. Plus, numerous experiences await you, walk the Berlin Wall, follow one of the many hiking trails located throughout the country or visit one of the many picturesque villages in the Black Forest region. The variety of offerings to experience her beauty and culture that built her is why Germany is one of the most visited countries in the world.
4. Museum Island in Berlin
Well known for its paintings, German painters have been key players in the European art scene and important contributors to the development of the Western art movement in Europe. From the German Renaissance paintings of Albrecht Durer to the Baroque style of Johann Zimmerman or modern day Neo-expressionism, if art is your passion, you will want to visit Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site located on a small island in the Spree river offering five world renowned museums of art, antiquities, artifacts, and a national gallery. Regional museums in Frankfurt, Cologne and Dresden also offer fantastic collections of art with German and world influences.
5. Live the Fairy Tale
German literature’s most familiar works are German Folklore ie Fairy Tales to us modern folks. If you love romance and the thought of fantasy land, the Deutsche Märchenstraße (German Fairy Tale Road) takes you on a scenic tour of the stories of Brother’s Grimm. Starting at the Grimm museum the route will have you exploring small medieval villages and picturesque towns like you would find in the stories themselves. Visit Sleeping Beauty’s Sababurg Castle (official, not the Disney inspired) and medieval Trendleburg castle and climb Rapunzel’s Tower. Both castle’s are hotel’s so you can extend your experience and live your own fairy tale. If seeing the Disney inspired castle is on your travel bucket list, visit Neuschwanstein castle about a 2 hour drive south west of Munich, Germany. Other recommendations for castle lovers, Hohenzollern Castle in in Baden-Württemberg provides spectacular views or if you are looking for something more palatial and in North Germany visit Schwerin Castle.
6. A Car Lovers Paradise
When you think of high performing vehicles, Germany is top of mind. Mercedes, BMW, Audi and of course Porsche are all top quality leaders and all happen to be located in Germany. Visit the BMW museum in Munich, the Volkswagen factory in Dresden or the Mercedes Benz and Porsche museums in Stuttgart. Also well known and on many bucket lists is driving the German Autobahn. Rent your preferred driving machine and head out onto a section of the 8000 mile roadway where the minimum driving speed is 80 miles per hour. Another unique bucket list option if purchasing a luxury vehicle or sports car is on the list, is the European delivery program. Tour the factory, pick your car off the line, test drive it on a private test track, drive it while on vacation and then drop it back off at the factory for shipment and delivery to your local dealership a few weeks later.
7. Traditional German Food
Gastronomy is a big part of the German experience. Within each region of Germany you have various influences that make up the popular cuisines of the distinct area. Bratwurst and Spatzle are popular options in the southwest region. White sausages and pretzels in the Bavarian region, more traditional comfort foods in the Berlin region, borscht variations in the eastern region and frankfurter’s in Frankfurt, of course. Regardless of which region you visit, bread is a big part of the culture and included in every meal. Some not to be missed dishes to try while visiting Germany are Schnitzel, Fischbrotchen (fish sandwich), Currywurst, potato pancakes or dumplings, sauerkraut, Stollen bread, apple cake, the many strudels and Black Forest cake which is made with cherry liquor that originated from the region .
8. German Wine & Cider
Riesling is grown along the mosel river and is the most popular wine produced however Germany also produces other white and red wine varieties. Mainly produced along the Rhine in the western region of Germany, white and sweet wine’s are most notable. In the Alsace region grape varieties range from lighter rose to grapes that produce wines comparable to Italian Pinot’s. The biggest difference between German wine’s and those from the nearby regions of France are the higher levels of acidity that are found in the cooler areas of the German wine region. Apfelwein (apple cider) made from pressed apples is popular in the region surrounding Frankfurt, Germany and can be enjoyed in some of the local Cider Taverns within its old center. Apple cider is popularly combined with dry white wines (like Riesling) to create Gluhmost – hot mulled cider that is served during the colder weather and throughout the holidays in Germany.
9. The Beer Culture
For some, this is the primary reason they want to visit Germany. Beer is a key part of the German culture and has very specific requirements (the German beer purity law) to qualify as “German Bier”. Most German beers range in alcohol by volume from 4.7 – 5.4% however the heavier German darks can reach percentages up to 16%. Options to enjoy are top fermented wheat beers, pale beers like the popular Kolsch and Pilsner’s, dark Bock and similiar heavy bodied beers and lighter cask ales. Although bier (as it is spelled in Germany) is popular throughout Germany, it is most popular in the Bavarian region which is also where most of the breweries will be found. The oldest brewery in Germany, and the world, is in a Benedictine Abbey called Weihenstephen in Munich. The most popular way to drink your tapped bier is in a stein or Weizen glass as it is referred locally which is larger then your average pint with extra room for foam from the taps. Beer is so popular in Germany they have annual festivals in the fall called Oktoberfest surrounding the beer culture in Germany.
10. A Festival for all Seasons
Germans love to celebrate which is why we have saved the best for last. With a holiday and/or festival for every occasion there is surely to be an opportunity to participate in some local celebrating, feasting and dancing no matter when you visit. Some of the more popular celebrations offering festivals and events are; Silvester (New Years), Three Kings Day (celebrating the 12 days of Christmas into early January), Karneval, Valentines, Easter, Maifest (one of their oldest) which includes bonfires, Oktoberfest, St. Martin’s Day (similar to All Saints Day) and Christkindlmarkt (the Christmas Markets) where local artisans & entertainers gather daily in the center of the towns spreading festivity and celebration.
The Smorgasbord of additional information;
Germany is a beautiful country filled with friendly and welcoming people who love life. They are also very strict rule followers, with laws for everything, which can seem daunting to the unsuspecting visitor. In reality, it makes Germany efficient and explains why their country is so clean and well managed.
From the marshy coast, central wetlands, green hilly countrysides, lakes, forests and mountainous alps, the diversity of Germany is in its land. The climate throughout the country only swings about 8 degrees between the northern and southern regions. With warm (not hot) summers and cooler (not terrible) winters, the weather is rarely extreme making it enjoyable to visit any time of year.
With many options for exploring and traveling that fit any lifestyle, no matter who you are, families traveling together, single travelers, couples looking for romance, exploration, active itineraries, groups traveling together or simply because it is on your travel bucket list Germany offers options that are safe, exciting and fun which are all reasons to plan a visit to Germany.
These are our top reasons to visit the Deutschland, so the next big question is what is the best way to see Germany? A river cruise along the rivers of Germany provides you with a one of a kind experience not just taking you to amazing places but through them. It is the most immersive way to experience a location with ease and comfort. Take our quiz to find out if River Cruising is a right fit for you.