Great Waterways: Asia River Cruises

Woman, Halong Bay

The continent of Asia is home to some of the most famous and beguiling waterways on the planet. Asia cruises offer a unique opportunity to experience incredible sights, marvel at beautiful scenery and enjoy the serenity of the gentle movement of the waters below.

Travellers who are hoping to explore Asia can choose from a raft of incredible tours and excursions. For those looking for inspiration, here are some of the best waterway voyages on offer.

Halong Bay Cruise

The first waterway to start with is by far one of the most recognisable tourist destinations in the whole of Asia. Halong Bay is an increasingly popular location for intrepid travellers and adventurers looking to find paradise in Vietnam and news of this beautiful spot has well and truly spread around the world. Visitor numbers are increasing year on year and it is fast becoming one of Asia’s most iconic spots. It’s not hard to see why: this is a unique wonderland comprising green-blue waters punctured by tiny islands covered in lush green trees. It’s no wonder Halong Bay cruises are top of many a to-do list.

An overnight Halong Bay cruise offers visitors the chance to fully discover the natural beauty of this world heritage site and embrace the tranquillity of the surroundings. The adventure begins after transferring from Hanoi and embarking on a luxury boat. Guests can enjoy lunch with a view, as the boat glides through the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. A brief stop to gaze upon the dramatic stalagmites and stalactites of Tien Ong Cave is a highlight for many passengers.

Halong Bay

Before dinner, panoramic views of a breathtaking sunset are on offer as the fading orb casts its shadow on the clear waters below, filling the skies with bright shades of pink, red and orange.

That’s a truly magical experience but seeing everything in Halong Bay requires another full day, the second of which begins with a refreshing yet relaxing Tai Chi class on the boat deck, followed by a hearty breakfast. As your boat makes its way through the glimmering waters of the bay, visitors can cast their eyes on the ever-changing seascape before getting closer to the action in a sea kayak or rowing boat. The final stop is Cua Van floating village – a chance to disembark from the bay’s famous scenery and take in typical local culture on dry land.

Mekong Delta Cruise

Staying in Vietnam, the Mekong River is the world’s 12th longest river and also one of the most famous.

This river spans several countries, playing a crucial role both in terms of trade and cultural significance, but for those who don’t have time to travel the full course of the river, a short Mekong Delta cruise from Vietnam comes highly recommended. This is a brilliant way to see some of the most spectacular scenery on the river’s path and to explore a different side to Vietnam away from the bustling markets and the enigmatic city streets.

Mekong Delta Cruise Deck

A Mekong Delta overnight cruise treats visitors to a thrilling adventure on board a traditional Bassac boat. These sturdy wooden boats, which are shaped like rice barges, contain up to 12 cabins meaning this is an experience enjoyed in a small intimate group. Onboard, visitors can enjoy all the mod cons like air conditioning, as well as being treated to delicious Vietnamese food. While cruising along the river, the crew will point out areas of interest, informing visitors about specific towns and villages and attractions. The boat will stop to visit a local village and visitors can get an insight into cultural traditions and meet local people.

On the second day of the trip, the boat will continue its journey around the delta, taking in one of the many floating markets. These markets, which comprise a series of boats laden with all kinds of wares bobbing in the water, provide an excellent base for souvenir shopping.

Irrawaddy Cruise

For those looking to enjoy the incredible sights and sounds of Burma, a cruise along the Irrawaddy cannot be beaten. Travelling from Bagan to Mandalay, visitors will catch a glimpse of towering temples, buzzing markets and tranquil hill-top monasteries, while also enjoying a prime spot for sunset drinks.

The three-night Irrawaddy cruise excursion departs from Bagan before the luxury cruiser makes its way to Mandalay over the course of four languid days, giving visitors plenty of opportunities to see the sights and really get to grips with the culture of Burma and its undeniable beauty.

Irrawaddy Cruise

The first stop on the trip is a visit to the Kayminga Pagoda, a giant, glistening structure, which, in the traditional fashion, is dominated by a golden stupa. This pagoda forms part of a complex of more than 2,000 temples and collections of ruins that surround Bagan. It’s a truly mesmerising experience, especially at sunset.

Having snapped away with your camera and digested the unmissable views, your journey continues before stopping again to enjoy the splendour of the next sight, the Ananda Temple. Dating back to 1091 AD, this temple is regarded as one of Burma’s most beautiful sights and in a country where it’s virtually impossible to turn a corner without being greeted by something that will take the breath away, this is no mean feat!

The next day begins with a hot air balloon excursion or a trip to the local farmers’ market at Nyaung U. This market sells everything from fresh produce to lacquered furniture and is a wonderful place to browse stalls, meet people and watch the world go by. The next stop is the Shwezigon Pagoda. This was the first significant monument to be built in what we now recognise as traditional Burmese style and it is believed to contain remains of Gautama Buddha.

Day three of this enticing river cruise begins with the option to take a traditional cooking class with your onboard chef. The first port of call as the boat continues its voyage of discovery is the Sagaing Hills. This is an area of significant cultural and religious importance, comprising more than 550 monasteries. Around 6,000 monks live in the Hills and it’s an incredibly calming and serene spot. There is a chance to visit some of the monasteries before scaling the hill and enjoying the expansive views from the Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda. Before heading back to the ship, visitors can set eyes on U Bein Bridge, one of the most commonly photographed structures in Burma.


The final leg of the journey takes in scintillating views of the Mahamuni Pagoda and the unique monastery at Shwenandaw, which is made from teak.

Ninh Binh Explorer

A popular day trip from Hanoi, Ninh Binh province is a picturesque mosaic made from river waters, rolling hills, rocky outcrops, rice paddies and temples. A world away from the vibrant, busy streets of the city, this is a calm and placid oasis, which provides a perfect base for a relaxing river cruise and a tour of ornate ancient temples.

A Ninh Binh day tour from Hanoi includes opportunities to visit and meander through the labyrinth-like chambers of the collection of 11th-century temples established by the Dinh and Le dynasties. For those keen to stretch their legs, the best vistas can be enjoyed from the top of the temple via 200 steps. The next stage of the tour takes place on the water and involves a leisurely jaunt on the river, which is flanked by rice paddies and imposing monoliths, which have earned the area the name of ‘Halong Bay on land.’ While cruising along the waters, the boat will stop to enable intrepid sailors the chance to take a closer look at the Tam Coc and Bich Dong caves. Choose a 2-day adventure with our Ninh Binh Explorer.

Luang Say Cruise

Travelling by water is a fantastic way to see more of Asia and to jump from one country to the next. The Luang Say cruise takes visitors along the rippling waters of the Mekong River starting on the Thai border at Chiang Rai and finishing in the pristine town of Luang Prabang in Laos. This trip is designed to be a relaxing excursion, which provides a feast for all the senses.

Luang Say Cruise, Laos

Starting out on the Laos-Thai border, the Luang Say boat skims across the river waters, stopping after around an hour to give visitors the chance to wander around the charming village of Kamu. This small community, which is characterised by rickety, rustic wooden stilt houses, is made up of around 85 families, many of whom have been resident in the area for decades.

Back on board, visitors can enjoy lunch on the open air deck before the boat continues its course towards Pakbeng. Visitors will arrive at their accommodation for the night in plenty of time to secure a clear view of the sunset before dinner is enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the river.

Mornings often have an ethereal quality in this part of the world and guests can enjoy breakfast with views of mist-covered mountains for company. The boat will make its way to Luang Prabang stopping at the village of Baw, a traditional hill tribe settlement, which is famous for its whiskey making techniques.

After taking lunch back on the boat, visitors will then be treated to a trip to the Tam Ting Cave, a breathtaking cavern which contains more than 2,500 statues of Buddha, all ranging in size and scale. The cave is not just a place that attracts attention due to its visual appeal, however, but is also an important site for pilgrims. The final stop on the tour is Luang Prabang, the former home of the royal family of Laos. This awe-inspiring city will make you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time, as it has been perfectly preserved through the ages.

Book your Luang Say Cruise today.

Halong Bay

Asia is a fascinating, breathtakingly beautiful continent, which offers so much in terms of experiences and adventures for travellers. Asia River cruises and waterway excursions, like The Lost Civilisation Tour, are an idyllic, relaxing way to appreciate the landscapes and scenery, get an insight into the history and culture of the country and meet new friends along the way. Use our free planning service to start planning your Asia Cruising holiday today.