Woman enjoying sunset on boat (Shutterstock.com. See main credit below)
Article Words : Wanderlust team | 30 October

The Wanderlust guide to the best of boat trips

Travelling by boat is a great way to meet the locals, spot wildlife and relax as you cruise. Cast off now!

Hoist the main sail! Haul anchor! It’s time to set off on a watery adventure...

Travel by boat is a romantic proposition, harking back to a time when great explorers discovered new worlds in elegant tallships. There may not be many oceans left totally uncharted, but travelling by boat can still open up an enticing array of destinations.

Many places you can only see by boat. Take Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands – cruising is the sole way to reach remote bays clustered with curious sea lions, marine iguanas and giant tortoises. And to access the pristine expanses of Antarctica you’ll need a tough vessel to cope with icebergs and allow you to land on shores dotted with thousands of waddling penguins.

Boats offer great opportunities to meet the locals too. Board a ferry down Mali’s River Niger, across Lake Malawi, along Alaska’s Aleutian chain or between the Caribbean islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and you’ll meet chatty people carting curious cargos, all with a story to tell.

Water-bound travel can also be relaxing. Watch Egyptian life scroll by as you glide down the Nile, G&T in hand – riverbank life here, complete with ancient temples, ox carts and swaying palms, hasn’t much changed for millennia. And Europe’s great arteries – the Danube, the Rhine, the Rhone – which lead you through cities such as Geneva, Vienna and Budapest, are great highways through history.

You can see a lot of wildlife from the top deck, too. Paddle a canoe through the Okavango Delta, Botswana, for close-ups with hippos. Or zip along tributaries of the Amazon in Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador to spot birds and monkeys in the jungle. That’s not to mention the marine life – sail off the coast of the Azores, Iceland, New Zealand and Baja California (Mexico) for some of the planet’s best whale watching.

You don’t even need to worry unduly about seasickness – there are plenty of precautions you can take to avoid it. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to sail away!

Amazonian river shuttle (Shutterstock.com)Amazonian river shuttle (Shutterstock.com)

Looking for inspiration?

Over 71% of the world's surface is covered with water so you're spoilt for choice with your next boat trip adventure. If it's near or on water, chances are that a boat is the best way to experience it. Our Beginner's Guide to expedition cruises will tell you what to expect.

Next, choosing where to go. The Wanderlust Team cast their net far and wide to come up with 15 incredible voyages for you to consider. From cutting through the pack ice of Svalbard on a steel-hulled schooner in Svalbard to a romantic journey on Lake Malawi on steam cruiser, there's something for everyone. We've also put together a list of the 6 best cruises for adventurers and 12 adventurous river cruises.

And if you're concerned about seasickness, don't be. Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth is on hand with advice on how to avoid it.

More information

Beginner's Guide to expedition cruises – Various contributors

15 incredible voyagesWanderlust Team

9 incredible water-based trips Wanderlust Team

6 of the best cruises for adventurers – Hazel Plush

12 adventurous river cruisesWanderlust Team

Beating seasickness – Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth

The Okavango Delta (Greenwich Photography)Paddling the Okavango (Greenwich photography)

Africa

Cruising the Nile is one of the world's great boat journeys. Whether you choose one of the luxurious river boats or a more traditional felucca, you'll be immediately immersed in an environment that has not changed for millenia. Our Cruising the Nile Travel guide tells you everything that you need to consider, white Matthew Teller gives a first hand account of cruising previously closed parts of the Nile that have now been opened again to tourists.

For a more hands-on boat trip in Africa, Dale Morris suggests canoeing the Okavango Delta in Botswana. This vast waterway offers ever-changing vistas and an abundance of wildlife. Just keep your eye out for the hippos!

More information

Cruising the Nile, Egypt travel guideWanderlust Team

Cruise along the re-opened Nile route – Matthew Teller

Canoeing the Okavango Delta, Botswana – Dale Morris 

Penguin watches a boat (Wanderlust)

Cruising the Poles

Fancy a journey through iceberg-littered seas, over treacherous landscapes, and alongside some of the world's hardiest wildlife? Then an adventure cruise to Antarctica could be for you. Phoebe Smith recounts her adventures when she set sail to the far south.

At the opposite end of the planet, Amy Watkins went of an Inuit adventure cruise in Arctic Canada. With help of local indigenous guides, she was able to experience the unique landscape and wildlife here.

More information

An adventure cruise to Antarctica – Phoebe Smith

An Inuit adventure cruise in Arctic Canada – Amy Watkins

Cruise boat in Galapagos (Shutterstock.com)Cruise boat in the Galapagos (Shutterstock.com)

The Galapagos

Snorkel with sea lions, meet 100-year-old tortoises, spot manta rays from the decks of your boat – a wildlife cruise through the Galapagos isles puts you in the world's most nature-rich waters. Our guide to the best of the Galapagos tells you everything you need to know.

Want to take the kids? Will Grays says that's a great idea and gives tips on making a Galapagos cruise a journey the whole family will remember and treasure.

More information

The Wanderlust guide to the best of the Galapagos IslandsWanderlust Team

Cruising the Galapagos with children – Will Gray

Amazon cruise ship (Mundy Adventures)

The Americas

From top to bottom, the Americas offer some of the most exciting and diverse boat trips on the planet, from Alaskan wildlife cruises to adventurous journeys along the coast of Tierra del Fuego that will, quite literally, take you to the ends of the earth.

How about a lazy cruise up the Amazon, watching the world wash by as you swing contendedly in your hammock? Lars and Liane tell you how. Thomas Rees, on the other hand, reckons there's no better way to get from Panama to Colombia than by boat – especially if it includes a detour to Panama's San Blas Archipelago.

And while not strictly in the Americas, Claire Smith recommends island-hopping through the Caribbean by mail boat. It's relatively inexpensive and a great insight into local life, she says.

More information

To the ends of the earth: Tierra del Fuego, Chile – Chris Morris

Top 10 tips for an amazing Amazonian boat adventure – Lars and Liane

Setting sail for Panama's San Blas Archipelago – Thomas Rees

Cruise by mail boat – Claire Smith

India river cruise (Martion Symington)

Asia

Asia is the home of Bucket List boat trips, from sailing through the awesome limestone formations of Halong Bay in Vietnam to kicking back on a liveaboard boat on the turquoise waters of the Maldives.

But it also offers some of the most adventurous boat journeys on the planet. Phoebe Smith took to the waters in search of the Sea Gypsies of the Myeik Archipelago, a smattering of wild islands in the Andaman Sea in southern-most Burma.

Martin Symington, on the other hand, cruised the Brahmaputra River in India. It was a journey that took him deep into Assam, and enabled him to experience India at a gentler – and more fulfilling – pace.

More information

Travel Icon: Halong Bay – Robert Reid

The Maldives by liveaboard boat – Lisa Holm

Cruising the Brahmaputra River, India – Martin Symington

Boats, Burma and beyond – Phoebe Smith

Narrow boat on Grand Union Canal (Shutterstock.com)Narrow boat on Grand Union Canal (Shutterstock.com)

Europe

Don't underestimate Europe as a cruising destination: chase the Northern Lights through the fjords of Norway; seek out the hidden bends of the Danube in Romania; eat barbecued fish caught fresh from the Mediterranean aboard a traditional gulet in Turkey. There's something for everyone.

There's adventure too. Paul Bloomfield recommends sailing the West Fjords in Iceland, where locals go when they're looking for adventure.

Or what about trying your hand at the very English past-time of narrowboating? Terry Darlington lists his tips on mastering the canals of Britain.

More information

Sailing the West Fjords, Iceland – Paul Bloomfield

6 top tips on how to narrowboat – Terry and Monica Darlington 

The Queen 9G Adventures)Galápagos — Central, South & East Islands aboard the Queen (G Adventures)

Capturing it all on film

On the face of it, shooting from a boat sounds like an easy ride. But pictures taken from boats all too often end in repetitive seascapes and wonky horizons. Steve Davey has ship-shape advice on stabilising your waterborne photography.

If it's inspiration you're after, look no further than the amazing photos our readers have taken on their boat trips.

More information

Photography tips: on the water – Steve Davey

Reader's photos

Felucca on the Nile (Shutterstock.com)Felucca on the Nile (Shutterstock.com)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Boat Trips Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by our Boat Trips recommendations page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information. Sue Dobson has also put together a guide to cruising. And we’ve rounded up the latest travel news about boat trips too.

If you have a particular question about boat trips, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all they know. Or check out the questions that have already been asked about boat trips. The answer to yours might already be there.

More information

Boat trips travel guideWanderlust Team

Boat trips recommendationsWanderlust Team

Cruising – Sue Dobson

Latest travel news about boat trips

Forum posts about boat trips

Community content about boat trips

Floating village in Halong Bay (Shutterstock.com)Floating village in Halong Bay (Shutterstock.com)

Ready to go?

Here's a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From luxury tours along the Irrawaddy in Burma to wildlife odysseys to Antarctica and Canada's far north, there's something to suit every taste and budget.

Our Trip Finder can help you find your next boat trip adventure.

 

Main image: Woman enjoying sunset on boat (Shutterstock.com)