Discover These 5 Lesser Known Cruise Destinations

12 October 2014

Whether you’re unwinding on the deck in the mid-morning sun or spending an afternoon exploring a far-flung port, cruises rank high when it comes to soul-affirming travel experiences. However, taking a cruise doesn’t have to mean trading in adventure for luxury – it’s also a classic way to discover remote parts of the world.

From exploring ancient Egyptian citadels on the banks of the Nile to spotting Scottish castles off the coast of the British Isles, these five lesser-known cruise destinations will make you rethink your next holiday.

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1. The Nile

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 Set sail on The Nile in Egypt

Lined with oversized palm trees, sweeping sycamores and elaborate Egyptian temples, the 6,853 kilometre-long Nile River is the kind of river cruise destination that makes you feel like you’re an extra in an Indiana Jones movie.

Although Cairo, the chaotic home of the Pyramids, often tops Nile cruise agendas, this journey also lets you get acquainted with lesser-known sights such as Aswan (a southern Egyptian city known for its markets), Nubian villages, and the Abu Simbel temples.

Make sure you disembark to explore Luxor, a dusty golden city on the Nile’s west bank that plays host to the glowing Luxor Temple as well the Valley of the Kings.

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2. The Yangtze River

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Weaving through southwest, eastern and central China before meeting the South China Sea, the Yangtze River takes in small townships, lush forest and towering gorges.

Lose yourself in Wu Gorge – a haunting set of peaks that rise 1,000 metres above sea level – then spend an afternoon in Shibaozhai, a Ming Dynasty fortress built into the cliffs on the river’s northern bank.

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3. The Cape Coast

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 Cruise into cultural Cape Town

Cape Town’s dizzying Table Mountain and offbeat cultural scene might make it a destination in its own right, but it’s also the ideal gateway to South Africa’s rugged Western Cape.

Cruises heading south from Cape Town often take in destinations such as the Cape of Good Hope – a classic Atlantic peninsula known for antelope, baboons and birdlife.

Boulders Beach is also a popular destination, as a patch of coastline dotted with hulking granite boulders. Spend an afternoon on Robben Island – a World Heritage-site famous for hosting Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners.
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4. Persian Gulf and Middle East

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Sailing down the Persian Gulf – a body of water that borders countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – is a crash course in the history and culture of the desert. It’s also a lesson in extremes that proves opulent oil-funded architecture, Bedouin tribes and ancient souks can happily coexist.

Although Dubai – a futuristic city that juts out of a sea of sand – is an excellent way to bookend your cruise, make sure you spend some time in Oman too. This coastal sultanate is famous for some of the greenest landscapes in this part of the world.
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5. The British Isles

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 Discover the charming Shetland Islands

The British Isles may be a compact cruise destination, but they also span everything from crumbling castles and secret lochs to craggy islands that are invisible from the shore.

While capitals such as Edinburgh and London are ripe for history and culture, northwest England’s Isle of Man and Scotland’s Shetland archipelago – a windswept landmass in the North Sea – will make you feel like you’re the last person on Earth.

Neha Kale

Neha Kale is a writer and editor covering arts, design and culture at large. For Neha, a one-way ticket to London sparked incurable wanderlust and a decade of memorable trips – from exploring street art in San Francisco and sailing down the Nile to mapping galleries in New York and getting lost in the backstreets of Paris.