The Rhone/Saone flows southward through Switzerland and France to the Mediterranean Sea. Passing through the the vineyards of Burgundy and the hills of Provence, it boasts many ancient cities on its banks. River cruises travel north from Lyon up the River Saone to Chalon-sur-Saone and south from Lyon to Avignon and Arles and sometimes into the Camargue on the Mediterranean.
The River Saone is 300 miles long and flows from Viomenil in the Vosges Mountains to join the River Rhone in Lyons. It is navigable for 230 miles from Corre to Lyons and and has been a trading route since prehistoric times. Its upper reaches north of St-Jean-de-Losne are known as La Petit Saone and wind through partially woodland and picturesque open countryside. Auxonne is the first town of note on the river. At St-Jean-de-Losne the River Ouche feeds into the Saône and the Canal de Bourgogne and the Canal du Rhône au Rhin converge making this small town a hub of activity. The river meanders through wide meadows down to Chalon-sur-Saône where the Canal du Centre joins the river. The extremely pretty town of Tournus is the next port of call, from here the vineyards of the Maconnais stretch down the west side of the river all the way to the town of Mâcon before it flows onward to joine the Rhone at Lyons.
The Rhone is 500 miles (810km) in length and flows through Lake Geneva to Lyon in France, where, it meets the Saône and the upper limit of navigation is reached. The river then turns due south and passes Vienne, Tournon, Vivier, Chateauneuf du Pape and Avignon. Near Arles it divides into the Grand and Petit Rhône, flowing respectively southeast and southwest into the Mediterranean west of Marseille. Here it forms a two-armed delta; the area between the tributaries is the marshy region known as the Camargue.
The Camargue is a large wetland in south eastern France which is an expanse of marsh and lagoons comprising the delta of the River Rhône, flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. The delta covers 300 sq miles and is sparsely populated. Much of the Camargue is wild, too marshy to be cultivated, and provides a natural haven for wildlife, particularly birds and horses. There are wild herds of white Arabian horses, as well as birds such as flamingos, egrets, and ibises, resident in the Grande Camargue and the smaller adjoining Petite Camargue. Many of its lagoons, such as the Étang de Vaccarès, are also nature reserves.
WHEN TO CRUISE?
The cruise season extends from March to December. The region has a climate with hot summers and cool winters.
Spring offers temperatures around 16°C while summer temperatures reach 24°C in June, 27°C in August and 22°C in September.
Autumn sees a drop to around 17°C. Winter brings temperatures 2°C to 8°C but the lowest rainfall.