Gardens and Natural Beauty of the Rhône - MS Thomas Hardy

Gardens and Natural Beauty of the Rhône - MS Thomas Hardy

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8 Days


Gardens and Natural Beauty of the Rhône - MS Thomas Hardy

8 Days

Visiting: Lyon, Beaune, Chalon-sur-Saône, Vienne, Tournon-sur-Rhône, Gorges de l'Ardèche, Arles, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Tour operator:

Riviera Travel

Tour code:


Trip Styles:

River Cruise

$2429 (USD) including Flights from the UK

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Tour Overview

Our journey through France explores the unrivalled natural beauty of the Rhône river as it runs its course through sun-soaked landscapes from Lyon to Avignon. We'll step ashore to explore a beautifully restored historic garden and discover the gorgeous vistas and charming parks that inspired the artistic genius of Van Gogh. And wander through Lyon, Vienne and Beaune with an expert local guide. As we pass verdant terraced vineyards, enjoy the beautiful fragrance of Provencal lavender and gaze in awe at the stunning Ardèche Gorge and its remarkable suspended gardens - all accompanied by a glass or two of Burgundy's finest wine.

Our popular Burgundy, the River Rhône and Provence river cruise has been reimagined to include even more of the natural beauty this region is known for - perfect for nature lovers. 


  • Sample delicious local wines with a wine-tasting in Burgundy's wine capital, Beaune.

  • Visit the Palace of the Popes in the 14th-century City of Avignon, adorned with priceless frescoes, Gobelin tapestries and graceful sculptures. 

  • Explore the magnificent Ardèche Gorges, one of France's most outstanding natural landscapes.

  • Take a guided tour around the highlights of Lyon, including renaissance buildings, imposing churches and Europe's largest pedestrian square, Place Bellecour, featuring a statue of Louis XIV. 

  • Enjoy seven nights on board in your choice of luxury cabin or suite, with river views. 

  • Click here to see our departures exclusively for solo travellers

  • Take in the spectacular vistas of the Gorges de l'Ardèche, fringed with suspended gardens, and visit a local lavender museum to learn more about the area's most iconic plant. 

  • Stroll through beautiful city parks - Parc de la Tête d'Or’s botanical garden in Lyon, Jardin des Villes in historic Vienne with its remarkable Roman ruins and Rocher des Doms in Avignon. 

  • Sample the superb wines of Burgundy amid the atmospheric surroundings of beautiful vineyards. 

  • Explore the magical Eden Gardens and drink in the views of Tournon from the garden's verdant terraces. 

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Day 1
Location: Lyon

After arriving in Lyon, we’ll transfer by coach to our ship moored in Lyon’s historic centre. The dedicated English-speaking crew will welcome you on board and help you to your cabin. There's plenty of time to settle in to your spacious and tastefully furnished accommodation and familiarise yourself with this five-star floating hotel.

Day 2
Location: Lyon

We’ll enjoy breakfast on board before a guided tour of Lyon, one of France’s most fascinating cities. The Rhône Valley had been the route of choice for marauding armies and peaceful traders for centuries, and Lyon’s current site, at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, cried out to be fortified.

The green spaces are certainly not lacking in Lyon - Parc de la Tête d’Or, in the north of the 6th arrondissement, is one of France's largest parks and a wonderful place to spend a leisurely morning. A breath of fresh air in a thriving city. On our visit, budding horticulturalists will especially love exploring the three rose gardens with over 350 varieties on vibrant display (in total there’s over 30,000 rosebushes – that must take a lot of pruning).The park’s botanical gardens are a living plant museum, home to 15,000 botanical species, including an alpine garden, a herbarium, the largest collection of greenhouses in France – better watch where you step here, there’s lots of carnivorous plants, over 1,000 species of orchids and 1,400 endangered plants on display.

While you enjoy your first lunch on board, the ship will quietly slip its moorings. Cruising upstream towards our next destination,Chalon-sur-Saône, we’ll catch the first glimpses of the vine-clad slopes of the hazy green Beaujolais hills as we approach one of the world’s most revered red-wine-producing regions. On our left, you’ll see the picturesque villages of Morgon, Fleury, Juliénas, Chénas and many more, while on the right you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of snow-capped Mont Blanc – Western Europe’s highest mountain.

As the afternoon drifts into evening,what could be better than a cool, crisp glass in the lounge before enjoying this evening’s culinary delights in the restaurant, prepared by our outstanding chef.

+ Included Experience – Guided tour of Lyon with a visit to Parc de la Tête d'Or  

Day 3
Location: Beaune, Chalon-sur-Saône


Overnight we’ll have made steady progress north and wake up in Chalon, gateway to Burgundy and the home of Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography. As we travel towards Beaune, today’s destination, we’ll see some of the pretty yet surprisingly small villages that produce some of the world’s most sublime wines – Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin and many more.


Nearby is medieval Beaune, which we’ll visit for a short walking tour around the town and a wine tasting at a local cellar. As you might expect from Burgundy’s wine capital, Beaune is surrounded by vineyards that are centuries old. And - thanks to the gentle slopes with well-drained soils rich in iron and hot summers – the region produces some of the best wine in the world. Here, wine is not simply a drink - it's an embodiment of the culture. Landscapes, traditions and local history are stored in each bottle. It's no wonder they produce some of the best wines in the world here.

The town itself is wonderful to wander around and, at its centre, is the Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu. Originally built in the 15th century as a hospital for the disadvantaged, it’s a jewel of High Gothic architecture, instantly recognisable for its colourful glazed roof tiles arranged in dazzling geometric patterns.

A prestigious annual wine auction takes place here each November, with proceeds going to benefit the Hospices de Beaune and its charity work - in 2022, the wine auction netted a whopping €29,788,500, breaking their own 2014 record. Of course, you can’t visit Burgundy without sampling its amazing wines, so we visit the cellars of a leading traditional winemaker for a tour and wine tasting before free time to explore at leisure.

Later, we’ll return to the ship for lunch and enjoy a relaxing afternoon and evening on board taking advantage of the ship’s five-star facilities as we cruise the beautiful countryside towards Vienne.

+ Included Experience – Tour of Beaune with wine tasting.

Day 4
Location: Vienne, Tournon-sur-Rhône


Overnight, our ship will cruise gently downstream and, as we enjoy breakfast in Vienne, there's time to explore this pretty town, including its central park, Jardin de Ville. Its flower beds are bursting with colourful blooms that break up the manicured lawns. It's the perfect place to stop and enjoy a morning coffee. Two calming pools are decorated with rocks and an old Roman road, and the remains of columns punctuate the otherwise pristine garden.


Later, our ship will moor in the pretty provincial town of Tournon. Here, we'll visit the aptly named Garden of Eden for a guided tour. Formally the park of the monastery of the Cordeliers Brothers, there's one hectare of botanical space with shaded corners hiding fountains and ponds. Designed as a place of contemplation, there's a serene quiet in between the century-old boxwoods. You'll stumble on remarkable panoramic views of the entire valley on the terraces that are nestled at the foot of the tower. You can follow the meanders of the Rhône which flow through the vineyards of Tain l'Hermitage.

With its imposing castle and tree-lined avenues on one side of the river and steep vine-covered hillsides of Hermitage (where some of world’s most revered wines are produced) on the other, our mooring in Tournon offers a fitting view as we enjoy another exquisite dinner.

+ Included experiences – Tour of Vienne and a guided tour of The Garden of Eden in Tournon.

Day 5
Location: Gorges de l'Ardèche

This morning we'll cruise effortlessly downstream. In the distance, you’ll catch glimpses of the Alps and, as we approach Valence, the landscape gradually becomes less green with more ochres and magentas, the houses have sloping terracotta roofs typical of the Mediterranean and the air carries heady aromas of pine and cypress. You can only be in the Midi or – as we call it – the south of France. It’s so relaxing to catch up on some reading or just laze in the sun.

After lunch, we'll explore one of France’s most outstanding landscapes – the Ardèche Gorges, whose scale is a fitting reminder of Mother Nature’s awesome power. Sheer limestone cliffs plunge almost 1,000 feet to the river’s blue waters, which elegantly snake their way through rock formations, culminating in a huge natural arch, the Pont d’Arc.

Caves, grottoes and natural sculptures create marvellous views at every turn before we return to the gentler slopes of the Rhône Valley.

We'll also visit a local lavender museum set amongst fields of fragrant lavender planted in neat rows across the landscape. This fragrant plant originated in Persia thousands of years ago, it was used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Celts - so there's plenty of history to discover - it was even thought to be a remedy against the plague. We'll learn how these beautiful purple fields become little bottles of essential oils explaining everything from harvest to distillation - maybe even stock up on some of their local lavender produce to take home.

We'll return to the river later, where our ship will be moored in charming Viviers, a medieval town clustered around its 12th-century cathedral. We'll slip our mooring and proceed through the famous lock at Bollène, one of the deepest in France, as you relax over dinner. Tonight, we enjoy an on-board ballroom dancing performance.

+ Included experiences – Guided tour of the Ardèche Gorges, visit to local lavender museum & a on-board ballroom dancing performance.

Day 6
Location: Arles, Pont du Gard


You'll wake under the azure skies of deepest Provence and amid the warm stone colours of Arles, many of whose historic monuments are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although small in size, it was the key stronghold on the Roman road to Spain, one of the empire’s richest possessions. Seagoing ships could reach here, and the city became a regional capital, briefly ruling over Gaul, Spain and Britain.

Our guided tour will help you appreciate the finer points of Arles’s magnificent Roman remains, including the splendid amphitheatre, one of the best preserved in the world, the earlier theatre built during the reign of Augustus and the Alyscamps, the ancient necropolis with its extraordinary atmosphere.

The genius of an artist Van Gogh lived in Arles for just over a year, from February 1888. It was his most prolific period and, inspired by Arles and the light and beauty of the Provencal countryside. His painting Hospital in Arles, depicted the beautiful courtyard in bloom in 1888. In the L’Escape Van Gogh courtyard you can barely see the passage of time between then and now; the garden is still full of lustrous flowers which burst open in the afternoon sun.

Pont du Gard

After lunch we'll visit the amazing Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, one of the wonders of the ancient world. No amount of fame can diminish the first sight of this 2,000-year-old structure, which was the highest bridge built in the Empire –the Romans themselves considered it the most important testimony to their greatness. Its statistics are staggering over 900 feet long and almost 160 feet high, with its stones each weighing up to six tons.  

To put this in perspective, the span of the Pont du Gard is greater than the width of the River Thames at London Bridge – and no mortar was used in its construction! The situation is lovely too, with pine- and cypress-covered hills adding to the harmonious setting. Re-joining the ship, we cruise along the Rhône and, during dinner, pass the imposing 15th-century castle at Tarascon standing guard on the riverbank.

This evening we enjoy the sumptuous Captain’s Dinner, with the chef serving specialities of the regions we’ve visited during our voyage of discovery, as the ship sails towards Avignon.

+ Included experiences – Guided tour of Arles, visit to Pont du Gard & the Captain’s Dinner.

Day 7
Location: Avignon

Today, we'll embark on a guided tour of one of the most extraordinary and intriguing cities in France. Avignon’s destiny changed during the 14th century when the Pope’s court moved here to avoid strife in Rome.

Igniting a century of prosperity, the Pontiff commissioned a host of ambitious building projects, and today the city is immaculately preserved, nestling behind its almost-intact 14th-century walls and boasting more remarkable monuments, superbly decorated buildings, churches, chapels and convents than you can possibly count.

Most important is the Pope’s Palace, made up of two buildings that together form the largest Gothic palace in the world. With turrets, towers, parapets and other fortifications, its exterior resembles a mighty fortress, while the interior is a tour de force of medieval architecture and ornamentation, adorned with priceless frescoes, Gobelin tapestries and graceful sculptures. The ceremonial hall, chapels, cloisters and private apartments are all unmissable.

But to truly embrace the feel of papal Avignon, imagine yourself here during the Middle Ages amid the Palace’s rich furnishings and extravagant decoration, with cardinals, princes and ambassadors milling about its candle-lit halls and corridors, while in the streets below countless pilgrims eagerly anticipate benediction. This was Avignon’s brief golden age when it was truly the centre of Christendom. 

At the end of our tour, you can join in a stroll up the hillside to the Rocher De Doms. Your reward? Panoramic views of the French countryside. The gardens, which were landscaped in the 19th century, hide a reservoir that once supplied the city with water. And it's a favourite with locals and tourists alike. With shady trees, generously planted shrubs and a large pond, it's the perfect setting for festivals such as the Ban des Vendanges annual wine harvest festival in late August. Throughout the seven acres, there are signs - in French and English - outlining the park's history and observation tables pointing out the surrounding landmarks.

But the crown jewel of the park is the statue in the middle of the pond. The Venus with Swallows, by Félix Charpentier, was moved from its original setting in Place Carnot to Rocher des Doms due to the display of nudity. Right next to the pond is a favourite spot for locals who relax and people-watch.

Later, return to the luxurious surroundings of our ship, finding a quiet spot to contemplate the many wondrous gardens and flora places you’ve seen and smelled!

After dinner, you can sit back and relax to the sounds of a talented local pianist who'll entertain us with French songs on board.

+ Included experiences – Guided tour of Avignon and Rocher de Doms & performance by local pianist 

Day 8
Location: Avignon

After breakfast you’ll bid farewell to the ship and her dedicated crew, before transferring to the airport for your return flight or to Avignon for your high-speed rail journey home. 

What's Included

Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of Sole Occupancy cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:;

All meals on board - from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day - including welcome cocktails and the Captain's dinner.
Complimentary on-board tea and coffee
All visits and excursions as mentioned
Airport transfers
Coach travel as mentioned
Travel to and from port of embarkation
The services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and concierge

Check out our Q&As

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    For almost 40 years

  • I have reduced mobility; can I still travel?

    We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to contact us to discuss these concerns

  • Do I require travel insurance?

    It is a condition of booking that you carry suitable travel insurance.

  • What is my luggage allowance?

    You will receive details of your luggage allowance with your final travel documents, which are sent approximately 10 days prior to your date of departure.

Reviews of this Operator

David Clarke (Google Reviewer)  

This review is for the...


This review is for the italian Lake Como trip Aug 1-8 Wow what a trip. Riviera from start to finish were excellent the booking and help line answering questions were very good and clear. The travel booklet you get is laid out that it is simple to read and follow with step by step info from booking in to flights to meeting the guides. Our guide Matt Purse was just the best guide and real credit to Riviera with his knowledge and straight forward approach to running the trips. Matt kept us informed and told us all the sort of info you want to know without going over the top....This chap should teach other reps ..thank you so much. The coaches they use are all clean and well equipped with usb chargers and have aircon. The places chosen to visit were well researched even down to where coaches park or drop you off. The Bernina Express was the highlight for our family and matts photo tip was welcomed. The only down point was the hotel,a little dated and evening meal in main restuarant was a bit of a let down. I think we were lucky with our room on level 7 and with balcony as the walls are very thin and noise travels. We would book again with riviera

Barbara Shillaker (Google Reviewer)  

I have been on three...


I have been on three trips with Riviera Travel so far, with two more booked during 2024. Highly recommended. Excellent tour guides. Great program of visits. Great hotels used.

Valerie Pascoe  

We would go again in a heartbeat


Oh my goodness, what a relief it was to actually get away! Full marks to all at Riviera for keeping us up to date before our trip and for the help so cheerfully and patiently given with the extra admin that Covid brought our way. We felt totally safe with the measures taken on board, thank you very much for this. Without exception, Staff were fantastic and our every need was attended to. The additional Covid testing ran smoothly, organised by our Riviera Reps. The guided tours were most interesting: the guides very knowledgeable and more importantly, interesting to listen to. We loved this trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you again Riviera, you were FAB!

Chris Wilson (Google Reviewer)  

Second escorted tour with this...


Second escorted tour with this company. Did 5 days in Iceland tour. Everything went smoothly, excellent tour guide, Per. Extremely knowledgeable and interesting guy. Very friendly too. Highly recommend. Just let down by the room given at the hotel, but I guess the travel company doesn't have control over this.

Kathryn Jurin, GB  

Riviera South Africa tour - awesome


Riviera have amazing holidays and tours to choose from. The one we chose was South Africa and wow! It turned out to be our best trip ever - incredible memories we will never forget. We’ve been all over the world which was because of all our experiences, this one was awesome. The organisation of the holiday, the guide and the travel was e cells that. The choice of hotels, meals, restaurants, trips was absolutely fantastic - very good quality and character - nothing bland or boring! The Riviera guide was permanently with us along with a South Africa guide and they were both extremely friendly, professional, informative and you could ask any questions you want! I would massively recommend this holiday/trip and when you’ve experienced it, you realise how reasonable the price is. We reflect on this trip a lot and thank you Riviera for giving us such a wonderful experience.

Barry, GB  

Rhine Christmas markets cruise


Just completed a 5 day trip on the Rhine. Our first river cruise and a tester for future cruises. The boat was well appointed and the cabin and public areas were spotlessly clean. The staff were attentive and contributed to the very relaxed atmosphere on the boat. The quality of the food surpassed that which we have experiened on sea cruises in recent years. I have written little because it was a faultless experience. We have booked a further cruise (in France) on the basis of our experience.

Joan Yarker (Google Reviewer)  

My first cruise and I...


My first cruise and I couldn’t have done better than my recent Seine River cruise. Carmen the tour organiser was excellent and always willing to go the extra mile to sort out any problems. The crew were amazing , friendly and helpful, the captain was great when explaining the controls on the bridge. Everything was very clean, food truly delicious and the pianist a delight and I was able to indulge my passion for dancing. My fellow guests were a delight and I made many new friends. Thank you Riviera

Christine Hardy (Google Reviewer)  

Although most people seem to...


Although most people seem to book and pay for their holidays online, because we live close by we prefer to make a personal visit. In my opinion if they are offering this as an option they should be better equipped to accommodate visits in person. We have not been on our river cruise yet, so can't comment on that yet.

Rob Steele (Google Reviewer)  

My 3rd Riviera trip within...


My 3rd Riviera trip within a year and I wasn't disappointed 😁 This time it was This trip, although not cheap, it really offers exceptional value for money as you see a lot of Tamil Nadu and Kerela, stay in fantastic hotels, excellent breakfasts every day as well as some lunches and dinners also included. George Bareham, our "Tour Manager" was brilliant, very professional, but also friendly and diligent. Satheeshan, our local guide was helpful and picked me up antibiotics when I got ill, he was a nice chap, if (for my taste) went on a bit and used 20 words when 1 would suffice. Mr Sweeny, our coach driver was fantastic,really professional and an exceptionally good driver. His assistant, Murgon wad a delight, always smiling and attentive. This is a full on trip, early morning starts and quite a packed itinerary, but still leaving time to laze around some brilliant hotel swimming pools. Only a couple of suggestions to improve the holiday. More shopping time in Cochin and change carriers from Etihad who, unfortunately aren't the excellent airline they used to be. But, will I use Riviera Travel again - Yes 😁

Barbara Parkes (Google Reviewer)  

Presently in Croatia staying at...


Presently in Croatia staying at Arauana Hotel, supposedly a 4 star property, but wouldn't give it any star rating. Rooms are small and dirty. Wallpaper blistering. Meals served in a shed like lean-to. Food like warm, greasy and always self service. Second holiday with Riviera this year and neither at standard advertised. Have travelled with them previously and everything was fine, but standards have really dropped. Have booked a holiday with them next year and now dreading it. Certainly don't provide the standard advertised. We have never stayed in such a hovel and have visited youngsters in back packers accommodation which was far better than this supposedly 4 star accommodation. There are no indoor bars or lounges only a shed as a so called restaurant. Absolutely disgusting. Won't be boking with them again

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Apr 24, 2025 - May 01, 2025
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May 22, 2025 - May 29, 2025
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Thursday - Thursday

Aug 21, 2025 - Aug 28, 2025
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  • Low Deposit

    Riviera Travel requires a minimum deposit of 200 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 75 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of riviera travel charges.

    Up to 75 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 74 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 70% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 14 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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