The World’s Top 10 Most Stunning Rivers

Rivers are the arteries of Mother Earth. But across the world, they’re being dammed, funneled into pipes, and polluted by waste. That’s why World Rivers Day, on September 27, was created in order to raise awareness of the plight of the world’s rivers and bring together communities to help preserve them.

From the icy plains of Alaska to the rocky gorges of Montenegro to the lush forests of Colombia, here are some of the earth’s most beautiful waterways.

September 17, 2020
By: Lucy Sherriff

Photo By: DEA / V. GIANNELLA

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Photo By: Alexis Gonzalez

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Tara River, Montenegro

With white rapids and steep rocky gorges cloaked in forest, the Tara River splices through canyons to run through the northern mountains of Montenegro’s Durmitor National Park. It’s one of the world’s last free-flowing rivers, meaning there are no dams and plenty of time to sail along and enjoy the majestic scenery.

Rapa River, Norrland, Sweden

The Rapa River delta has been described as the “Alaska of Europe”. At 75 km long, it’s a tributary of the Lesser Lule River and flows between mountains through lush green plains.

River Lealt, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Lealt meanders lazily through the island’s beautiful Scottish scenery and is a photographer’s dream. Cold, gray waters slink through the mossy green hills, culminating in the beautiful Lealt waterfall, which pours itself over lichen-smothered rocks and into a glassy pool.

Futaleufú River, Patagonia, South America

The Futaleufú crosses the Argentina-Chile border which begins in the stunning Los Alerces National Park. The area is so beautiful, that locals refer to the valley the river runs through as “a landscape painted by God.”

Caño Cristales, Meta, Colombia

Known as the “river of five colors” and “the river that ran away from paradise”, the river blossoms into an explosion of colors for a couple of months each year. The conditions have to be just right: between the wet and dry season a unique species of plant blooms, turning the river yellow, green, and red.

Zambezi River, Africa

The Zambezi flows through six African countries: Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique, traveling almost 1,600 miles before emptying out into the Indian Ocean. It’s relatively unexplored, meaning it’s one of the cleanest waterways in the world. It flows over the cascading Victoria Falls and runs through the plains where elephants, big cats, and antelope roam. It’s known as the “River of Life” to those who live on its banks and is the lifeblood of southern Africa.

Río Cahabón, Guatemala

Tranquil emerald waters, waterfalls, water caves, raging rapids, and limestone pools--the Río Cahabón has everything. Visitors can even bathe in hot springs that nestle alongside the riverbanks.

The Dordogne, France

Winding through vineyards, under stone bridges, and alongside medieval castles, the Dordogne feels like a relic of a bygone era. It's perfect for drifting down in an old fashioned gabare, the boats used on the river in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Yangtze, China

What list would be complete without the Yangtze? One of the longest rivers in the world has seen huge amounts of development along its banks, but sail far enough and you can still be transported to a world of ancient culture. Be humbled as you drift past towering cliffs emerging from the morning mist and gaze in awe at the stunning multi-storied colorful pagodas that dot the water’s edge.

The Kenai River, Alaska

A brilliant turquoise blue, the river flows out of Kenai Lake and heads 17 miles downstream through the Chugach National Forest. The area is known for some of the best trout fishing in the world and is so protected that no motor boats are allowed in the upper corridor--you can only drift down it.

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