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    Attractive Vézelay
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    A modern medieval castle
River Cruise
River Cruise

The Classic Nivernais

French Waterways

2 passengers
  • VIP travel service included on selected European tours VIP on selected river cruises
  • Great savings per person* Save £
  • Full Board Full board

Visit historic sights close to the River Yonne and Nivernais canal

Discover river cruising with a difference… Our new holidays offer five day-cruises on the backwaters of France and included excursions on most afternoons, during a seven-night stay in a welcoming hotel. After breakfast at your hotel, make yourself at home on your ‘floating lounge’, the award-winning day-cruiser ‘Natalia’ and admire the passing scenery as you cruise the smaller canals and rivers of France. The eco-friendly boat was voted Best Electric Hybrid Cruise Boat in 2018 by the Best European Tourism Project. A light lunch of local specialities will be delivered to the ship each day to enjoy with included drinks as you cruise. Our programme of excursions takes you through delightful rural countryside to the historic attractions that abound in Burgundy. Dinner will be at a nearby restaurant. Magnifique!


7 nights in a hotel with 5 days of cruising

20 meals: 7 breakfasts, 6 light lunches and 7 dinners

Excursions and visits

  • Train ride to Chatel-Censoir
  • Prehistoric Caves d’Arcy tour
  • Tour of Vézelay
  • Visit Caves de Bailly wine cellar with tasting
  • Visit to the Guédelon Castle project
  • Visit to Cistercian Abbaye de Reigny, with dinner
  • Dining in Chablis with an iconic local wine tasting

View Full Itinerary

Day 1 UK to Auxerre, France

Auxerre - Town of Art and History

Travel by coach from Folkestone to Auxerre via Eurotunnel or ferry.

Check in to the locally rated 4-star Mercure Auxerre Nord in Appoigny where you’ll stay for the next seven nights. Enjoy a welcome drink at the hotel.

Day 2 Auxerre to Champs-sur-Yonne

Enjoy a Chablis tasting

Board Natalia for your first morning of cruising, heading from Auxerre to the village of Champs-sur-Yonne after breakfast. Enjoy seeing the Paul Bert Bridge across the Canal du Nivernais up close.

After lunch on board join your coach for your excursion to the Caves de Bailly. The village of Bailly is where the AOC Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wines are produced from hand-picked, noble grapes. The wines are matured underground in a former quarry which provides the natural low light and temperature they require.

Look forward to a wine tasting here before returning to your hotel for dinner.

Day 3 Champs-sur-Yonne to Vermenton

This morning your coach will return you to Champs-sur-Yonne for your morning cruise to Vermenton, with lunch served on board. The Canal du Nivernais takes over from the River Yonne as the principal waterway today.

After lunch board a coach for a guided visit to the prehistoric Caves d’Arcy – limestone caves carved out by the River Cure and used by Stone Age man. Wall paintings of bears, mammoths and ibexes, and hand prints - believed to be the second-oldest in the world - have also been discovered here. The walking tour of the caves involves around 100 steps and there are some places where visitors must stoop, anyone not wishing to go all the way into the caves can still visit the opening cavern and display cases and then relax in the café just outside.

From the caves, you’ll travel to the Abbaye de Reigny – a lovely former Cistercian abbey founded in 1128 with one of only three intact Cistercian Refectories to survive in all of France. Enjoy a tour before relaxing amid the gardens and riverside scenery, where you might spot kingfishers. 

Dinner will be served in the Abbey – now a boutique hotel – before you return to Auxerre.

Day 4 Guédelon

Guédelon Castle

Visit the rolling Burgundy countryside on a full-day excursion by coach to the building site of Guédelon Castle, subject of a recent BBC 2 television series.

In 1997, this building was started as an attempt to replicate the construction of a medieval castle by traditional methods, with a team of 50 masons, carpenters and craftsmen using the wood, stone and clay available close to the site and employing traditional building methods. The castle is scheduled for completion in 2023.

Enjoy a guided tour before lunch and explore further in the afternoon before returning to Auxerre, where your evening meal will be at the hotel.

Day 5 Vermenton to Châtel-Censoir

The white cliffs of Saussois

This morning return to Vermenton to embark for a full day of cruising as far as the village of Châtel-Censoir.

This is Nivernais cruising at its best, with the canal weaving its way along the contours of the Yonne valley and passing a succession of picturesque villages. Pause for lunch near Mailly-le-Château, with the opportunity to take in the splendid views from the Château’s parapet overlooking the river valley. You also pass the imposing limestone bluff known as Les Rochers du Saussois, noted for its resident population of peregrine falcons.

Return by coach to your hotel for dinner.

Day 6 Châtel-Censoir to Coulanges-sur-Yonne

Abbey of Saint Germaine, Burgundy

This morning take a local train along the Yonne Valley to Châtel-Censoir where you will re-board your cruiser.

Follow the Canal du Nivernais upstream through more lovely scenery as far as Coulanges-sur-Yonne, and after lunch on-board rejoin the coach for the scenic drive back into Auxerre. The afternoon is free for exploration. The city is famous for its magnificent skyline, highlighted by the former Benedictine Monastery the Abbaye St-Germain with its remarkable octagonal spire, and the Gothic cathedral St-Etienne. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries the cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows.

In the evening look forward to dining out at a restaurant in nearby Chablis, accompanied by a tasting of the iconic local wine.

Day 7 Coulanges-sur-Yonne to Vézelay

Basilica Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in Vezelay

This morning travel by coach to the attractive Renaissance town of Vézelay, set on a steep hillside on the edge of the Morvan Natural Park.

Shortly after its foundation in the 9th century, the Benedictine Abbey of Vézelay acquired the relics of St Mary Magdalene and since then it has been an important place of pilgrimage. St Bernard preached the Second Crusade there in 1146 and Richard the Lionheart and Philip II Augustus met there before leaving for the Third Crusade in 1190. Enjoy a guided introduction before some free time to enjoy the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.

Before lunch return to Coulanges-sur-Yonne and cruise along the Nivernais as far as the medieval town of Clamecy from where you will return to Auxerre to look forward to a gala dinner this evening ahead of your journey home.

Day 8 Auxerre to UK

Check out after breakfast and board your coach for your return journey. You’ll pause for a while en route so you can buy yourself lunch, before setting off again to the UK via Eurotunnel or ferry.

A few details about your hotel

The locally rated 4-star Mercure Auxerre Nord is situated in the heart of the Yonne Valley, just 10 minutes north west of Auxerre city centre. It features 77 conditioned rooms spread across ground-level with views of the pretty four hectare gardens surrounding the hotel. There is an attractive sun terrace, lounge bar and an outdoor swimming pool. Breakfast is offered buffet-style while in the evening the a’ la carte restaurant, Le Chaumois, serves delicious traditional dishes from the Burgundy region.

Accommodation contact details

In case you need to leave contact details with a friend or relative…

Mercure Auxerre Nord
89380 Appoingny
0033 386 532500

The Classic Nivernais

French Waterways

2 passengers
The Classic Nivernais

French Waterways

2 passengers