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    The pilgrimage town of Vézelay
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    Chablis in Chablis!
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    Your day-cruiser

The Classic Nivernais

French Waterways

  • A car with a tick VIP on selected river cruises
  • A plate with a knife and fork Full board

Explore the River Yonne and Nivernais canal

This holiday combines a seven-night hotel stay at the locally rated 4-star Mercure Auxerre Nord in Appoigny with four day-cruises on the backwaters of France, a host of included excursions, plus dinner at two of the region’s best restaurants in Accolay and Nitry.

The award-winning day-cruiser ‘Natalia’ will take you on a leisurely journey through rural landscapes dotted with vineyards and historic villages, such as Cravant, where the Battle of Cravant was fought during the Hundred Year’s War, and Vermenton, where you’ll enjoy an included visit to the Abbaye de Reigny, one of the last Cistercian Refectories in France. When you’re not cruising the scenic canals and rivers you can look forward to spending time at leisure in Auxerre and Chablis, where you can sample the local iconic wine; visiting the Caves de Bailly wine cellar for wine tasting; and more…


Hands shaking Included travel insurance

Bed7 nights in a hotel

Dinner plate19 meals: 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 7 dinners

PersonSaga Cruise Escort


  • Return coach travel from Folkestone via Eurotunnel or ferry, and transfers
  • Welcome drink

MapIncluded excursions

  • Visit to Pontigny Abbey
  • Visit to the Plus Beaux village of Noyers-sur-Serein
  • Guided visit to the Abbaye de Reigny
  • Visit to Caves de Bailly wine cellar with tasting
  • Free time in Auxerre and Chablis
  • Visit to the Basilica of St Mary Magdalen
  • La Croix Montjoie vineyard visit

View Full Itinerary

Day 1 UK to Auxerre, France

Auxerre Cathedral, Auxerre

From Calais you’ll travel by coach to Auxerre (a distance of approximately 286 miles, which will take around six hours, excluding comfort stops. There will be a short stop in order for you to purchase lunch).

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

Day 2 Joigny to Auxerre

Cruise along the Canal du Bourgogne

Travel by coach to the nearby town of Joigny where you will board Natalia for your first day of cruising. Heading upstream to the railway town of Migennes, you will pass the River Yonne’s junction with the Canal de Bourgogne, and pass the village of Bassou, known for the production of edible snails.

Continue past the towns of Gurgy and Moneteau and enjoy the view of Saint-Etienne Cathedral and the Abbey of St Germain d’Auxerre with its Romanesque bell tower as you cruise into Auxerre.

Return to your hotel for dinner.

Day 3 Pontigny Abbey, Chablis and Noyers-sur-Serein

Enjoy a Chablis tasting

This morning after breakfast at your hotel you’ll travel east by coach to visit Pontigny Abbey, which was built in the 12th century and is one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in the world. The transition between Romanesque and Gothic architecture is clearly visible within the abbey. After your visit you’ll continue to Chablis, known for the production of the popular Burgundy wine of the same name.

Enjoy a light lunch, accompanied of course by a glass of the iconic local wine, before some time at leisure to explore the town centre. This afternoon you’ll visit the medieval market town of Noyers-sur-Serein, one of France’s 100 Plus Beaux villages, where you can stroll the cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses.

Return to your hotel for dinner this evening.

Day 4 Vincelles to Prégilbert

Lock on Canal of Nivernais

Today, your cruise begins further up the Yonne Valley in the village of Vincelles, where you will board your day-cruiser on a wide stretch of the River Yonne before cruising into the narrower waterways of the Canal du Nivernais. Pass through the village of Cravant, where a battle between English and French armies was fought in 1423 during the Hundred Years’ War, then turn onto a short branch of the canal leading to Vermenton and the River Cure.

Pause for lunch in the hamlet of Accolay before rejoining the main canal and cruising to Prégilbert where you’ll disembark. A short coach journey takes you back to Vermenton for a guided visit to the Abbaye de Reigny, home to one of the last remaining Cistercian Refectories in France.

This evening dinner is served in the vaulted cellar of the Restaurant de l’Hostellerie de la Fontaine in Accolay.

Today’s cruise covers approximately 11 miles, with nine locks.

Day 5 The Cellars of Crémant de Bourgogne

Abbey of Saint Germaine, Burgundy

This morning you’ll travel by coach to visit the underground Caves de Bailly, previously a limestone quarry, it now houses the cellars of Crémant de Bourgogne, where you can also find local Burgundy wines produced by the neighbouring Irancy vineyard.

Enjoy a wine tasting here before returning by coach to Auxerre for an afternoon at leisure. The city is famous for its skyline, highlighted by the former Benedictine Monastery the Abbaye of St Germain and the Gothic St-Etienne Cathedral. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries the cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows.

Day 6 Châtel-Censoir to Prégilbert

The white cliffs of Saussois

Today’s cruising begins at the southern end of our cruise range and follows the Canal du Nivernais downstream to Prégilbert. Journey along the Niverrnais as it tracks the increasingly sharp meanders of the Yonne through the limestone hills which mark the northern edge of the Morvan Natural Park. A short stretch of open river at Merry-sur-Yonne takes you past the limestone bluff known as Les Rochers du Saussois, a favourite haunt for training mountain rescuers and of birdwatchers on the lookout for peregrine falcons. A narrow canal section follows, leading to the hilltop village of Mailly-le-Château.

Pause here for lunch and perhaps cross the adjacent 16th-century bridge to follow the steps up to the viewpoint overlooking the river and canal. More gentle cruising follows this afternoon, taking you through Mailly-La-Ville and Séry before the journey concludes once again in Prégilbert. This evening dinner will be at a restaurant in Nitry.

Today’s cruise covers approximately 12 miles, with nine locks.

Day 7 Vincelles to Auxerre

Basilique of St Mary Magdalene in Vezelay

After breakfast you’ll travel by coach to the hilltop town of Vézelay, dominated by the UNESCO-listed Basilica of St Mary Magdalen. Richard the Lionheart set off for the Crusades from here and it is also one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Enjoy a guided introduction before exploring the Basilica at leisure. Then, continue to the nearby vineyard of La Croix Montjoie to sample the latest appellation to be admitted to the Burgundy AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) and to enjoy a light lunch. As at Vézelay there are panoramic views from the vineyard’s terrace and opportunities to spot birdlife such as grey shrike and kestrel.

From the vineyard the coach continues through the Burgundy countryside back to Vincelles where you will rejoin the cruiser mid-afternoon for a final journey into Auxerre, arriving at around 6pm. The cruise follows the River Yonne downstream, passing the wine caves at Bailly and the villages of Vaux and Augy and onwards into the southern outskirts of Auxerre, where you’ll pass the AJA Auxerre stadium, now a second-tier club in the French football league.

Dinner this evening will be at your hotel.

Today’s cruise covers approximately 8 miles, with seven locks.

Day 8 Auxerre to UK

Check out after breakfast and board your coach for your return journey to Calais (a distance of approximately 286 miles, which will take around six hours, excluding comfort stops).

There will be a short stop en route so you can buy yourself lunch, before continuing to the UK via Eurotunnel or ferry.

Cruise the French waterways aboard Natalia

Natalia was newly built in 2018 specifically for day-cruising, so there are no cabins or restaurant on board. Due to her small size, Natalia can navigate inland waterways and narrower rivers and canals not accessible to larger crafts. The 19-metre, air-conditioned lounge has panoramic windows to make the most of the riverside scenery. There’s a galley from where a complimentary bar service is available throughout your cruise and lunch is served. Limited seating is available on the viewing deck under a sun awning. There are two toilets on board, one suitable for wheelchair users. Natalia has a hybrid engine, using electricity 95% of the time, so you can expect your cruise to be mostly silent and without exhaust fumes.


Length: 38 metres
Breadth: 4.85 metres
Cruise line: Backwaters
Maiden voyage: 2018
Passenger capacity: 60
Officers and crew: 4
Passenger decks: 1
Lift: No

The 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 air-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