Rhône river cruises may be most associated with France—and understandably so, since the majority of the river flows through the southeastern region of the country—but the river actually originates from the Rhône Glacier that is located about 6,000 feet above sea level in the Swiss Alps. After it descends through the Alps, the river empties into Lake Geneva and then continues on its journey south west, meeting up with the Arve River just below the Swiss city of Geneva and then rushing through the Jura Mountains. Shortly after the river flows into France it turns south and starts a trek of about 190 miles to the Mediterranean Sea, which makes it unique, as the Rhône is the only major river in Europe that flows into the Mediterranean.
The Rhône’s connection to the Mediterranean made it one of the most important waterways in ancient times. Not only did it serve as an inland trade route during a period when river travel was the quickest means of transportation, it also linked regions of Gaul (a Roman province that today encompasses France, Luxembourg, and Belgium, as well as sections of Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany). Before the Roman Empire, however, the Rhône River basin was home to several Celtic tribes, and the Greeks also explored the region. Several hundred years after Roman rule, during the Medieval Period, the Rhône Valley was transformed into an area populated by cathedral towns and abbeys; and while the area’s wine-making tradition germinated during this time, it flourished during the Renaissance and the centuries that followed.