From the Taj Mahal’s flawless grandeur, to the serene waters of the Ganges and the poignant reminders of past glories of the Raj in Calcutta, our tour and cruise encompasses the very best of India, ensuring a lifetime of truly amazing memories.
Selected departures February to November 2017
- An extraordinary tour including an eight-night Ganges river cruise on the intimate, colonial-style four-star RV Bengal Ganga on a journey of discovery through the spiritual heartland of India
- Visit all the major sights of Old and New Delhi
- See the breathtaking Taj Mahal bathed in soft morning light
- Stay in Varanasi, visit its colourful bathing ghats and enjoy a rickshaw ride through its teeming streets
- Be astounded at Kolkata’s (Calcutta) charming colonial architecture
- Full touring programme, full board and selected drinks included whilst cruising, visiting small towns and villages, with fascinating ancient temples, markets and palaces
- Return direct scheduled flights from London Heathrow
- Premium economy flight upgrades available at a supplement
- Stay in three, four and five-star hotels, with breakfast
- Escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
Single supplements may apply, subject to availability.
You should arrive at the airport for your overnight flight to Delhi
ARRIVAL & DRIVE TO AGRA
After our morning arrival in Delhi, you transfer to Agra and our hotel, the four-star superior Courtyard by Marriott for two nights with breakfast. All rooms are stylishly furnished and air-conditioned with flat-screen TVs, personal safe, mini-bar and complimentary tea/coffee. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
TAJ MAHAL & AGRA FORT
We rise early catching the sun rising over the Taj Mahal for one of the world’s finest travel experiences. In the soft morning light, as the mist rises from the Yamuna River beyond, the Taj seems to float, mirage-like, above the surrounding landscape. A combination of extraordinary beauty, symmetry and history truly makes this wonder of the world one of the planet’s most amazing monuments and you will have ample time to admire it from all angles. You continue to the vast red sandstone Agra Fort. Completed in 1573, once the centre of the Moghul Empire, boasting a vast size and opulence, it’s more of a palace than a fort. This evening you have the option to return the Taj Mahal for sunset.
After a leisurely drive to Delhi, this afternoon we have guided tour of New Delhi. The city centre, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911, is bisected by wide, tree-lined avenues, a hub which clearly reflects the Raj legacy and home to the former Viceroy, now the Presidential Palace. Continuing along the imposing Rajpath, we pass the symbol of the modern country, India Gate plus the Parliament building. We’ll visit some of Delhi’s older monuments, including the Qutub Minaret, dating from 1199, the India’s tallest stone-built tower. Nearby is Humayun’s tomb, an outstanding example of Moghul architecture and the first mausoleum of its type, pre-dating the more widely known Taj Mahal by nearly a century. This evening we stay at one of Delhi’s finest hotels, the sumptuous five-star Taj Palace Hotel, with breakfast.
OLD DELHI & FLY TO VARANASI
This morning we experience the charm, atmosphere, bustle and colour of Old Delhi superbly experienced by traditional rickshaw. Continuing past the imposing walls and battlements of the great Red Fort we visit the Raj Ghat, a fittingly simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi plus the Jama Masjid, one of Asia’s largest mosques. This afternoon we take the short flight to Varanasi, staying two nights at the four-star Taj Gateway Hotel Ganges, with breakfast.
Founded in the 6th century BC, and one of the oldest cities in the world, Hindus believe Varanasi to be the centre of their universe. Nestling on the holy River Ganges, the old city is a labyrinth of tangled alleys, shops and workshops, through which we take an exciting rickshaw to the river experience the early morning atmosphere. Buzzing with pilgrims, the banks are lined by high, centuries-old palaces, with descending steps or ‘ghats’ leading to the water below. Here the faithful wash themselves in the holy waters while brightly clad Brahmin priests practise yoga and meditation. This evening you’ll witness the Aarti, one of the most impressive of Hindu ceremonies, as large crowds chant and pray, setting small candles adrift on the water in memory of loved
ones. You will also probably see several of Varanasi’s famous funeral pyres, where mourners gather and the whole riverbank glows with a flickering yellow as the deceased receives instant enlightenment.
DA Y 7
Leaving Varanasi, we drive to Bodhgaya one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites, travelling through real India’s rural heart, studded with tiny farming villages and towns. This afternoon you’ll visit the Mahabodhi Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment under a banyan tree, the Bodhi
Tree, still there to this day. Your hotel is the simple three-star Royal Residency with breakfast and dinner.
EMBARK AT MUNGER
Today we head towards Munger to board our ship for the next eight nights, calling en-route at Nalanda, one of the world’s first residential universities. With its rich spiritual heritage and architectural ruins from the mists of time, Nalanda was probably established as long ago as the 5th Century BC. At its peak, it housed over 10,000 students from all over Asia staggeringly spread over eight separate compounds and ten temples.
Continuing to the Munger jetty we board the RV Bengal Ganga, our home for the next eight nights with full board.
BIHAR & SULTANGANJ
Following breakfast we visit the renowned Bihar School of Yoga. Run as an ashram attracting many international visitors, this was the first Yoga school to allow women
students. We return to the ship and sail past Sultanganj, conspicuous for two large granite outcrops, one crowned by a mosque and the other a temple of Shiva. We continue towards Narayanpur where we moor overnight.
A leisurely start today sailing towards Bateshwarsthan, cruising through a 50-kilometre stretch of the river, designated as the Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, established to protect the endangered Ganges River dolphins. The reserve supports a rich diversity of wildlife, including the smooth coated otter, several species of hard and soft shell turtles and a huge variety of migratory birds. At Bateshwarsthan, we will visit the remains of Vikramshila University, established in the late 8th Century AD, one of India’s two most important centres of Buddhist learning. We moor overnight in Samtaghat.
FULL DAY CRUISING
We have a relaxing full day’s sail today arriving at Farakka around midday, where you will see the Farakka Barrage, an amazing feat of engineering over 2kms long with 109 water gates regulating the river flow into Bangladesh and India. We’ll cross the Farakka lock and into the connecting feeder canal to the Hooghly River, entering the Lower Ganges. We moor overnight in Jangipur.
This afternoon we arrive in the city of Murshidabad, former capital of Bengal before the British established Calcutta. You’ll visit the Hazarduari Palace Museum, built in an incongruous grand Palladian style by the British architect Duncan McLeod. Known as the ‘palace of a thousand doors’, most of which are false, it houses an amazing armour, porcelain and palanquin collection. Next you may wish to join your guide for a fascinating walk through the local market – a great opportunity to experience a real Indian bazaar in all its incredible sound and colour, providing fabulous photo opportunities way off the tourist trail. We moor overnight in Murshidabad.
After breakfast we visit the remains of the Katra Mosque by ox cart. Continuing our cruise towards Matiari, we pass Plassey, in 1757 site of the decisive battle which changed Indian and indeed Britain’s history. Clive of India defeated the Moghul Nawab, ruler of Bengal and his French allies, thus establishing East India Company rule over the entire continent for the next 190 years! We moor overnight in Matiari.
MATIARI & KALNA
The village of Matiari is known for its traditional brass and copper work, a skill passed from generation to generation. Walking through the village you’ll hear loud noises of metal beating emanating from almost every house – plus you’ll have the opportunity to see the brassware process from conception to finished article. This afternoon we arrive in Kalna experiencing another wonderful rickshaw ride, the ideal way to truly experience India, seeing the remarkable 108 temples built in two concentric circles dedicated to Shiva. We moor overnight in Bandel.
We arrive in Kolkata, sailing under the huge span of the iconic Howrah Bridge, right into the city’s heart and our final night on board. Kolkata, previously Calcutta, was the capital of British India until 1911. Our guided tour includes all the major sights, including St John’s church, the Victoria Memorial (modelled on the Taj Mahal), Eden Gardens, Dalhousie Square, Fort William, the secretariat building and the Old Court House Street.
DISEMBARK & FLY TO DELHI
Our last morning in Kolkata before flying to Delhi, staying at the excellent five-star Pullman Aerocity with breakfast, conveniently located close to the airport. The hotel has a lovely pool and is the ideal place to relax on your last night in India.
You depart Delhi arriving later the same day.