What better way to absorb both the colonial heritage and riparian life of India than on this two-in-one cruise of West Bengal’s riverside riches and Kerala’s picturesque backwaters. Viewing West Bengal from the serenity of the Gangetic plains you can appreciate the exquisite architecture of the region’s colonial era monuments and religious buildings, and the rich artistry of its crafts and handwoven fabrics. On your journey through Kerala’s backwaters, witness the bucolic village lifestyle of the local residents.
The Kalaw Pandaw will transport you to the bygone era of West Bengal’s colonial heritage. On the banks of the Hooghly River, foreign traders, missionaries, educators and agriculturists formed settlements while local rulers, farmers, musicians and writers created new ways of living as they encountered European commerce, tastes and power. Relish a luxurious, experiential insight into history, art, culture and religious diversity on your round-trip voyage from Kolkata upstream to Baranagar before returning back to Kolkata, experiencing a rich array of fascinating explorations along the way.
In complete contrast, the sleepy backwaters of Kerala offer complete relaxation, amidst lush landscapes, sunset views, rural life and the quiet, cool ambience of the region. Enjoy freshly cooked Indian cuisine on the water and breathtakingly beautiful natural scenery and wildlife.
Explore Kolkata, a city steeped in tradition, culture, and history, and be enthralled by its impressive display of architectural marvels. Here, the iconic Howrah Bridge, the resplendent Victoria Memorial and many other places of historical interest represent the grandeur of a golden era. Discover a Portuguese settlement, a former French colony, and be inspired by the artisans, weavers, writers and poets who influenced the Bengali Renaissance along this significant trade route. Visit pilgrimage centers, Hindu temples and a Hare Krishna temple, and meet the followers. Experience cultural interactions at the various stops along the way and witness the traditional pottery and weaving crafts of the riverside.
Surrender to the much slower pace of a different world on your private houseboat cruise around the palm-fringed lagoons, channels and backwaters of easy-going Kerala ― a blissful place for a honeymoon. Here, calmly drift past rice fields, temples and sleepy villages. Glide through the placid waters of the vast and captivating Vembanad Lake, visit local landmarks and stretch your legs on village walks. Take a guided tour of Kochi City, known as the “Queen of the Arabian Sea”.
All excursions are on a private basis, by means of private transportation, and accompanied by an expert private guide, with the exception of the West Bengal Hooghly River cruise which is on a small-group, shared basis.
Your land and water-based accommodations have been chosen to reflect the historical and traditional influences of the two regions that you will be journeying through. The Kalaw Pandaw resembles an upscale version of the colonial-style ships of the past, all decked out in teak and brass and an elegant air reminiscent of the bygone days of the British Raj. Your Spice Coast Houseboat is a stately floating hotel, adapted from a ‘Kettuvallam’, a traditional vessel used for carrying cargoes of rice and spice through the Kerala waterways. The Brunton Boatyard boutique hotel, in the historic Fort Cochin area, is a restored period building with interiors inspired by an eclectic but tasteful blend of English, Portuguese and Dutch influences.
This two-center, 15-day luxury tour offers the perfect way for couples or honeymooners—or indeed solo travelers, families or groups with some tailoring of the accommodations—to explore two completely different regions of India.
Itinerary & Prices
Welcome to Kolkata & Embarkation
Transfer from your hotel or airport in Kolkata to embark and sail at noon. Sail past the old Danish colony of Serampore to Barrackpore to land and take a walk through the cantonment – past the Semaphore Tower, Government House, the Temple of Fame, and Flagstaff House.
After breakfast sail upstream and land at the country town of Kalna and take rickshaws to see a group of some of Bengal’s most attractive terracotta temples, as well as the unique Shiva temple with concentric rings made up of 108 lesser shrines. Sail on through the night to a mooring near Matiari.
Visit the brass-working village of Matiari, a charming riverside village. Interact with the locals of Matiari and witness the whole primitive process of beating out brass water pots and other vessels. Continue cruising upstream and time permitting visit the battlefield of Plassey where, in 1757, Robert Clive, the Commander-in-Chief of British India, defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, to change the course of Indian history. Moor close to Murshidabad for the night.
This morning, walk to the Khushbagh, a peaceful Mughal-style garden that encloses the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah – the last independent Nawab of Bengal – and his family. Continue a little way upstream to where the great Hazarduari Palace dominates the waterfront. Built by an English architect in 1837, the palace hosts an extensive collection of pictures, china, weapons, and other objects. Carry on to visit the great Katra Mosque and Nashipara Palace before driving out to see the Katgola Palace. Built-in classical Georgian style by rich local merchants, Katgola Palace represents the other side of the coin of the ‘White Mughal’ period when English and Indian cultures came close to fusion. Moor overnight on the riverbank across from town.
Baranagar - Ajimganj
Continue up the Hooghly which transforms into a charming waterway twisting and turning between banks lined with mustard fields and mango orchards. Morning walks through the fields of the delightfully sleepy village of Baranagar to visit its three gorgeous miniature terracotta temples. This is rural India at its most idyllic. Visit the Jain temples at Azimganj and continue downstream.
Explore the Village of Mayapur
Explore the village of Mayapur, the headquarters of the ISKCON movement with a new temple comparable in size to the Vatican and largely funded by Alfred B. Ford, the great-grandson of car maker Henry Ford. Meet Krishna followers and walk through the pilgrims’ bazaar.
Chandernagore – Hooghly
Continue sailing downstream before landing to visit the imposing Imambara at Hooghly. With verses from the Koran written on its walls, the Imambara is an opportunity to step back in time and relive a slice of Islamic history in Bengal. Sail past the old Dutch settlement of Chinsura to Chandernagore, a French possession until 1950. Visit the 18th-century church and Dupleix’s House, erstwhile Governor-General of French India. Sail into the night to a mooring near Kolkata.
Disembarkation & Kolkata Exploration
After breakfast, disembark and receive a group transfer to the disembarkation point hotel for your onward journey.
Overnight at hotel The Oberoi Grand or similar.
From Flower Market to Park Street Cemetery
Breakfast at the hotel and proceed for a sightseeing tour of Kolkata, the “City of Joy”.
Morning visit of :
Flower Market, which is a feast for the eyes. Located below and adjacent to the Howrah Bridge that spans the sacred river Ganges, the market is bustling from the wee hours of the morning. Countless vendors and buyers exchange money for flowers and countless locals carry bales of flowers that are at least twice their weight.
Kumartuli (potters colony), a traditional potters’ quarter in northern Kolkata, specializes in clay idol making. This potter’s town supplies images to about 90 countries worldwide with new nations joining the list every year.
Jain Temple – It is a century-old temple and its building was renovated as per the plan of Mr. Brown the famous architect of Victoria Memorial in the year 1914. The main idol of Tirthankara Parswanath – the 23rd Tirthankara (877-777 B.C.) was installed in the year 1914. This artistic Nagar-style temple, with ornamental pillars and sculptures copied from the old Jain temples and caves, casting its shadow in the adjoining tank creates a picturesque scenery.
College Street Book Market – is a 1.5 km long street that derives its name from the presence of many colleges, and centers of intellectual activity especially the Indian Coffee House, a café that has attracted the city’s intelligentsia for decades. It is most famous for its small and big bookstores, which gives it the nickname Boi Para (Colony of Books). An article in the journal Smithsonian described College Street as …a half-mile of bookshops and bookstalls spilling over onto the pavement, carrying first editions, pamphlets, paperbacks in every Indian language, with more than a fair smattering of books in and out of print from France, Germany, Russia, and England.
Lunch at a local restaurant.
Afternoon visit of :
Metcalfe Hall is a heritage building situated at the junction of Strand Road and Hare Street in the heart of the city’s business district. The architecture is reflective of the British imperial architecture in the middle of the nineteenth century and is visually similar to ancient Greek temples. It was built between 1840 and 1844 according to the design prepared by the city magistrate, C.K. Robinson, and named after Sir Charles T. Metcalfe, the Governor General of India, in honor of his efforts towards a free press. Presently, the ground floor houses the Asiatic Society’s rare foreign journals and manuscripts while the first-floor houses exhibition galleries
Mother Teresa’s Home and Tomb – Mother Teresa started the Missionary of Charity in 1952, then lived and worked there until her death in 1997. The permanent exhibition includes a visit to her personal room, we learn her life story and see her charity that is still active. Optional: continue by foot a short distance to her orphanage, Sishu Bhawan (Children’s Home), where one of the sisters will lead us on a tour.
The Park Street Cemetery was one of the earliest non-church cemeteries in the world, and probably the largest Christian cemetery outside Europe in the 19th century. Opened in 1767 the cemetery was in use until about 1830 and is now a heritage site. The memorials are almost all architecturally imposing and replete with classical details and sculptures. Among the interesting professions mentioned in the epitaphs is a breeder of cattle, jail-keeper, silversmith, schoolteacher, architect, translator, livery, printer, head tide-waiter, park superintendent, cooper, postmaster, and surgeon. The tombs are a mix of Gothic and the rich flavor of the Indo-Saracenic style.
Panoramic Tour of Dalhousie Square – the Square was named in memory of Lord Dalhousie who was the Governor General of India from 1847 to 1856. The Dalhousie Square is surrounded by some of Kolkata’s most enduring Raj-era monuments like the magnificent GPO (General Post Office), the regal Raj Bhawan, the Gothic-style Writer’s Building, and the St. John’s Church. The St. John’s Church (closed on Sundays), is the oldest Anglican Church in Kolkata, built-in 1756. The tour features the oldest functioning pipe organ in India and several tombs of British Generals who died during the Siege of Kolkata by Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula in 1756. Victoria Memorial Museum is one of India’s most beautiful monuments built between 1906 and 1921 in white marble. The memorial was the inspiration of Lord Curzon, who in 1901, felt that his lately departed Queen Empress, required a suitable monument to her memory. It houses paintings, manuscripts, and other objects of historic value in its Museum and Art Gallery. (Closed on Monday & National Holidays. Photography is not allowed inside.)
Overnight at hotel The Oberoi Grand or similar.
Welcome to Kochi (Cochin), Kerala !
Following breakfast guests will be transferred to Kolkata Airport for the 3-hour flight to Kochi.
Arrival and transfer to the hotel. Take this day to rest, relax, and acclimatize before your backwater adventure begins.
Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Visiting Historical Memories
Spend the morning exploring Kochi, visiting the St. Francis Church, Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Kochi, and the Mattancherry Palace. Also known as the Dutch Palace, Mattancherry Palace (which remains closed on Fridays) was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and features murals from the Ramayana as well as collections of royal costumes.
Thereafter visit the Jewish Synagogue (which remains closed on Fridays & Saturdays), the oldest synagogue in the British Commonwealth of Nations, built-in 1568.
Lunch at a local restaurant and thereafter visit the Kerala Folklore Museum, whose collections include pieces of art and ethnological artifacts connected to rural and tribal life in southern India, including terracotta and bronze statues, jewelry, and household items. In the evening, witness a fascinating Kathakali dance performance at a theatre.
Check out after breakfast and drive to the Puthenangadi Boat Jetty located on the bank of Vembanad Lake (approx. 62-km/1.5-hrs). Board a traditional Kettuvallam, an eco-friendly houseboat.
Enjoy lunch on board and begin your exploration of the unique ecosystem of Kerala’s backwaters by cruising through the splendid inland waterways and tropical lagoons, enjoying the passing scenes of village life and lush landscapes.
Cruise across the Vembanad Lake to Kainakary, Nedumudy, and Champkulam (Visit the St. Mary’s Church, the Market, and the Wood Carving Centre).
Anchor in the evening at Thakazhi.
Cruising the Backwaters
Breakfast on board and begin another day of cruising visit Payipad (enjoy a Village Walk), pass through the villages of Karuvatta, Thottapally, and Karumady (where you can visit the ancient Buddha statue ‘Karumadykuttan), then arrive at Kanjipadam.
Lunch onboard at Kanjipadam and cruise through the villages of Pallathuruthy, Kannitta, Kuppapuram, and R Block, and finally reach Chithira.
Anchor in the evening at Chithira.
Disembark Houseboat & Drive to Kochi
Breakfast on board and cruise back to Puthenangadi Jetty. Disembark and drive back to Kochi. Check into the hotel and have lunch.
Rest of the day at leisure.
Breakfast at the hotel, check-out, and transfer to the airport for onward journey.
Standard Check-out time of hotel: 12:00 hrs