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Enchanting India

Back-to-back cruise exploration of West Bengal's riverine riches and Kerala's beautiful backwaters.

Overview

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.

Fascinating Destinations

The Bengal Ganga 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 voyage from Kolkata to Bandel, Kalna, and the settlements founded by the Portuguese and the French, before continuing to Mayapur and back to Kolkata.

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.

Exciting Excursions

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 the oldest institution of Western education in India, and be inspired by the artisans, weavers, writers and poets who influenced the Bengali Renaissance along this significant trade route. Visit a Shia Muslim pilgrimage center, 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.

Exceptional Accommodations

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 Bengal Ganga is an intimate Indian riverboat reminiscent of the colonial ships used by the Viceroys of British India. 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, 13-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

13 Day - Enchanting India
itinerary map

Welcome to Kolkata & Embarkation

Arrive in Kolkata and transfer to the jetty to embark on the ship. Lunch onboard.

Visit the Weaver’s Studio, a Textile Study and Resource Centre for an introduction to some of the fabulous fabrics and weaves we will encounter on our travels. Weavers Studio’s creations are inspired by historical textiles, Indian trade cloths, seasons, ethnic tribes, across-the-border cultures, and contemporary techniques. Their collection comprises specialized fabrics, stoles, scarves, shawls, patch scrolls, art textiles, sarees, and garments.

Overnight on board Bengal Ganga.

(L/D)

Location
Kolkata
Day
1 / 13

Kolkata Through the Ages

After breakfast, embark on a Panoramic Tour of Kolkata, featuring a view of the well-preserved British colonial buildings in Kolkata: Writer’s Building, General Post Office, High Court, Raj Bhawan (Governor’s House), Town Hall, Council House, Treasury Building, Reserve Bank of India and Dalhousie Square. We proceed to visit St. John’s Church, the oldest Anglican Church in Kolkata, built-in 1756.

The tour features the oldest functioning pipe organ in India, a painting of the Last Supper by German artist, Johann Zoffany, and several tombs of British Generals who died during the Siege of Kolkata by Nawab Shriaj Ud Daula in 1756. Then we visit the grand Victoria Memorial Museum, which houses the largest collection of British colonial historical artifacts.

Return to the ship for lunch and start sail upstream passing below the cantilevered Howrah Bridge and seeing various colonial buildings along the Ganges River. We moor for the night on the outskirts of Kolkata city near the Bally Bridge.

Overnight on onboard Bengal Ganga.

(B/L/D)

Location
Kolkata
Day
2 / 13

Bandel & West Bengal

This morning we set sail upstream to Bandel, meaning port in Bengali was founded by Portuguese settlers who built the Church and a Monastery around 1660.

We visit the Hooghly Imambara, one of the famous Shiya pilgrimage centers in West Bengal, built-in 1841 by Haji Mohammad Mahasin. The two-story building and surrounding rooms provide housing for pilgrims as well as classrooms, or Madrasa that teach the Koran. The structure contains a Victorian-era clock with a winding key weighing 20kg. Large Persian chandeliers and lamps light Imambara’s stunning hallways and passages.

Overnight on board Bengal Ganga.

(B/L/D)

Location
Bandel
Day
3 / 13

Bandel & Kalna

Today we sail further upstream to the temple town of Kalna. Ride rickshaws to the enchanting Rajbari Temple Complex, which has the highest concentration of temples in the region. Visit the Nabakailas Temple, built-in 1809 by the Bardhaman Maharaja, which contains 108 eight slope-roofed shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. Other temples in the complex feature diverse architecture and terra cotta plaques depicting themes of Hindu epics, the mythical life of Sree Chaitanya, images of Durga, and various aspects of day-to-day life in the region.

We also visit a local Weaver’s home to see the traditional Weaving of Muslin Cloth. Muslin or “malmal” is a cotton fabric of plain weave made in various weights from delicate sheers to coarse sheeting. Early muslin was handwoven of uncommonly delicate handspun yarn. Return to the ship walking through the local market.

Overnight on board Bengal Ganga.

(B/L/D)

Location
Kalna
Day
4 / 13

Nabadwip & Mayapur

Early morning, we sail towards Nabadwip, arriving by the afternoon. Literally meaning New (Nab) Island (Dwip), it is the birthplace and abode of Saint Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the founder of the Hindu Vaishnav religion and a great social reformer. Once the capital of the Sena Dynasty under King Lakshman Sena who ruled during the 12th century, the town was an important center of education, religion, and culture. Post lunch we will explore the riverbank village by walking to see the local people engaged in Handloom Weaving of Cotton fabric, mainly saris and stole/scarves, and other activities.

Ride the country boat across the river to visit Mayapur, the headquarters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Guests can experience the fascinating culture of these followers and their ornate, colorful decorated statues of Krishna. The new temple built to commemorate the Jubilee year of ISKCON in 2016 and largely funded by Alfred B. Ford, the great-grandson of carmaker Henry Ford, can be compared to the Vatican. It also contains a 75- foot domed planetarium. Meet Krishna followers and walk through the pilgrim’s bazaar.

Overnight on board Bengal Ganga.

(B/L/D)

Location
Mayapur
Day
5 / 13

Mayapur & Guptipara

This morning a short sail brings us to Guptipara, a rural town, renowned for its paddy fields and the Himsagar mango. Explore the town by visiting the Vaishnav temples that contain some fantastic terracotta works. All the structures bear characteristics of the Bengal school of architecture, with carvings depicting scenes from the Hindu epics.

The Ratha-Yatra (Chariot Festival) is Guptipara’s greatest festival and the temple chariot is one of the tallest and oldest in West Bengal. Visit a Potter’s home to see and interact with the artisans creating various clay items.

In the afternoon, we sail across to the opposite riverbank and visit the weaving village of Fulia. After the partition of India and the division of Bengal into West Bengal (in India) and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), many skilled weavers from Bangladesh came and settled here and the region become a renowned center for hand-woven fabrics.

With government encouragement and support, the talented weavers soon revived their ancestral occupation and the art of exquisite weaving once again flourished. Fulia specializes in a combination of Jacquard and Jamdani Saree Weaving. Jamdani is typically handloom woven fabric using a mixture of cotton and gold thread. It is one of the most time and labor-intensive forms of handloom weaving, and the most artistic textile rich in motifs.

Overnight on board Bengal Ganga.

(B/L/D)

Location
Fulia
Day
6 / 13

Fulia & Chandernagore

This morning we sail further downstream to Chandernagore, which was established as a French colony in 1673. The French obtained permission from Ibrahim Khan, the Nawab of Bengal to establish a trading post on the riverbanks of this city, which became a permanent French settlement.

Explore the French colonial buildings walking along the promenade, including the former French governor’s residence, now converted to a museum that features an exhibition of items that depict life during this period. Also visit the Sacred Heart Church, designed by French Architect Jacques Duchatz. The church was inaugurated in 1884 and stands for over two centuries to mark the beauty of the architecture during the French period.

Return to the ship and continue our journey back to Kolkata en route we halt to visit the Serampore College (subject to permission from the college principal), the oldest university in India to be in continuous operation. It was founded in 1818 by the English missionaries known as the Serampore Trio whose aim was to give an education in arts and sciences to students of every “caste, color or country” and to train people for ministry in the growing church in India.

Also visit the St. Olav’s Church, locally known as the Danish Church, it was one of the 100 buildings that were constructed by the Danish Management between 1755 and 1845. The church is not particularly Scandinavian but reflects the designs of contemporary churches in British India, in particular those in Calcutta, which were inspired by contemporaneous designs popular in Britain, such as St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

Continue sail to Kolkata and moor for the night.

Evening farewell dinner.

Overnight on board Bengal Ganga.

(B/L/D)

Location
Chandernagore
Day
7 / 13

Welcome to Kochi (Cochin), Kerala !

Following breakfast and after lunch, guests will disembark the vessel and transfer to Kolkata Airport for the 3-hour evening 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.

(B/L/D)

Location
Kochi
Day
8 / 13

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.

(B/L/D)

Location
Kochi
Day
9 / 13

Embark Houseboat

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.

(B/L/D)

Location
Vembanad Lake
Day
10 / 13

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.

(B/L/D)

Location
Kerala Backwaters
Day
11 / 13

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.

(B/L/D)

Location
Kochi
Day
12 / 13

Departure Kochi

Breakfast at the hotel, check-out, and transfer to the airport for onward journey.

Standard Check-out time of hotel: 12:00 hrs

(B)

Location
Kochi
Day
13 / 13
1 / 13

Accommodations

Cruises & Lodges

Bengal Ganga

An intimate Indian riverboat reminiscent of the colonial 'Clyde' steamers of the British Empire.
56 Guests
28 Cabins
View

Hotel Options

5 Star

Brunton Boatyard

Kochi (Cochin)
5 Star

Spice Coast Houseboat

Kerala Backwaters