This 17-day tour invites you to experience the myths and magic of four of the most incredible and influential cities in India, before cruising the Hooghly (Lower Ganges) River from Kolkata to the Sundarbans―the only mangrove forest in the world inhabited by tigers.
You will see everything from ancient temples and religious rituals to historic colonial architecture, breath-taking natural scenery, and exotic wildlife—including, if you’re very lucky, a Royal Bengal tiger!
Explore India’s bustling capital, Delhi, a colorful and chaotic culmination of at least eight historical Delhis constructed over one another, leaving a jostling juxtaposition of modern mega-city and ancient monuments. Discover oft-overlooked Lucknow’s Islamic and British Raj–era architecture and delectable cuisine, the holy Hindu ‘City of Light’ Varanasi’s powerful life and death rituals, and Kolkata’s rich tapestry of history, art galleries, religion and culture.
For nature lovers, the draw of the serene Sundarbans National Park—the world’s largest delta mangrove forest—and its resident wildlife are the star attractions. The rich and unique mangrove ecosystem is home to abundant avifauna, as well as Gangetic dolphins, saltwater crocodiles, leopard and fishing cats, and the most famous residents, more than 400 ‘Royal Bengal tigers’.
On any given day, you might be taking an exciting rickshaw ride through labyrinthine lanes of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk Bazaar, cruising on a colonial-style luxury riverboat, or admiring an array of colonial-era, imperial or Mughal architecture. Or perhaps you’ll be relishing a guided food walk, marveling at ancient monuments and World Heritage Sites like Qutub Minar, or scaling watchtowers and canopy walkways in an attempt to spot elusive species in the Sundarbans.
A highlight has to be visiting one world’s oldest living cities in Varanasi, a near-mythical riverine realm of temples and ghats on the banks of the Ganges, rife with mysterious rites and legend. Here, take a dawn boat trip to witness the amazing spectacle of everyday life on the ghats of this sacred river and city. At dusk, lose yourself in the mystical Ganga Aarti ritual, a daily ceremony of immense splendor, chanting and lanterns.
All excursions are on a private basis, accompanied by an expert private guide and by private transportation means with the exception of the cruise which is on a small-group, shared basis.
A curated selection of exceptional accommodations are available to you, all providing welcoming home bases from which to explore each destination. For example, in New Delhi, you might choose the opulent heritage of The Imperial, interwoven with colonial grace, or the sleek glass glamor of Le Meridien, and in Kolkata, you may prefer the appeal of the discrete and elegant Glenburn Penthouse in the heart of the historic city, or the grandeur of The Oberoi Grand, which has been an icon on the landscape of Kolkata for more than a century.
Rivaling these fine hotels of India, the Ganges Voyager riverboat, with its choice of cabin categories, will accommodate you in old-fashioned luxury, taking you back in time with the grace and style of the British colonial era.
Combining authentic and iconic hotel stays with fascinating historical city tours and wildlife safaris, traveling by planes, trains and automobiles, rickshaws, rowboats and a luxury riverboat, you and your family or loved one can look forward to an unforgettable adventure across the Indian Subcontinent to some of India’s most magical destinations in style.
If you’re seeking a tour of contrasts, complete with startlingly different sceneries and activities, along with wide and varied forms of transportation, look no further than this spirited and spiritual Indian itinerary.
Itinerary & Prices
Welcome to the Capital city of India!
Stepping into the streets of this treasure-trove city, you will feel as if you have taken a journey back in time, with remnants of lost empires on almost every corner. From flower markets to sari-clad women, all the nuances of India are on show in Delhi.
On arrival, you’ll be met by our representative and travel privately to your luxury accommodation. Settle in, relax in the comfort of your hotel, or get inspired by taking a stroll around the neighborhood.
Bustling Old Delhi
Explore the intricate, bustling Old Delhi with a visit to Jama Masjid, one of Asia’s largest mosques. Dazzle your senses on a rickshaw ride through the labyrinthine by-lanes of the Chandni Chowk Bazaar (moonlight market) and Asia’s largest wholesale spice bazaar.
Later visit the famed Sikh temple “Gurudwara Bangla Sahib”, and you can observe the steady flow of devotees walking barefoot on the white marble floors of this spiritual abode. Make a stop at the community kitchen where food for over 10000 people is prepared each day, the greatest service to humanity!
Drive past New Delhi, where imperial architecture rubs up against Mughal ruins to reach Humayun’s Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage site considered to be the architectural forerunner of Agra’s Taj Mahal.
Onto the adjacent arboretum of Sundar Nagar Nursery, a 16th-century heritage park spanning some 90 acres, home to 300 types of trees, a lake, botanical garden, and fifteen heritage monuments, six of which are also UNESCO-listed.
Qutub Minar & Mehrauli Archaeological Park
Today you’ll visit one of the most remarkable UNESCO world heritage sites in Delhi: Qutub Minar. Built-in 1193, this towering landmark—literally! It is the world’s tallest brick tower—never fails to fascinate visitors.
Later, indulge in a unique experience exploring the hidden gems of the historical first city of Delhi—a beautiful scenic walk of 2-3 hours around the breathtakingly serene Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
This broad stretch of over 200 acres of green pastures is open to flourishing flora and fauna and dotted with medieval architectural marvels such as tombs, mosques, and step-wells built over centuries.
The park provides the perfect panoramic view of the adjacent Qutub Minar.
After breakfast and some free time, you’ll be transfered to the airport for your early afternoon flight to Lucknow.
Lucknow, popularly known as the city of Nawabs, was founded by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula. In the olden times, it served as the capital of the Nawabs of Awadh, and this era bestowed Lucknow with a courteous culture and mouthwatering delicacies.
Upon arrival you will be transferred to your hotel, before heading out to peel off the layers of Lucklow’s rich history on a city tour. Visit the famous Asafi Imambara ‘Bara Imambara’ monument, built in 1784 and known for its incredible Bhulbhulaiya maze, and Rumi Darwaza ‘Gate’, one of the most impressive architectural structures in all India.
Later visit Hussainabad Picture Gallery, one of India’s oldest picture galleries, a popular attraction in Lucknow and must for anyone fond of regal architecture and life-size paintings. The impressive construction which houses this picture gallery is the Baradari, literally meaning ‘having twelve doorways’.
In the evening, enjoy a food walk in the old part of the city and try out the best unpretentious and authentic eateries where many recipes actually originated from. This well-researched food walk is led by a food curator who narrates food stories, and will culminate in indulging in one of the best dinners you’re sure to have while in India.
Exploring Lucknow continued
Today we continue the city tour and visit Dilkusha Kothi ‘Palace’, which was mostly used as a hunting lodge by the Nawabs and Kings of Awadh, as there were plenty of game-like deer in the surrounding woods.
Onto the British Residency, a famous historical landmark that now lies in ruins and has been declared a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. The British Residency was the place that served as a refuge for approximately 3000 British inhabitants during the time of the uprising of 1857.
The tour ends with a walk through the downtown shopping center of Hazratganj in search of the city’s famous Chikankari—handcrafted & hand-embroidered souvenirs to carry back home for friends and family.
Holy City Of Varanasi
After an early breakfast, you will be transferred to the railway station to catch the morning train to the holy city of Varanasi, which takes around 4.5 hours.
A magical splendor, ocean of humanity, and fervent display of one of the oldest faiths await you at Varanasi, a town whose antecedents go back eons.
Ghats of Varanasi
As the sun begins to rise, let your cares drift away as you watch the many ghats come to life, with births being celebrated as well as rituals of cremation, as we sail down the Ganges by rowboat.
After the boat ride, witness some mud wrestling, a freestyle type of Indian wrestling and one of the most popular and traditional sports in India.
Visit Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple (also known as the Golden temple) from the outside, one of the most famous temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was constructed in the year 1780 by the Maratha monarch Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of the Indore.
After returning to the hotel for a late breakfast, you’ll have the rest of the morning and early afternoon to relax.
In the evening, lose yourself in the mesmerizing display of lights that is the ancient Aarti ritual, performed every evening to the chants of holy Vedic mantras and musical accompaniment.
After a morning at your leisure to enjoy the facilities offered by the hotel, visit Sarnath, where Buddha chose to deliver his first sermon. Buddhist monuments and edifices abound, but no visit to Sarnath would be complete without a trip to its museum, home to a treasure trove of Buddhist sculptures, inscriptions, and pottery.
Afterwards, you will be transferred to Varanasi airport to catch your flight to Kolkata.
Kolkata is an amalgamation of traditional and modern, a city of colonial architecture, museums, art galleries, traditional food and temples, and famed for its theatre, films and music. It is the land of Rabindranath Tagore and the sound of Rabindra Sangeet can be heard from every house.
Enjoy a walk under the iconic Howrah Bridge, constructed over the river Hooghly, one of the most unique bridges in the world as it joins two twin cities in Kolkata and Howrah.
Explore the Mullick Ghat Flower Market by the river. This is not only one of the oldest but is also one of the most vibrant markets in the city. Drive past Victoria Memorial, a massive domed building of white marble and symbol of British rule in India. Continue to Chowringhee, also known as Dalhousie Square, which symbolizes Kolkata’s past grandeur with late 19th century buildings. Drive past Raj Bhavan, the old Town Hall, High court, and Writer’s building (headquarters of West Bengal government).
Visit Kumartuli (Sculptor’s village) where craftsmen are busiest from August to October creating straw frames, adding clay coatings, and painting the divine features for the Durga and Kali festivals. The day comes to an end with a visit to Belur Math. Set attractively amid palms and manicured lawns, this large religious center is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, inspired by 19th-century Indian sage Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who preached the unity of all religions.
Embark Ganges Voyager
Midday embarks the ship in Kolkata. Welcomed on board with a refreshing beverage followed by a safety briefing.
Post lunch embarks on a Panoramic Tour of Kolkata, a city formerly known as Calcutta founded by the British Raj in 1773. The tour features 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. Proceed to visit St. John’s Church (closed on Sundays), 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 closed on Mondays), which houses the largest collection of British colonial historical artifacts.
Return to the ship and sail along with the tide towards the port town of Tamluk, situated on the right bank of the Rupnarayan River.
This evening, delight in the Cruise Director’s Gala dinner and welcome reception.
The Highlight of the Day: Welcome to the Big City of Kolkata, often regarded as the Cultural Capital of India and the gateway to our journey along the world’s holiest river, the sacred Ganges, known in this region as the Hooghly.
Overnight onboard Ganges Voyager.
Tamluk – Gangasagar
Early this morning we arrive in Tamluk. After breakfast we ride the country boat to explore this ancient port city which was known as Tamralipta, deriving its name from the Sanskrit term “Tamra” meaning copper, which was mined nearby and traded through this port. Archaeological remains revealed the earliest occupation from Neolithic time and then a continuous settlement from about the 3rd century BC. It was a seaport, now buried under river silt.
Tamluk functioned as an important port from where Indian sea-faring vessels sailed to distant lands. It also finds a place of mention in the works of Pliny and the great geographer Ptolemy as Taluctae and Tamalites respectively. Renowned Chinese pilgrims like Fahien, Hiuen Tsang, and Itsing who visited this place have left vivid accounts of the flourishing port city. The Archaeological Museum and Research Centre (which remains closed on Fridays) preserves the rich cultural heritage of Tamluk and adjacent regions. Its galleries exhibit collections from prehistoric tools, terracotta plaques, and seals, scroll paintings, and the development of coinage. An interesting object on display is a Roman amphora, indicating the trade contacts of this region with the Roman empire.
Return to the ship for lunch while sailing onward to Gangasagar or Sagar Island an island in the Ganges delta, lying on the continental shelf of the Bay of Bengal. Gangasagar literally means the confluence where the Ganges River enters the Bay of Bengal. Near the confluence is the Kapil Muni Temple. Every year on the day of Makar Sankranti (the 14th or 15th of January, when the Sun enters the Capricorn zodiac), hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather to take a holy dip at the confluence and offer prayers in the temple. The Gangasagar Mela (pilgrimage fair) is the second largest congregation of mankind after the triennial ritual bathing of Kumbha Mela. We will anchor near the island and explore the
The Highlight of the Day: Visits of an ancient Copper Port and a highly revered Hindu pilgrimage site.
Overnight onboard Ganges Voyager.
Gangasagar – Namkhana – Bali
With the tide, we sail along the river towards the fishing port of Namkhana, the gateway of the Sundarbans National Park, a World Heritage Site. We cruise past the boat-building yard of Nurpur and the historic Diamond Harbour. Sundarbans are the world’s largest delta mangrove forest and habitat of the famous Royal Bengal Tiger.
Enjoy a talk and interaction with the Naturalist on the unique ecosystem of the Sundarbans.
Sail onward to arrive at Bali Island, a tribal village in the Sundarbans.
In the evening enjoy a dance and drama cultural program performed by the local tribals.
The Highlight of the Day: View historic sites and unique landscapes following the river to the Bay of Bengal and learn about the Sundarbans from the Naturalist.
Overnight onboard Ganges Voyager.
Bali – Nethidopani – Bali
Anchoring in the Western Sundarbans today is your first foray into this rich and unique mangrove ecosystem. Cruise in country boats in the creek to visit the serene Nethidopani Forest Camp and experience the spectacular nature of the surroundings. It lies on the edge of the Buffer and Core Area of the Sundarbans National Park. The camp is known for a tiger Watchtower that is stationed near a sweet water pond. Keep a keen eye out for Irrawaddy Dolphins and other marine life. One can sight endangered crocodiles, terrapins, and many species of Migratory Birds.
Return to the ship for late lunch. Thereafter enjoy a walk in Bali Village and interact with the villagers engaged in creating handicrafts, and visit a local home. The village inhabitants are engaged in farming, paddy husking, honey packing, and fishing.
The Highlight of the Day: Experience the wilderness of Sundarbans in the morning and explore the Bali Village in the afternoon. NGO Interaction with the Bali Nature & Wildlife Conservation Society in collaboration with the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) helps support the communities living around the Tiger Reserve, and to encourage them to view wildlife and their environment as an asset rather than a threat.
Overnight onboard Ganga Voyager.
Bali – Sudhanyakhali – Dobanki
Cruising in the creek, today we visit the Sudhanyakhali Forest Camp. The Watchtower here offers a panoramic view of the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve and the wide expanse of the forest that lies beyond. It is the most popular locale to spot the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. This vast habitat endows invigorating possibilities of crocodiles, wild boars, axis deer, and a wide range of migratory and local birds. Many colorful Fiddler Crabs as well as Hermit Crabs can be seen on the mud banks by the side of the Camp. The authorities have developed and maintained a small but nice botanical project consisting of numerous species of Mangroves.
Thereafter you’ll take a small country boat through the narrow creeks to climb the Dobanki Canopy Walkway situated at an elevation of 20 feet from the ground and about half a kilometer in length. This walkway offers a beautiful view of the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve forest. Here too, like the other camps, there is a sweet water pond. Apart from the elusive Royal Bengal tiger, Chital Deer, Otter, Monitor Lizards, Wild Boars, and a variety of birds and storks like the Adjutant Storks, Jungle Fowl, Eagles, Raptors as well as Falcons can be sighted here. Also, during the winter Whistling Ducks can also be seen in and around the sweet water pond.
The Highlight of the Day: Viewing wildlife from forest camp watch towers and the Dobanki Canopy Walkway.
Overnight onboard Ganges Voyager.
Dobanki – Namkhana
Morning enjoys another creek cruise through the mangroves to further explore the Sundarbans.
Late in the morning, we sail back to Namkhana, enjoying and indulging in the ship’s onboard comfort or relaxing in the sundeck watching the riveting landscapes.
Late afternoon, visit the fishing port of Namkhana, which actually is a place where mechanized fishing vessels are parked in an unorganized system for loading, unloading, repairing, and shelter. It is intriguing to observe the chaos!
The Highlight of the Day: Cruising through the silent mangroves during the day and observing the noisy chaos in the afternoon. A day of contrasts, indeed.
Overnight onboard Ganges Voyager.
Namkhana – Kolkata
Today we sail back to Kolkata, full day sailing, enjoying breakfast and lunch on board, arriving by the evening.
Enjoy a Tea Tasting session while reminiscing the wondrous experience of the Sundarbans.
Farewell dinner to end the journey on a joyous note.
The Highlight of the Day: Tea tasting event to explore the different flavors of Indian teas to entice your palate.
Overnight onboard Ganges Voyager.
Disembark Ganges Voyager
Disembark after breakfast and proceed with your onward journey.
The itinerary may be readjusted due to local conditions and days of the week, in order to avoid the closure of monuments/museums. Last-minute sailing adjustments may also occur. The schedule may shift due to the weather or to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. The exact time for each activity will be announced or posted by the onboard tour staff.