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
You should arrive at the airport for your overnight flight to Delhi.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Ganges, a name redolent of Indian exoticism and spirituality, is a river all of us know but very few have actually discovered – until now. Recent navigational improvements coupled with 21st century technology have enabled small ships to explore this extraordinary river on a superb and fascinating journey.
At the break of dawn, as mist gently settles above the waters, the horizon fuses with an azure blue sky above. As the sun slowly rises, buildings gently emerge punctuating the shoreline, their blurred lines as though glimpsed through a soft-focus camera. People performing their morning ablutions in the holy Ganges; ladies washing clothes just as they have for centuries, their scarlet saris draped on surrounding rocks to dry with the uplifting sound of laughter drifting across mighty waters. In so many respects, daily life along this great waterway remains unchanged for centuries, so our ship, the RV Bengal Ganga, is based on a traditional 19th century British design and blends beautifully with the timeless landscape. Your every need is attended to by its charming and gracious crew, which represent the very best of traditional Indian hospitality.
Our cruise explores the lower river, known as the Hooghly River, plus the Ganges proper, which very few ships can access. We’ll pass regions fought over for generations, occupied by French, Dutch, Portuguese and even Danish outposts until the Battle of Plassey in 1757 which finally cemented Britain’s hold over Bengal and ultimately the entire Indian sub-continent.
Our tour includes four sublime cities: Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Calcutta, plus the jewel in the crown - the stunning Taj Mahal which we witness in the rosy glow of the early morning, when its colours and ethereal beauty are at their most amazing. Built to house the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal - Emperor Jahan’s wife, 20,000 men and artisans toiled for 22 years to complete this amazing work of art, one of the world’s most astonishing buildings.
We’ll also see the grand monuments of the British Raj in both Delhi and Calcutta plus India’s holiest city, Varanasi, spectacularly located on the Ganges for 3,000 years.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room/cabin. Seven nights in three, four and five-star hotels with breakfast on the ‘land’ portion of this tour; eight nights on full board, including local bottled mineral water, tea/coffee any time on the RV Bengal Ganga. All flights as mentioned including two domestic flights within India.All transfers & porterarge of one item of luggage per person.Guided tours of New and Old Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal, Kolkata, rickshaw and boat tour of Varanasi, all shore excursions as mentioned on the RV Bengal Ganga.Gratuities for ship’s crew.Services of an experienced Riviera tour manager.
Please note: Cruise itinerary subject to change according to weather conditions, changes in navigation channels and water levels.
Not included: Indian visa - see visa and health information.
Indian visa: All British passport holders require a visa for India. Please ensure that you have at least two empty pages in your passport and that your passport is valid for a minimum of 190 days from the time of submitting your visa application. At the time of departure you will be able to travel as long as both the passport and the visa are valid.
Personal applications: to apply for an Indian visa please visit http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk where you can apply, pay online and schedule an appointment to submit your application in person at your nearest centre, dependent on your home address.
Online applications: British Passport holders are now eligible to apply for an e-visa online, you must ensure your passport is machine readable and has a biometric chip (without this you may be denied entry into India). The cost of a single entry tourist e-visa is US$60.00 and will be converted into pounds by your bank. The website to apply for the e-visa is: indianvisaonline.gov.in. Here you will find all the information to assist you with the completion of your application.
Postal applications: you must either apply and pay online, print off the completed application form, payment confirmation and submit by post; or alternatively, you must apply online, print off the completed application and submit along with payment by postal order. Personal cheques are NOT accepted. In both cases you must submit your passport along with a self-addressed stamped envelope and two, 2x2” passport photos to:
India Visa Application Centre (West London),
The Vista Centre,
First Floor – Part A
Full details of costs, application form and addresses can be found on http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk, email: [email protected] or tel: 0905 7570045 (calls cost 95p per minute).
Visa fees are subject to change without notice and non-refundable.
Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in requirements after this time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to travel.
Health: Whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that in visiting a number of historical sites, paths may be uneven and uphill and we often enjoy walking tours of the main sights. Therefore, this holiday may not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility. In the tropics temperatures and humidity levels will also be quite high for most of the year. Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate inoculations required for India at least a month before departure.
You may need to be covered when visiting Hindu temples. Long sleeved shirts and long trousers are ideal. No shoes/socks should be worn in the temples.
It is advisable to take plently of mosquito spray and indegestion tablets.