Boutique Cruising in India

A Cultural Expedition with 7 Nights Aboard the Ganges Voyager

Overview

Embark on a two week sojourn from Delhi to Varanasi and throughout Rajasthan, including seven nights aboard the British colonial-style Ganges Voyager. Visit Delhi’s medieval walled city, see the stunning Taj Majal at sunrise and sunset, tour the pink city of Jaipur, and enjoy a relaxing week of river cruising between spectacular cities and scenic villages. Savor the sights and sounds of India as you walk through peaceful Moghul-style gardens, ride rickshaws past ancient temples, and witness rural Indian countryside life at its most idyllic. Your grand finale is Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest and most enchanting cities.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Itinerary

Day 1
Arrive in Delhi

Arrive to the Delhi international airport where you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
New Delhi, India
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Day 2
Delhi

After breakfast at your hotel, take a half day tour of "Old Delhi" guided by local street children. Founded by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in 1639, Old Delhi is a colorful blend of historic structures and modern bustle. Your experience takes you into a labyrinthine of alleyways in the Walled City, a peaceful walk at this time of day. Gaze at spectacular havelis (Indian mansions) and discover the latent charm of Shahjahanabad before the evening activity sets in. Afterwards, enjoy some time at your leisure to relax or explore on your own. Dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
New Delhi, India
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Day 3
Delhi / Agra

Start the day with an early breakfast at the hotel, then drive to Agra (approximately four hours) where you’ll visit the Agra Fort, a World Heritage site built by Emperor Akbar, and perhaps the best-preserved fort in India. Initially the fort was a military structure, but under the rule of Shah Jahan, Akbar’s grandson, many additions were made. Today these palatial structures are silent witness to the rise and fall of the Imperial Mughal Empire, and excellent examples of Islamic architecture and decoration.

In the afternoon, drive to your hotel and then visit the fabulous Taj Mahal. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Begum, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child in 1631, the Taj Mahal is an exquisite World Heritage site. Legend has it that, following his wife’s death, Shah Jahan’s hair turned grey overnight and he turned his back on running the empire, concentrating instead on the construction of this monument to love. Construction took 22 years and the Taj was completed in 1653 at a speculated cost of 3 million rupees, equivalent to around 70 million US Dollars today. Dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Day 4
Agra / Jaipur

At sunrise today, visit the Taj Mahal to see the sensational marble sparkling in the dawn light. Return to the hotel for breakfast, then drive to Jaipur. En route, you’ll stop at the 16th century city of Fatehpur Sikri. Lunch will be in Bharatpur, the “Eastern Gateway to Rajasthan,” and then you’ll continue on to Jaipur, with one final stop in Abhaneri along the way. This evening is at your leisure. Dinner and overnight at your hotel in Jaipur.

Jai Mahal Palace
Jaipur, India
Days 4 to 5 (2 nights)
Day 5
Jaipur

Following breakfast at the hotel, head out to visit the “Pink City,” the old part of Jaipur which is colored in shades of pink. Within the city, you’ll visit the Hawa Mahal, a unique building, also known as the “Palace of the Winds,” and a Jaipur landmark that was once used by the ladies of the court to watch the daily goings-on in the street below. You’ll also see Amber Fort, known for its artistic elements. With its large ramparts, decorative gates, and cobbled paths, the fort overlooks Maota Lake, which is the main source of water for the Amber Palace. You can take an optional short trek from Amber Fort to Jaigarh Fort (about an hour), and lunch will be at a local restaurant.

This afternoon, explore the city palace, an imposing blend of traditional Rajasthan and Mughal architecture. The vast palace complex occupies one seventh of the walled city of Jaipur. Originally built by Maharaja Jai Singh, additions have been made to the palace complex by many of his successors. The complex is divided into a series of courtyards, sprawling gardens, and interesting buildings. Inside the palace museum, you’ll find displays of Afghan and Persian carpets, miniature paintings, and astronomical manuscripts in Persian and Sanskrit. Adjacent to the city palace is the Jantar Mantar Observatory. Built in the early 1700s by Jai Singh, the 17 astronomical instruments are made of stone and marble. The collection includes a 27.4 meter high sundial with an accuracy of 2 seconds! The central museum, known as Albert Hall, is well worth a visit. Founded in 1876, it houses a large collection of antiques and other interesting artifacts. In the evening, stroll through the local bazaar (market) before returning to the hotel. Dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Jai Mahal Palace
Jaipur, India
Days 4 to 5 (2 nights)
Day 6
Jaipur / Kolkata / Ganges Voyager

After an early checkout this morning, transfer to the airport to board your flight to Kolkata. Upon arrival in Kolkata, you’ll be met and transferred to the Ganges Voyager. Get settled in and then enjoy lunch on board the ship. The afternoon excursion includes a visit to Mother Teresa’s home and tomb. Mother Teresa started the Missionary of Charity in 1952 where she lived and worked until her death in 1997. The permanent exhibition includes a visit to her personal room, information about her life story, and a tour of her charity that is still active. You’ll walk a short distance to her orphanage, Sishu Bhawan (Children's Home), where one of the sisters will lead a tour. Return to the ship for dinner and overnight, and enjoy a live cultural performance.

Day 7
Kolkata / Bandel / Kalna

Today you’ll embark on an early-morning city tour featuring the well-preserved British colonial buildings in Kolkata. Those include the Writer's Building, the general post office, the High Court, the Raj Bhawan (Governor's House), Town Hall, the Council House, the Treasury Building, the Reserve Bank of India and Dalhousie Square. Continue on for a visit to St. John's Church, the oldest Anglican Church in Kolkata built in 1756. You'll see the oldest functioning pipe organ in India and several tombs of British generals who died during the Siege of Kolkata in 1756. You’ll also visit the recently renovated Victoria Memorial Museum, which houses the largest collection of British colonial historical artifacts in India.
 
Enjoy lunch on board the ship as you begin your journey upstream. The ship sails past places where various European settlers had established East Indian Companies, leaving remnants of their settlements from the 17th through 19th Centuries. Later in the day, board an excursion boat to the shore of Bandel. Visit the Hooghly Imambara, one of the famous Shiya pilgrimage centers in West Bengal, built in 1841 by Haji Mohammad Mahasin. The buildings provide housing and classrooms for pilgrims and Madrasa that teach the Koran. Some highlights here are the Victorian-era clock with its giant, winding key, and large Persian chandeliers and lamps that light the Imambara's stunning hallways and passages. Dinner and overnight on board the Ganges Voyager.

Day 8
Kalna / Matiari

This morning you’ll hop on a rickshaw for a ride through the city center of Kalna on your way to the enchanting Rajbari complex, which has the highest concentration of temples in the region. Built in 1809 by the Bardhaman Maharaja, the complex contains 108 eight slope-roofed temples—74 in the outer circle and another 34 that form the inner circle. You’ll also see the Pratapeshwar Temple, built in 1849, with its terra cotta plaques that depict themes of Hindu epics, the mythical life of Sree Chaitanya, images of Durga, and various aspects of day-to-day life in the region. Other temples on the site include the Lalji Temple, the oldest in the complex (1739), and the Krishnachandra Temple (1751). Dinner and overnight on board the Ganges Voyager.

Day 9
Matiari / Khushbagh

Enjoy an early morning walk to the shoreside village of Matiari, known for its beautiful handcrafted brass items made by traditional methods passed down for generations. The master craftsmen here use recycled copper to create exquisite pots, platters, and more from their workshops in the village. Continue your journey upstream, sailing past the battlefield of Plassey, where Robert Clive of British East India Company defeated the Mogul Nawabs in 1757.

Early in the evening you’ll head to the charming village of Khushbagh, passing through scenic fields on your way to the peaceful Moghul-style garden built by Nawab Ali-Wardi-Khan. The complex houses his family’s private mosque and the tomb of the last Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daula, who was defeated by the British East India Company at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Return to the ship for dinner and overnight.

Day 10
Khushbagh / Baranagar / Murshidabad

Following breakfast, cruise to the quiet village of Baranagar for a chance to experience rural India at its most idyllic. The village is home to several temples dating back to the 18th century that were built by Rani (Queen) Bhabani, the landlady of Natore. The brick temples are considered to be among the best examples of Bengal terra cotta art. Return to the ship and sail downstream, passing charming countryside villages along the way.

Spend the afternoon on board the ship as it glides along the Lower Ganges, meandering between banks lined with mustard fields and mango orchards. You’ll stop in Murshidabad, a hidden architectural gem with dramatic white-washed colonial era structures. The Hazarduari Palace graces the waterfront with its Greek “Doric” architectural style. The palace has more than a thousand real and false doors throughout the vast corridors, and is filled with colonial era antiques, artwork, and manuscripts. Opposite the palace is a vast Imambara, built by the Nawab for worship. Take a short buggy ride from here to the Katra mosque, built in the early 1700s, where you’ll witness its distinctive minarets. Dinner and overnight on board the ship.

Day 11
Murshidabad / Mayapur

After a relaxing morning on board the ship observing life along the riverbanks, we stop in the village of Mayapur. Known as the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (considered an incarnation of Lord Krishna), Mayapur is also the headquarters of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). We’ll see the city’s newly-built temple, roughly the same size as the Vatican, which was funded by Alfred B. Ford, the great grandson of car maker Henry Ford. Meet Krishna followers and walk through the pilgrim’s bazaar. Overnight on board the Ganges Voyager.

Day 12
Mayapur / Chandernagore / Kolkata

This morning, sail to Chandernagore. Situated on the banks of the Hooghly River, this town was once a French colony, so it has a unique blend of Bengali and French culture. Distinctive Indo-French architecture can be found in tucked away corners, and its historical elements give it a charm that’s different than other towns in West Bengal. In the afternoon, you’ll explore the French colonial buildings 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). From there, head to the Sacred Heart Church of Chandernagore, and return to the ship to continue your journey downstream to Kolkata. Overnight on board the ship.

Day 13
Disembark / Varanasi

After an early breakfast on board the ship, transfer to the Kolkata airport for your flight to Varanasi. Situated on the banks of the Ganges River, Varanasi is a pilgrimage site for Hindus, and one of the world’s oldest cities. It’s a place where pilgrims come to wash away their sins, artisans create renowned silk-weaving and brocades, and visitors can witness intimate rituals of life and death. Upon arrival, you’ll be transferred to your hotel for check-in and lunch. In the late afternoon, you’ll explore the enchanting life throughout the streets of Varanasi by rickshaw. Later, walk along the Ghats (riverbank) and witness the evening “Aarti” ritual on the Ganges from a boat. Overnight at hotel.

Day 14
Varanasi / Delhi

Head out early this morning for a sunrise boat tour on the Ganges to witness the rituals performed as the sun comes up and the incredible scenes along the holy river. Return to the hotel for breakfast and spend the morning at your leisure or take an optional visit to a silk factory where a group of skillful weavers work together. After an early lunch at the hotel, you’ll be transferred to the airport for your flight to Delhi. In Delhi, transfer to the Radisson Blu Plaza hotel where you can use the day room before heading to the airport for homeward-bound flights.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The cruise itinerary maybe readjusted due to local conditions and days of the week, in order to avoid 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.

Highlights

Highlights

Visit several World Heritage sites including the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal
Tour the home and tomb of Mother Teresa and the historic buildings of Kolkata
Witness traditional techniques of brass-making and other crafts, passed down for generations
See rural India's scenic river banks and idyllic country life
Enjoy spacious observation decks, spa treatments, delicious cuisine, and nightly entertainment on the Ganges Voyager

Details

Length: 14 days
Cost From: $9750  
Arrive: Delhi, India
Depart: Delhi, India
Lodging: 5 nights hotel, 7 nights aboard a premier river vessel
Meals: All meals except one lunch included
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Photography, River Cruising
Trip Level:

14-days of cultural exploration, walking tours, boat and rickshaw rides