Incredibly on the Ganges

Kolkata to Varanasi aboard the Bengal Ganga

Incredibly on the Ganges route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $7165  
Length: 13 days
Arrive: Kolkata, India
Depart: Varanasi, India
Lodging: 10 nights aboard a 56-passenger river vessel
Meals: All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore
Activity: Cultural Adventures, River Cruising
Trip Level: 10-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours
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Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Revered by millions, the holy Ganges River, or “Mother Ganga,” is the lifeblood of India and the spiritual heart and soul of this great and ancient land. Aboard the Bengal Ganga, a 28-cabin vessel reminiscent of the colonial-style river steamers of the British era, we enjoy a vivid—and simply unforgettable—experience of India.

Itinerary


Kolkata to Varanasi Itinerary (Upstream)

Day 1
Kolkata / Embark Bengal Ganga

Arrive in Kolkata (Calcutta) and embark on the Bengal Ganga. In the afternoon we tour the city’s colonial section, driving past historical buildings, St. John’s Church, and the Victoria Memorial where we can stop for a photo. We return to the ship and set sail.

Days 2-3
Kalna / Mayapur

Our upstream journey to Kalna brings us through areas where European settlers established their respective East Indian Companies during the 17th to 19th centuries. Arriving in Kalna, we board rickshaws to visit this temple town, including the enchanting Rajbari complex, which contains a unique mixture of Bengal’s temple architecture. On one side of the road lies the Nabakailas Temples, built in 1809 by the Bardhaman Maharaja. The complex contains 108 aat-chala, or “eight sloped-roofed” Shiva temples arranged in two concentric circles. The outer circle consists of 74 temples of alternate black and white lingams, while the 34 temples of the inner circle have only white
lingams. Due to its ingenious planning, all Shiva lingams can be seen from the center of the temple. On the other side of the road lies a walled complex containing the most diversified form of Bengal’s temple architecture. The Pratapeshwar Temple, built in 1849, contains 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. The other temples are the Lalji temple, built in 1739, the oldest in the complex, and Krishnachandra temple, built in 1751 and similar to the Lalji temple. The complex also houses a flat roofed temple of Giri Govardhan. We cruise past the religious town of Mayapur, a quintessential temple town known as the headquarters of the Krishna Consciousness Movement and the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, born in 1486 AD and considered an incarnation of Lord Krishna. The town is situated on the banks of the of the confluence of the Ganga and the Jalangi rivers. We dock in the town of Matiari tonight.

Day 4
Matiari

As we walk toward the unique brass making village of Matiari, we can hear the loud beating of metal coming from all the houses that specialize in making various brass artifacts. After exploring the village to see and experience the process of brass making, we reboard our vessel and sail past Plassey, well known for the battle in 1757 that turned the tide of history of India. Plassey is where Robert Clive of British East India Company defeated the Mogul Nawab, the then rulers of Bengal and their French Allies, establishing the company rule in India that expanded over much of South Asia for the next 190 years.

Day 5
Murshidabad

In Murshidabad, we visit the Hazarduari Palace, built during the reign of Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah (1824-1838) by an English architect, McLeod Duncan, following the Greek Doric style. The palace has more than a thousand real and false doors in its vast corridors. We also visit the Katra mosque, built by the first Nawab of Murshidabad, Murshid Quli Khan, in 1724-25. We then head to the Temples of Baranagar, built in 1714-1793 by Rani Bhabani, the landlord of Natore. The brick temples are considered to be among the best examples of Bengal terracotta art. Overnight in Jangipur.

Days 6-7
Rajmahal

After crossing the Farakka Lock, we cruise through the connecting canal to the Ganges, with its vast panoramas. We continue cruising to Rajmahal, where we walk to the ruins of Rajmahal, once known as Akbarnagar, founded by the Mughal Emperor Akbar as capital of Bengal in 1592. Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, spent part of his youth here. We explore ruins of palaces and mosques, then head for Karagola, an area rich in birdlife, including large flocks of water birds.

Day 8
Vikramashila University / Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary

In the morning we visit Vikramashila University, established by King Dharampala in late 8th or early 9th century AD. The university was one of the two most important centers of Buddhist learning in India during the reign of the Pala dynasty, along with Nalanda University, and was one of the largest Buddhist universities, with more than 100 teachers and about 1,000 students. Subjects like theology, philosophy, grammar, metaphysics, and logic were taught here. Later we cruise through the Vikramashila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, established for the protection and conservation of the Ganges river dolphins. The area also supports a rich diversity of other wildlife, many of which are endangered, including the Indian smooth-coated otter, several species of hard and soft shell turtles, and an astounding variety of migratory and resident migratory birds.

Days 9-10
Sultanganj / Bihar School of Yoga

Sultanganj is conspicuous for two great rocks of granite, one of which is crowned by a mosque. The second and larger one is occupied by a temple of Ghaibinath Siva. During the rule of the Maurya, Gupta, and Pala many works of art and architecture were raised at Sultanganj. Excavation near Sultanpur has yielded ancient relics like stupas, seals, coins, and terracotta Hindu and Buddha images. The next day we visit Bihar School of Yoga, established in 1963 by Swami Niranjanananda Bihar School of Yoga to preserve and regenerate the total scope of yogic science by combining academic and scientific methodology with a spiritual vision. Later we sail for Simaria.

Day 11
Nalanda / Bodhgaya

We disembark the ship and travel to Nalanda, perhaps the oldest seat of learning in India. It treasures a glorious past, rich spiritual heritage, and some extraordinary architectural ruins believed to be established in 5th century by the Gupta Kings. We then drive through Rajgir, the first capital of the Magadha Empire. Buddha not only spent many years in Rajgir, but also delivered important sermons here. After lunch at a local restaurant, we continue our journey to Bodhgaya, one of the most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage centers for Buddhists. It was here, under a banyan tree—“the Bodhi Tree”—where Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Buddha, the Enlightened One. Overnight at hotel.

Day 12
Varanasi

We head to Varanasi, the holiest town for Hindus. In the afternoon we take rickshaws to experience the enchanting and incredible life on the streets of Varanasi. We continue on foot to visit the ghats and witness the evening Aarti ceremony on the Ganges. Overnight at hotel

Day 13
Depart

Transfer to the airport and depart on homeward-bound flights.


Varanasi to Kolkata Itinerary (Downstream)

Day 1
Varanasi

Arrive in Varanasi and overnight at hotel.

Day 2
Varanasi / Sarnath

Sarnath is famous as the seat where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya. The Archeological Museum contains a large collection of sculptures that stand testimony to the fervent artistic and religious activity for more than a thousand years. Later in the afternoon we experience the enchanting and incredible life on the streets of Varanasi. We continue by boat to visit the ghats and witness the evening Aarti ceremony on the Ganges. Overnight at hotel

Day 3
Bodhgaya

We travel to Bodhgaya, one of the most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage centers for Buddhists. It was here, under a banyan tree—“the Bodhi Tree”—where Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Buddha, the Enlightened One. Overnight at hotel.

Day 4
Rajgir / Nalanda / Embark Bengal Ganga

We drive through Rajgir, the first capital of the Magadha Empire. Buddha not only spent many years in Rajgir, but also delivered important sermons here. We continue to Nalanda, perhaps the oldest seat of learning in India. It treasures a glorious past, rich spiritual heritage, and some extraordinary architectural ruins believed to be established in 5th century by the Gupta Kings. In Simaria, we embark the Bengal Ganga and set sail toward Munger.

Day 5
Bihar School of Yoga / Sultanganj

We visit Bihar School of Yoga, established in 1963 by Swami Niranjanananda to preserve and regenerate the total scope of yogic science by combining academic and scientific methodology with a spiritual vision. We continue downstream to Sultanganj, conspicuous for two great rocks of granite, one of which is crowned by a mosque. The second and larger one is occupied by a temple of Ghaibinath Siva. During the rule of the Maurya, Gupta, and Pala many works of art and architecture were raised at Sultanganj. Excavation near Sultanpur has yielded ancient relics like stupas, seals, coins, and terracotta Hindu and Buddha images.

Day 6
Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary / Vikramashila University / Karagola

We cruise through the Vikramashila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary, established for the protection and conservation of the Ganges river dolphins. The area also supports a rich diversity of other wildlife, many of which are endangered, including the Indian smooth-coated otter, several species of hard and soft shell turtles, and an astounding variety of migratory and resident migratory birds. Later we visit Vikramashila University, established by King Dharampala in late 8th or early 9th century AD. The university was one of the two most important centers of Buddhist learning in India during the reign of the Pala dynasty, along with Nalanda University, and was one of the largest Buddhist universities, with more than 100 teachers and about 1,000 students. Subjects like theology, philosophy, grammar, metaphysics, and logic were taught here. We then head to Karagola, an area rich in birdlife, including large flocks of water birds.

Day 7
Rajmahal

We continue cruising to Rajmahal, where we walk to the ruins of Rajmahal, once known as Akbarnagar, founded by the Mogul Emperor Akbar as capital of Bengal in 1592. Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, spent part of his youth here, and we explore ruins of palaces and mosques.

Days 8-9
Farakka Lock Gate / Murshidabad

We reach the Farakka Lock Gate and cruise through the connecting canal to the Ganges, with its vast panoramas. Time permitting, we head to the Temples of Baranagar, built in 1714-1793 by Rani Bhabani, the landlord of Natore. The brick temples are considered to be among the best examples of Bengal terracotta art. In Murshidabad, we visit the Hazarduari Palace, built during the reign of Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah (1824-1838) by an English architect, McLeod Duncan, following the Greek Doric style. The palace has more than a thousand real and false doors in its vast corridors. We also visit the Katra mosque, built by the first Nawab of Murshidabad, Murshid Quli Khan, in 1724-25.

Day 10
Kalna

We cruise past the unique brass making village of Matiari and the religious town of Mayapur, a quintessential temple town known as the headquarters of the Krishna Consciousness Movement and the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, born in 1486 AD and considered an incarnation of Lord Krishna. The town is situated on the banks of the of the confluence of the Ganga and the Jalangi rivers. Arriving in Kalna, we board rickshaws to visit this temple town, including the enchanting Rajbari complex, which contains a unique mixture of Bengal’s temple architecture. On one side of the road lies the Nabakailas Temples, built in 1809 by the Bardhaman Maharaja. The complex contains 108 aat-chala, or “eight sloped-roofed” Shiva temples arranged in two concentric circles. The outer circle consists of 74 temples of alternate black and white lingams, while the 34 temples of the inner circle have only white lingams. Due to its ingenious planning, all Shiva lingams can be seen from the center of the temple. On the other side of the road lies a walled complex containing the most diversified form of Bengal’s temple architecture. The Pratapeshwar Temple, built in 1849, contains 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. The other temples are the Lalji temple, built in 1739, the oldest in the complex, and Krishnachandra temple, built in 1751 and similar to the Lalji temple. The complex also houses a flat roofed temple of Giri Govardhan.

Day 11
Kolkata

We cruise through the golden countryside of Bengal as we head to Kolkata (Calcutta). Our journey brings us through areas where European settlers established their respective East Indian Companies during the 17th to 19th centuries.

Day 12
Kolkata

We tour Kolkata's colonial section, driving past historical buildings, St. John’s Church, and the Victoria Memorial where we can stop for a photo. We return to the ship for lunch and have the remainder of the day at leisure to rest or explore on our own.

Day 13
Depart

We disembark the Bengal Ganga and transfer to the airport for departure on homeward-bound flights.

Note: This cruise is not an exclusive Wilderness Travel departure. The itinerary, lecturers, and other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the ship operator.

2015 Cruise Collection Brochure

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Download our online digital brochure to view on your computer or mobile device, or as a PDF! Or request a printed copy to be sent by mail, or by calling 800-368-2794.

What the Trip is Like

The trip is rated Level 1, Easiest, and is appropriate for anyone in good health who is physically active. Shore excursions include walks to cultural monuments, wildlife sanctuaries, scenic nature areas, and local towns and villages.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures

2014
Dec 22, 2014-Jan 3, 2015  Varanasi-Kolkata

2015
Mar 10-22, 2015  Varanasi-Kolkata
Oct 19-31, 2015  Kolkata-Varanasi
Oct 26-Nov 7, 2015  Varanasi-Kolkata
Nov 13-25, 2015  Kolkata-Varanasi
Nov 20-Dec 2, 2015  Varanasi-Kolkata
Dec 7-19, 2015  Kolkata-Varanasi
Dec 14-26, 2015  Varanasi-Kolkata
2016
Jan 1-13, 2016  Kolkata-Varanasi
Jan 8-20, 2016  Varanasi-Kolkata
Jan 25-Feb 6, 2016  Kolkata-Varanasi
Feb 1-13, 2016  Varanasi-Kolkata
Feb 19-Mar 2, 2016  Kolkata-Varanasi
Feb 26-Mar 9, 2016  Varanasi-Kolkata
Mar 14-26, 2016  Kolkata-Varanasi
Mar 21-Apr 2, 2016  Varanasi-Kolkata

Trip Cost

Prices valid through Spring 2016

Cruise Rates by Cabin Category
Per person, double occupancy

CategoriesCruise Price
Main Deck Twin $7,165
Main Deck Single $8,295
Upper Deck Twin $8,490
Upper Deck Single $9,895

Deck Plan

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Accommodations aboard the ship and at hotels as noted
  • All meals included aboard ship and with the group ashore
  • Sightseeing as note
  • Entrance Fees
  • Transfers by car/minivan/coach as per the itinerary
  • Camera fees (still)
  • Government Service Tax, fuel surcharges if applicable

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International or domestic flights, wine and spirits or beverages, personal laundry, visa costs, gratuities to staff, items of a personal nature, health-accident-baggage or travel protection plan outside the ship’s boundaries.

Trip Payment Schedule*

At time of reservation: 20% of trip cost
70 days prior to departure: Balance

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

Minimum fee: 20% of trip cost
90-61 days prior to departure: 30% of trip cost
60-31 days prior to departure: 50% of trip cost
30 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Departure Date Change

Up to 91 days prior to departure all type of changes are subject to $30 charge per change
From 90 days prior to departure and departure date changes are subject to the Cancellation fee as stated above

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Arrival & Departure Information

Upstream Direction

Arrival & Meeting Place
Aboard the ship Bengal Ganga, Kolkata, India
Date: Day 1
Flight arrival time: No later than 12:00 pm
Embarkation: 3 :00 pm

Suggested arrival airport
Kolkata (CCU)

Departure
Varanasi, India
Disembarkation on Day 12
Overnight in hotel
Date: Day 13,
Flight Departure time: any time

Suggested departure airport
Varanasi (VNS) to Delhi (DEL) or Kolkata(CCU)

Downstream Direction

Arrival & Meeting Place
Varanasi,India
Date: Day 1
Flight arrival time: any time
First night is in a hotel

Suggested arrival airport
Varanasi (VNS) from Delhi(DEL)or Kolkata(CCU)

Departure
Kolkata, India
Date: Day 13,

Suggested departure airport
Kolkata (CCU)
Disembarkation: after breakfast
Flight Departure time: any time

 

Visa Information

A visa is needed for India. The visa must be obtained prior to arrival in India and cannot be issued more than three months prior to your departure date.Please note that the Indian government outsources all of its visa processing to a private company called Cox & Kings Global Services.  All visa applications must be handled by Cox & Kings and cannot be submitted to an Indian embassy or consulate directly. 

In order for you to obtain your India visa, you can work directly with Cox & Kings.  The visa process and all instructions are outlined on their website.

As you will see from the website, you can apply for your visa by walk-in (if you live near a visa processing office) or by postal courier (FedEx is highly recommended so you can track your application and return.

We have been informed that the average visa processing time takes ~2-3 weeks (which is subject to change). OR you can work through our designated visa processing services Passport Visas Express. They will be your contact with Cox & Kings. However, please check with PVE directly regarding processing times and visa information.

Bengal Ganga

The 56-passenger Bengal Ganga hearkens back to an earlier era, when India’s colonial-style steamers were used to ferry important officials and celebrities through far-flung deltas. All cabins have individually controlled air conditioning, electronic mini-safe, luggage storage, wardrobe, and writing desk, and amenities include a hairdryer, bathrobes, and slippers. Upper and main deck cabins have their own deck space with rattan chairs and a table outside the room. Public areas include a sundeck, solarium, library, lounge and bar, and dining room, and an open bridge policy is in effect at most times. The Bengal Ganga is manned by a crew of 30.