Start in Kolkata (Calcutta) and end in Varanasi! With the river cruise tour The Upper Ganges River (from Kolkata to Varanasi), you have a 15 day tour package taking you through Kolkata (Calcutta), India and 10 other destinations in India. The Upper Ganges River (from Kolkata to Varanasi) includes accommodation as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more.
Transfer from the meeting point in Kolkata to embark on your Pandaw ship. Set sail down the Hooghly River, an important distributory of the Ganga to Chandernagore, a French possession until 1950. Stroll along the riverside promenade, visit the 18th century church and Dupleixs House, the erstwhile Governor-General of French India. Return to the ship and continue upstream past the old Dutch settlement of Chinsura and the Portuguese settlement of Bandel.
In and around KalnaLand at the country town of Kalna and take rickshaws to see a group of some of Bengal?s most attractive terracotta temples, as well as the unique Shiva temple with concentric rings made up of 108 lesser shrines. On the way back to the ship explore the colourful local market full of fruit sellers and fish mongers. Continue sailing towards Mayapur to explore the vast new ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple which dominates the skyline. As the headquarters of ISKCON or the Hare Krishna movement, the temple receives over a million singing and dancing devotees a year from around the world.
Set off to discover the brass-working village of Matiari. Interact with the local artisans learn how these skilled craftsmen all specialise in a different process ? from beating the metal, to etching the designs. Witness the whole process involved to create brass water pots, trays and other vessels Later, cruise on past the battlefield of Plassey where, in 1757, Robert Clive, the Commander-in-Chief of British India, defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal.
In and around MurshidabadTake an early morning walk to the Khushbagh, a peaceful Mughal-style garden that encloses the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah ? the last independent Nawab of Bengal ? and his family. Continue cruising towards Murshidabad to where the great Hazarduari Palace dominates the waterfront. Explore the city, a hidden architectural gem along the river with dramatic, whitewashed, colonial-era structures including Katra Mosque and Katgola palaces.
In and around FarakkaCross from the Lower Ganges or Hooghly River to the Ganges itself through the Farraka canal and lock, that was constructed 1963-75. Passing into the great river the great Farraka barrage will be visible just downstream. This effectively dams the Ganges and strategically controls the flow of water into neighbouring Bangaladesh. Enter a section of river rich in bird life, before stopping at Samtaghat, otherwise known as Raj Mahal.
Passing the confluence of the Kosi river that flows down from Nepal, moor at the pretty town of Bateshwarsthan to uncover the 8th century Buddhist site of Vikramshila, one of the two most important centres of learning in India during the Pala Empire, along with Nalanda.
Sailing along this stretch of the river provides an opportunity to spot the rare Gangeatic dolphins. Land at Bhaglapur, a centre of silk production, and visit the 18th century mansion of the Collector, Augustus Cleveland.
Contunue to Jahanigra Island, a place of pilgrimage with many rock carvings in high relief dating from the eighth century depicting aspects of Siva and Vishnu. In the evening moor off Sultanganj, with its pair of great granite rocks, one crowned with a mosque and the other a small temple dating from the 16th century.
In and around MungerMunger is now a large and industrialised city but has an interesting history. In 1762, Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal, shifted his capital from Murshidabad to Munger, and established a firearms manufacturing centre here. Explore the Mughal fort, East India Company cemetery and step inside the Bihar School of Yoga founded in 1964 by Satyananda Saraswati. One of the leading yoga schools in the country. The institution has developed yogic techniques through a synthesis of traditional yogic, vedantic and tantric practices and contemporary health science.
Stop at Mokama, once home to Jim Corbett the naturalist and protector of the Indian tigers. Surrounded by farmlands, Mokama has the second hightest production of lentils in the country. Learn about the freedom fighters from Mokama such as Lalldin Saheb, whose during the freedom struggle was sentenced to jail during the British rule.
Explore Barh, a town famous for Hindu ritual cremation at Urmanath and the Alakhnath Temple.
In and around NalandaDisembark your Pandaw ship early and drive to the archaeological site of Nalanda, the great 5th century Buddhist university. Discover the monumental red brick walls and stupas standing on the site of what was the longest running university in Indian history. Immerse yourself in the tranquil surrounds of this UNESCO World Heritage Site which is thought to have accommodated over 10,000 students and hosted Buddha Siddhartha himself. Continue to Bodh Gaya, another UNESCO World Heritage Site arranged around the Maha Bodhi temple where the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment in the 5th century BC. Spend time exploring this global centre of pilgrimage for Buddhists of all denominations and admire the many monasteries built in various national styles ? Tibetan, Burmese, Thai, Japanese, etc. Overnight in Oaks Bodh Gaya or similar
Board a flight to Varanasi, the oldest and holiest city of India established in the 11th century BC and today with over 2,000 living temples. Check-in to your hotel with time to freshen up before and evening cruise along the sacred river to witness the Aarti ritual. Enjoy a dinner at The Great Kebab Factory, a contemporary and stylish Indian restaurant specialising in delectable kebabs. Overnight in Tree of Life Varanasi or similar
Take a sunrise boat cruise past the bathing ghats and observe the people as they come to the river to perform their morning prayers and rituals. Following breakfast explore the Old City on a walking tour through the ancient by-lanes and discover the colourful and chaotic life that exists. Later visit Sarnath and the Deer Park where the Lord Buddha gave his first sermon with its archaeological museum. Return to the hotel and enjoy a musical performance comprising a sitar and tabla before your farewell dinner Overnight in Tree of Life Varanasi or similar
Check-out after breakfast and receive a group transfer to the airport or the Taj Ganges hotel.