India River Cruise: The Holy Ganges

Calcutta to Varanasi

12 days from 2,549

Overview

Cruise the storied waters of the Ganges River on a 12-day adventure. By riverboat and on land, soak up the immense power of this vital waterway as you sail to picturesque local villages and see stunning temples and palaces. Cap off the experience with a four-day land excursion to the city of Varanasi, considered by many to be the spiritual capital of India.

12 days, Calcutta to Varanasi

a City

From 2,549 per person

Is this tour for me?

Travel Style: National Geographic Journeys

Greater exploration, insider access, and the freedom to roam – all without sacrificing comfort.

Service Level: Upgraded

Quality accommodations and more inclusions than on other G Adventures tours, like meals, private transport, and activities.

Physical Rating: 2 – Light

Light walking and hiking suitable for most fitness levels. Nothing too challenging.

Trip Type: Small Group

Small group experience; Max 24.

Age requirement: 18+

Day 1: Calcutta

Arrive at any time and transfer to your hotel. Arrival transfer included.

There are no planned activities until an evening welcome meeting, so check into to the hotel and enjoy the city.

 

Arrival Airport Transfer:
Calcutta.  You will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel to start your adventure.
Arrival Day and Welcome Meeting:
1h.  The adventure begins tonight. Feel free to explore before your welcome meeting, but make sure you’re back in time to meet the group. After introductions, your CEO will review the details of your tour. Please note that normal check-in times apply at our start hotels, but you can usually store your luggage for the day if you arrive early.

Accommodation:

The HHI Kolkata (or similar).

 

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 2: Calcutta/Farakka

Catch a train from Kolkata to Farakka and embark on the riverboat this afternoon.

Local train:
Calcutta – Farakka6h

Climb aboard, take your seat, and get around like the locals do.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Dinner

Day 3: Farakka/Manihāri Ghāt

Sail upstream to Rajmahal, a village with a fantastic local atmosphere. Explore the remains of palaces, forts, and mosques submerged in vegetation before sailing on as far as Manihari Ghat.

Leave Farakka and sail out into the river, almost sea-like here just above the great Farakka Barrage. Anchor at Rajmahal, beneath the Rajmahal Hills. Once known as Akbarnagar, the town was founded by the Mughal Emperor Akbar as his eastern capital. Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj Mahal, spent much of his youth here.

Varuna Riverboat:
Farakka – Rājmahal

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

Rajmahal Town and Sights Visit:
Rājmahāl – Enjoy the lively atmosphere of Rajmahal. Explore the remains of palaces, forts and mosques.
Varuna Riverboat:
Rājmahal – Manihāri Ghāt

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 4: Manihāri Ghāt/Kahalgaon

Cruise upriver to idyllic Bateshwar and visit 6th century rock carvings. Afterwards, drive a short distance to the impressive ruins of a Buddhist monastery at Vikramshila.

Take in views of an island shrine complete with Buddhist and Hindu cave temples today as we sail near the shore. This area was once a centre of the murderous Thug sect.

Varuna Riverboat:
Manihāri Ghāt – Vikramshila

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

Bateshwar and Vikramshila Ruins Visit:
Vikramshila

Visit Bateshwar Temple with its 6th-century Hindu carvings. Continue to the nearby ruins of an 8th-century Buddhist stupa and monastery at Vikramshila.

Varuna Riverboat:
Vikramshila – Kahalgaon

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 5: Kahalgaon/Sultānganj

Keep an eye out for South Asian river dolphins this morning as you sail to Bhagalpur, a centre of silk production. Visit a mansion and silk-weaving village. Continue on to Jehangira Island and enjoy an excursion to view ancient Hindu rock carvings.

Varuna Riverboat:
Kahalgaon – Bhāgalpur

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

Mansion and Silk-Weaving Village Visit:
Bhāgalpur

Visit the elegant 18th-century mansion built by Augustus Clevland and learn about his revered status with the local communities. Continue on to a silk-weaving village to learn about this industry.

Varuna Riverboat:
Bhāgalpur – Sultānganj

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

Jehangira Island Excursion & Hindu Rock Carvings Visit:
Sultānganj

Explore this pilgrimage site and view ancient Hindu rock carvings. Learn more about the island’s religious significance and take in views of a picturesque mosque built on a rock. Opt to stroll through the local market.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 6: Sultānganj/Sita Kund

Sail to Munger and take a rickshaw ride through the town to view the remnants of a Mughal fort and an East India Company cemetery. Visit the local bazaar, Pirpahar Hill, and Sitakund hot springs. Walk through the village and fields before getting back on board.

Varuna Riverboat:
Sultānganj – Munger

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

Rickshaw Ride and Mughal Fort Visit:
Munger

Ride through Munger on a rickshaw and learn more about the area’s ruined Mughal Fort. Take in scenes of village life amongst grandiose tombs – this place is home to an East India Company cemetery.

Munger Village and Sitakund Hot Spring Visit:
Munger

Visit some highlights of the town like the local bazaar, Pirpahar Hill, crowned by a fine old mansion, and the Sitakund Hot Springs. Wander through farmland on the way back to the boat.

Varuna Riverboat:
Munger – Sita Kund

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 7: Sita Kund/Bārh

This morning pass under the great bridge at Mokama, where the naturalist Jim Corbett spent his working life overseeing the ferry crossing. Stop to visit a bankside village and stretch your legs. Cruise on to Barh and moor for the evening.

Varuna Riverboat:
Sita Kund – Bārh

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

Free Time:
Mokāma Full Day

Sit back, relax, and watch the scenery go by as you cruise down the Ganges.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 8: Bārh/Patna

Enjoy a full day excursion to Nalanda. Visit an excavated Buddhist monastery and stupa, and the picturesque Jain temple at Pawapuri. Continue to Patna and reboard the boat for the night.

Varuna Riverboat:
Bārh – Nālanda

Hop aboard and float on to the next stop.

Buddhist Monastery and Stupa Visit:
Nālanda

Enjoy a visit to the excavated ruins of the a Buddhist monastery and stupa in Nalanda. Check out the adjoining museum for more insight into the area.

Pawapuri Jain Temple Visit:
Nālanda

Visit this gorgeous Jain temple – located in the middle of a lake – and learn more about this uniquely Indian religion.

Private Vehicle:
Nālanda – Patna

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

Day 9: Patna/Bodh Gaya

Disembark and discover Patna on a morning tour visiting the Golghar granary, the great Sikh temple, and the State Museum. Afterwards, transfer to the small town of Bodh Gaya to explore the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Meet with a monk to discuss the history of the area and visit the spot where the Buddha found enlightenment.

Golghar Granary Visit:
Patna

Explore the 18th-century Golghar granary in Patna to learn more about the history of the area.

Sikh Temple Visit:
Patna

Enjoy a visit to a beautiful Sikh temple in Patna. Learn more about the religion and history of the temple.

State Museum Visit:
Patna

Visit the State Museum in Patna to learn more about the region.

Private Vehicle:
Patna – Bodh Gaya

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

National Geographic Journeys Exclusives: Explore Mahabodhi Temple Complex and Meet with a Monk:

Visit the small town of Bodh Gaya to explore the Mahabodhi temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here we meet with a monk to discuss why this is one of the four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha. Also visit the spot where the Buddha found enlightenment under what became known as the Bodhi Tree.

 

Accommodation:

Hotel City Inn (or similar)

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 10: Bodh Gaya/Varanasi

Drive to Varanasi, the quintessential Indian holy city. This afternoon, enjoy a lecture at the Ghats of the Ganges by a Research Scholar from Benaras Hindu University, and talk about the river’s significance spiritually, socially, economically and politically. After, embark on a boat trip on the sacred Ganges at sunset. Enjoy a candle and flower ceremony accompanied by sitar and tabla playing, and observe an evening aarti (prayer) ceremony.

Private Vehicle:
Bodh Gaya – Varanasi

Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

National Geographic Journeys Exclusives – Ganges River Talk:

While in Varanasi, sit down for a talk with a scholar at the picturesque ghats (stairs) of the Ganges. Discuss the river and the spiritual and social role it plays in daily life here.

Evening Ganges Boat Tour:
Varanasi1h-2h 7km

Enjoy a boat ride on the sacred Ganges River, where Hindu pilgrims from all over the world come to wash away their sins and cremate their loved ones. Participate in a candle and flower ceremony while on the water.

 

Accommodation:

The HHI Varanasi (or similar)

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 11: Varanasi

Rise early for a sunrise boat ride along the Ganges to observe the dawn rituals of bathing and burial. After, have breakfast at Open Hand, a vocational training cafe and one of G Adventures’ grassroots partners. Learn about this social enterprise whose mission is to provide dignified and meaningful job opportunities to underprivileged people in India. This afternoon take an excursion to Sarnath, a pilgrimage site where it is said the Buddha preached his first sermon.

Morning Ganges Boat Tour:
Varanasi1h

Catch the sunrise from a boat cruising the sacred Ganges River, where Hindu pilgrims from all over the world come to wash away their sins and cremate their loved ones. Witness locals participating in dawn rituals of bathing and burning at the river.

National Geographic Journeys Exclusives – Breakfast at Open Hand Project:

Enjoy a visit to one of G Adventures’ partners, Open Hand. It’s a social enterprise whose mission is to transform society by providing dignified and meaningful job opportunities to underprivileged people in India. With vocational training cafes around India and an ethical manufacturing factory in New Delhi, G Adventures has partnered with Open Hand to manufacture ethically-produced products for G Adventures’ online gear shop and to provide fair wages, vocational training, safe housing, counselling, and other social resources to marginalized people in India.

Sarnath Visit:
Varanasi1h-2h

Explore the ruins at the site of the Buddha’s first sermon. It is said that after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya Buddha continued to Sarnath. In a deer park, he preached his first discourse and set in motion the ‘Wheel of the Dharma’. This is one of the most holy sites to Buddhists.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast

Day 12: Varanasi

Depart at any time.

Departure Day:

Not ready to leave? Your CEO can help with travel arrangements to extend your adventure.

 

Meals included:

Breakfast

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