Tailor-made Tour 10 days from £2695 per person

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  Places Visited: Kolkata, Chandernagore, Kalna, Matiari, Murshidabad, Baranagar, Farakka

Assam Bengal Navigation is the original cruise operator on India’s Brahmaputra and Ganges Rivers, having navigated these mighty waterways since 2003.

A world away from the more well-trodden roads of India, the eastern corner remains untouched by mass tourism. From dancing monks to one-horned rhinos, colonial vestiges to terracotta temples, remote villages to bustling cities, travelling by boat opens up a treasure trove of history, culture, wildlife and religion.

Cruises on the Ganges and Lower Ganges (the Hooghly) offer a chance to witness life as lived in riverbank villages and towns, and marvel at ornate historic temples and monuments. A little-known but fascinating and culturally rich part of India, travelling by boat opens up areas otherwise largely inaccessible to the traveller.

The Hooghly river, a side stream of the Ganges, is dotted with historic sites, from Kolkata at its southernmost tip to Jangipur in the north. As you proceed up or downstream on these 7-night trips, you pass a string of former European capitals – abandoned cities of colonial empires with impressive buildings. Between tours of the monuments, take a cycle rickshaw ride into a local village and a leisurely stroll around Mughal gardens and tombs. Available around the year, these cruises afford an experience of off-track areas not accessible by any land-based itinerary of West Bengal.

Your journey will be aboard ABN Rajmahal. With 22 cabins in total, including 18 spacious twin/double cabins, and four single cabins for solo travellers, ABN Rajmahal is a boutique, modern ship whose decor reflects a sense of homecoming to the region of Bengal. Hand-blocked cotton fabrics with Indian-inspired designs, Bengali antiques and objets d'art as well as locally made furniture all add to the ship’s unique ambience. All cabins have French balconies, offering panoramic views of life along the river.

The tour highlighted here is the 7-night Upstream journey from Kolkatta to Farakka.  It is possible to do the reverse journey downstream.

Holiday Types

Cultural Holidays Wildlife Holidays River Cruising Holidays Luxury Train Holidays Family Holidays Honeymoons Beach Holidays Adventure Holidays


Suggested itinerary

Day 1

You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel, The Oberoi Grand, for the night. The remainder of your day will be at leisure.

Kolkata, or ‘Calcutta’ as it was known prior to 2001, is the capital of West Bengal state, and India’s third largest city, with a population of approximately 14.1 million. The trading post originally founded by the East India Company in the 17th century served as the country’s capital until 1911, and continues to be a major regional hub, albeit one with well-chronicled problems.

The backdrop to this vibrant cultural life is an architectural heritage spanning two-and-a-half centuries of colonial rule. Built to commemorate the British Raj at its zenith, the Victoria Memorial is Kolkata’s most grandiloquent monument – a stately blend of British, Mughal, Deccani, Moorish and Venetian styles whose marble domes soar majestically above the banks of the Hooghly River, surrounded by ornamental lakes and parched maidans.

Elsewhere in the city – connected by an efficient Metro system – lies a wealth of museums and art galleries, the famous Kali Ghat temple (after which the city was originally named) and hallowed turf of the Eden Gardens, high altar of Indian cricket. But above all, Kolkata is a place whose everyday sights frequently prove the most arresting: the flower sellers spreading out their wares in the dawn light at Mullick Ghat; the wrestlers, devotees of the Monkey God Hanuman, exercising on the nearby riverside steps; the overloaded barges of straw arriving at Kumartuli Ghat, where voluptuous deities are fashioned out of clay for the annual Durga Puja festival; and the streams of rickshaws, trucks and pedestrians pouring across Howrah Bridge at rush hours.

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Day 2
Kolkata - Chandrapore

After a leisurely breakfast, you will be collected from your hotel late in the morning and transferred to the jetty for embarking on The Rajmahal, your home from home for the next seven nights. You will set sail at midday and sail past the old Danish colony of Serampore to Barrackpore. Disembark and walk through the cantonment past the Semaphore Tower, Government House, the Temple of Fame, and Flagstaff House, its garden housing many British statues removed from central Calcutta.

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Day 3

Visit an 18th-century church and Dupleix Palace, once the residence of the erstwhile Governor-General of French India. Sail upstream past the old Dutch settlement of Chinsura before landing to visit the imposing Imambara at Hooghly. With verses from the Koran written on its walls, the Imambara is an opportunity to step back in time and relive a slice of Islamic history in Bengal. Sail into the night to a mooring near Kalna.

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Day 4

After breakfast, land at the country town of Kalna and take rickshaws to see a group of some of Bengal’s most attractive terracotta temples, including a unique Shiva temple with concentric rings made up of 108 shrinelets. You’ll also visit a muslin-weaving centre before continuing on through the countryside to Mayapur to visit 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. Sail on through the night to a mooring near Matiari.

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Day 5

​This morning, you will visit the charming riverside village of Matiari, known for its brass work. Interact with the villagers and witness the traditional process of beating out brass water pots and other vessels. You then cruise on and visit 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, to change the course of Indian history. Moor close to Khushbagh for the night.

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Day 6

This morning, you’ll walk to Khushbagh, a peaceful Mughal-style garden that encloses the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah and his family. Continue a little way upstream to where the great Hazarduari Palace dominates the waterfront. Built by an English architect in 1837, the palace hosts an extensive collection of pictures, china, weapons and other objects. Carry on visiting the great Katra Mosque before driving out to the Katgola Palace. Built-in classical Georgian style by rich local merchants, Katgola Palace represents the other side of the coin of the 'White Mughal' period when English and Indian cultures came close to fusion. Moor overnight on the riverbank across from the town at Baranagar.

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Day 7
Farakka Bazar

​This morning, you will walk through the fields of the delightfully sleepy village of Baranagar to visit its three gorgeous miniature terracotta temples. This is rural India at its most idyllic. Continue up the lower Ganges (or the Hooghly), transforming into a picturesque waterway, twisting and turning between banks lined with mustard fields and mango orchards. Carry up a long canal section to a mooring close to the Farakka Barrage.

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Day 8
Gaur and English Bazaar

Today you enjoy a full-day excursion by road to Gaur, near the town of Malda or English Bazar. This quiet, deserted place was once one of India’s great cities, first under the Hindus in the 12th century, then as the Muslim capital of Eastern India from the 14th to the 16th century. There are plentiful remains of mosques, palaces and gateways and you’ll visit a number of the most interesting before rejoining the ship in the evening.

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Day 9

You disembark for a dawn transfer to Farakka station and a 4-hour train journey to Kolkata. On arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel for the night, and the remainder of your day will be at leisure.

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Day 10
Kolkata, UK

Depending on the time of your onward flight, you will be appropriately transferred to the airport.

Accommodation Options

Tailor-made Tour 10 days from £2695 per person

What's included

✓   7 nights accommodation aboard your ABN cruise vessel and 2 nights at a five-star hotel in Kolkata

✓   All excursions on board the cruise with English-speaking guides

✓   Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in the tour itinerary

✓   Meal plan: Full board on the cruise and Bed & Breakfast in Kolkata

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