AIA Tours: land, cruise

Journey Down the Ganges

Tour Dates: February 20 - March 6, 2021 (15 days)

Enjoy the most relaxing, in-depth means of discovering life along the Ganges, the holiest river in India. Begin your adventure with five hotel nights and time to explore Delhi as well as the fascinating holy sites of Varanasi, Sarnath, and Bodhgaya, plus the ancient learning center of Nalanda Mahavihara. Then you will embark the R.V. Bengal Ganga, a classic riverboat with only 28 suites, for an eight-night cruise 800 miles down the Ganges River. Relax on a comfy lounge chair right outside your cabin or on the top deck. View and photograph a panoply of everyday village and town life, as well as freshwater dolphins, water buffalo, and exotic birds. Take daily excursions that reveal a variety of ancient, medieval, and modern sites, several of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Through it all, learn about the extraordinary cultural diversity and history of India, spanning millennia, as you visit famous Buddhist sites, Hindu temples, Mughal mosques, fortresses, palaces, and much more.

Save yourself an air ticket and $750 per person by combining your “Journey Down the Ganges River” with an earlier exploration of Northern & Central India.


Tour Pricing

Tour Prices per person (13 nights) including 8 days aboard the 28-stateroom RV Bengal Ganga Based on 10 or more participants

Main Deck Suites
Double Occupancy $7,595
Single Supplement $1,295
Upper Deck Suites
Double Occupancy $8,295
Single Supplement $1,495
Premium Suites (only two available!)
Double Occupancy $9,120
Single Supplement $1,695

Single room supplement will be charged when requested or required (limited availability). With fewer than 10 participants a small group surcharge may be added.

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AIA Tours - Journey Down the Ganges River

RV Bengal Ganga - AIA Tour - Journey Down the Ganges River

RV Bengal Ganga, Sun Deck - AIA Tour - Journey Down the Ganges River

Itinerary


Saturday, February 20, 2021: Depart the U.S.
Sunday, February 21: Arrive Delhi, INDIA | Private transfer to hotel
Monday, February 22: Delhi city tour | Welcome dinner
Tuesday, February 23: Delhi: National Museum of India | Fly to Varanasi
Wednesday, February 24: Varanasi: Sunrise boat ride on the Ganges | Sarnath | Varanasi: Boat ride and Ganga Aarti ritual
Thursday, February 25: Bodhgaya | Mahabodhi Temple Complex
Friday, February 26: Nalanda | Munger for embarkation
Saturday, February 27: Munger: Bihar School of Yoga | Cruise to Bhagalpur
Sunday, February 28: Bateshwarsthan | Antichak: Vikramshila University | Samtaghat
Monday, March 1: Cruising to the Lower Ganges | Jangipur
Tuesday, March 2: Murshidabad: Hazarduari Palace, local market
Wednesday, March 3: Murshidabad: Katra Mosque | Cruise to Matiari
Thursday, March 4: Matiari village tour | Kalna: Rajbari temple complex
Friday, March 5: Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta) | Kolkata overview tour | Farewell dinner
Saturday, March 6: Kolkata | Disembarkation | Fly home

View Detailed Itinerary

Saturday, February 20, 2021: Depart the U.S.
Sunday, February 21: Arrive Delhi, INDIA | Private transfer to hotel
Upon arrival at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), you will be met and transferred to our hotel. Overnight at the 5-star Taj Mahal Hotel for two nights. (D)
Monday, February 22: Delhi city tour | Welcome dinner
This morning we meet AIA lecturer Annapurna Garimella and any travelers who are joining us from the prior World Heritage Sites of Northern & Central India tour. Together we set out for our first full day, focusing on major sites in Delhi. Two of them are UNESCO World Heritage sites: Humayun’s Tomb (known as “the predecessor of the Taj Mahal”), the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent; and the Qutb Complex, with its 236-foot high minaret, a 1,500-year-old iron pillar that does not rust, and a large mosque that was constructed from reused temple pillars. We will also slowly drive by and admire several other famous monuments, such as Jama Mosque, Red Fort, Raj Ghat (where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated), the ruined fortress at Feroze Shah Kotla, the Ashok Pillar, and Safdarjung’s tomb. Gather this evening for a welcome reception and dinner. (B,L,R,D)
Tuesday, February 23: Delhi: National Museum of India | Fly to Varanasi
After breakfast we visit the National Museum of India, which houses over 200,000 works of art spanning thousands of years. After lunch at a local restaurant, we transfer to the airport for our late afternoon flight to Varanasi, the holiest town for Hindus. On arrival we check-in to our hotel and enjoy some time to relax and freshen up before dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Radisson Hotel Varanasi for two nights. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, February 24: Varanasi: Sunrise boat ride on the Ganges | Sarnath | Varanasi: Boat ride and Ganga Aarti ritual
Enjoy a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges River to witness early morning rituals, and experience Varanasi’s enchanting street life. Return to our hotel for breakfast and then drive to Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya. Explore the ruins of its monasteries, built more than 2,000 years ago; as well as its Archaeological Museum, which displays antiquities dating from the 3rd century B.C. to 12th century A.D., including several masterpieces of Buddhist art. Return to our hotel for lunch and some time at leisure. In late afternoon, take a boat ride to see the ghats (broad steps down to the water, along the riverbank) lining the Ganges River, and witness the beautiful Ganga Aarti ritual after sunset, when hundreds of small lamps are set afloat on the river. Enjoy a festive dinner at the Peshwa Haveli (mansion) at Raja Ghat. (B,L,D)
Thursday, February 25: Bodhgaya | Mahabodhi Temple Complex
After breakfast we drive approximately six hours to Bodhgaya, stopping mid-morning for a packed brunch. Upon arrival, enjoy a late buffet lunch at our hotel. Bodhgaya is one of Buddhism’s most important and sacred pilgrimage centers and it was here, under a banyan tree, that Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become “Buddha,” the Enlightened One. This afternoon we explore the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site whose courtyard is dotted with many stupas built over the past 2,500 years. Inside the main sanctum is the immense black stone statue of the sitting Buddha touching the Earth with his right hand—the posture in which he is said to have attained supreme enlightenment. Overnight at the 3-star Royal Residency Hotel Bodhgaya. (B,L,D)
Friday, February 26: Nalanda | Munger for embarkation
After breakfast we drive to the ancient site of Nalanda Mahavihara, perhaps the oldest seat of learning in India, thought to have been established in the 3rd century B.C. Nalanda is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and was excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1915-37 and 1974-82. Its extensive remains include six brick temples and eleven monasteries, with many sculptures and images in stone, bronze, and stucco. Enjoy a boxed lunch today and continue on to Munger, where we meet our other AIA lecturer, Santhosh Sakhinala. Embark our classic riverboat and spend the night docked in Munger. Overnight aboard the R.V. Bengal Ganga for eight nights. (B,L,D)
Saturday, February 27: Munger: Bihar School of Yoga | Cruise to Bhagalpur
This morning we visit the Bihar School of Yoga, established in 1964 by Swami Niranjanananda to preserve and regenerate the total scope of yogic science by combining academic and scientific methodology with a spiritual vision. The School is located within the walls of Munger Fort, on the south bank of the Ganges River, which is thought to date from approximately the 12th/13th centuries. Several religious and historic monuments are also located within the Fort, including the Palace of Shah Suja, the ancient Chandisthana temple, and an 18th-century British cemetery. We then begin our cruise down the sacred Ganges River and, en route to Bhagalpur, cruise past Sultanganj, whose two great granite rocks on the riverbank are crowned by a mosque and a temple of Ghaibinath Siva. Excavations near Sultanganj have yielded ancient stupas, seals, coins, and terracotta Hindu and Buddha images. Overnight aboard ship in Bhagalpur. (B,L,D)
Sunday, February 28: Bateshwarsthan | Antichak: Vikramshila University | Samtaghat
Cruise this morning from Bhagalpur to Bateshwarsthan. After breakfast, we drive to the village of Antichak where we visit the ruins of Vikramshila University, established in the late 8th or early 9th century A.D. Along with Nalanda Mahavihara, Vikramshila was one of the two most important centers of Buddhist learning in India during the Pala dynasty. Return to our ship and continue cruising to Samtaghat, where we overnight aboard ship. (B,L,D)
Monday, March 1: Cruising to the Lower Ganges | Jangipur
Today we cruise through the Farakka Lock Gate and the connecting feeder canal to the Lower Ganges, revealing vast panoramas. Visible at a distance is the Farakka barrage, which regulates the Ganges water into Bangladesh and India. Continue cruising the waters of West Bengal toward Jangipur. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, March 2: Murshidabad: Hazarduari Palace, local market
Cruise from Jangipur toward Murshidabad. Time permitting, visit the early 18th-century Temples of Baranagar, considered to be among the best examples of Bengal terracotta art. Arrive at Murshidabad Jetty, opposite the New Palace. We visit the Hazarduari Palace, built in the early 19th century by an English architect, Duncan McLeod, in the Greek “Doric” style. The palace has more than a thousand real and false doors in its vast corridors. Opposite the Palace is the 19th-century Nizamat Imambara, only open during the religious ceremony. We make our way back to the boat through the local market. Overnight aboard ship in Murshidabad. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, March 3: Murshidabad: Katra Mosque | Cruise to Matiari
This morning we take local horse-drawn carts (tongas) to the early 18th-century Katra Mosque, the oldest mosque in Murshidabad. Returning to the jetty by tongas, we cruise to Matiari past the well-known battlefield of Plassey, site of a 1757 battle that changed India’s history when the British East India Company established its rule that would last (and expand) over the next 190 years. Overnight aboard ship in Matiari. (B,L,D)
Thursday, March 4: Matiari village tour | Kalna: Rajbari temple complex
Make a morning visit to Matiari, a unique brass- and copper-working village where the metals are still worked manually. Take a stroll through the village and visit some metalworkers’ homes to view their work. Returning to the riverboat, we continue cruising to Kalna. After lunch aboard ship we take cycle rickshaws to visit Kalna’s enchanting Rajbari temple complex, with its great concentration and mixture of temples. On one side of the road, the early 19th-century Nabakailas temple complex contains 108 “eight slope-roofed” Shiva temples arranged in two concentric circles. On the other side of the road is a walled complex with Bengal’s most diversified collection of temple architecture, including the 19th-century Pratapeshwar Temple, Lalji temple (built in 1739, and the oldest in the complex), Krishnachandra Temple, and the flat-roofed temple of Giri Govardhan. Overnight aboard ship in Kalna. (B,L,D)
Friday, March 5: Cruise to Kolkata (Calcutta) | Kolkata overview tour | Farewell dinner
Cast off early this morning from Kalna and cruise toward Kolkata, through the vast countryside of golden Bengal. Relax aboard our riverboat and watch the passing scenery of the areas where various European settlers established their respective East Indian Companies from the 17th to 19th centuries. This afternoon, take an orientation tour of Kolkata’s colonial areas, including the Writer’s Building, General Post Office, High Court, Raj Bhawan, Town Hall, Council House, Treasury Building, and Reserve Bank of India. Also visit Dalhousie Square and drive past St. John’s Church and Victoria Memorial, stopping for photos. Tonight enjoy a farewell dinner aboard ship. Overnight aboard ship in Kolkata. (B,L,D)
Saturday, March 6: Kolkata | Disembarkation | Fly home
Disembark in Kolkata and transfer to Kolkata’s Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU) for flights homeward. (B)


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