Day 1: Overnight Travel
Overnight flight with Emirates to Delhi via Dubai. Please enquire about departures from other airports or with other airlines:
EK006 LHR / Dubai 22:00/08:45 (+1 day)
Day 2: New Delhi
Connecting Emirates flight from Dubai to Delhi:
EK516 Dubai / Delhi 10:00/14:45
Met on arrival in Delhi and transfer to your airport hotel for overnight stay.
Day 3: Devprayag
Transfer to Delhi airport for your Jet Airways flight to Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas:
9W-2829 Delhi / Dehradun 08:55/10:00
Met on arrival and drive to Devprayag.
The town of Devprayag was founded on the confluence of two rivers - Bhagirathi and Alaknanda. The river after the confluence is the Holy Ganges (Ganga). So in effect, Devprayag is also the place where the Ganga actually starts in its complete form. Devprayag is also the seat of the priests of Badrinath, one of the four holiest shrines of Hindus, during winter months when Badrinath remains snow clad.
Arrive at Devprayag and check in at your hotel for one night.
Day 4: Rishikesh
This morning, visit the sangam ghat - the point where the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers combine to form the Ganga. Visit the ancient Raghunath temple located near the ghat. Later visit the house of Acharya Pundit Chakradhar Joshi (a scholar in Astronomy and Astrology), who established Nakshatra Vedshala (an observatory) in the year 1946. The observatory is equipped with modern and historic equipment as well as hundreds of books to support research in astronomy. It also contains about 3000 manuscripts from 1677 AD onward collected from various parts of the country.
In the afternoon, drive to Rishikesh (3 hours drive).
On arrival check in at hotel for two nights.
In the evening, experience the Aarti ceremony at Triveni Ghat (steps) which is performed by Parmarth Niketan Ashram. The aarti is performed by chanting accompanied by drums & bells. People hold diyas (earthen lamps) in their hands which are later released in the water after culmination of the aarti.
An aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. It's usually made in the form of a lit lamp, and in the case of the Ganges River, a small Diya with a candle and flowers that is floated down the river. The offering is to the Goddess Ganga, also affectionately referred to as Maa Ganga, goddess of the most holy river in India. The aarti takes place facing the river.
Activities and ServicesRishikesh Aarti Ceremony
Day 5: Rishikesh
Enjoy an early morning Yoga session before sunrise on the banks of the holy Ganges.
Later in the morning, proceed for sightseeing of Rishikesh. Surrounded by the Shivalik hills of the Himalayas on three sides, Rishikesh, the place of sages, is a spiritual town on the banks of the river Ganga. Sightseeing of Rishikesh includes walking through the local market, Bharat temple, the Parmarth Niketan, Shivanand Ashram and walk on the Lakshman Jhoola, the suspension bridge. Also visit an abandoned ashram of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, which was once visited by The Beetles in 1968 to learn transcendental meditation.
Activities and ServicesRishikesh
Day 6: Haridwar
This morning, drive to Haridwar and on arrival sightseeing and walking tour of Haridwar.
During the walk from Har ki Pauri ghat, you will experience various rituals such as Asthi Visarjan (bone residue immersion), Head Shaving etc. Later, walk to the local market and experience the hustle and bustle of a holy pilgrimage city. Enjoy some light snacks at a local shop then visit the potters and stone carving workshops where the idols of various Hindu deities are carved.
In the evening, experience the Aarti ceremony at Har ki Pauri ghat. The aarti of the Ganges, performed every evening at Har Ki Pauri, is an enchanting experience for everyone. Everyday hundreds of devotees participate in this aarti and on occasions like full moon or some festival eves, the number swells to thousands. The golden hues of floral diyas and lights reflected in the river Ganges presents a spectacular view.
Day 7: Varanasi
Transfer to Dehradun airport to board the Jet Airways flight to Varanasi via Delhi:
9W-2832 Dehradun / Delhi 07:45/08:50
9W-2423 Delhi / Varanasi 10:50/12:10
Met on arrival met and transfer to hotel for two nights.
In the evening, visit to the Aarti Ceremony which takes place on the Ghats (steps) of the Ganges. The lamps are lit and circled around by the pandits (Hindu priests) in a clockwise manner, accompanied by chanting or songs in praise of Mother Ganga. The idea is that the lamps acquire the power of the deity. After the ritual is complete, devotees will cup their hands over the flame and raise their palms to their forehead to obtain the Goddess's purification and blessing.
Activities and ServicesVaranasi Aarti Ceremony
Day 8: Varanasi
Early morning boat ride along the Ganges. A dawn rowing boat ride along the Ganges is a quintessential Varanasi experience. The early-morning light is particularly inspiring, and all the colour and spirituality of pilgrims bathing and performing puja unfolds before you. The ride is an hour-long trip south from Dashashwamedh Ghat to Harishchandra Ghat and back, but be prepared to see a burning corpse at Harishchandra.
Afterwards, a short visit to the Temples before returning to the hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast, excursion to Sarnath. Buddha came to Sarnath to preach his message of the middle way to nirvana after he achieved enlightenment at Bodhgaya and gave his famous first sermon here. In the 3rd century BC emperor Ashoka had magnificent stupas and monasteries erected here as well as an engraved pillar. When Chinese traveller Xuan Zang dropped by in AD 640, Sarnath boasted a 100m-high stupa and 1500 monks living in large monasteries. However, soon after, Buddhism went into decline and, when Muslim invaders sacked the city in the late 12th century, Sarnath disappeared altogether. It was ‘rediscovered’ by British archaeologists in 1835. Today it is one of the four important sites on the Buddhist circuit (along with Bodhgaya, Kushinagar and Lumbini in Nepal) and attracts followers from around the world.
Activities and ServicesVaranasi Dawn Boat Ride Sarnath
Day 9: Kolkata
Today, visit the weavers village to see the silk sarees which they prepare using handloom.
Late afternoon departure transfer to Varanasi airport to board IndiGo flight for Kolkata - please note hotel check-out is at 12:00 noon.
6E-716 Varanasi / Kolkata 19:30/20:50
Met on arrival at Kolkata and transfer to hotel for three nights.
Activities and ServicesWeavers Village
Day 10: Kolkata
Early morning visit the fascinating wholesale flower market and adjacent Hooghly Ghats with our good friend Manjit of Calcutta Photo Tours. This is a fabulous experience to really connect with local life and Manjit will be on hand to help with photography skills if required.
Later after breakfast, guided sightseeing of Kolkata city. This includes a visit to the Victoria Memorial (closed on Monday), Kolkata's most imposing monument opened by the Prince of Wales in 1921 and often called the "Taj" of the British Raj. Drive past BBD Bagh (commercial Area), Raj Bhavan (the residence of the Governor of West Bengal), High Court, Legislative Assembly, Eden Gardens, Strand (River Side), Race Course and visit St. John’s Church. Also visit Mother Teresa’s home. Do not forget to take a ride on the vintage trams of Kolkata. Crawling slowly through the crowded bazaars & wide avenues of Kolkata, these trams showcase yet another facet of city life in Kolkata.
Late afternoon Hooghly river cruise.
The cruise will be a sail down the memory lane, from the time when Job Charnock dropped his first anchor at Cossim Bazaar. The boat departs from Babughat Jetty and sails down the Howrah Bridge, the unique cantilever Bridge across the river Ganga joining the two metropolises of Kolkata and Howrah. It also sails past the Howrah Railway Station, one of the busiest in the world, and various heritage sites on the banks of the great river, including numerous temples and bathing ghats, the historical point of arrival of Job Charnock, the House of Dolls, the Nimtolla Ghat, and the oldest Gun and Shell Factory in India at Casipore.
Day 11: Kolkata
A full day excursion to the island of Gangasagar. This is the place where the holy Ganga finally meets the Bay of Bengal and hence it is the last important point in your journey. Gangasagar is also one of the most important pilgrimage centres for Hindus and during the Gangasagar festival in January every year, around 2 million plus people assemble here to take a dip in the holy river.
You will drive for 2.30 hours to the jetty from where you cross the river by ferry and then arrive on the island of Gangasagar. Spend some time at the point where the Ganga merges into the sea and then in the afternoon, return to your hotel in Kolkata.
Activities and ServicesGangasagar Island
Day 12: Sundarban National Park
Morning transfer by car to Gadkhali Jetty which will take around 2 hrs of driving through beautiful countryside and rural bazaars. From the jetty, a private boat will take you to your resort.
Sunderbans: At the tip of the Ganges is a mystic mangrove forest on a myriad of islands. Impenetrable mangrove forests, winding rivers, lush Sundari trees, water changing its colour at every creek from muddy river to emerald blue sea, narrow creeks to several miles wide rivers, where crabs climb the trees, tigers swim long distances and mighty crocodiles bask in the sun. This is a wonderland indeed and to be explored through waterways only.
Tiger Camp Resort: The resort is designed with a focus on comfort, art and relevance to the local culture and history. These include huts, non-air-conditioned cottages, deluxe cottages, executive rooms and executive cottages. The interiors of the cottages are hand painted by local artists and the furniture made with use of local craftsmanship.
Lunch at the resort and then afternoon boat safari. Observe the endemic and migratory birds and wildlife while you cruise through the creeks and canals of the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve forest to Sajnekhali Watchtower and Mangrove Interpretation Centre. Refreshments will be served on board.
As the sun sets, return to the resort for Hi-Tea by the evening bonfire and watch Adibasi dance performed by the tribal’ s of Sunderbans.
Activities and ServicesSunderbans Boat Safari
Day 13: Sundarban National Park
In the morning take another boat safari inside creeks and dense forest (breakfast on boat during cruise). Visit Dobanke Watch Tower and experience the canopy walk inside the forest. Also visit the Spotted Deer Rehabilitation Centre. Continue the cruise through Matla – Sea Face (the point from where the Bay of Bengal can be seen) and then cruise back through the 5-river junction.
In the afternoon, walk through the native village of Dayapur. Encounter many wonderful sights as you learn about the lifestyle, local crafts, cuisines, and way of life of the local villagers. Observe their indigenous farming methods and how their houses are completely mud made with small entrances. Pass through the village market and eventually end at the resort for refreshments followed by a wildlife movie and dinner to end another day in the reserve forest.
Activities and ServicesSunderbans Boat Safari Village Walk
Day 14: Sundarban National Park
Breakfast at the Fisherman’s Wharf before departure for Buridabri Watch Tower, which is located deep inside the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. It houses a 300-year-old temple of ‘Bon Bibi’ - Forest Goddess where the villagers who are fishermen and honey collectors of every caste, pray for their safety and security from the tiger and crocodile whom they have personified as gods and goddesses. Hot Lunch is served on-board as we cruise back to the resort.
Activities and ServicesCruise to Bon Bibi Temple
Day 15: Kolkata
Early morning cruise into the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve once again through creeks and rivers heading to the Sudhayakhali Watchtower. Walk through the caged walkways searching for the elusive tiger. Keep a look out at the sweet water pond where you may sight a deer drinking water or a water monitor lizard basking by the sun, as well as monkeys and wild boars which may be seen nearby. Breakfast is served on board.
Cruise back to Sunderbans Tiger Camp.
After an early lunch, check out from Tiger Camp Resort and take the boat to Gadkhali Jetty.
Continue to Kolkata by car. On arrival check in at hotel for one night.
Activities and ServicesSunderbans Boat Safari
Day 16: Departure
Early morning transfer to Kolkata airport for Emirates flight to Dubai and on to London Heathrow:
EK571 Kolkata / Dubai 08:55/12:50
EK003 Dubai / LHR 14:25/18:20