India River Cruise: The Holy Ganges

  • Trip Type: Journeys
  • 12 Days | Kolkata to Varanasi
  • Group Size: Max 24

Trip Details


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.

Trip Highlights

    • Cruise the Ganges aboard a classic riverboat.
    • Meet with a monk at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Mahabodhi Temple complex.
    • Take a bicycle rickshaw ride to view Mughal ruins.
    • In Varanasi, talk with a scholar about the river’s role in daily life.

Itinerary - 12 Days

Day 1 — Kolkata (Calcutta)

Arrive at any time. Arrival transfer is included.

Days 2 & 3 — Farakka/Manihāri Ghāt

Catch a train from Kolkata to Farakka, where we embark our riverboat in the afternoon. Sail upstream to Rajmahal, founded by the Mughal Emperor Akbar as his eastern capital. Today, the town exudes a lively atmosphere. Explore the ruins of palaces, forts, and mosques shrouded in vegetation. Then continue onward to Manihāri Ghāt. (2B, 1L, 2D)

Days 4 & 5 — Kahalgaon/Sultānganj

Cruise upriver to idyllic Bateshwar, home to eighth-century rock carvings, and explore the impressive ruins of a Buddhist stupa and monastery at Vikramshila. Keep an eye out for South Asian river dolphins as we sail to Bhagalpur, a center of silk production. Visit an 18th-century mansion and silk-weaving village, then venture to Jahangira Island to view early Hindu rock carvings. Opt to stroll through the local market. (2B, 2L, 2D)

Days 6 & 7 — Sita Kund/Bārh

Sail to Munger and take a bicycle rickshaw ride through the town to view the remnants of a Mughal fort and East India Company cemetery. Visit Pirpahar Hill, crowned by an elegant mansion; the local bazaar; and Sitakund hot springs. Stroll through the village and fields, observing scenes of everyday life. The next leg of our journey takes us under the bridge at Mokama, where we stop at a riverside village and stretch our legs. Cruise to Bārh and moor for the evening. (2B, 2L, 2D)

Day 8 — Bārh/Patna

Enjoy a full-day excursion to Nalanda. Visit an excavated Buddhist monastery and the adjoining museum. Then encounter the picturesque Jain temple at Pawapuri, situated in the middle of a lake. As we explore, learn about the unique beliefs and practices of Jainism—one of India’s oldest religious traditions still in existence. (1B, 1L, 1D)

Day 9 — Patna/Bodh Gaya

Explore Patna on a morning visit to the 18th-century Golghar granary, the great Sikh temple, and the state museum. Next, transfer to the small town of Bodh Gaya to explore the Mahabodhi Temple complex, a World Heritage site. Meet with a monk to discuss the history of the area and visit the spot where the Buddha found enlightenment. (1B)

Day 10 — Varanasi

Drive to the ancient city of Varanasi, the center of Hindu culture. This afternoon, enjoy a lecture by a local scholar at the ghats (stairs) of the Ganges. Discuss the river’s significance and the spiritual and social role it plays in daily life here. Later, embark on a sunset boat ride on the Ganges. Enjoy a candle and flower ceremony accompanied by sitar and tabla playing, and observe an aarti prayer ceremony. (1B)

Day 11 — Varansi

Rise early for a sunrise boat ride along the Ganges to observe the dawn rituals of bathing and burial. Afterward, have breakfast at a G Adventures–supported vocational training café whose mission is to provide meaningful job opportunities to underprivileged people in India. This afternoon, visit the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Sarnath, where the Buddha is said to have preached his first sermon. (1B)

Day 12 — Varansi

Depart at any time. (1B)

Related Trips

Offered in partnership with G Adventures, our National Geographic Journeys line blends fun, hands-on exploration, meaningful encounters with people and cultures, and more free time and choices—with the structure and security of traveling in a small group.


This expedition is not currently being offered.

Activity Level


Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.

Contact Us: 1-800-281-2354

Call to speak with a specialist about this trip.

Cost Details

All trip prices are per person based on double occupancy. If you're traveling on your own, we'll pair you up with a roommate of the same gender so that you can pay the same rate as other travelers. Prices are subject to change without notice and do not include airfare. All prices and fares are quoted in U.S. dollars.

What's Included

Arrival transfer, transport between destinations and to/from included activities, and activities as listed in the itinerary.

Aboard a riverboat (7 nights), comfortable, mid-range hotels (4 nights)

Meals Included
10 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners

Riverboat, minibus, train, auto-rickshaw, cycle-rickshaw

Optional Experience

You can do whatever you wish during your free time on tour, but if you're in need of suggestions, we've got them. Details about any optional experiences for this trip will be available during the booking process. Please note, these are at an additional cost.