While travelling in the north or south of India, leave behind the rigours of a land-based holiday and embark on an extraordinary river journey aboard a small, comfortable riverboat. Cruise on rivers and inland waterways, passing great cities, picturesque villages, lush wildlife sanctuaries, historical monuments and reach into the heart of rural India.
Brahmaputra River Cruise, Assam
Assam is the biggest of India’s north-eastern states. The mighty Brahmaputra River runs like a spine down its centre, bordered by farmland and tea plantations. On a clear day, it’s also possible to see the Himalayas. One of the best ways to appreciate this incredibly beautiful scenery and the interesting culture of Assam is during a riverboat cruise.
Assam has breath-taking scenery and is also renowned for its tea and flora and fauna. During a cruise on the Brahmaputra River, visit Kaziranga National Park where it’s possible to see single horned rhino, wild elephant, wild buffalo and tiger, freshwater dolphin, the Great Hornbill, Great Adjutant Stork and Black Necked Cranes. These, along with over 600 varieties of migratory and domestic birds and other mammals like deer, Hollock Gibbons, turtles and tortoises, make this one of the greatest natural habitats of wildlife outside Africa. Described by National Geographic as the “Serengeti of India”. Not only is there plentiful wildlife but Majuli Island is of huge cultural interest with its 22 ancient Hindu monasteries and centres of art. Of course, not to be missed are the tea plantations that surround Dibrugarh. It’s quite special to see rows and rows of tea covering vast swathes of countryside and workers picking the leaves to take to the local factory. During a river cruise there are plenty of visits to the local villages, most of which have welcomed few foreign visitors and display a unique way of life.
Cruise boat options on the Brahmaputra River
There are a variety of cruise itineraries for travel on the Brahmaputra River ranging from three to 10 nights, going up and downstream. We work with the ABN Charaidew, a 12 cabin boat and the larger 30 cabin Pandaw ship, RV Indochina.
A new and novel way to cruise in Assam is onboard a private houseboat with resident chef. Choose a route, from one to three nights and board an exclusive cruise on the MV Rudra Singh. Why not go upstream between the tea gardens of Dibrugarh and the wilds of Kaziranga National Park. MV Rudra Singh is capable of cruising the entire stretch of the Brahmaputra river including seldom navigated parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
The best time to cruise in Assam
Between November and April.
Hooghly River Cruise in West Bengal
The Hooghly River also spelt Hugli, is an intimate lower Ganges side-stream which flows from Farakka on the main river down to Kolkata. Seven night cruises, upstream and downstream take you along this infrequently visited river to see some of the most incredible, unexplored areas of West Bengal. During the cruise visit Murshidabad, capital of the Nawab of Bengal, the battlefield of Plassey and the many monuments of the medieval Islamic capital of Gaur. A highlight is several delightful and little known Bengali Terracotta temples in the town of Kalna. Cruises on the Hooghly also combine the Ganges with a stay in Kolkata at the beginning or the end of the trip.
Cruise Boat options on the Hooghly River
We use two cruise operators on the Hooghly. Assam Bengal Navigation Company and Pandaw Cruises. Dates of travel are largely dictated by the choice of boat and itinerary you wish to join.
The best time to cruise in West Bengal
Travel from October to April.
Ganges River Cruise
Cruises on the mainstream of the holy Ganges River operate between Farakka, reached by rail from Kolkata, and the city of Patna, and can be combined with the Hooghly cruises. Mughal ruins at Rajmahal, East India Company relics at Patna and Monghyr, and Buddhist monuments at Bodh Gaya and elsewhere in this, the Buddha’s homeland, make for an exciting voyage through a totally undiscovered territory.
Only operating in periods of high water, when India is at its most lush and attractive, one of the cruises also includes arriving into Varanasi by boat. The contrast of sparsely populated countryside followed by one of the most populated parts of India is an incredible experience. During your visit, take a small boat from the ghats to experience the evening ‘aarti ceremony’ from the river. It’s a heady experience with the smell of incense, the clang of bells and hundreds of butter candles floating on the river.
Cruise boat options on the River Ganges
Cruises along the Ganges last between six and 14 nights. Travel on the 22 cabin ABN Rajmahal, and the smaller 14 stateroom cabin RV Katha Pandaw, both specifically designed for the varying water levels of the Ganges.
Best time to visit the Ganges
Visiting Varanasi and cruising on the northern parts of the Ganges is only possible in August and September when the water levels are high. The weather may not be perfect at this time of year due to the monsoon but the freshened, revived landscapes make this a wonderful time of year to visit.
Cruising the Backwaters of Kerala
In Southern India, cruise the backwaters of Kerala, a self-supporting eco-system vibrant with aquatic, plant and bird life, a totally unique network that meanders past palm tree-fringed rice paddies and villages, before flowing into the Arabian Sea. Choose between your own private converted rice-barge, houseboat or motor vessel in order to access these areas.