India River Cruise: The Holy Ganges

National Geographic Journeys, Kolkata to Varanasi

Image by G Adventures

Tour description provided by G Adventures

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.

What’s included

  • Your Journeys Highlight Moment: Explore Mahabodhi Temple Complex and Meet with a Monk, Bodh Gaya Your Journeys Highlight Moment: Ganges River Talk, Varanasi Your Journeys Highlight Moment: Breakfast at Open Hand Project, Varanasi
  • Arrival transfer
  • Excursion to Rajmahal
  • Visit Bateshwar and Vikramshila Buddhist Monastery
  • Visit Jehangira Island
  • Rickshaw excursion to Monghyr
  • Explore Nalanda Buddhist Monastery and museum
  • Visit Pawapuri Lake and a Jain temple
  • Patna city tour
  • Orientation walk of Varanasi
  • Sunset and sunrise boat trips on the Ganges River
  • All transport between destinations and to/from included activities


  • Visit beautiful temples and local villages
  • Meet with a monk at a buddhist pilgrimage site
  • Enjoy a lecture at the ghats of the ganges by a research scholar
  • Visit the g adventures-supported open hand for breakfast
  • Enjoy the pace of life on the river


Day 1 Kolkata (1B) There are no planned activities until an evening welcome meeting, so check into to the hotel and enjoy the city. Included Activities: Arrival Day and Welcome Meeting Transport: Arrival Airport Transfer
Day 2 Kolkata/Farakka (1B, 1D) Catch a train from Kolkata to Farakka and embark on the riverboat this afternoon. Transport: Local train (6.00 hour(s))
Day 3 Farakka/Manihāri Ghāt (1B, 1L, 1D) Leave Farakka and sail out into the river, almost sea-like here just above the great Farakka Barrage. Anchor at Rajmahal, beneath the Rajmahal Hills. Once known as Akbarnagar, the town was founded by the Mughal Emperor Akbar as his eastern capital. Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj Mahal, spent much of his youth here. Included Activities: Rajmahal Town and Sights Visit Transport: Varuna Riverboat Varuna Riverboat
Day 4 Manihāri Ghāt/Kahalgaon (1B, 1L, 1D) Take in views of an island shrine complete with Buddhist and Hindu cave temples today as we sail near the shore. This area was once a centre of the murderous Thug sect. Included Activities: Bateshwar and Vikramshila Ruins Visit Transport: Varuna Riverboat Varuna Riverboat
Day 5 Kahalgaon/Sultānganj (1B, 1L, 1D) Keep an eye out for South Asian river dolphins this morning as you sail to Bhagalpur, a centre of silk production. Visit a mansion and silk-weaving village. Continue on to Jehangira Island and enjoy an excursion to view ancient Hindu rock carvings. Included Activities: Mansion and Silk-Weaving Village Visit Jehangira Island Excursion & Hindu Rock Carvings Visit Transport: Varuna Riverboat Varuna Riverboat
Day 6 Sultānganj/Sita Kund (1B, 1L, 1D) Sail to Munger and take a rickshaw ride through the town to view the remnants of a Mughal fort and an East India Company cemetery. Visit the local bazaar, Pirpahar Hill, and Sitakund hot springs. Walk through the village and fields before getting back on board. Included Activities: Rickshaw Ride and Mughal Fort Visit Munger Village and Sitakund Hot Spring Visit Transport: Varuna Riverboat Varuna Riverboat
Day 7 Sita Kund/Bārh (1B, 1L, 1D) This morning pass under the great bridge at Mokama, where the naturalist Jim Corbett spent his working life overseeing the ferry crossing. Stop to visit a bankside village and stretch your legs. Cruise on to Barh and moor for the evening. Transport: Varuna Riverboat
Day 8 Bārh/Patna (1B, 1L, 1D) Enjoy a full day excursion to Nalanda. Visit an excavated Buddhist monastery and stupa, and the picturesque Jain temple at Pawapuri. Continue to Patna and reboard the boat for the night. Included Activities: Buddhist Monastery and Stupa Visit Pawapuri Jain Temple Visit Transport: Varuna Riverboat Private Vehicle
Day 9 Patna/Bodh Gaya (1B) Disembark and discover Patna on a morning tour visiting the Golghar granary, the great Sikh temple, and the State Museum. Afterwards, transfer to the small town of Bodh Gaya to explore the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Meet with a monk to discuss the history of the area and visit the spot where the Buddha found enlightenment. Included Activities: Golghar Granary Visit Sikh Temple Visit State Museum Visit Explore Mahabodhi Temple Complex and Meet with a Monk Transport: Private Vehicle
Day 10 Bodh Gaya/Varanasi (1B) Drive to Varanasi, the quintessential Indian holy city. This afternoon, enjoy a lecture at the Ghats of the Ganges by a Research Scholar from Benaras Hindu University, and talk about the river's significance spiritually, socially, economically and politically. After, embark on a boat trip on the sacred Ganges at sunset. Enjoy a candle and flower ceremony accompanied by sitar and tabla playing, and observe an evening aarti (prayer) ceremony. Included Activities: Ganges River Talk Evening Ganges Boat Tour Transport: Private Vehicle
Day 11 Varanasi (1B) Rise early for a sunrise boat ride along the Ganges to observe the dawn rituals of bathing and burial. After, have breakfast at Open Hand, a vocational training cafe and one of G Adventures' grassroots partners. Learn about this social enterprise whose mission is to provide dignified and meaningful job opportunities to underprivileged people in India. This afternoon take an excursion to Sarnath, a pilgrimage site where it is said the Buddha preached his first sermon. Included Activities: Morning Ganges Boat Tour Breakfast at Open Hand Project Sarnath Visit
Day 12 Varanasi (1B) Depart at any time. Included Activities: Departure Day