A Cruise Through History Along the Hooghly: Travellers, Traders and Truth Seekers in India

6 - 17 Jan 2025
  • Cultural Tours

About the tour

The Hooghly River is the main artery running through the history of Bengal. Kolkata was founded on the banks of the river in 1690 as a British trading outpost of the Mughal Empire. Not only was Kolkata the centre of the Raj until 1911, when the capital moved to Delhi, but it has long been a hub of Bengali literature, music and philosophy. Bengal was the richest province in India for a time, its lush soil producing indigo, opium and rice crops, among others, and its exquisite textiles were known as 'woven wind'.

This progressive, wealthy and cultured land drew people from all over the world - the Portuguese, Dutch, Danish and French all settled on the banks of the Hooghly and Islam, Hinduism, Jainism and Christianity all flourished here. The long history of this province leaves a legacy of magnificent temples, buildings and parks, often of astonishing size. A visit to Kolkata combined with a cruise along the mighty Hooghly offers an unparalleled vision of the rich history and culture of the great province of Bengal.

Katie Hickman will be the specialist speaker throughout this cruise (talks TBC). Her talks will address the theme of ‘Travellers, Traders and Truth Seekers in India.’ She will be accompanied by local guides and a full-time national guide, who will also provide talks.

Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Katie Hickman

Katie Hickman

Katie Hickman is a British historian, novelist and travel writer. Her highly acclaimed history of British women in pre-Raj India was published in 2019.

She is the author of nine other books, including two bestselling works of non-fiction: 'Daughters of Britannia', about the lives and times of British diplomatic wives (which was in the Sunday Times bestseller lists for ten months and a twenty-part series for BBC Radio 4) and 'Courtesans', about English eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women of pleasure. Her most recent work, 'Brave Hearted: The Dramatic Story of Women of the American West', was the winner of the 2023 WILLA Award for Nonfiction.

Her other works include a trilogy of historical novels - 'The Aviary Gate', 'The Pindar Diamond', 'The House at Bishopsgate' - which between them have been translated into twenty languages.

Born into a diplomatic family, Katie Hickman had a peripatetic childhood, growing up in Spain, Ireland, Singapore and South America. She lives in London on a converted barge on the River Thames.

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  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Kolkata (Mon, 6 Jan) Arrive and transfer to the Oberoi Grand Hotel and at leisure. Optional stroll along the Colonnade to visit the Park Street Oxford Bookstore. Later in the afternoon board a boat at Prinsep's Steps for a river trip through the city. Dinner at the hotel.
  • Day 2: Kolkata (Tues, 7 Jan) Optional early morning sightseeing walk through old Kolkata, including the Writer's Building. Return to the hotel for breakfast and then visit the Victoria Memorial, the Maidan and St John's Church. Visit the Anglican Cathedral, Park Street Cemetery and the office of Warren Hastings. Welcome dinner.
  • Day 3: Kolkata (Wed, 8 Jan) Optional early morning visit to the flower market. After breakfast visit Kutamali, the pottery village. See Bazar Rajabarim Tagore House and museum, the Marble Palace, and the double courtyarded palace on both sides of the road of Raja Nabakrishna Deb (1733-97) in Shobabazar. Visit The India Museum. At leisure at the hotel and pool.
  • Day 4: Kolkata / Cruising (Thurs, 9 Jan) Transfer to the river and board the ABN Rajmahal to commence your cruise on the Hooghly. Sail past the old Danish colony of Serampore to Barrackpore and disembark. Take a walk through the cantonment past the Semaphore Tower, Government House, the Temple of Fame and Flagstaff House and its garden.
  • Day 5: Cruising (Fri, 10 Jan) Sail onto Chandernagore, which was a French possession until 1950, and visit the eighteenth century church and Dupleix’s house and museum. Sail on past the old Dutch settlement of Chinsura. Disembark to visit the imposing Imambara at Hooghly. Reboard your ship and cruise upstream, leaving Kolkata’s urban sprawl behind.
  • Day 6: Cruising (Sat, 11 Jan) Disembark at Kalna and take cycle rickshaws to see some of Bengal’s most attractive terracotta temples, as well as the unique Shiva temple. Continue on through the countryside to Mayapur, its skyline dominated by the vast new ISKCON temple, before sailing on through the night.
  • Day 7: Cruising (Sun, 12 Jan) Disembark at the brassworking village of Matiari, where you can watch the traditional process of beating out brass water pots and other vessels. Cruise onto the battlefield of Plassey where, in 1757 Clive’s defeat of Siraj-ud-Daulah changed the course of Indian history. Moor for the night close to Murshidabad.
  • Day 8: Cruising (Mon, 13 Jan) Sail downstream a short distance then walk to the Khushbagh, a peaceful Mughul-style garden enclosing the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah – the last independent Nawab of Bengal – and his family. Continue a little way upstream to where the great Hazarduari Palace dominates the waterfront. Inside is an extensive collection of pictures, china, weapons and other objects. Pm: Visit the great Katra Mosque and drive out to two classic Georgian merchant buildings of the late 18th century, the Nashipara Palace and the Katgola Palace.
  • Day 9: Cruising (Tues, 14 Jan) Moor at the sleepy village of Baranagar, rural India at its most idyllic. Walk through fields to visit three beautiful miniature terracotta temples. Return to the ship and continue up the Hooghly, here a charming waterway twisting and turning between banks lined with mustard fields and mango orchards. Carry on up a long canal section to a mooring close to the Farakka Barrage and overnight.
  • Day 10: Cruising (Wed, 15 Jan) Disembark and take a full day excursion by road to Gaur, near the town of Malda. This quiet, deserted place was once one of India’s great cities, first under the Hindus in 12th century, then as the Muslim capital of Eastern India from the 14th to the 16th century. Visit the remains of mosques, palaces and gateways before rejoining the ship in the evening.
  • Day 11: Cruising / Farakka / Kolkata (Thurs, 16 Jan) Transfer to Farraka Station for a scenic four hour train journey back to Kolkata.Spend the rest of the day at leisure before a farewell dinner in the evening.
  • Day 12: Kolkata (Fri, 17 Jan) Transfer to the airport or extend at the Oberoi Grand Hotel or at Rajbari Bawali palace hotel.


Extend your time in North India and stay at the historic Rajbari Bawali Hotel, a beautiful heritage hotel in the outskirts of Kolkata, dating back 250 years. It has been lovingly restored by the current owner with décor that mingles traditional antiques with chic contemporary amenities.

  • Day 12: Kolkata / Rajbari Bawali (Fri, 17 Jan)
    Drive from the Oberoi Hotel in Kolkata to the Rajbari Bawali. Take a tour of the hotel and its grounds. Dinner in the evening.
  • Day 13: Rajbari Bawali (Sat, 18 Jan)
    At leisure with dinner in the evening.
  • Day 14: Rajbari Bawali (Sun, 19 Jan)
    Depart Rajbari Bawali for the airport.

Tour cost

The cost of the tour is USD $5,579 per person sharing. The cost of the tour with a room to yourself is USD $6,804.

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