A Cruise Through History Along the Hooghly River

6 - 17 Mar 2023
  • 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, in a move that shocked Bengal at the time - 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. Tour leader Toby Sinclair will share his personal experiences and in-depth knowledge of one of his favourite parts of India.

Join tour leader Toby Sinclair on this Zoom journey along this spectacular river from Farakka to Kolkata. Sit back and enjoy a fascinating exploration of Bengal’s culture and history as Toby shares his personal experiences and in-depth knowledge of one of his favourite parts of India.

Your tour leader

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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Kolkata (Mon, 6 Mar)
    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. Toby Sinclair will talk on the early history of Kolkata and the geography of the Hooghly River. Dinner at the hotel.
  • Day 2: Kolkata (Tues, 7 Mar)
    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 Mar)
    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. Dinner at Zaranj local restaurant.
  • Day 4: Kolkata / Farakka / Cruising (Thurs, 9 Mar)
    Transfer to Kolkata train station for a scenic four hour train journey to Farakka. Transfer to the river and board the ABN Rajmahal to commence your cruise on the Hooghly. Short talk: “Gaur, The Course of the Ganges and the Bengal Sultanate” – Toby Sinclair.
  • Day 5: Cruising (Fri, 10 Mar)
    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. Set sail down the Lower Ganges, a charming waterway twisting and turning between banks lined with mustard fields and mango orchards. Moor at Baranagar for the night.
  • Day 6: Cruising (Sat, 11 Mar)
    Visit the sleepy village of Baranagar, rural India at its most idyllic. Walk through fields to visit three beautiful miniature terracotta temples. Continue on down past Azimganj, boasting some fine riverside mansions, to Murshidabad where the Nawab’s great Hazarduari Palace dominates the waterfront. The palace hosts an extensive collection of pictures, china, weapons and other objects.Visit the great Katra Mosque before driving out to see the Katgola Palace, built in classical Georgian style by rich local merchants in the eighteenth century. Moor overnight on the riverbank across from town. Hear Toby Sinclair talk on the regional kingdoms after the breakup of the Mughal Empire, or the Jagat Seths and 18th century finance.
  • Day 7: Cruising (Sun, 12 Mar)
    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 downstream to a mooring close to the battlefield of Plassey where, in 1757 Clive’s defeat of Siraj-ud-Daulah changed the course of Indian history. You can walk through the fields to the commemorative obelisk. Cruise on to a mooring near Katwa, a market town with narrow bustling bazaars. Discussion about William Dalrymple’s book, Anarchy.
  • Day 8: Cruising (Mon, 13 Mar)
    Disembark at the brassworking village of Matiari, where you can watch the traditional process of beating out brass water pots and other vessels.Continue on through the countryside to Mayapur, its skyline dominated by the vast new ISKCON temple, the headquarters of the Hare Krishna movement. This afternoon’s talk by Toby Sinclair is on “Europe on the Ganga - the European trading companies and their settlements”.
  • Day 9: Cruising (Tues, 14 Mar)
    Disembark at Kalna and take cycle rickshaws to see some of Bengal’s most attractive terracotta temples, as well as the unique Shiva temple with concentric rings made up of 108 shrinelets. Sail on, leaving fields behind and arrive at the outskirts of Kolkata. Land at Hooghly to visit the imposing Imambara. Sail downstream past fine waterfront buildings and the old Dutch settlement at Chinsura to moor at Chandernagore.
  • Day 10: Cruising (Wed, 15 Mar)
    At Chandernagore, a French possession until 1950, visit the eighteenth century church and Dupleix’s house and museum. Continue down to Barrackpore. Land and take a walk through the cantonment – past the Semaphore Tower, Government House, the Temple of Fame and Flagstaff. Cruise under the Howrah Bridge to central Kolkata.
  • Day 11: Cruising / Kolkata (Thurs, 16 Mar)
    Disembark and transfer to the Oberoi Grand Hotel. Farewell dinner in the evening.
  • Day 12: Kolkata (Fri, 17 Mar)
    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 Mar)
    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 Mar)
    At leisure with dinner in the evening.
  • Day 14: Rajbari Bawali (Sun, 19 Mar)
    Depart Rajbari Bawali for the airport.

Tour cost

Ground only price excluding international flights and transfers: $4,855