Varanasi, Kolkata and the Ganges Tours

On the banks of the holy Ganges, Varanasi is the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims. Capital of India in the days of the British Raj, Kolkata sits on a river fed by the Ganges.

Life in colourful, chaotic Varanasi centers on the sacred Ganges River, with narrow, winding lanes leading down to waterfront ghats where pilgrims bathe and the dead receive their last rites. On the banks of the Hooghly River, thriving Kolkata is still India’s centre for culture and learning, and remains rich in colonial architecture.

The Ganges, or Ganga River is considered sacred by millions of Hindus. According to ancient religious texts, the river sprung from the hair of Lord Shiva, and for centuries thousands of pilgrims have flocked to bathe in its holy waters, or immerse the ashes of their loved ones. This mighty river rises in the Himalayas and flows westwards across India and then southwards to Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal, supporting agriculture, industry and wildlife.

One of the holiest places on the Ganges is the fascinating city of Varanasi, famous for its riverside ghats, where the faithful come to bathe or light candles for their dead. The bustling port city of Kolkata, previously known as Calcutta, is on the Ganges Delta, and has many fine mosques, temples and universities.

The best way to discover life on the Ganges is in the laneways and along the ghats of Varanasi, or by riverboat between Varanasi and Kolkata. Our boutique riverboat takes you slowly down the Ganges in comfort and with plenty of time to take in the sights along this venerated waterway.

To find out more about our range of Varanasi, Kolkata and Ganges River programs, please download the pages below.

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Varanasi, Kolkata and the Ganges Highlights

Bustling Kolkata

Perhaps best known for its turbulent political history, Kolkata has also long been a centre for culture and learning, with wonderful mosques, temples, universities and museums.

In the days of the British Raj, Kolkata was the capital of India, resulting in the construction of architectural gems such as the elegant marble Victoria Memorial and the venerated Eden Gardens, synonymous with Indian cricket. It has a reputation as one of the friendliest cities in India, and is also one of the largest cities in the country.

Varanasi, ‘City of Temples’

Varanasi is situated on the banks of the Ganges River. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and the ultimate destination for Hindus.

Narrow winding lanes lead down to waterfront ghats where the rituals of life and death play out as they have for thousands of years. Witness the devotional Aarti ceremony which takes place every evening at the ghats, where oil lamps are floated on the river in praise of one or more deities.
Temples of Khajuraho

Temples of Khajuraho

Dedicated to Hinduism and Jainism, all three groups of Khajuraho are World Heritage Sites for their magnificent architecture as well as their fascinating, finely worked sculptures. 

Over one thousand years old, these temples were forgotten for many centuries and subsequently concealed by forest, which protected them from Islamic invaders. The ancient Temples of Khajuraho are renowned for their wonderful carvings and erotic sandstone sculptures.
Ganges River Cruising

Ganges River Cruising

Forget long drives and dusty roads as you drift down the sacred River Ganges past ancient temples and the colourful panorama of rural Indian life.

Take an unhurried journey across India by luxury river cruiser. Stop to explore picturesque villages, historic sites and religious shrines. The boutique RV Bengal Ganga is a replica colonial steamer with 28 staterooms, a fine dining restaurant and spacious observation decks where you can relax and watch the world go by.

Varanasi & Kolkata Accommodation

Below are a selection of our preferred hotels in Varanasi and Kolkata. Please contact us to tailor accommodation options to suit the style of your trip and your budget.

Featured Private India Sample Itineraries

The following tours are private, independent and can be easily customised to suit your personal travelling requirements. Please contact us to begin designing your personalised India experience.

India Brochure – Varanasi, Kolkata and the Ganges Pages

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Varanasi and Kolkata

Visit Varanasi, on the banks of the holy Ganges River, the ultimate pilgrimage destination for devout Hindus. Explore Kolkata, capital of India during the British Raj, and today, still a fascinating city where East meets West.


Varanasi and Khajuraho

Explore the long lost Temples of Khajuraho with their exquisite carvings and erotic sculptures, and visit the colourful city of Varanasi on the banks of the holy Ganges. These destinations offer real immersion into India’s history.


Ganges River Cruising

Embark on a cruise along the sacred Ganges aboard the luxurious RV Bengal Ganga from bustling Kolkata to holy Varanasi (or vice versa). Enjoy boutique accommodation and personal service as you watch life unfold on the Ganges riverbanks.

Varanasi, Kolkata and the Ganges Overview

Why Varanasi, Kolkata & The Ganges: The Ganges River and historic cities like Varanasi lie at the heart of Hindu religion and culture. Explore the temples, laneways, markets, riverbanks and ghats, which offer a fascinating glimpse into ancient living history.

When to Go: October to March is the best time to visit when the days are drier and clearer, and temperatures mild.

Combine With: The Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra (Taj Mahal) and Jaipur (Rajasthan), or the tiger parks of Bandhavgarh and Kanha.

Getting There: Varanasi, Kolkata and Khajuraho can be reached by air, train or road.

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