A growing number of river cruise lines are offering itineraries on India’s Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, including APT, Assam Bengal Navigation, Travelmarvel, Pandaw and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. Cruisers can also explore the serene Kerala backwaters by houseboat.
The mighty Brahmaputra River originates from the Himalayas and is bordered by tea plantations and national parks. The finest of them all, Kaziranga is home to the only one-horned rhinoceros in India. A cruise through the scenic Assam valley brings you to the homes of indigenous tribes as well as factories producing the famous Assam tea. The best time to enjoy this river cruise is from November to April when the national park is open and temperatures are moderate.
Cruising the sacred Ganges River allows you to see parts of India that aren’t easily accessible. This rewarding cultural experience will take in rural villages, stunning palaces and the famous ghats (steps to the river) along the Ganges. Witness devotees at Varanasi bathing in holy water and worshipping the rising sun. Take a small boat to experience an evening aarti ceremony where offerings of lamps and flowers are made to the river. Explore Bengal’s terracotta temples, former French and British outposts and Sarnath, the birthplace of Buddhism.
A cruise along Kerala’s tranquil backwaters is a welcome escape from India’s metropolis. The intricate network of lagoons, rivers and canals passes through rice paddy fields, natural forests, churches and temples. Travel in traditional wooden houseboats called kettuvallams or “kettus” and enjoy the rich biodiversity while being surrounded by swaying palms. Excursions can be made to the local Cochin spice market or aboard a modified bullock cart for a visit to the villages. Visit the Kerala backwaters between August and May to avoid monsoons. For those who enjoy a little luxury, India’s acclaimed luxury hotel brand, Oberoi offers Kerala cruises aboard the sumptuous MV Vrinda, which accommodates 16 guests in eight deluxe, air-conditioned cabins.