With a rich heritage and myriad attractions, India is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. As the 7th largest country in the world, it stands apart from the rest of Asia and visiting the country is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
While many choose to explore this rich and varied region by land, an increasingly popular way to see all of India’s wonders is by cruise.
The blessing of a cruise is that it enables you to cover a lot of ground, discovering the country’s incredible landscapes, sights and culture all from the comfort of your ship. And for those of you who are looking for a unique and one-of-a-kind cruising experience, an India cruise is ideal, offering history and culture, spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife all in one.
India is also increasingly popular with travellers who have not cruised before, but who want to see more remote parts of the country as well as the tourist hotspots, such as New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult deciding which route to take on an India cruise.
If opting for a river cruise, the majority of tourists visit the Ganges. Rising in the Himalayas and covering more than 1,600 miles into the Bay of Bengal, India’s sacred waterway is considered the country’s lifeblood.
The river’s famed banks are where much of India’s rich and varied history has played out and its waters are a riot of colour, a place where the locals bathe, do their laundry and partake in religious ceremonies.
Kolkata has an international airport, with extensions available to the Golden Triangle and Taj Mahal, making it the perfect starting point for cruises.
The other popular river cruise destination is the Brahmaputra. The world’s fastest-flowing waterway rises in the western Himalayas and flows 1,569 miles to the Bay of Bengal, running the length of the north-eastern Indian state of Assam on the way.
Assam is famed for its wildlife, archaeological sites, tea plantations and remote villages, where the locals weave beautiful, jewel-bright silks that can be purchased by visitors.
River cruise ships sail the Brahmaputra between Nimati and Guwahati, passing by the river’s renowned islands, including Majuli and Umananda. Majuli, the centre of Assamese Krishna worship, is where travellers can watch performances of traditional music and drama on the riverbank.
Meanwhile, in Umananda, also known as Peacock Island (named so by the British because of its structure), lies an ancient Hindu temple, featuring Assamese crafting.
One of the highlights of a Brahmaputra river cruise is of course a visit to National Park, where one-horned rhinos, buffalo, elephants and deer roam freely, and you may spot one of the few Bengal tigers that inhabit the park.
To experience a different kind of sailing, there is also a Sunderban cruise. The entire region of Sunderban is ensconced between Rivers Brahmaputra and the Ganges.
Being a beautiful estuarine delta, Sunderban is full of mangroves, so cruising here is all about exploring the greens dissected by rivers, estuaries and creeks and tidal rivers.
Goa is a must-visit on many tourists’ hit lists. With its breath-taking beaches, rich culture and pristine natural beauty, it is a travellers’ dream.
Top attractions include the Basilica of Bom Jesus, known for housing the immortal remains of St Francis Xavier, and Fort Aguada, built to defend and protect Old Goa from potential invasions.
Many Asia cruises stop off in Goa, including Celebrity Cruises’ Best of India and South-East Asia itinerary, but river cruises in Goa have also become a major tourist attraction in recent years.
Known as ‘God’s own Country’, going on a voyage through Kerala’s backwaters is an amazing way to see the subcontinent and is becoming increasingly popular. Intimate river cruises will take you through the villages along the banks of the lakes, lagoons, rivers and canals, taking in the beautiful scenery along the way.
For more information on India, the destinations and experiences, visit incredibleindia.org.