Bhutan and the Brahmaputra
|1||Kolkata||Arrive and check in to the Taj Bengal Hotel|
|2||Thimphu||Panoramic Himalayan flight to Paro
Transfer to Thimphu and visit Tashichho Dzong
|3||Thimphu||See Thimphu’s museums and monuments|
|4||Punakha||Scenic drive through the Dochula Pass
Visit the Punakha Dzong fortress
|5||Paro||See the kingdom’s oldest fortress
Explore Paro’s museums and monuments
|6||Paro||Pony ride through the Himalayas to a monastery
See ruins and learn about rural life in Bhutan
|7||Kolkata||Flight from Paro
Discover Kolkata’s famous landmarks
|8||Guwahati||Explore ancient Kamakhya Temple
|9||Silghat||Scenic cruising and wildlife viewing
Lecture on the tribes of the Brahmaputra
|10||Silghat||See the bridge in Tezpur
Excursion to an Assam tea plantation
|11||Kaziranga||Wildlife safari in Kaziranga National Park
Explore Biswanath Ghat, a traditional village
|12||River Safari||Boat safari in Kaziranga’s eastern range
Dinner served al fresco on a deserted island
|13||Majuli||Visit to local village, home to Mishing tribe
Traditional dress demonstration
|Explore the town’s 15th-century Satras
Visit Shivadol, India’s highest Shiva temple
DAY 1 / KOLKATA
Arrive in Kolkata, where you’ll be transferred to the Taj Bengal hotel for a one-night stay before setting off for Bhutan. Kolkata was historically referred to as Calcutta and is the capital of the state of West Bengal.
DAY 2 / THIMPHU
This morning, enjoy a panoramic flight across the Himalayas en route to Paro, where you’ll be met by your Bhutanese hosts. Take a coach transfer to Thimphu, Bhutan’s fascinating capital city. In the early evening, visit Tashichho Dzong, the stunning medieval-era Buddhist fortress and monastery that houses the offices of the government, including the King’s Throne room. It also serves as the summer residence of Je Khenpo, the country’s most senior religious hierarch.
DAY 3 / THIMPHU
This morning, discover Thimphu on a guided tour. See the National Library, the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, and the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, an art school that offers instruction in traditional painting, woodcarving, embroidery, and statue-making. At the National Textile Museum, learn about the country’s living art of weaving, or thagzo. Peruse the Handicrafts Emporium, which displays a wide range of handwoven and carved products.
Continue on the National Memorial Chorten, a stupa that was constructed in in 1974 in honour of Bhutan’s third king, Jigm Dorji Wangchuck. The Bhutanese, many of whom worship at this monument on a daily basis, consider Wangchuck the father of modern Bhutan. Inside this monument, paintings and statues provide insights into Buddhist beliefs and philosophy.
DAY 4 / PUNAKHA
Experience Bhutan’s wondrous natural scenery en route to Punakha, crossing the Dochula pass, which offers sweeping views. Upon arrival in Punakha, check in to your hotel and visit the Punakha Dzong, an impressive 17th-century fortress. Tour the local market before seeing Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten, a recently constructed stupa. The day’s final destination is Wangdue Phodrang, which is famous for its slate and stone carvings and bamboo products.
DAY 5 / PARO
On the drive to Paro, visit the 17th-century Simtokha Dzong. The kingdom’s oldest fortress, it now houses a school for religious studies. In Paro, visit the distinctive Ta Dzong and the National Museum of the Kingdom, which houses a vast collection of art, artifacts, Buddhist thangka paintings, and Bhutan’s exquisite postage stamps. Tonight, visit the historic Ringpung Dzong before retiring to your hotel.
DAY 6 / PARO
This morning, take in an awe-inspiring Himalayan panorama on a pony ride to the country’s most storied monastery, Taktsang. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche arrived on at this site on the back of a tigress—hence the monastery’s name, which means “Tiger’s Nest.” Non-Buddhists are not allowed inside the monastery, but you’ll have the opportunity to see this construction in all its glory from a nearby viewpoint. Next, continue to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, a fortification which enabled the Bhutanese to quash the advances of Tibetan armies. Later, visit a traditional Bhutanese farm house, where you’ll gain valuable insights into the lifestyle and customs of the local people.
DAY 7 / KOLKATA
Transfer to the Paro airport and board a flight back to Kolkata. Upon arrival, embark on a guided tour of the city’s many historic landmarks, including the white-marble Victoria Memorial, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Mother Teresa’s house.
DAY 8 / GUWAHATI / EMBARKATION
Arrive in Guwahati, the largest city in Assam and one of India’s fastest-growing metropolises. Situated on the south bank of the Brahmaputra, it’s also an ancient city, which is home to numerous temples. Before embarking, visit the Kamakhya Temple in western Guwahati. The original temple construction dates back as far as 8th century, and is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of desire. Set sail in the evening, passing Peacock Island, a notable home of the endangered golden langur.
DAY 9 / SILGHAT
Set sail for Silghat, and spend the day on deck, taking in the river’s unparalleled natural scenery and observing exotic wildlife, including river dolphins and birds of prey. Pass fragile riverside communities interspersed with stretches of uninhabited land and islands. After tea, attend a lecture on the tribes still sustained by the Brahmaputra.
DAY 10 / SILGHAT
Pass Tezpur, noting the massive arched bridge that connects the north and south banks of the Brahmaputra. The bridge, Kolia Bhomora Setu, is three kilometres in length. Upon arrival in Silghat, enjoy views of verdant, rolling hills as you travel to an Assam tea plantation and factory, where you’ll see how this famous blend of tea is cultivated and produced.
DAY 11 / KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK
Your adventure continues in Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceros population. On your safari through the park, try to spot this elusive species, along with India’s renowned Bengal tiger. After the safari, travel by jeep to see more of the park’s wildlife and later, set off by boat to see Biswanath Ghat, a small village on the Brahmaputra’s northern bank. See the local women weaving colourful traditional handicrafts.
DAY 12 / RIVER SAFARI
After taking in the Brahmaputra’s dramatic natural wonders during a scenic cruise, set off on a boat excursion to the eastern range of Kaziranga National Park, at the confluence of the Dhansiri and Brahmaputra rivers. Here, observe the varied wildlife that call this region home, including pied kingfishers, eagles, vultures, water buffalos, otters, and monitor lizards. In the evening, you’ll be treated to an al fresco dinner on a deserted island.
DAY 13 / MAJULI
Home to the Mishing tribe, Majuli is the world’s largest river island. Stop to explore a local village, where you’ll see women weaving on handlooms to create distinctive costumes. Enjoy a demonstration featuring a dhoti, the traditional dress for men, and chador, women’s’ traditional dress.
DAY 14 / MAJULI / NEAMATI GHAT / SIVASAGAR
This morning, discover the town of Majuli and explore its impressive Satras, neo-Vaishnavite monasteries constructed by revered Assamese saint Srimanta Sankardeva, which date back to the 15th century. Continue to Sivasagar, the capital of the Ahoms, descendants of the ethnic Tai people who came from Yunan and China in the 13th century. Explore Shivadol, a collection of structures including the tallest Shiva temple in India. Your day ends with insights into the production of Assam tea from a local tea estate family.
DAY 15 / JORHAT / DISEMBARKATION
After savouring breakfast on the ship, disembark and prepare for your onward journey.
Dates & Prices
(Name of Itinerary)
|Itinerary Start Date||Ship Name||Route||Duration (Nights)||Main Deck Pricing PP||Upper Deck Pricing PP|
(Bhutan and the Brahmaputra)
Prices are per person based on double occupancy.
RRAS-09 Port Charge: N/A
RRAS-09 Single Supplement:
- Main Deck: 38%
- Upper Deck: 38%
- 7-nights in hotels as described (or similar)
- 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches & 5 dinners on the land section of the tour
- Flights from Kolkata – Paro – Kolkata – Guwahati and all transfers
- Porterage services at hotels, airports and cruise
- All taxes
- Entrance fees
- All transport in Bhutan
- Services of an English speaking guide in Bhutan
- Bhutan Government Royalty, Taxes and Bhutan Visa Fee.
- 7-night cruise on the MV Mahabaahu
- All main meals
- Drinks include jugged coffee, mineral water and selection of teas
- Excursions as described
- Port dues
- Guide services (English speaking)
- Services of a Pandaw Expeditions cruise director on the cruise
Travel TipsThe Brahmaputra
Travel Documents / Visas
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the last date of travel to India and has at least one full blank page for the visa.
Citizens of other countries should consult with their travel agent or our office.
You will require a tourist visa that must be obtained in advance. Assuming you are arriving through one of the designated international airports, you can apply for an e-visa by visiting the E-Tourist Visa page.
A handy checklist of what to bring on your trip can be downloaded here.
We very strongly recommend the purchase of appropriate travel insurance for any trip outside of Canada. Information on travel insurance options can be found here.
Not permitted anywhere indoors. There are designated areas on the outside decks.
October / November and March: Daytime temperatures from the mid 20s to low 30s. Evenings as much as 10 degrees cooler.
December to February: Daytime temperatures in the 20s with evenings as cool as the low 10s.
It is generally fairly dry between October and March with 5 days of rain or less.
Arrival / Departure
Upon booking, we will provide detail instructions on how to meet your ship on embarkation day. If you are not on a full land and cruise program or have not made any pre or post tour arrangements with us, you will have to arrange your own transportation to and from the port of embarkation. We are happy to provide advice or to assist in arranging transfers.
The ship will not be ready for check-in before mid-afternoon. If you have luggage that you need to deposit so you can enjoy some free time in port, the purser may be able to accommodate you provided we know in advance.
The cruise will finish in the morning (usually around 9am) on the final day. It is necessary to have settled your onboard account and to have disembarked by this time as instructed by the cruise director on the day before.
The currency is the Rupee (INR). Sometimes local merchants will accept US currency in small denominations but this is not always a certainty.
Credit cards are acceptable for larger purchases in retail shops in the cities, but in the remote areas of Assam, they will be of little use.
ATM’s accepting most international debit and credit cards can be found at the airports and larger cities but you should have an adequate supply of rupees for the cruise portion.
As always, gratuities are at your own discretion. If you feel the service has met or exceeded your expectations, the ship suggests an amount of USD$10 per person per day to be divided amongst the crew.
Basic laundry services are available onboard M.V. Mahabaahu for a nominal charge. Dry cleaning is not available.
Most of our programs include a full complement of excursions. Some additional excursions may be available on board at an extra cost. Please check with us or consult the purser onboard for additional information.
Excursions will usually involve a lot of walking, often on dirt roads and up and down stairs. If you have difficulty walking any distance, please let us know in advance and we will advise how best we can accommodate you.
Regrettably, most of our excursions are not suitable for those in a wheelchair.
Activity Level / Strenuousness
Moderate to Challenging – The ship will often dock on a riverbank with a gangplank. It is necessary to be reasonably sure-footed as walking will be on dirt roads and paths. Temples often have many stairs which are mostly not obligatory to climb, but for the full benefit you will need to.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included in your cruise fare so you shouldn’t be too hungry. It is worthwhile to sample the local cuisine though.
The cuisine of Assam is obviously similar to other parts of India but nevertheless unique in many ways. A few things you might want to try include ‘Masor tenga’, a delicious fish curry, or ‘Sungat diya maas’ which is basically fish in bamboo.
If fish isn’t your fancy, ‘Kolposola aru murgi mangxor aanja’ (don’t try to pronounce it) is a chicken curry made with the trunk of a banana tree (which is actually very tender).
While we encourage trying as many local specialties as possible, we do caution guests to avoid drinking water from any source other than a sealed bottle. Similarly, exercise caution when eating vegetables or anything that is uncooked and may have been washed in water.
Your shipboard staff all speak English of course. Off the ship will be more interesting and it would be useful to have a phrasebook to at least be able to communicate the usual pleasantries.
There are no medical personnel onboard the ship. However, the purser can contact onshore medical people for emergency and non-emergency situations and evacuation can be facilitated in the most urgent cases.
Phone & Internet
There is a phone in each cabin. As is typical, the charges for overseas calls are relatively high.
Wi-Fi is available but not necessarily in all cabins. As internet is provided through a mobile network, bandwidth (speed) will vary depending on the number of concurrent users, the proximity to a cell tower and other factors. As the ship moves away from larger urban centres, it will undoubtedly be very slow.
If you would like to have regular data and phone connection, we suggest either arranging an overseas roaming plan with your mobile operator, or pick up a local SIM card if you have an unlocked phone.
Health / Vaccinations
There are no vaccinations required to travel to India, however we do suggest ensuring that your regular shots are up-to-date. Furthermore, malaria does occur in the Assam region of India and your physician may recommend a prophylaxis.
As always, we recommend being in good health prior to any long distance travel. Consult your physician with any specific concerns in regard to this program.
Safety & Security
The security situation along the Brahmaputra river itself is stable and there are no known issues. Regions adjacent to Assam such as Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur (border areas) have elevated advisories due to local insurgencies. Please consult the website below for the most up-to-date information.
While participating on this and any program in a foreign country, being constantly aware of your surroundings and not taking unnecessary valuables with you is always recommended. Leave your passport, extra money and any other belongings you do not need during the day in the safe in your cabin.