This itinerary is designed to experience the essence of India’s spirituality through the discovery of the river Ganges. The Ganges (or Ganga in Hindi) originates from the Gangotri glacier at Gaumukh in the Indian Himalayas at 4,100 meters above sea level, and flows 2,525 km across northern India before meeting the Bay of Bengal in the Delta of the Sundarbans. Ganga is the holiest river for Indians, bearing immense significance to the Hindus and it is worshiped as a deity referred to as ‘Gangaji’ or ‘Ganga Maiya’ (Mother Ganga). Hindus believe that rituals performed by the river Ganga multiply in their blessedness. During this tour you will discover some of the most important places situated along the Ganga as to experience the significance of this holy river for Hinduism. In the same time you will taste the flavour of India with its vast and amazing diversity in architecture, enriched culture, tradition, religious beliefs and rituals, cuisine , flora and fauna etc. The tour starts from Delhi, the capital city of India, where you can witness the captivating ancient monuments, fascinating museums and art galleries, architectural wonders, fabulous eating places and bustling markets. It then leads to a divine journey in Rishikesh, a small tranquil city on the laps of the Himalayas and at the confluence of the rivers Chandrabhaga and the sacred Ganga. Encircled by the picturesque hills on all three sides and the Sacred Ganga flowing through the valley, the divine land offers a perfect meditation centre where pilgrims from all over the world come to attain salvation. Here you will witness the amazing sunset, the beautiful Ganga arati and also get the opportunity to experience the peace of the mind through practicing yoga and meditation. You will visit also Haridwar with its various temples, ashrams and take part in the worship of River Ganga in the evening, thus getting a flavour of the deep religious insight and belief. It then proceeds to Dehradun to visit get an exposure to Vandana Shiva work. The holy city of Benares situated on the banks of river Ganges is considered as the abode of Lord Shiva, the ancient holy city of temples is one of the Shakti Peethas and also one of the Twelve Jyotirlinga sites in India, which makes it the most popular pilgrimage point for the Hindus. Apart from experiencing the strong spiritual energy of the place, the tour is designed to give you the taste of the rich art and culture of the historical city which is more than 3000 years old. The world famous Banaras Silk produced here is an intricate work of golden and silver threads in Silk cloth and is a shopper’s delight and worth possession. Next we head towards the next destination of Kolkata, the city of Joy. Here you will experience the rich Bengali culture and tradition through the Traditional Zamindari mansions, the Marble Palace, the fish market, flower market, spice market, Bengali cuisine etc. Here you will have a chance to discover the work of one of the Organisation partner of Altromercato, Silence. You will visit the production unit of the Organisation which export their original products such as incense sticks, Costume Jewelry and canldes through Altromercato fair trade. From Kolkata, the tour sets out for an unforgettable experience to Shantiniketan, a village formed by the Bengali Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Here you can experience the unusual life of the nomadic tribes called Bauls who spontaneously sing songs of their life, philosophy and devotion, gathered from experiences while walking the path of life… Their soulful songs touch the heart and fill it with inexplicable joy and relief. The journey ends at Kolkata and leaves you with some memorable experiences to be cherished lifelong. A final country boat ride across the Ganges, enjoying the beautiful sunset, is the best way to pay homage to this glorious deity River.
Registration can be requested for group travel or for self-travel. For group travel, registration is not binding. Upon reaching the minimum number of members necessary for the formation of the group, usually 4 or 6 people, you will be asked for confirmation of booking and payment of a deposit.
1° Day: arrival at Delhi
Arrival at Delhi airport. Transfer to hotel for some rest. Some of the most famous attractions are the Qutub Minar, the Red Fort, the Mughal Gardens, the Akshardham Temple, Lotus Temple, Raj Ghat etc. After some rest you will visit the Jama Masjid, the mainthe main mosque in Old Delhi (every day nearly 25,000 people visit and pray inside this mosque). An ancient copy of the holy Quran is also preserved here, which was written on Deer skin. Visit small lanes of this part of the city such as Chawri Bazar, one of the busiest street of Old Delhi. After you will visit the Red Fort, known as LalQila or Qil’ah” was constructed by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The fort was originally the palace of the Mughal emperor, after the capital was moved from Agra to Delhi. Delhi was the capital of the Mughals until the revolt of 1857.
2° Day: discover old Delhi
In the morning you will be guided into the small street of Paraganj by special young guides of the NGO Salaam Ballak trust. The city walk aims to make the story of the children of the street heard and to give us a view of their world through their eyes. Participants of city walk get to go on a journey through the enchanting streets of the inner city of Paharganj and the area around New Delhi railway station, led by a child who was once living and working on the streets. This walk takes you on a journey through the backstreets of Delhi with a child who has been fully trained as a local guide. It’s a unique way of providing an insight into the lives of these children and an opportunity for them to improve their communication and speaking skills. Lunch in a typical restaurant of Paraganj. After lunch free time to discover the city.
Overnight in Delhi.
3° Day: transfer to Rishikesh
Early in the morning, you will be transferred to New Delhi railway station to board the train to Haridwar. The train “Dehradun Shatabadi” will depart from New Delhi railway station and reach Haridwar. On arrival at Haridwar you will be transferred to your hotel at Rishikesh by road, which is 25 km from Haridwar, and would take about half an hour. The spectacle of the Ganga rushing through the Himalayan foothills is an awesome sight. In the evening, you will proceed to Parmaniketan Ghat to view the Ganga Aarti. It is the most important place for religious ceremonies in Rishikesh. Barefoot, ranks of devotees sit in rows on the steps of the Ghat. As the sun begins to set, plating the river with gold, bells and gongs ring and chants fill the air. Rows of religious celebrants hold plates of flaming ghee, moving them in a circular salutation to the Goddess of the River. This is a sacred bathing spot on the bank of the river Ganga where devotees take holy dips and offer prayers.
Overnight in Rishikesh
4° Day: discover Rishikesh
Early in the morning Yoga classes at Sivananda Ashram. Yoga, the ancient Indian tradition to remain healthy is celebrated through the International Yoga week at the base of the Himalayas on the bank of the Ganges, in Rishikesh. Yoga, the word derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj”, means to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. While practicing Yoga, one exercises yoking of all the powers of body, mind and soul. Yoga is a very useful practice for disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions and the will enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.After yoga session return to your hotel for breakfast. Late in the morning, you will proceed for the sightseeing tour of Rishikesh visiting Lakshman Jhoola, a suspension bridge across the Ganga River. A pleasant 2 km walk along this bank brings one to the Shivanand Jhoola, also known as Ram Jhoola. Swargashram is the area beyond Ram Jhoola, a quiet and serene place filled with Ashrams. The small path in Swargashram area runs right next to the river, and is crowded with shops and restaurants on one side, and ashrams on the other. Swargashram is known for its quietness and vibes, and the Ganga flowing right next to it.
Overnight in Rishikesh.
5° Day: visit Haridwar
Rishikesh- Haridwar- Rishikesh
Early in the morning drive or walk to the Yoga Ashram for yoga class. After yoga session return to your hotel for breakfast and soon after, you will be taken for an excursion tour of Haridwar city. Its location at the point where the Ganges leaves the Himalayas to begin its journey across the plains makes it a particularly holy place. Proceed for the sightseeing tour visiting Chandi Devi. A panoramic view of Haridwar can be enjoyed from the temple of Chandi Devi located on top of Neel Parvat. The temple is a 3 km trek from Chandi Ghat. Maya Devi Temple is located to the east of Har-ki-Pauri. Bhimgoda is another spot to visit at Haridwar. Pawan Dham is famous for its Hanuman Mandir decorated with glass pieces. In the evening, experience the Aarti ceremony at Har-ki-Pauri. This is the most important ghat on the river Ganga, at Haridwar, where a holy dip is a must for every devotee. The Ganga Aarti performed every evening is a spectacular sight when thousands of lighted lamps are set afloat on the river, after a common evening prayer is said by all priests from the many thousands of temples. Return to Rishikesh by road.
Overnight in Rishikesh.
6° Day: visit Vandana Shiva centre
In the morning, you will transfer by private vehicle to Dehradun to Vandana Shiva centre called Navdanya which is a participatory research initiative of the Research Foundation for science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE). Navdanya means nine crops that represent India’s collective source of food security. The main aim of the Navdanya biodiversity conservation programme is to support local farmers, rescue and conserve crops and plants that are being pushed to extinction and make them available through direct marketing. Navdanya has so far successfully conserved more than 5000 crop varieties including 3000 of rice, 150 of wheat, 150 of kidney beans (rajma), 15 of millets and and several varieties of pulses, vegetable, medicinal plants etc. During your stay you will have a first-hand experience on the activities of one of the most famous centre of biodiversity conservation in the world.
Overnight in Dehradun
7° Day: fly to Varanasi
Take you connecting flight from Dehradun airport to Varanasi (via Delhi). Transfer to the hotel located on the Ganga’s bank and after some rest you can have to start your discovery of Varanasi. The lusting green vegetation on the banks of the river in Varanasi is very attractive. It is an ideal spot for those travellers who are enthused about the Hindu beliefs, customs, cultures and concepts. Here you can have the real life experiences of Hindu way of living and belief in rebirth.
Overnight in Varanasi
8° Day: discover varanasi
After breakfast you will enjoy a guided tour in this holy city. There are many attractions in Varanasi. The place is enriched with many ancient temples like Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Kal Bhairava temple, Durga Kund, and Annapoorna temple. Varanasi is a prime centre of art, craft, education and culture. You will discover Benares’ main Ghats, steps leading to the banks of River Ganges. Most of the ghats are bathing ghats, while others are used as cremation sites. Many ghats are associated with legends or mythologies while many ghats are privately owned. You will have the chance to visit Manikarnika Ghat, also known as Mahasmasana, the most important burning Ghat in Varanasi.The popular belief is the burning the dead bodies in this cremation ground is a religious way to attain Moksha, the salvation. In the evening you will assist at the famous Ganga Aarti puja. This religious ritual takes place every sunset at Dasaswamedh Ghat, near Kashi Vishwanath Temple and it is highly choreographed ceremony. The arti is performed on a stage by a group of young pandits, all draped in saffron coloured robes with their puja plates spread out before them.
9° Day: visit Sarnath
After breakfast you will have some time to discover the ghats on the Ganges. Afternoon you will visit the Buddhist town of Sarnath. Sarnath is a city located 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi near the confluence of the Ganges and the Gomati rivers in Uttar Pradesh, India. The deer park in Sarnath is where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma. Today it’s one of the four key sites on the Buddhist circuit (along with Bodhgaya, Kushinagar and Lumbini in Nepal) and attracts followers from around the world, especially on Purnima (or, informally, Buddha’s birthday), when Buddha’s life, death and enlightenment are celebrated. Late evening transfer to Varanasi railways station for boarding on a overnight train to Kolkata.
Overnight train from Varanasi-Kolkata.
10° Day: visit Kolkata
On arrival at Kolkata railway station transfer to hotel for refreshing and rest. Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly river, it is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while the Port of Kolkata is India’s oldest operating port as well as its sole major riverine port. As the former capital of British India, Kolkata retains a feast of colonial-era architecture contrasting starkly with urban slums and dynamic new-town suburbs with their air-conditioned shopping malls. Later in the morning you will have a chance to discover the activities of one the Organisation of Altromercato experience. Silence’s most important objective is to let disabled people (mainly deaf people) get a technical education in order to work and to earn their own livings.
The visit will bring tyou to the central workshop in Kolkata were you will be able to get a sense of the work of the different kinds of products which are made in the unit, mainly costume jewelry, candles and incense stick. The guide will briefly teach you the sign language. In this way you will be able, if you want to, to communicate with the deaf artisans. You will also have the chance to be involved in part of one of the production process of costume jewellery, candles or incense sticks depending on the ongoing process. Lunch will be included in the program. At the end of the afternoon you will be given the possibility to visit the Training Institute in Kolkata, thank to which also differently able people get the opportunity to build their selves and to live autonomously.
Overnight at Kolkata (B, L).
11° Day: transfer to Shantiniketan
Kolkata – Shantiniketan
Early morning leave for Kolkata and then board an express train for Shantiniketan, meaning ‘abode of peace’. Shantiniketan is a veritable nerve centre of Bengal’s art and culture. Nobel laureate, poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) founded a school here amid pastoral settings in 1901. On arrival transfer to Home stay. Evening enjoy Baul (wandering minstrels) songs.
Overnight in Shantiniketan.
12° Day: visit Shantiniketan
Shantiniketan – Kolkata
Full day sightseeing which includes a visit to Tagore museum, Art school, Craft village and also a visit and walk in a Santhal tribal village followed by a cultural programme and traditional lunch. In the afternoon you will return by train to Kolkata.
Overnight in Kolkata. (C, P)
13° Day: explore old Kolkata
Morning transfer to Bolpur station and take train for Kolkata. Check in in the hotel. Enjoy a local breakfast in a small restaurant followed by a 3 hours North Calcutta heritage walk which includes visit to the erstwhile palaces and mansions of kings and nobles, potters’ village in Kumartuli, the colorful local shops and the meandering lanes and narrow backstreets from the where the city evolved over a few centuries. Return to hotel for lunch and resting up. Afternoon visit to Indian museum, Victoria memorial hall, St.John’s Church, Kali temple. The tour ends with a country boat ride on the Ganges to experience the glorious sun set.
Overnight at Kolkata (B).
14° Day: depart from Kolkata
Morning transfer to Bolpur station and take train for Calcutta. Transfer to the airport for your international flight.
All the itinerary has been designed in order to promote direct or indirect benefits for local communities, environment and cultural heritages. When possible we have selected traditional accommodations sensible to social and environmental issues, following general principles and practices of responsible tourism. You will have the opportunity to visit the chaotic Delhi with different eyes, visiting the most remote and unusual parts of the old city with the help of marginalized young people trained as tour guides by the NGO Salaam Baalak. Through the helps of these young guides you will have the chance to learn about their life experience as street children. This NGO has been working for several years in the slums and poor neighborhoods of the capital, creating several accommodations for street children and promoting their education and access to work. During the two-hour guided tour in the areas of Paraghanj, you will have the opportunity to visit these shelter homes and understand the projects undertaken by this NGO. In Deradun you will have a first-hand exposure to the work of Vandana Shiva in her centre Navdanya. Navdanya’s mission focuses on improving the well being of small and marginalized rural producers through non violent biodiverse organic farming and fair trade. In Kolkata we have arranged for a short rickshaw ride to benefit this community to sustain their livelihood. Her you will have a chance also to discover the work of Silence, an Organisation partner of Altromercato experience. Silence’s most important objective is to let disabled people (mainly deaf people) get a technical education in order to work and to earn their own livings. Everything started in 1976 when a handful of deaf people formed a little informal group with their creative skill-sets and lots of dreams to achieve an economic and spiritual self-sufficiency. Their dedication and a bold initiative to create hand-painted greeting cards attracted a group of social activists. And together, they formed a society that registered as an NGO in 1979. For the first few years Silence depended on the well-wishers and the infrastructures investment agencies for the procurement of a workshop for the artisans), an emporium (a retail outlet) and investment in tools and equipments. Silence is now able to face its expenses for production, staff and property with its own steadily growing sales revenues. Silence has got its own education centre in cooperation with the University of Jadavpur (Training Institute), where artistic handicraft, trade and IT are taught so that many people can also find a job in other organizations. Silence shares the profits with the artisans and provide them with a welfare system and with health insurance. In Shantiniketan, the tour is designed to have involvement of the Baul and Santhal communities as to create benefit to their livelihood.
Moreover, your contribution of 70 euros will support development projects in favour of one of the most marginalized tribal communities of India. Tribal communities are still at the margin of Indian society and for this reason two are the main projects financed: 1) to conserve biological and cultural diversity 2) to promote the formal education of children belonging to Kattunayakan community of the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Rishikesh and Varanasi are certainly famous tourist destination in India, drawing tourists from all parts of India and the world. However, it is advised that you following carefully a code conduct which respects local culture to avoid any hassles or unwanted troubles along your journey. In particular, avoid to show affection in public places, such as hugging, kissing etc., as this behaviour is not appreciated by local people.
You are also advised to follow a certain dress code. There are basically two reasons why it is recommended to be careful about what clothes you wear while traveling to India. The first reason is to prevent you from hurting the sentiments of the local people and second, to protect you from the varied weather conditions prevailing in seasons. One more thing to keep in mind is mosquitoes…it is advised to keep your arms and legs covered because it provides protection (however, don’t forget to bring with you mosquito nets and repellents, especially for backwaters cruises). Some tribal communities, especially the veterans in the village, are sensitive to photography. It is always good to take permission before taking photograph in the villages and local markets. Temples, churches and synagogue, monasteries and mosques are places of worship. Visitors should be modestly dressed. Admission might be denied to men and women wearing short pants/skirts, sleeveless
India’s time zone is GMT/UTC +5.30, so chances of jet lag cannot be ignored. It is advised that you get onto India’s time zone as soon as you leave home and try to eat and sleep on Indian time. Also, if you reach India early in the day, try to stay awake – this will help the body’s internal clock to reset.
A conscious approach to travel requires a considerable capacity and willingness to adapt and adjust to the local environment and culture. If you wish to travel with us we request you to be open enough to experience local culture, religious and traditions without bias and pre-conceived ideas you might have before the departure and which belong to our Western cultural way of thinking. Exploring with fresh eyes, with patience and openness, you will be able to access the real essence of Indian cultural heritage through the places and people you are going to meet; if you are ready to do this effort you will really enjoy the beauty of a completely different cultural tradition, the extraordinary of the nature, the solemnity of temples and palaces, the holiness of the waters of countless rivers that flow through this magic land.
We selected beautiful and traditional heritages resorts with excellent facilities throughout the tour.
Some of the transfers will be done by train: Delhi-Haridwar, Varanasi-Kolkata and Kolkata-Shantinikethan-Kolkata. One internal fligh from Deradun to Varanasi (via Delhi) and one overnight train from Varanasi to Kolkata will help you discover the real India. Private AC vehicles, mini coaches (Tempo Traveller), according to the number of participants, for transfers from Haridwar to Rishikesh and from Rishikesh to Deradun. Country boat rides in Kolkata.
The best period of visit is Mid-September to Mid-March. December is Poush Mela festival in Shantiniketan. October is Durga puja in Kolkata, which is the greatest festival of the Bengalis and it is celebrated with much grandeur throughout the city. Mid -January is Poush Shankranti, or the harvest festival which is celebrated traditionally all over India. February/March is Maha Shivratri and it is celebrated in Rishikesh, Varanasi and Kolkata .