Launching this December, Antara Luxury River Cruises embarks on the longest river journey in the world, an epic 51-day cruise along the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. From Kashi (Uttar Pradesh) to Dibrugarh (Assam) via Sunderbans and Bangladesh, one can now sail across 27 smaller rivers, 5 states and 2 countries. The 51-day cruise aboard Antara’s newest art-deco boutique ship, Antara Ganga Vilas, is a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking to explore South Asian culture along some of its most ancient regions and systems. Perfect for leisure travellers, history buffs, culture enthusiasts, and nature lovers, the cruise further allows for a hop-on and hop-off option for those who would like to travel only on specific segments.
Commenting on this unique itinerary, a pioneer in luxury river tourism and Founder Chairman of Antara Luxury River Cruises, Raj Singh comments, “Each experience has been personally vetted and designed by me for fellow enthusiastic travellers. The historic route has been finalized with the support, assistance and cooperation of the Governments of India and Bangladesh that are working together to ensure a seamless travel between the two countries.”
Raj Singh is also a renowned authority on Indian wildlife and has authored well-respected guides on the mammals, birds and aquatic life of the subcontinent.
Along the journey, each day will have an offshore and onshore experience. Starting at Varanasi, with short day trips to the sites along the way, the cruise will meander the Ganges’ waters stopping at world heritage sites and ancient places in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and into West Bengal for deep insights into its colonial influences and regional traditions. Cruising through the world’s largest mangrove forest, UNESCO-protected Sundarbans, the ship enters Bangladesh. Shopping from the floating markets of Barisal onwards to Bagerhat which houses the famed 60 dome mosque to Sonargaon, the heritage town in the country. The journey will continue from Dhaka into the Jamuna to the north of Bangladesh and turn east to re-enter India at Dhubri, embracing the Brahmaputra for the Assam leg of the trip, sailing through the wild and numerous cultural sites along the way.
Elaborating on the wealth of experiences the journey offers, Raj Singh adds, “Our guests visit Matiari where they watch brassware and textiles in the villages being hand-created, they walk on the same grounds on archaeological sites that date to over 2500 years. We go to Vikramshila, one of the largest Buddhist universities alongside Nalanda and Bhagalpur for its centuries old Tussar silk weaving traditions. The fascinating colonial, Dutch and French influences and architecture across the interiors of Bengal, the raw untouched beauty across the Bangladesh-India border with the Sunderbans, precious arts and artisan visits where guests can engage with and talk to them- we have so carefully curated the entire journey, each stop, and every experience. A real insight into understanding this special region whilst enjoying the phenomenal riverscapes that the revered Ganga and Brahmaputra offer.”
Reflecting upon the artisans and the craft techniques that have lived along these ever-changing yet seemingly eternal riverbanks, Annapurna Garimella, an art historian and Director of Antara Cruises adds, “Life and civilizations began along these rivers; and artistic expression is the most powerful reflection of a culture. The cruise explores so many of these facets whether in food, textiles, architecture or agriculture. Sailing through this vast landscape is to immerse oneself into the culture of this land we now call India.”
Built-in the mid-20th century modern style, the 18-suite Antara Ganga Vilas is a luxurious amalgamation of refined texture and simple elegance. Each room is inspired by a color-square painting by Bauhaus and Black Mountain designer-teacher Josef Albers and all fabrics, linen, furniture and serveware are made in India, and some are even made along the river. Large ceiling-to-floor guillotine windows bring enchanting river views into the ship’s expansive spaces, further enhancing the feeling of moving within and yet observing a riverscape in motion.