trip
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2
Adventure touring
Activities
  • Adventure Touring
  • Discovery
Accommodation
  • 13 nights 4 - 4.5 star hotels and heritage properties
Meals
  • 10 Dinners
  • 4 Lunches
  • 14 Breakfasts

14 DaysUSD

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COVID-19 safety measures
Read our Covid-19 travel policy and what we're doing to keep you safe

Remote adventures
means social distancing comes naturally

Small groups only
Guided group sizes are strictly limited to maximum 16 people, average of 8-10


 
 
Trip Code: WBM

Trip highlights


  • Travelling in the company of writer, journalist and former diplomat in India, John Zubrzycki
  • In-depth art, culture and history tours in Kolkata including “Walking with Ghosts” through Dalhousie Square
  • Travelling upstream along the famous Hooghly River to visit former European settlements
  • An evening magic performance in Kolkata with illusionist, David Nobo
  • Palaces, mosques and ruins of Murshidabad
  • Discovering the art and culture scene of Shantiniketan
  • Stunning Terracotta temples of Bishnupur
  • Engaging with the Bauls, the mystical wandering minstrels of Shantiniketan
  • Magic show by local magicians in Kolkata
  • Seek out a Bengal tiger in Bengal!

Led by historian and author John Zubrzycki, the 14-day tour takes in the very best of West Bengal, from its magic traditions to ancient capitals. Along the way we visit the magnificent ruins of ancient kingdoms, mingle with the Bauls, the wandering minstrels of Bengal and visit the university town of Shantiniketan, founded by India’s Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

The tour starts and ends in Kolkata. The former Imperial capital of the British Raj, Kolkata is also a city of poets and dreamers, of splendid though crumbling palaces and of some of the finest relics of the colonial period. Our stay includes a walking tour along Chitpur Road, one of Kolkata’s oldest districts, a nighttime ‘ghost tour’ that takes in the relics of the Raj and interactions with some of the city’s leading magicians.

From Kolkata we travel to Murshidabad, the land of the Nawabs and the capital of Bengal before Clive’s victory at nearby Plassey, is dotted with majestic palaces, mosques and ruins spread out among verdant green paddy fields.

The itinerary also includes Bishnupur famous for its magnificent terracotta temples built between the 16th and 19th century. The final leg of this incredible journey takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Sunderbans National Park, located at the mouth of the mighty Ganges, Hooghly and Brahmaputra Rivers, and home to the elusive Bengal Tiger.

We hope you can join us on this magical journey.


On arrival into Kolkata you will be met and transferred to your hotel to rest for the evening (most flights arrive late in the evenings). The capital of the British Raj until 1911, Kolkata retains its imperial splendour in its grand buildings and rich colonial heritage. Kolkata is frequently referred to as India’s intellectual capital, the birthplace of some of its best-known writers, artists and filmmakers. Its teeming bazaars and stately mansions are testimony to its prominence as the commercial hub of eastern India. Kolkata is a vibrant, many-layered city with a rich cultural life and many fascinating areas to explore. Overnight Hotel Fairlawn, Kolkata

Meals:  B

This morning we will visit the Marble Palace. This sprawling 19th century mansion of the Mullick family, houses an eclectic collection of art and antiques ranging from Old Masters to statues of Hindu gods. The palace earned its name from the 90 varieties of patterned marble on its floors. There are paintings by Reubens and Joshua Reynolds, Dresden figurines and Bohemian goblets. The author Geoffrey Moorhouse described it as ‘the richest, the quaintest, the eeriest, the most haphazard and the most ridiculous, the most astounding and the most loveable’ place in Kolkata. In the afternoon, we'll explore Chitpur Road, one of Kolkata's oldest roads and home to diverse communities, unique craft traditions and heritage buildings. This evening we'll enjoy an evening magic performance with illusionist, David Nobo followed by dinner where we discuss the magician’s art (Dinner and Show TBC) Overnight Hotel Fairlawn, Kolkata

Meals:  B,D

We'll head out this morning to visit the colourful Flower Market, Hoogly River Ghats, and Kalighat temple In the afternoon we'll visit the Victoria Memorial. Funded by Indian princes, the British government and the former Viceroy of India Lord Curzon, it was inaugurated by the Prince of Wales in 1921. Constructed from the same marble used by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to build the Taj Mahal, the Memorial exudes majesty and elegance. It houses a number of galleries displaying a rich collection of sculpture, painting, armaments and other historical treasures. Our plan for this evening is to have dinner with Anthony Khatchaturian of Kolkata’s Armenian community followed by his specially curated “Walking with Ghosts” tour exploring sites such as the Black Hole of Calcutta, the Esplanade and Dalhousie Square (Dinner with Anthony TBC) Overnight Hotel Fairlawn, Kolkata

Meals:  B,D

It is a lesser known fact that the British were not the only ones to call Bengal their home. Upstream along the quiet banks of the Hooghly river, not very far off from the hustle and bustle of Kolkata, lie a string of dusty towns where much of Europe came to settle. We travel around 40 km north from the city, along the Old Grand Trunk Road, to the town of Serampore – founded in 1755 by the Danish Asiatic company as a trading outpost. We then head further upstream to Chinsurah, where the Dutch settled in the early 17th century to trade in muslin, salt, spices and opium. We then continue to the famous Bandel, known for its imposing Bandel Basilica and where the Portuguese set up a colony as early as 1635. Our final stop will be Chandernagore, the once most charming town governed by the French until 1951, where you might even hear a few Bengali elderly folk still conversing in French and find bakeries serving croissants and French loaves. We cap off the day by returning to Kolkata by riverboat on the Hooghly River. Overnight Hotel Fairlawn, Kolkata

Meals:  B

This morning we take an early morning train from Kolkata to Azimganj/Murshidabad Azimganj, the land of Nawabs and the capital of Bengal before Robert Clive’s victory at nearby Plassey changed India’s destiny forever. Murshidbad is dotted with majestic palaces, mosques and ruins spread out among verdant green paddy fields. We arrive around midday and in Murshidabad this afternoon, we'll explore the mansions of the Jain traders of Azimganj. Overnight Bari Kothi Hotel, Azimganj

Meals:  B,D

We spend the day exploring Murshidabad including visits to the Hazariduari Palace, Wasef Manzil and Madina Mosque. We'll also enjoy a magic performance by local street Musicians. Overnight Bari Kothi Hotel, Azimganj

Meals:  B,L,D

We'll visit the beautiful Katra Masjid (also known as Katra Mosque) this morning, before driving to Shantiniketan. Shantiniketan, literarily meaning “The Abode of Peace” is synonymous with India’s Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore who founded the Viswa Bharati University here. Shantiniketan is a nerve centre of Bengal's art and culture and its museums pay homage to the legacy of Tagore and the artists he inspired. Overnight Garden Bungalow Hotel, Shantiniketan

Meals:  B,D

Today we'll visit the Vishwa Bharati University Campus area. The town is also known for the Bauls, whose devotional music and dramas are famous around the world. During our time in Shantiniketan, we'll aim to engage with the Bauls, the mystical wandering minstrels of Bengal. Overnight Garden Bungalow Hotel, Shantiniketan

Meals:  B,D

Today we head to Bishnupur, well known for its beautiful terracotta temples. Bishnupur was the capital of the Hindu Malla kings who ruled in this part of western Bengal from the 7th to 18th centuries. Its golden age came in the 16th and 17th centuries when the kings made tribute payments to the Mughals and patronised the arts and crafts. The terracotta temples stand among the finest of Bengali architecture, with their bold mix of Bengali, Islamic and Oriya (Odishan) styles. They're built of brick, with (in most cases) facades covered in hundreds of intricately detailed terracotta panels depicting scenes from the Hindu epics, animals and scenes from contemporary life. Overnight Annapurna Hotel, Bishnupur

Meals:  B,D

This morning we'll visit the temples of Bishnupur and in the afternoon we'll visit the Jain temples of Dharapat. Overnight Annapurna Hotel, Bishnupur

Meals:  B,D

We complete our journey of West Bengal, returning to Kolkata today. We’ll stop on the way at small town of Chota Pandua, home to some of the last traditional street magicians in Bengal. After watching a performance and learning about their ancient but dying craft, we will also visit the town's famous 15th century minaret and adjacent Bari mosque. Overnight Fairlawn Hotel, Kolkata

Meals:  B

This morning we depart Kolkata for the Sunderbans, located in the Gosaba region of the Sunderbans Delta – a stunning region of mangrove and forests in West Bengal. The name "sundarban" is translated to mean "beautiful forest". A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sundarbans National Park has a magnificent tangle of mangrove forest that's the largest in the world, spread over approximately 10,000 square kms at the mouth of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. Approximately a third of the Sundarbans lies in India and the remainder is in Bangladesh. The elusive (and shy!) Bengal tiger can be found here - the only one of its species adapted to a mangrove environment. The forest has a wide array of wildlife, including rare species like the Indian python and Irrawaddy dolphins. In addition to tigers , the park is full of reptiles, birds, and other animals such as monkeys, wild boar, and deer. During our time here we will head out in exclusive private boats and on foot to explore this region, which is under threat from rising sea levels, and spot wildlife and other activity. Our accommodation for our stay is the Sunderban Tiger Camp, Dayapur Island, on the edge of Sakjnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary in Sunderban Tiger Reserve. It is one of the few inhabited islands of the 102 that form the Sunderbans.

Meals:  B,L,D

Exploring the Sunderbans with opportunities to relax at our accommodation. Overnight Sunderban Tiger Camp.

Meals:  B,L,D

We complete our last activity, and after breakfast transfer to Kolkata. Your trip concludes on arrival into Kolkata. Airport transfers or additional nights in Kolkata can be arranged according to your personal travel arrangements. Please talk to your Reservations Consultant if you wish to spend additional nights in Kolkata, or would like to join the Enchanting North East India trip, also hosted by John Zubrzycki.

Meals:  B,L


Inclusions

  • Accommodation as outlined in the itinerary in 4 - 4.5 star hotels and heritage properties
  • 13 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 10 dinners
  • All sightseeing and transfers as outlined in the itinerary
  • All entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Local English speaking World Expeditions Guide throughout
  • Trip escorted by writer and journalist John Zubrzycki

  • International flights
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Bottled water, aerated and alcoholic drinks
  • Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, etc.
  • Tips
  • Airport and departure taxes
  • visas
  • Travel Insurance

About Your Leader

Your host is writer and journalist John Zubrzycki. John graduated in South Asian history and Hindi from the Australian National University. He worked in India as a diplomat, consultant and foreign correspondent and has spent years searching out its hidden gems. He is a best-selling author and has written three books on India, the latest being a history of its magical traditions. He also writes feature articles for Australian and Indian news outlets. He has more than 40 years of travel experience in India and considers West Bengal to be one of his favourite states.


Departure dates


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Essential Information

Ready to book? Make sure you download and read the detailed Magic, Mysticism and the Wonders of West Bengal trip notes which contains all the essential information you need to know before booking. Once you’ve booked, we will supply you with a Pre-Departure document which contains a detailed gear list and other important information to help you prepare for your adventure ahead.


Trip reviews


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Enhancing your journey with authentic experiences, genuine cultural exchange and real exploration are the focal points on all of our adventures. In 2019, we were crowned by our peers as the best in adventure travel at The Travel Awards in Sydney.

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 When you book one of our adventures, you will receive quality services at the best prices with plenty of inclusions. There are no hidden costs, single travellers don’t pay more and you’ll enjoy many ‘extra touches’ that ensure your holiday is excellent value for money.

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By joining this trip you are directly supporting positive impact projects in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We’ve offset the carbon emitted by this trip by purchasing credits that support important projects that address the UN’s seventeen SDGs, like reducing poverty, affordable and clean energy, reducing hunger, clean water and climate action.

Proceeds from this adventure purchase carbon credits through the world’s largest and most awarded carbon project developer, South Pole, which are invested into projects accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources in developing countries.

Supported projects are based on internationally recognised standards and are third-party audited. They entail a series of positive impacts on the ground, which benefit local communities and ecosystems, that are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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