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14 Days$6190USD

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

Trip highlights


  • Be moved by the soul-stirring music of the Bauls, Bengal mystical wandering minstrels at the annual Joydev Kenduli mela, one of India’s most colourful religious festivals
  • In-depth art, culture and history tours in of India’s former Imperial capital Kolkata
  • An evening magic performance in Kolkata with illusionist, David Nobo
  • Palaces, mosques and ruins of Bengal's former capital Murshidabad
  • Discovering the art and culture scene of Shantiniketan
  • Surveying the stunning terracotta temples of Bishnupur
  • Interacting with one the last families of traditional magicians in West Bengal
  • Morning and evening boat rides through the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and home of the Bengal tiger

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.

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, an early morning excursion to the city’s flower market as well interactions with some of the city’s leading magicians, art collectors and gastronomes. From Kolkata we travel by train to Murshidabad, the land of the Nawabs and the capital of Bengal before Clive’s victory at nearby Plassey. Murshidabad is dotted with majestic palaces, mosques and ruins spread out among verdant green paddy fields. From Murshidabad we drive to the university town of Shantiniketan, founded by India’s Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. While in Shantiniketan we travel to the Joydev Kenduli mela where the Bauls perform devotional songs and dramas to thousands of pilgrims. Famed for its music, the mela is included in UNESCO’s list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Then visit Bishnupur famous for its magnificent terracotta temples built between the 16th and 19th. After overnighting in Calcutta we depart for the Sunderbans. Formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers, this vast mangrove forest is a haven for rare wildlife.

We hope you can join us on this magical journey.

Trip Code: WBM5

Welcome to India. 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. We will have one nominated group flight for the arrival transfer. If arriving on a different day or flight we can book a transfer service for you at an extra cost. As most flights arrive late in the evening there are no plans for today. Overnight Hotel Fairlawn, Kolkata

Meals:  D

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. Nearby is Jorsanko Takur Bari, the birthplace of the poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The sprawling 19th century mansion currently serves as the Tagore museum, which gives an insight into the Tagore family’s involvement in Hindu reform movements and the Bengal Renaissance. 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. We’ll refresh ourselves at the iconic Indian Coffee House on College Street a favourite hangout for Bengali students and intellectuals for over a century. Located in the heart of the university district, College Street is also famous for its vast open-air book market. Overnight Hotel Fairlawn, Kolkata

Meals:  B

We’ll head out this morning to visit the colourful Flower Market, the adjacent Hooghly River Ghats and Kalighat temple, the most important Hindu shrine in the city. 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 several galleries displaying a rich collection of sculpture, painting, armaments and other historical treasures. This evening we’ll enjoy an evening magic performance with illusionist, David Nobo followed by dinner at the home of art collector and gastronome Bomti Iyengar where we discuss the magician’s art. 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 to Chinsurah, where the Dutch settled in the early 17th century to trade in muslin, salt, spices and opium, befor arriving at 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. Overnight Hotel Fairlawn, Kolkata Driving approx 10 hours

Meals:  B

This morning we take the train to Murshidabad, the land of Nawab’s and the capital of Bengal before Robert Clive’s victory at nearby Plassey changed India’s destiny forever. The train journey is itself an experience with hawkers selling sweet chai, spicy samosas, books, toys and herbal remedies. Baul musicians frequent this service hoping for donations as they sing their devotional songs. Murshidabad is dotted with majestic palaces, mosques and ruins spread out among verdant green paddy fields. In Murshidabad this afternoon, we’ll explore the mansions of the Jain traders of Azimganj. Our accommodation is in the restored ancestral mansion of the Dhudhoria family. Overnight Bari Kothi Hotel, Murshidabad

Meals:  B,L,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, Murshidabad

Meals:  B,L,D

We’ll visit the beautiful Katra Masjid (also known as Katra Mosque) this morning, before driving to Shantiniketan. Literally meaning “The Abode of Peace” Shantiniketan is synonymous with Rabindranath Tagore who founded the Viswa Bharati University here. It is also 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 Mayas Resort, Shantiniketan Driving approx 4 hours

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. In the afternoon we drive for one hour to the Joydev Kenduli Mela held on the banks of River Ajay. One of the highlights of the tour, this annual multi-day festival features the largest gathering of Bauls in India with dozens of stages set up where they perform to crowds of devotees. Blending Vaishnava Hinduism and Sufi Islam, the Bauls see their mission as spreading love and ecstasy. Like other religious gatherings, the Joydev Kenduli Mela has a fair-like atmosphere with dozens of stalls selling everything from devotional paraphernalia to saris and toys. Performances here will go all night. Overnight Maya's Resort, Shantiniketan

Meals:  B,D

Today we head to Bishnupur, famous 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. Overnight Annapurna Hotel, Bishnupur Driving approx 5 hours

Meals:  B,D

This morning we’ll visit the village of Pandua where several families of traditional magicians still practice their dying craft. Discovered while your tour leader was researching his book on Indian magic, this will be a unique experience and a chance to interact with three generations of magicians. From Pandua it is a three-hour drive to Kolkata. Overnight Fairlawn Hotel Driving approx 6 hours

Meals:  B,D

After a leisurely morning we drive to Dayapur Island in the heart of the Sunderbans. Spotting one of the 100-plus Royal Bengal tigers lurking in the impenetrable mangrove forests of the Sunderbans National Park is a rare occurrence but we’ll be able to enjoy the serenity of nature at our resort inside the park boundary. Overnight Tiger Camp- Wildlife Resort Driving approx 3 hours + 2 hour boat ride

Meals:  B,D

Morning and evening boat rides of the Sunderbans and the chance to see Gangetic dolphins, water monitors, saltwater crocodiles, dozens of species of bird and if we’re lucky a Bengal tiger. Overnight Tiger Camp- Wildlife Resort

Meals:  B,L,D

Returning to Kolkata late afternoon before our farewell dinner will be at Oh Calcutta famous for presenting centuries-old recipes of traditional Bengali dishes. Overnight Hotel Fairlawn, Kolkata Driving approx 3 hours + 2 hour boat ride

Meals:  B

The tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. We will be happy to assist with extra accommodation if you wish to extend your stay, or airport transfers for your travel home. We are offering an exclusive optional extension led by Margie Thomas and Nawang Tsering, a 9 day guided tour 'Julay ladakh: tradition, culture & wild places'. The trip will run 21-29 January 2025 commencing and returning to Delhi. Please ask for the details.

Meals:  B,L


Inclusions

  • Travelling in the company of author and historian, John Zubrzycki
  • Accommodation as outlined in the itinerary in 4 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

  • International flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visa
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Bottled water, aerated and alcoholic drinks
  • Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry, etc.
  • Tips
  • OPTIONAL tour extension: 9 day 'Julay Ladakh: tradition, culture & wild places with Margie Thomas and Nawang Tsering 21-29 January 2025. Please ask for the details.

About Your Leader

Your host is writer and historian John Zubrzycki. John graduated in South Asian history and Hindi from the Australian National University and wrote his PhD on Indian traditional magic at the University of NSW. 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 six books, including The Shortest History of India, Dethroned: The Downfall of India’s Princely States, and Empire of Enchantment, a history of India’s magical traditions. He also writes feature articles for Australian and Indian news outlets. He has more than 40 years of travel experience in India. He considers West Bengal to be one of the most fascinating and enticing parts of India.


Departure dates


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Priceper person from

$6190USD

Options & Supplements*
  • Single supplement (limited) WBM5USD$1340
*Prices listed are per person

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.


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Our vision is to leave the world a better place by following our sustainable active outdoor travel charter. All our adventures are 100% carbon offset and our Regenerative 2030 Project aims to integrate ‘regenerative’ projects into every one of our global operations by 2030.

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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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