Pre-tour Bhutan with Brahmaputra River Upstream Cruise

14 NIGHTS | 15 DAYS

KOLKATA | THIMPHU | PUNAKHA | PARO | M.V. MAHABAAHU

Far Horizon takes you on a unique journey through the beautiful and picturesque kingdom of Bhutan - one of the last Shangri-las of the world. This Himalayan kingdom is a preserve of the living history of the Lamaistic Buddhist culture.

Immerse yourself in the unique culture of Bhutan – visit Thimphu, Punakha and Paro. See beautiful crafts at the School of Arts and Crafts and the Institute for Zorig Chusum (school of arts and crafts). Temples and monasteries abound in this beautiful land.

From Bhutan we go to the glorious state of Assam - Far Horizon gives you the unique experience of exploring Assam as you cruise along the Brahmaputra River, with visits to tea plantations, Kaziranga wild life sanctuary, temples and monasteries. Experience the rich diversity of Assam as you sail down the river on the M.V Mahabaahu and meet the simple folk who inhabit this land.

Day 1 (Sunday): Departure

Day 2 (Monday): Arrive Kolkata
Our representative will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel. Overnight at the hotel

Day 3 (Tuesday): Kolkata / Paro by Flight & Paro / Thimphu (Approx. 41 miles / 65 kms / 2 hour drive)
Fly to Paro. The flight over the Himalayas reveals breathtaking views of the world's highest peaks, taking you right into the Dragon kingdom's cloud scraping airstrip at the lush green Paro valley. (alt. 7000 ft). Upon arrival in Paro, meet your Bhutanese tour director and then drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. In the afternoon, visit Tashichhodzong, the beautiful medieval fortress/monastery which houses most of the government offices and the King's Throne room. It is also the summer residence of Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot. Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

Day 4 (Wednesday): Thimphu
Get an insider's view of the Bhutanese culture. Explore the traditional arts at the famed School of Arts & Crafts in Thimphu. Visit the Tango Gompa and the National Library which houses an extensive collection of ancient Buddhist literature. Visit the nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as the Painting School). In the evening visit the colorful market of Bhutan.  Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

Day 5 (Thursday): Thimphu / Punakha (Approx. 44 miles / 70 kms / 4 ½ hour drive)
After an early breakfast, drive to Punakha. In the afternoon visit Khamsum Yulley, Namgyal Chorten (the newly built stupa) and Wangduephodrang Dzong. Stretched along the hilltop, above the confluence of the Punakha Chu and Tang Chu rivers, the imposing Wangduephodrang Dzong is the town's most visible feature. This district is famous for its fine bamboo work, stone carvings, and slate, mined in a valley, a few kilometres out of the town. Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

Day 6 (Friday): Punakha / Paro (Approx. 110 miles / 176 kms / 5 hour drive)
Spend the morning at leisure. Later drive to Paro and check-in to your hotel. Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

Day 7 (Saturday): Paro
The first stop of the day is Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong ('fortress of the heap of jewels'). Drive to Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. Along the way, see the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Songtsen Gampo, a Tibetan King. Overnight at the hotel (B, L, D)

Day 8 (Sunday): Paro / Guwahati / Onboard M.V Mahabaahu
After breakfast, drive to the airport to board your flight to Guwahati. Our representative will meet you at the Guwahati airport. Time permitting, we will visit the temple of Kamakhya on the way to the ship (Please note that the temple is closed from 1.00 pm to 3.30 pm). This Temple is devoted to the eternal feminine, the goddess of desire – Kama Khya – the granter of desires. Animal sacrifices take place here almost daily.

At 14:00 hours, the M.V. Mahabaahu sets sail for Kiriakara. Guests will be given a safety briefing, followed by a special Captain's welcome dinner. Overnight onboard (B, L, D)

Day 9 (Monday): Kiriakara / Tezpur
Spend the day sailing to Tezpur – the upstream cruise offers a perfect vantage point from where to view life on the mighty Brahmaputra. Enjoy a massage in our spa, soak in the jacuzzi or swim laps in the pool. You may prefer to scan the river for a fleeting sight of the Gangetic Dolphins or do some bird watching from the decks. There's lots to do onboard. The book lovers are sure to enjoy our well stocked library. In the late afternoon, enjoy a presentation on 'TheWildlife of Kaziranga' or you could watch a DVD on the tribes of Assam. Overnight onboard (B, L, D)

Day 10 (Tuesday): Tezpur / Kaziranga
Wander through the manicured tea gardens of the Wild Mahseer Tea Plantation, watch tea pickers at work and taste the perfect cup of Assam tea. The Wild Mahseer Tea Plantation is a top-class resort, in the Planter bungalow tradition, which takes you back to the colonial days. Later, our ship sails towards Silghat.

After lunch, depart for a jeep safari to the Kaziranga National park. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Kaziranga National Park is located in the flood plains on both sides of the Brahmaputra. The most prized inhabitant of Kaziranga is the Greater One-Horned Indian Rhinoceros, but the Park is home to as many as 180 different mammals including wild elephants, deer, bison, and a rich variety of birds. Overnight onboard (B, L, D)

Day 11 (Wednesday): Kaziranga / Bishwanath
Rise before dawn and set off for the Kaziranga National Park for a once-in-a-lifetime elephant safari to look for the elusive rhinoceros and tiger. After breakfast at a resort in Kaziranga, return to the jungle for a jeep safari. Lunch is back on the ship as it sails to Bishwanath. Here, we take smaller boats to visit this charming village. Watch the village women weave cotton and silk. In the evening, enjoy a dance performance onboard followed by a demonstration of the technique of wearing an Assamese sari. Overnight onboard (B, L, D)

Day 12 (Thursday):Bishwanath Ghat / Towards Majuli
While the ship sails to Majuli, spend a lazy day pampering yourself onboard the ship. Relax, swim, go for a massage to the spa or simply sit on the deck and unwind. Arrive at an isolated island for drinks and dinner. Overnight onboard (B, L, D)

Day 13 (Friday): Majuli Island   
Arrive at Majuli in the afternoon and after lunch onboard, visit the Satra's. Majuli is a treasure house of Assamese culture. Ancient monasteries, dedicated to the preservation of the arts, have existed here since the 15th century. Written records are found of the visit of Shankardeva, a social reformer, during the 16th century. He promulgated a form of Hinduism that was also called Vaishnavism. He established monasteries or hermitages that were called Satras. These Satras became the hub of culture, art, religion and lifestyle. Even today, Satras preserve antiques like weapons, utensils, jewelry and other articles of cultural importance. In Majuli, we visit Samagudi Satra and enjoy the masked dance. We also meet the Mishing people in their village.

Return to the M.V. Mahabaahu and enjoy a talk on 'Vaishnavism in Assam'. Overnight onboard (B, L, D)

Day 14 (Saturday): Majuli / Nimati / Sibsagar
The morning starts with a visit to the Auniati Satra. Visit the prayer halls and get a rare peep into the living quarters of monks and see the art of fan-making. A drum dance is the perfect way to end this cultural experience.

Sail to Nimati. Disembark and travel overland to Sibsagar, the ancient capital city of the Ahom Kings. Sibasagar, which literally means 'the ocean of Lord Shiva', is strewn with the tell-tale ruins of a powerful empire – the Ahom. The Thai-speaking Ahoms came to the area from Yunnan, China, in the 13th century AD. The town is built around the Sibsagar Lake, dug over 200 years ago. On its banks are located some of the famous temples of Sibsagar. The Shiva Temple, constructed in the year 1734 is believed to be the highest Hindu temple in India.

Back onboard the M.V. Mahabaahu, there is time to relax and pack before the farewell dinner. Overnight onboard (B, L, D)

Day 15 (Sunday): Disembarkation
Disembarking at Nimati, guests departing from Dibrugarh airport will have an early morning departure. Travel time is four hours through the rich agricultural fields and paddies of Assam.

 

 

WEATHER AND SEASONAL INFORMATION
There are four distinct seasons in Assam – summer, monsoon, autumn and winter. The best time to visit Assam is in the autumn and winter seasons, i.e. from October to April, which is also the festive season of Assam.

While winter days are usually sunny, the temperature can fall to 8 degrees Celsius (46 F) at night. Our cabins are air conditioned and heated for your comfort, but you should include warm clothing, hats and jackets in your bags when visiting during the winter months.

Kaziranga National Park is open from 15th October until the 30th of April. During the first half of October and May, the Park has a “Partially Open” status. This means that the Park will be open but all roads may not be navigable, as they work to restore them to pre-monsoon standards.

Please note, there are no elephant-back or jeep safaris between May and the first half of October. Instead, boat safaris will be offered during these months. During the months that the Kaziranga National Park is closed, we are able to explore the shores of the Park on our expedition boats. We will cruise the Park shoreline and many of the riverine islands that are home to a number of animals, as well as a wide variety of birds.

During the peak winter season, from mid-December to mid-February, the itinerary will be adjusted according to daylight hours as the M.V. Mahabaahu does not sail during darkness. In order to provide for full coverage of the Kaziranga National Park during these winter months, we will not visit Bishwanath Ghat.

RIVER CONDITIONS AND DISCLAIMER
River cruising in this part of the world is an adventurous experience. Assam is still in the developing stages of tourism and the developing infrastructure is rushing to keep pace with the rapidly growing interest in this part of India. As such, our voyage is an expedition-style cruise with all creature comforts on-board. Our onshore staff will make every effort to attend to your comfort during onshore expeditions. However, vehicles and roads may not be of the same standard that you have experienced elsewhere, although we use the best of what is available locally.

Please note, this itinerary is subject to weather and river conditions. The Captain/Cruise Director reserves the right to adjust the itinerary for passenger safety and comfort.

The Brahmaputra River is subject to seasonal fluctuations. Islands and sand bars can appear and disappear between one sailing and the next. Also, being one of the highest precipitation zones in the world, our program is subject to weather and river conditions.

We reserve the right to convert the direction of the cruise from upstream to downstream or vice versa without any compensation.