River-cruising the mysterious kingdom of Bhutan

The Brahmaputra River … in the rarely visited Indian state of Assam.
The Brahmaputra River … in the rarely visited Indian state of Assam.

Adventure Resorts and Cruises, an Indian river cruise operator, and Australia’s Cruise Traveller have added a tour of the once-hidden kingdom of Bhutan to an exotic cruise in the rarely visited Indian state of Assam.

Australians can save $1800 per couple on the new 16-day Bhutan and India package, which aims to broaden horizons and take travellers to two unspoilt and rarely visited destinations.

One of the most secretive travel destinations in the world, Bhutan is a remote sanctuary, with cliff-hugging temples, snow-capped peaks, intricate arts and crafts, ancient ruins and colourful culture.

Only open to tourism since the 1970s, Bhutan boasts pristine scenery where 60 per cent of land is protected forest, making it the perfect off-the-beaten-track destination for nature lovers.

MV Mahabaahu on the Brahmaputra River … a luxurious 46-guest river ship.

MV Mahabaahu on the Brahmaputra River … a luxurious 46-guest river ship.

The new package will showcase many of Bhutan’s natural and cultural wonders, including the National Library — known for its vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts.

Other highlights include the prestigious arts and crafts school, beautiful Buddhist monuments, majestic fortresses, stunning Himalayan landscape and Bhutan’s most famous monastery — Taktsang Lhakhang, which is perched on the side of a cliff 900 metres above the valley floor.

The package, starting on April 12 next year, includes three nights in Kolkata, a seven-night cruise in one of India’s remotest corners under the shadows of 7000-metre-high Himalayan mountains and five nights in Bhutan with local touring.

During the tour, guests will stay in premium hotels and taste delicious, local cuisine.

Taktsang Lhakhang … a monastery perched on the side of a cliff 900 metres above the valley floor.

Taktsang Lhakhang … a monastery perched on the side of a cliff 900 metres above the valley floor.

Prior to visiting Bhutan, guests will enjoy sightseeing in Kolkata, long regarded as one of India’s cultural hotspots.

There, guests will stay at the majestic, 130-year-old Oberoi Grand Hotel and take a city tour which includes the imposing Victoria Memorial, Saint Mother Teresa’s house and a visit to an Indian coffee house.

Guests will then transfer to Pandu Port, Guwahati city in India’s unspoilt state of Assam, where they will board the MV Mahabaahu, ARC’s boutique and luxurious 46-guest river ship, for a seven-night cruise on the Brahmaputra River.

Visits to artisan markets, Indian-cuisine cooking demonstrations, daily yoga, performances by local singers and dancers’ and a combination of elephant and jeep and boat safaris where guests can spot rhinos in the greatest population of these prehistoric-looking beasts in the world, elephants, tigers and buffaloes are among the highlights of the journey.

MV Mahabaahu on the Brahmaputra River … soaring Himalayas in the background.

MV Mahabaahu on the Brahmaputra River … soaring Himalayas in the background.

Excursions will take guests to monasteries, plantations, ancient palaces, remote villages, and an uninhabited island — on which they can enjoy a bonfire, weather-permitting.

After the cruise, guests will fly to Bhutan for two nights in the capital, Thimphu, and two in the town of Paro.

Including a total of eight nights hotel accommodation, a seven-night, all-inclusive river cruise, internal transfers and local flights in India and Bhutan, the 16-night package is available from $12,695 per person twin-share, including the saving of $930 per person if booked by January 30.

Flights from Australia are extra.

Phone 1800 507 777 or visit www.cruisetraveller.com.au/bhutan