Transfer to Agra via a newly built expressway, and check in and enjoy lunch at the spectacular Oberoi Amarvilas. Later, visit one of India’s most majestic forts—Agra Fort—a palatial walled city containing russet sandstone buildings encircled by a deep moat. Later, visit the Taj Mahal, and venture inside India’s most awe-inspiring and iconic monument. The fateful tale of love and loss that inspired the Taj is as incredible as the tomb itself. Commissioned by the broken-hearted Emperor Shah Jahan after his beloved wife died in childbirth, this masterpiece of Islamic architecture took some 20,000 laborers and artisans nearly two decades to complete (at a cost of more than $1 billion in today’s money). Your first glimpse of the Taj Mahal—perfectly timed to coincide with the setting sun—will literally take your breath away.
Enjoy a walking tour of Matiari, an artisans’ village revered for its finely wrought brassware, and venture inside a local home to observe master craftsmen at work. If time allows, you may also have an opportunity to learn some of the nuances of the game of cricket—India’s favorite sport. There will also be time to shop for village-made goods at a small riverside bazaar. Back onboard, roll up your sleeves for a mehndi demonstration—intricate henna designs typically painted on the palms of women’s hands to attract good luck.
Begin the day with an early morning stroll through the farmers’ fields of Khushbagh to a well-preserved complex built by one of the region’s former colonial-era rulers. Return to the ship for breakfast and a brief scenic cruise to Baranagar, a village with many ornately carved sandstone structures and temples dating back hundreds of years. Take a leisurely walk to absorb the rural atmosphere and a pace of life that is decidedly slower and less complicated. Enjoy lunch back onboard the ship as you continue downstream to the fascinating city of Murshidabad. As you round the river’s bend, a most unexpected sight unfolds before you, an echo of an era long past—the massive Hazarduari Palace, famous for its thousand doors, both real and false, and its fine collection of antiques and British colonial artwork. Climb aboard a horse cart for a lively ride to Katra Mosque, one of the largest and most interesting in the region, before returning to the ship. Indulge in a lovely dinner followed by the evening’s entertainment—a spirited Bollywood-style show with music and dancing.
After a scenic morning cruise, visit the welcoming and wildly colorful village of Mayapur, birthplace of the founder of the Hare Krishna movement. One of India’s top pilgrimage sites, Mayapur is headquarters for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON), and millions of scholars and devout followers visit here every year. The village is also home to hundreds of second generation Hare Krishnas born to North Americans and Europeans who relocated to India back in the 1960s. Dominating the skyline is the dome of a colossal Vedic temple, largely funded by the great-grandson of Henry Ford. Once completed in 2016, the temple will be twice the size of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and large enough to accommodate 10,000 worshippers.