The paradise of Kashmir beckons one and all in the Indian version of a gondola – the legendary Shikara! Unique to the Dal Lake in Srinagar, capital of Jammu and Kashmir, this peculiar shaped boat is skillfully mastered by able oarsmen whilst you laze in royal luxury in a semi-covered cabin. The sight of pretty Kashmiri lasses and nimble lads moving in nearby shikaras as they go about their chores is very enchanting and peaceful. Epitomized by Bollywood movies of yesteryears, the shikara is a symbol of romance and truly an unparalleled experience.
The brackish water lake is the largest one in Asia. It is a haven for migratory birds in winters. A lot of ferry services and boat cruises are available for you to enjoy the mesmerizing inland waters. The dolphin watch is a delight and so is an island camp. There is a bird sanctuary nearby as well. Soulfully peaceful amidst nature!
Not many know that Goa has a full-fed river along with the famous ocean and sun-lined beaches. The Mandovi River is well enjoyed via a cruise or smaller power-fed boats that take you with the flow of the river. Deeper, you can experience mangrove backwaters, although much smaller than their Kerala cousins, yet enchanting. Clear waters are best to trail the friendly dolphins as they gracefully swim (mostly in pairs) in the river. The cruise takes you out into the pen ocean as well and has an adventurous feel to it!
Coming from the lands of China, the mighty Brahmaputra River is a powerful force of nature as it gushes down the shores of Assam, where a journey in the waters is unforgettable. Get glimpses of life in villages in dense thickets, marvel at the flora and fauna in natural habitats in almost raw jungle settings. One can alight and go for jungle safaris on elephant backs while your boat docks and waits for you. Explore the tea gardens and enjoy the wild countryside! There are many art and dance workshops for visitors!
Boat ride and cruises along any part of the Ganges River in North India are completely unforgettable. Lined with religious and cultural banks, dotted with so many ghats, which come alive at night with lights and diyas at the steps and in the waters. As Hindu devotees line up the banks all year round, these ghats are vibrant and steeped in tradition. The famous Ganga-Aarti is a soul-stirring sight. The confluence of Yamuna, Sarasvati and Ganga at Prayag and the famous towns of Varanasi and Haridwar are mesmerizing. Do take a holy dip in the river to absolve of all your sins! The river cruises will start from river rafting waters in Himalayas to Sundarbans in the East. The best amalgamation of heritage and natural beauty along the most revered river of India, this ride is not to be missed for sure.
The world-famed backwaters of Kerala are both an enrichening and a rejuvenating experience. There are many types of cruises/packages available for exhilarating rides. The best is to take a houseboat called ‘kettuvallam’ as it swerves in and out of the thick mangroves. Stop at local villages on the shores, interact with locals, eat local food, enjoy fishing and soak in the nighttime experience when the earthen lamps are lit on the boat to create a magical ambience. Watch the famous long boat race festivals unlike any other in the world.
The dark and mysterious Sundarbans are home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. Will you be lucky to spot lurking behind amongst the bushes as you cruise silently along its territorial waters? The rise through the forest is as much a spiritual journey as a joyride. You will find thick undergrowth, and tiny hamlets in and around the river, some inhabited by the tribal folks. Their colorful traditions and ceremonies are worth watching. Wildlife enthusiasts will have lots to feast their eyes on and to capture in their camera lens.
This is a beautiful glimpse of French influence in India, in the Union Territory of Puducherry. This river is a strong tributary of the mighty Godavari near the Bay of Bengal. The landscape here is gorgeous, the views are extremely breathtaking, and the natural scenic wonders are sure to enrapt you. The point of meeting of the two rivers is very interesting to visit, and the ride has its own share of islands and the appealing backwaters as well!
The golden sands and flowing waters of River Nila in central Kerala, which comes alive in the rains, is pure nourishment for the mind, body and soul. You will be treated to a harmonious blend of nature, culture and history. Lots of art forms, dance forms, famous works of poets and artists have been crafted along its banks. The Brahmaswom Monastery chants blend with Sufi hymns and verses of Rigveda echo in a peace-loving manner. One can go bamboo-rafting or take leisurely strolls on small country made boats.
For many locales around the water bodies, the ferry is like the local bus service for cities. Whether it is the Hoogly in Kolkata, Mandovi in Goa, Ganga in North India, Kauvery in South India, or Narmada in Western India, boats ferry locals to and from various piers and are a source of livelihood for many. Ditching the fancy tourist cruises in favor of the local variety gives a pocket friendly and enthralling insight into the local culture of the region. Do go onboard one of these of you happen to be in an area which has such services. The morning rides are refreshing as the locals gear up to get about their daily business, whereas the evening rides are a bountiful of those wanting to get back to their families. Sometimes the riders and the boatmen break out into melodious local songs in the cool breeze that seems to take you to another world!