Top Seven Places to Visit in West Bengal
From its ancient Sanskrit roots to its modern metro appeal, past and present fuse exquisitely in the state of West Bengal. The Department of Tourism seems to be investing little effort when it comes to promoting the best places to visit in West Bengal.
From tea gardens, mountain ranges, sandy beaches, and virgin forests to twisting rivers, rich biodiversity, and the Sundarbans (the world's largest mangrove forest), West Bengal has a rich set of experiences just waiting to be soaked up. It needs little encouragement for tourists to do so. The best time to visit West Bengal is during its winter season – between October and March.
A diverse range places to visit in West Bengal awaits you in the state. So grab a reliable West Bengal travel guide and plan your itinerary. A good guidebook or person can easily help you figure out how to reach as many destinations as possible in a day.
Formerly called ‘Calcutta’ (its British moniker up to 2001), the city of Kolkata has seen a facelift like few other metropolises in India. It used to be that the city was associated with Mother Theresa and, on a darker note, slums, and poverty. However, the past decade has seen Kolkata rise above that reputation and earn a name as the 'cultural capital of India.' While many a building still stands a-crumbling, you will find more soul and old-world charm in this city than in most places in the nation. Be sure to ride the tram/streetcar network. Kolkata’s the only Indian city to have one.Here in the city, you are prone to discover some of the most excellent restaurants in West Bengal.
The ‘Abode of Peace' is an old-fashioned university township famous for its Uttarayan complex, where the legendary Rabindranath Tagore himself dwelled. Check out its art gallery and museum while you’re at it. Shantiniketan is a diamond in the bracelet of West Bengal tourism.In 1901, the Noble Laureate poet Tagore founded a school here, which has since grown into the Visva Bharati University, where principles of nature and humanity are still taught. The multi-hued glass windows of the Upasana Griha prayer hall are worth a visit, and so is shopping at Alcha boutique and Amar Kutir. Here you can buy traditional handicrafts (embroidery, batik, weaving, pottery). Drop-in at the Kala Bhavan, purportedly one of the world’s finest visual arts colleges. Keep your eyes sharp for wandering Baul singers. Check the festival calendar so you can be on time to participate in events like Poush Mela. The Bondangar Haat (village market) is open every Saturday.
This has to be one of your top places to visit in West Bengal. Not only is this one of the premier national parks known all over the world, but it is also the largest mangrove forest on the globe. This is the only mangrove zone in the world to be home to tigers. Comprising more than 102 islands, about half of them inhabited, the park stretches far and wide, even grazing the nation of Bangladesh. You can only explore this untamed wilderness by boat, which is also the fastest and safest way to go about enjoying the Sundarbans. Animal sighting, though rare, is not unheard of. With the right guides, you can be taken at apt times to catch sight of some of the forests reclusive denizens, one of whom certainly includes the Royal Bengal Tiger.
Near Digha Beach, which is known for being over-crowded, is its contrary cousin Mandarmani. Primarily a fishing village, this beach stands apart, is quiet, and has beautiful sunsets. Not too far away are a couple of well-reviewed West Bengal resorts, namely Bombay Beach Resort and Eco Villa Resort. They are right on the beach, making them convenient and accessible. If you’re lucky, you just might spot hordes of red crabs scuttling across the sand during sunset time.
Once the residences of erstwhile royalty, the rajbaris have today fallen into disuse and neglect. However, a handful has been revived and restored to their majestic glory. These open-to-stay rajbaris have become boutique hotels. Don’t be surprised to find their royal hosts still living there. From a rich history to an even more vibrant culture, time spent in these homes opens you to a wealth of Bengal heritage. Considered the oldest such heritage home, Itachuna is undoubtedly worth a visit. Other such palace-homes include: Rajbari Bawali, Jhargram Palace, Mahishadal Rajbari, and Amadpur Rajbari.
One of the most popular hill stations in India, a trip to Darjeeling, is more than a visit. It is an experience. Its wholesome tea gardens are a sight to behold. Any tea lover will enjoy spending time in this hill town. It affords a spectacular view of the world’s third-highest peak, namely Mount Kanchenjunga. Cuisine includes some fine Nepalese and Tibetan bites. Sights comprise monasteries, handicraft shopping, and local markets. What sets it culturally apart from anything else in West Bengal is that Darjeeling was once part of the kingdom of Sikkim before the British took over in the mid-19th century. The town was once briefly ruled by Gorkhas, who invaded from Nepal. You can imagine the wealth of influences that went into crafting this beautiful place. It is advisable to stay away during monsoons. When you are ready to go, feel free to book a trip on the Darjeeling mountain railway toy train; it is a piece of history in its own right.
This district is one of West Bengal’s most original, mainly because here is where the unique acrobatic masked Chhau dance began. It is still being performed and is aimed at honoring the sun god. The dance is so unique and distinctive that in 2010, it landed on the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Every year, in late December in Balarampur, the Chau Jhumur Utsav festival unravels over three days. You can catch live Chhau performances at this time.If you are a culture geek and wish to see where the elaborate masks are made, head over to nearby Charida village, near Baghmundi, there you will come across more than three hundred artisans who keep the craft alive and going.
There are more than ten such villages dispersed across West Bengal and are worth visiting, especially if you happen to be in the market for original Bengal handicraft souvenirs. The best time to see these villages is from September to April, but any other time works just as well.Both the UNESCO and West Bengal governments have classified these villages 'rural craft hubs’.You can glean all the information you need at the Folk Art Centres present hereabouts. There are also good accommodations to choose from.Check out the calendar festival and be sure to join in the annual rural fairs that take place in these villages. The crafts made here include musical instruments, dhokra art, bamboo works, pottery, terracotta, paintings, and clay dolls. You can also get to see some of the artisans at work on these ageless crafts.
Certainly, one of the most historical things to do in West Bengal is to catch a ride on the Hooghly River. Yesteryear village life is still prevalent in these parts, and you get to witness it all as you cruise on the lower channel of the mighty River Ganges. Book your 7-night cruise with the reputed Assam Bengal Navigation Company, who will ferry you from Kolkata to Farakka, and bring you back by rail. All sorts of heritage values lie in store along this precisely planned trip. You will find influences from cultures like the French, Danish, British, Dutch, and Portuguese in the form of 18th-century trading posts. Ancient mosques, temples, and markets are also available for history lovers to explore.
Speaking of history loving, this is one of the most historical places to visit in West Bengal. The British established their first military barrack (cantonment) here in 1772—the first in all of India. The edifice contains some Raj-era artifacts worth checking out. Once the English took over the nation, they re-purposed Barrackpore to serve as a retreat for Kolkata-based viceroys and governors-general. Its park and heritage spots have been revitalized. You will also find a museum on the premises. What’s more, Barrackpore has long been considered the site of a historically significant incident, one that led to the Indian Rebellion against the British in 1857. The area was home to some 'big names' of the Indian independence movement.
Situated in the Malda district of West Bengal, these age-old ruins take you back to the time when Muslim rulers (nawabs) occupied seats of great power. The ruins were once capitals of Muslim kingdoms now long since gone. They date back to the 13th-16th centuries. Most of them are mosques, like the Adina Masjid in Pandua (14th century).Not only was the Adina Masjid built by the legendary Sikander Shah (who was entombed there), it is also one of India’s largest mosques.
Long accepted as the ‘birthplace of terracotta,' you are sure to find pottery as well as temples made from terracotta here. Rulers from the Malla dynasty are credited with building the temples in the 17th and 18th centuries. Devotion to Lord Krishna, and Hinduism in general, witnessed a rise at that time. Before then, Islam was the prominent religion of the land. The architecture reflects their storied influences: From the Odia-style duels (sanctums) to the Bengali curve-roof design and Islamic arches and domes. The hand-carved motifs in the terracotta depict various instances in Lord Krishna’s life. Many a legendary scene from the Ramayana and Mahabharata also feature. Replicas of these marvelous terracotta legends are sold here. In and around the Bishnupur district are outstanding terracotta temples worth seeing.
A mildly populated hub for adventure activities, Kalimpong stands just a few hours away from Darjeeling and is one of the most venerated tourist attractions in West Bengal. Gazing upon the Teesta River while sat on a ridge, the town affords you beautiful vistas. The Sikkimese influence is strong here; in fact, they ruled Kalimpong until the early 1700s when the King of Bhutan took the reins. The British came along in 1865 and claimed the place. There are plenty of gorgeous Buddhist monasteries to see here. From nature walks to trekking, you can experience the town's splendor on a personal level. You can also go on guided adventures to the villages and hills that dot the surrounding area. Not too far away is a well-reviewed West Bengal resort affiliated with Club Mahindra Holidays, namely Summit Barsana Resort & Spa. It is quite convenient and accessible.
The famous Assamese one-horned rhinos are not just found in distant Kaziranga National Park. Here in Jaldapara, there are fifty of them waiting to visually show you their might. Elephant safaris grant you an up-close and personal experience of flora and fauna in the park. Situated in the Dooars region, the park boasts one of the most popular wilderness zones in the state. A stay at the reputed Forest Department's Hollong Tourist Lodge opens you to various views of animals as they head to the creek and engage in salt lick activities. If you find yourself out of rooms there, you can always get in touch with the region's favorite lodging and safari expert, Mithun Das of Wild Planet Travels (Madarihat).Fresh grass sprouts in March and April, making it prime times for rhino viewing. On the other hand, October through May is an excellent time as any to explore all that Jaldapara National Park has to offer. Add info about Club Mahindra resorts in West Bengal
West Bengal is a confluence of heritage, tradition, history, preservation, culture, cuisine, and religion and has a host of places to visit in West Bengal. You are bound to get lost in the splendors of the state, more so knowing that city life is not dead here. West Bengal has some excellent modern attractions. Nothing beats exploring this state’s manifold beauties personally, and in keeping with the cleanliness and safety recommendations of West Bengal tourism. Club Mahindra Holidays packs ample experience in all things tourism, and West Bengal is no exception to their expertise.
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