Oh! Calcutta – A common phrase which embarks on everyone’s mind when they hear West Bengal. But, that’s not all.
West Bengal certainly deserves more. Being a paradise in itself, it was important for me to introduce the undisturbed nature to the world. Writing about the obscure lands which boast the beauty of this state, is just my way of thanking the serene culture of Calcutta which runs in my roots.
So, deviating myself from the mainstream Calcutta and discovering the hidden beauty of West Bengal, I hereby list down some one day trips from Kolkata, which one can unwind in.
1. Taki: The Magical Beauty of Rustic Bengal
An unblemished introduction for the urban dwellers to the core roots of rural Bengal will put forth Taki as a prime getaway location. Located on the banks of River Ichamati (in Hasnabad), within a distance of 80 Km from Calcutta, Taki envelops the supreme definition of natural beauty. This particular village intrigues the travellers who long for a break from the fabricated humdrum of their daily life. A peaceful shelter at the Bagan-Bari can do wonders to the frazzled minds.
How to Reach: Taki is well connected by roads and railways. Driving through the city outskirts for an approximate of 2 hours, 30 min will get you to Taki. One can also opt for trains till Hasnabad from Sealdah.
Places of Interest: Machranga Island is a 40 min boat ride from Taki. One can observe the Bangladesh border on the other side of the river (popularly known as the Bangladesh Khulna district). The boatmen here have the country flags on their respective boats to differentiate them from the neighbouring state.
2. Bishnupur: The Terracotta Land
Dotting the landscape of West Bengal’s Bankura district (135 Km from the city limits); Bishnupur happens to be a history buff’s oyster. The cultural nourishment of this princely Bengal rose to illustriousness under the royal patronage of the Malla Dynasty in the 17th century. The distinctively styled terracotta temples boast the rich heritage of this town. Witnessing the art of weaving Baluchari Saree is a must behold attraction in Bishnupur.
How to reach: Hassle free driving can help one reach Bishnupur from Calcutta in 2 hours 15 min. Bankura is 35 km away from Bishnupur and one can avail train services till here. Further, cars on rent can be availed till Bishnupur from Bankura.
Places of Interest: This historical heritage provides a mystic blend of temples, museums and religion. The Bishnupur Museum, Jor Bangla Temple and Rasmanch (A terracotta based pyramidal tower) happen to be a travellers delight. Shopping for Baluchari (rich hand woven) Saree is also a must do on the list.
3. Piyali Island: The Gateway to Serene Sunderbans
For all those who do not want to visit the conventional Sunderbans in West Bengal, Piyali Islands come as a rescue retreat. A perfect amalgam of restfulness with Sunderbans is what describes this under penetrated getaway. A serene 75Km drive from Calcutta takes one this scenic beauty after crossing a bridge over the river Piyali which connects the island to the mainland. Since it is often named as Pseudo Sunderbans, therefore we can expect the vegetation, landscape and topography to be similar.
How to reach: Travelling conveniently by car (crossing the Baruipur Railway gate) takes one to Piyali. Trains are available till South Barasat station from where shared trekkers are available to tale one to the island.
Places of Interest: Piyali Islands embrace the assimilation of two rivers Matla and Piyali. However, there is not much to explore. One can take a wilderness stroll, engage in bird watching (there are various species of birds) or take a boat ride. The village surrounding Piyali can also be relished.
4. Mukutmanipur: An Escape Into Quietude
An arresting beauty surrounded by verdant hills and forests creates in itself, an ideal place for a day-out. Embracing the charm of the beautiful necklace like dam (second largest earth dam of India as well as Asia; 10.8 km freshwater dam) at the assemblage of river Kansabati and river Kumari; this undulating greenery is a picture perfect postcard. The gently lapping lake offers a grand view of the sunset. The lake also provides boating facilities to the visitors.
How to reach: The fine drive of 250 Km from Calcutta leads to Mukutmanipur. This exotic locale is also known as the land of red soil. Railway services are also apt from Howrah till Bankura. Bus services can also be availed from Calcutta till Bankura (further hiring a car till Mukutmanipur)
Places of Interest: Apart from the dam, there are many tourist joints nearby. Parasnath Hills (an important pilgrimage point), Banpukuria Deer Park (finding some rare species of bird) or visiting the relics of the ancient town of Ambikanagar (5km from Mukutmanipur) can be the highlights of one’s escape into serenity.
5. Bakkhali – A Retreat for the Sea Fanatics
“A beach to yourself” is how one would describe Bakkhali. Close to Sunderbans, it is a halcyon getaway in itself. Away from the hustle bustle of the main city and located around 135 kms from Calcutta, Bakkhali comes across as a treat to its visitors. It is lined with casuarinas and one can take advantage of a mystic sunset here.
Being one of the most secluded white sand beaches in India, Bakkhali boasts of a 7km long beach ending till Frasergunj.
How to Reach: Located on one of the many islands spread across the Bay of Bengal, Bakkhali is well connected by roads. The road route is an approximate of 3.5 hours from Joka (outskirts of Kolkata). The rail link is also quite accessible with Namkhana being the nearest railway junction.
Places of Interest: Apart from the rolling waves, one can indulge in the pleasure of visiting the Crocodile and Mangrove forest. The Benfish Harbour is also a treat to explore.
Bonus: Some Options Which Are A Little Distant From Kolkata But Could Be Seen In Just A Day
6. Dooars – An Arch To Untainted Placidity
The grandiosity of the Eastern Himalayas are a natural backdrop in West Bengal. A vast warp of dense forests combined with wildlife, infinite tea gardens, prattling rivers, is what describes Dooars. Derived from the word ‘Doors’ (Doors to Bhutan); this picturesque beauty stretches from river Teesta on the west to the river Sankosh on the east, an area encompassing 130km from Jalpaiguri district (600kms approximately from Calcutta). A drive through the Dooars plains, the gateway to Bhutan and the whole of North east India, can be the experience of a lifetime.
How to reach: Bagdogra is the nearest airport to Dooars. People choosing the rail route can get down at Madarihat station from where private vehicles are available. Regular bus service connects Jaldapara National Park (in Dooars) with Calcutta via Siliguri (New Jalpaiguri)
Places of Interest: Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Gorumara National Park are places of interest to the travellers who find solace in Wildlife. Bhutanghat, giving an artistic view of Bhutan border is also an appealing vicinity to stalk.
7. Samsing: A Scenery Draped in Orange and Green
A prodigious small hamlet in the lap of Northern Bengal brings usher joy when visited after a strenuous schedule back in the city. An untouched rural corner, Samsing is located at a distance of 82 kms from Siliguri (650 kms from Calcutta). Inhabiting bright orange orchards, this sleepy village is coated with lush green tea gardens and dense forests. Civilization is an excluded word here, however, it sure is a delight for the nature lovers to embrace its uniqueness.
How to reach: Samsing being well connected via Siliguri is accessible mostly by road. However, it is better for tourists from Calcutta to get down at New Mall Junction and hire cars up for Samsing.
Places of Interest: Travellers have the leisure of indulging themselves in various activities which are an integral part of Samsing. Trekking, camping, bird gazing are the best three activities for travellers to explore the unbounded beauty. Some of the most notable species of birds include the Grey Night Jar, Greater racketed tail Drongo, Grey chinned and short billed Minivets, Ashy bulbul and many more.
8. Tajpur: The Mecca for Adrenaline Rush in Bengal
The mystifying waves and the natural beauty of the Tajpur beach, does woo the hearts of the beach lovers. Situated along the sea fringes, one can observe the dense forest of Tamarisk trees which highlight the crimson beaches. Differentiating itself from the regulars and entwining the adventure junkies is what defines Tajpur. One can merrily take advantage of the various activities like Zorbing, Kayaking, Paragliding, Rafting, et al.
How to Reach: With an approximate distance 170 kms from Calcutta, Tajpur is a good 3 hour drive from the latter. For those willing to avail the bus services, the boarding point happens to be Esplanade (Calcutta) and the drop off point is Chaulkhola.
Places of Interest: A walk along the sea periphery happens to be enriching. However, adventure sports takes the entire time of tourists visiting Tajpur.
River Mohana and the villages of fisherman (close to the sea fringes) happens to be a must visit as well.
9. Neora Valley National Park: The Land of Unruffled Composure
The pellucid Neora Valley is pioneered by rich flora and fauna resting in the Eastern Himalayas. What fascinates one is the existence of rare Red Panda, Himalayan Thar, The Royal Bengal Tiger and the Clouded leopards. For those nature freaks who have no qualms in spending time in the lap of nature, admiring its beauty, Neora Valley happens to be an exquisite place. Boasting a rich drive of flora as well, it gives a nice high, allowing the travellers to explore the hilly trails, on foot.
How to reach: One can easily reach Neory Valley by availing the rail services till New Jalpaiguri and thereby hiring a car up till the National Park. The North Bengal State Transport buses are also quite comfortable and can be easily accessible at Siliguri (Via Kalimpong or Via Samsing)
The nearest airport is Bagdogra. Flights are available from Calcutta to Bagdogra.
Places of Interest: The Jungle Camps at Kolakham is a must to-do for every traveller. The dazzling view of the Kanchenjunga peak is not to be missed for those on this trek.
Another striking feature about this place is the Lava Monastery which is 10 kms from the national park. A further drive of 22kms takes one to Loleygaon where one can get the hang of an exciting canopy walk through the jungle.