Kolkata and Durga Puja are synonymous. Thousands of people from all over the world visit the city during this time. Kolkata’s Durga Puja is India’s official nomination for UNESCO’s 2020 list of cultural institutions that require protection and preservation. If you are planning a trip to Kolkata this time, keep some time in hand and indulge in a little sight-seeing. Though not as grand as Kolkata Pujas, these district Pujas are rich in history and heritage. Also Read - No I-T Notice Was Issued to Durga Puja Committees in Kolkata, Clarifies Central Board of Direct Taxes

Here are five places in the vicinity of Kolkata that you can unwind in after hectic Durga Puja days. Also Read - 'Festivals Should be Exempt From Levies', Mamata to Protest Against Centre on Aug 13 Over Tax on Durga Puja

1. Bishnupur, Bankura Also Read - Mamata Slams Centre Over I-T Notice to Durga Puja Committees, Calls it Harassment

Ever wondered when was the first Durga Puja celebrated? Apparently, this district of West Bengal claims the credit. The Mrinmayee Temple in Bishnupur boasts of this unique tag and in 2019 it is going to observe its 1023rd Durga Puja. This puja, observed by the royal family of Bishnupur, is also quite different in its rituals and traditions and makes up for a majestic event rooted in history. If you are into history and architecture and want to taste authenticity, this is your road trip. Moreover, the stunning terracotta temples of Bishnupur is a must add to your itinerary. A five-hour drive through highways, forests and local villages will make a fantastic experience too. This can be your two-nights-and-three-days getaway during Durga Puja.

2. Simultala, Bihar

Simultala used to be the erstwhile health resort of wealthy Bengalis residing in Kolkata and around, which was mostly recommended for ‘weather-change’.

All that remains now are the old bungalows in ruins and neglect. However, there are some houses, which have been renovated and turned into wonderful homestays. There are hardly any people, except the local villagers, which makes it all the more peaceful and serene. You can spend weeks in this hamlet and will surely feel rejuvenated as the soil, air and water in this place still have medicinal properties.

During Durga Puja, Simultala turns into its best self with fall colours, blue sky dotted with cottony clouds, fireflies in pitch-dark landscapes under a brilliantly star-lit sky — the air heavy with the smell of Shiuli flowers and of course a small Durga Puja pandal celebrated by the locals. What’s more — you can visit nearly located Deoghar for a day trip.

Simultala is about eight hours drive from Kolkata via NH2 and it is an absolutely pleasurable drive.

3. Mandabari, North Bengal

Durga Puja or not, North Bengal never disappoints. And especially if you really want to be cut off from civilisation, then this is your destination.

You can spend the five days of puja tucked away in nature, wake up to exotic birds chirping, sip refreshing tea and be surrounded by greenery. There is a nip in the air and winter just starts to set in. The perfect time and place to head away from the festive heat. There are plenty of road trips to explore around. You can also add a few days of Bhutan in your itinerary. It is far from Kolkata and can take up to 13 hours of drive. You can do a night stopover at Malda if you want to have a more relaxed road trip.

4. Gajlaxmi Palace, Dhenkanal

Tucked into the foliage of Odisha is this perfect piece of royalty. The property not only offers you a great stay, amazing home-cooked food and scenic forest walks, but also has the hosts taking you in as a family. The roads are beautiful and one has to drive through the forest to reach the palace which is situated literally in the middle of nature. An absolute delight if you are looking to just laze a with a book in the shaded corner of a huge terrace of the palace overlooking the jungle ahead. If you are lucky and agree to drive in the night, you can go for a night safari guided by the king himself. About 9 hours drive and at a distance of 445 kms, this place is perfect for 3-4 nights stay. You can also go for excursions to Bhubaneshwar, Puri, Konark or Chilka while you’re there.

5. Shantiniketan, Birbhum

Go rustic and artistic this Puja with tribal dance, baul songs and creative pandals amidst nature. You can explore are Sonajhuri, Taltor and Garh Jangal. You can also visit the nearby Surul Rajbari for their unique idol and traditions. Your drive will be through fields of Kaash-Phool, an autumn glory during pujo.

A mere three hours of fantastic drive, it is great if you are to spend just a night or two with your gang.

There are more such old-school pujas in Andul (Rajbari and Dutta Chowdhury Bari), Srirampur (Goswami Bari), Sheoraphuli (Rajbari) and Guptipara (Old Durgabari).

The RoadTripsCo can guide you and take you on these exciting, fun-filled and adventurous road trips.