Kolkata, the ‘city of joy’ is a great tourist destination. Known for its culture and literature, the city has all the elements to keep the tourists engaged. However, if you want to take a break from the city or you are done exploring the city, Kolkata offers a range of weekend getaways. You will be treated to some delightful holiday spots at convenient driving distances. From the culturally significant Santiniketan to serene beaches, Kolkata has some amazing weekend getaways to offer. These really cool destinations nearby will take you on a journey through the beauty of nature and culture in eastern India.
Located 109 km south-east of Kolkata, Sundarbans is the world’s largest delta with 10,200 sq km of mangrove forest. It is located on the Ganes delta and is spread across India and Bangladesh. The part of mangrove forest within the territory of India is called Sundarbans National Park. The national park has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The flora of the forest includes Sundari trees and hence the name of the forest. Sunderbans is home to the majestic Royal Bengal tigers. These tigers have adapted to live in the marshy land of Sundarbans and can swim in the saline water. Along with tiger the forest is a natural habitat for animals like giant lizards, crocodiles, wild boars, spotted deer and jungle fowl. The forest now has approximately 30,000 spotted deer and around 400 Royal Bengal tigers. The forest also serves as a temporary residence for the Siberian duck during their migratory season. You will also fine few endangered species here like Olive Ridley Turtles, King Crabs and Batagur baska.
In 1973, the Sundarbans National Park has been declared as the core area of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve and in 1987, it was proclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage. In 1989, the entire region of Sunderbans was declared a Biosphere Reserve.
Things to do: Take a tour of Sundarban. As the forest is full of wild animals, boats are used for the tours. Cruising through the river, you will be able to see the animals in their natural habitat. Soak in the nature’s sound and sight. There are also watchtowers from where you can see the beautiful forest and the narrow river streams flanked by thick vegetation.
You can shop at the Kumirmari bazaar, a typical rustic market in Sundarban, or watch local artists perform Baul music or folklore called Bono Bibir Pala
Best time to go: September to April is the best time to visit Sunderban.
Driving distance: 109km
Where to stay: Prakrity Village Resort Sundarbans (098312 83286), Sundarban Tigerland Resort (9971231439), Tora Eco Resort & Life Experience Centre (099030 55524) and United 21 Resort – Sunderbans (090079 95888) are some of the best hotels in Sunderban.
Tips: You can book a tour package that will include stay, food and a cruise through the forest.
Located about 180 km north-west of Kolkata, Bishnupur is famous for its terracotta temples. Built in during the 17th and 18 th century these terracotta temples are one of the finest examples of classic architecture style of Bengal. The stunning architecture and the handicraft reflect the town’s glorious past. Bishnupur was the capital of the Malla kingdom and it flourished during the 17th and 18th centuries. The unique form of architecture of Bishnupur that involves detailed terracotta work was developed during the reign of the Malla kings.
Bishnupur is known for its beautiful terracotta temples. The Vaishnavite kings of the Malla Kingdom built the terracotta temples due to the shortage of stone. Various styles from the nearby regions are incorporated in the unique architecture of the shrines. Multi-lobed arches and Muslim domes were blended with features such as the curved Bangla roof for the temples. The shrines are crafted from brick and laterite and then covered with terracotta tiles.
The twin shrine of the Rasmancha and Jor Bangla, the Shyam Ray temple and Radheshyam temple are some the temples you must visit. Brishnupur is also famous for jewellery, artifacts, pottery and handloom saris. The Bishnupur Gharana, a school of Hindustani classical music, is taught in local music academies. Bishnupur school of painting is also well-known.
Things to do: Dedicated to Vishnu, Rasmancha temple is said to be the oldest brick monument in Bishnupur with a pyramidal tower. This unique temple was constructed to accommodate the idols of god that people brought during the festivals. The temple is illuminated at night and it is a sight to behold.
Visit the Bishnupur Acharjya Jogesh Chandra Purakriti Bhawan or Bishnupur museum to see the history of the region. It is the only art and archaeology museum in the district and it houses around 100 sculptures, 5000 manuscripts and British history. Folk arts and craft, various photographs and many specimens of textiles are also kept in the museum.
Jor Bangla temple in Bishnupur is a simple temple with exquisite terracotta relief art work on the walls. Jor means ‘pair’ in bngali language. The temple is a pair of cottages with a four-way sloped roof. Earlier, the temple was called Krishna Ray, but it is now known as Jor Bangla due to its design. The design of the temple is very rare in India.
Another interesting temple to visit in Bishnupur is the Madan Mohan temple. The temple has ektarana style in which the roof is flat square with carved cornices. You can also visit the memorial of Shreenibas Acharya or Nutan Mahal.
Best time to go: You can visit Bishnupur throughout the year.
Driving distance: 180.3 km (4 hours 2 minutes)
Where to stay: Some of the hotels in Bishnupur include Bishnupur Tourist Lodge (097321 00950), Udayan Lodge (03244 252 243), Holiday Resort (094345 53060) and Monalisa Lodge (094341 15177).
Tips: Do not forget to buy terracotta items and handloom saris from Bishnupur.
The seaside resort town, Digha is located 181.5km south of Kolkata. Digha Beach is one of the most popular tourist attractions of West Bengal. The 7kms long beach is located near the town. Also known as ‘Brighton of the east’, Digha beach will instantly make you fall in love with it. With gentle waves, this shallow sand beach is considered safe for swimming. The beach is located at the border of Odisha and is lined with Casuarina trees. Digha ais divided into New Digha and Old Digha. Old Digha is presently in ruins, but New Digha is popular among tourists.
Things to do: Enjoy a nice swim at Digha. The swaying Casuarina trees, the sand and the waves will relax you. The beach is the perfect location to spend your time if you are nature lover.
Best time to go: November to February is the best time to visit Digha.
Driving distance: 181.5km (4 hours 17 minute)
Where to stay: Hotel Rohini International Digha ( 076023 19618), Hotel Rajeet (090466 67777), Cozzet Hotel New Digha (085951 77177), Sea Hawk Hotel (03220 266 235) and Park Prime Residency (03220 302 030) are some of the best hotels in Digha.
Tips: It is recommended to book a local rickshaw to reach Digha beach.
Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan is a small town located 164.7 km north of Kolkata. Santiniketan is located near Bolpur, which is untouched by the chaos of the city life. The serene town of Santiniketan was established by Rabindranath Tagore and is now a university town – Visva Bharati University.
The university, which was Tagore’s vision, was established in 1921 and was funded by the Maharajah of Tripura. It was established to provide the best of eastern and western teachings to students. The university has the concept of open-air education. The classes are not conducted inside the four walls of a classroom. Many eminent people from across the world taught at Visva-Bharati. Amartya Sen, Satyajit Ray and Indira Gandhi are some of the illustrious students of the university. The art college of the Santiniketan is called Kala Bhavan and is considered among the world’s best art colleges. Santiniketan has many beautiful paintings, murals, frescos and sculpture of Binod Bihari Mukhopadhaya, Nandalal Bose and Rabindranath Tagore.
The best time to visit Santiniketan is during festivals and fairs like Basant Utsav in March, Joydev Mela in January and Poush Mela in December. During these events, the famous mystic Baul singers will enthral you with their songs and recitations.
Things to do: Take a tour of the university and soak in the art and culture of the place.
Best time to go: You can visit Santiniketan throughout the year but to see the colourful side of the university town, visit during one of the festivals.
Driving distance: 164.7 km (3 hours 35 minutes)
Where to stay: Some of the best hotels near Shantiniketan are Camellia Hotel & Resort (090070 30198), Rater Tara Diner Rabi Guest House (033 3052 2755), Mitali Homestays (03463 262 763) and Vasundhara Inn (033 2576 0138).
Located 240 km north of Kolkata, Murshidabad is famous for its British and Mughal colonial history. The city is located on the banks of Bhagirathi River and was the last capital of independent Bengal. The city was called Maksudabad earlier and was named after Nawab Murshid Quli Khan, the Dewan of Bihar, Odisha and Bengal, when his administration was transferred to the town from Dhaka. Nawab Murshid Quli Khan named the town after himself.
One of the most famous historical structures of Murshidabad is the Hazarduari Palace. The Murshidabad silk saris made in this region is also famous. The silk sari is made using sholapith and ivory. These vibrant, light saris are a must buy. The Bera Utsav, an annual festival, is another reason to visit Murshidabad. The festival is celebrated on the last Thursday of Bhadra month (mid-September) in Bengali calendar. The celebrations are held on the banks of Bhagirathi River.
Things to do:Murshidabad will not disappoint you if you are a history enthusiast. The Hazaduari Palace is one of the main attractions of the city. Built by Duncan Mcleod in 1837, Hazaduari Palace has European architectural style. This three-storey palace has eight galleries, 114 rooms and 1000 doors. It was built for the descendent of Mir Zafar, Nawab Najim Humaun Jah. The palace was used for accommodation of high British officials. It also served as a meeting hall. The palace is now a museum that houses portraits, paintings and armoury of the Nawabs. It also has the sword used by Nawab Alivardi Khan and his grandson Siraj-ud-Doula. Hazaduari Palace also has certain rare collection, which can be viewed only with a special permission.
Murshidabad is also home to a huge canon called Jahan Kosha Canon. This canon was built in the 17 th centuy by Janardan Karmarkar of Dhaka. The 17.5 ft long canon weighs 16,880 Ib. There is a mosque called Kadam Sharif near the canon. It is believed that the mosque has a replica of Prophet Muhammad’s footprint.
Nizamat Imambara is another place in Murshidabad you must visit. The Imambara is located opposite to Hazarduari palace and on the bank of Bhagirathi River. Built by Nawab Nazim Mansoon Ali Khan Feradun Jah in 1847 AD, Nizamat Imambara is considered to be India’s largest Imambara. The construction of this Imambara took just 11 months. Nizamat Imambara was constructed following the destruction of the Imambara built by Siraj-ud-Doula by fire.
Best time to go: You can visit Murshidabad throughout the year.
Driving distance: 240.1 km (5 hours 20 minutes)
Where to stay: Hotel Green House (096090 12167), Hotel Sunshine (03482 277 322), Hotel Samrat (03482 251 147), Hotel Sagnik (03482 270 051) and Hotel The Fame (9564484166) are some of the hotels in Murshidabad.
Tips: Buy Murshidabad silk saris. Try delicious local cuisine, which is a blend o fMughal and Bengali cuisine. Do try Misti Polao, Gobindo Bhog Chaal and the Murshidabad Murgi Biryani.
Located 125.4 km south of Kolkata, Bakkhali is one if the several deltaic islands in the southern part of the state. Bakkhali is a popular seaside resort. This crescent shaped beach is eight kilometres long and extends from Bakkhali to Frasergunj. Bakkhali beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in India with rolling waves. The beach lined with Casuarina trees is not crowded except on holidays. Even on holidays, you will find many deserted spots on the beach. This hard beach is suitable for driving or cycling. You can also take a long walk. It is known for the magical sunrises and equally beautiful sunsets. The temple of Banbibi is also close by. Frasegunj is also a tourist attraction.
Things to do: Take a stroll on the beach or swim or make sand castles. There are windmills in Frasegunj that attract tourists. Other major attractions in the area are mangrove forest and Crocodile Park. You can also visit Henry’s Island.
Best time to go: The period between October and March is the best time it visit Bakkhali as the climate will be pleasant and you will be able to enjoy sightseeing and exploring outdoor.
Driving distance: 125.4 km (3 hours 57 minutes)
Where to stay: Some of the best hotel sin Bakkhali are Hotel Amarabati (097326 19340), Hotel Deepak (033 2464 0081) and Hotel Dibney (9088455990).
Located 106.6 km north of Kolkata, Krishnanagar is a historical town in the Nadia district of West Bengal. The town is located on the sourthern bank of the river Jalangi and was under the reign of Raja Krishna Chandra Roy. It is said that the town was named after Raja Krishna Chandra Roy. This famous zamindar was a lover of culture and art and hence built this city aesthetically. Under his regn, the crafts and creative art of the town flourished.
The major tourist attraction is the Krishnanagar Rajbari (palace), which was the residence of Krishna Chandra. One of the main features of this palace is the temple dedicated to goddess Durga. The temple is situated in the courtyard. Another popular attraction is the Roman Catholic Church.
Things to do: VisitKrishnanagar Rajbari. The royal palace is a testimony of the grandeur of the bygone era. It is the most visited tourist attraction in the town. People visit this palace to celebrate different festivals. Baro dol, which is the festival of Holi, is celebrated annually near the palace during March-April and the Jhulam Mela is celebrated in July-August every year. This architectural marvel is surrounded by a waterbody, which is called Dighi. The temple also has a stunning temple dedicated to goddess Durga in its courtyard.
Another place in Krishnanagar you must visit is the Roman Catholic Church. It is popular for its sculptures and architecture. The sculptures in this church are made of wood and were created by Italian artists. The church has 27 oil paintings that depict the life of Jesus Christ.
Best time to go: October to March is the best time to visit Krishnanagar.
Driving distance: 106.6 km (3 hours 16 minutes)
Where to stay: Hotel Astha Midway (074071 88882), Asian Guest House (094743 03000) and Hotel Haveli (03472 271 756) are some of the hotels in Krishnanagar.
Mandarmani is located 168 km south of Kolkata and is a popular seaside resort village. Mandarmani village is called Mandarboni by the locals. It is a perfect getaway from the city life. Mandarmani beach is considered to be India’s longest drivable beach. The wide and clean sea shore of the beach attracts many tourists and is one of the fastest developing tourist spots. This tranquil beach offers a pea ceful atrmosphere to unwind and relax. The beach is also offers different types of water sports like surfing, jet skiing, bungee trampoline, ATV bikes and banana boat rides depending on the season. You can also indulge in swimming here.
One of the main festivals in Madarmani is the Digha-Mandarmani festival. Several beach aand water sports are conducted during the festival. The beach becomes the venue for Bangla music bands. They perform on temporary stage on the beach. You can also shop for jewellery and other items made of oysters and seashells.
Things to do: Best thing to do in Mandarmani is visit the beach. Take a long walk, play volleyball or watch sunset. You can also indulge in activities like jet skking, surfing, bungee trampoline and biking on the beach. The beach is perfect for sun bathing and swimming. You can also visit the Delta, which is located on the outskirt of the village. The place is also known as ‘Mohana’ or river delta.
Best time to go: The best time to visit Mandarmani is between November and February.
Driving distance: 168.6 km (4 hours 5 minutes)
Where to stay: Some of the best hotels in Mandarmani are Bombay Beach Resort (098741 55085), The Sana Beach Resort, Victoria Beach Resort (084200 47201), Anutri Beach Resort (093314 28687) and Masara Beach Resort (093311 55548).
Tips: Shop for handicrafts and items made of seashells. Do not miss out on tasting the sea food here.
Located 239 km north-west of Kolkata, Boranti is small village surrounded by beautiful hills and lakes. The village is located in the Purulia district. Although there aren’tlot many activities to do in Boranti but it offers an excellent getaway from the hustle bustle of the city. You can trek to the Biharinath Hill or just relax in the lap of nature. Muradi Lake close to the village is a popular tourist destination. The lake, which was built to store water, is an ideal place to indulge in some fishing. The area near the lake is home to animals like deer, porcupines, wolves, wild boars and foxes.
You must visit the village during winter when the Palash flowers are in full bloom. The fiery red and orange palash flowers paint the village red and liven up the jungle. Kali Puja is another occasion when you should visit Boranti to see a different side of the village. Kali Puja is celebrated in October.
Things to do: Visit Muradi Lake, which is a popular picnic spot. The deep blue water of the lake offers you a beautiful reflection of the nearby Muradi hill. The lake is an ideal location to learn angling. This place will help you relax.
Joychandi Hills are another attraction. The hills offer moderate trek. It was featured in Satyajit Ray’s movie ‘Hirok Rajar Deshe’. You can visit Durgapur, which has one of the biggest steel plant in India. Durgapur’s Deul Park is a popular tourist attraction. Other places to explore are Maithon Dam, Susunia Hills, Panchet Dam and Kalyaneshwar Temple.
Best time to go: The best time to visit Boranti is during the period between October and March. During this time the temperature is pleasant and you can explore the region comfortably.
Driving distance: 239 km (4hours 58 minutes)
Where to stay: Some of the hotels in Boranti are Boranti Nature Hut (9433077951), Polash Bari (9932542601), Palashbari Ecological Resort (098315 07644) and Aaronnok (9830024052).
Tips: Experience the village life and do taste the ilish and Pathuri fish preparations.
Although Darjeeling is 613.9 km north of Kolkata, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in West Bengal. This hill station is more suitable for long weekends. It is one of the most beautiful hill resorts in India. Darjeeling is located at an elevation of 2,134 meters with a backdrop of majestic Himalayan peaks. On a clear day, you can clearly see Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world. This hill resort is hugely popular for its pleasant climate and scenic landscape. It is also home to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), which has been given the status of a World Heritage Site.
For people who love adventure sports, Darjeeling offers several options like outdoor camping, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and river rafting. If you are looking forward to a relaxing weekend, you can take a leisurely stroll through the quaint streets of the town or just soak in the natural beauty of the place.
You can visit the Singalila National Park, which is home to many animals including the red panda. You can also see the rhododendron blooms here and try some high altitude trekking. The park is a popular destination for camping as it is largely free of snakes and other vicious animals.
In 1925, Mahatma Gandhi travelled to Darjeeling fromSiliguri on foot. After reaching Darjeeling, he was so enthralled that he said the best way to reach such a beautiful place was on foot. The DHR and Darjeeling have been featured in many Hindi movies like Aradhana, Parineeta and Raju Bangaya Gentleman.
Things to do: Visit Tiger Hill to enjoy the panoramic view of the Mount Everest. You can reach the hill on foot or by jeep. Climbing up the incline of Tiger Hilll will take you around two hours at a leisurely pace.
Another place you must checkout is The Mall or the Chowrasta Mall. It is the famous commercial street in Darjeeling and is lined with shops selling everything from Himalayan artifacts to antiques to Tibetan sweaters. There are shops that specialises in hand-painted black and white prints as well as shops that have turn-of-the-century photos. The restaurant Keventer’s is one of the famous eateries on the Gandhi Road.
Singalila National Park is another place you must not miss. Home to Himalayan black bear and exotic red panda, the park covers 78.60 sq km and is a heaven for trekkers. There are several species of orchids and trees.
Make sure you visit the Happy Valley Tea Garden and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The institute was created by late Tenzing Norgay, who conquered Mt Everest on May 29, 1953 with Sir Edmund Hillary. There is also a zoological park close to the institute.
Best time to go: March to May and September to December is the best time to visit Darjeeling.
Driving distance: 613.9 Km (14 hours 33 minutes)
Where to stay: Some of the best hotels in Darjeeling are Hotel Darjeeling Palace (0354 225 7665), Aliment Hotel (081163 47274), North Star Hotel (094747 61332) and Hill Crown Retreat (094323 24780)
Tips: Shop in the flea market and the Mall. Don’t miss the delicious momos and thupka. There are several restaurants and eateries that sell these mouth-watering dishes. You can try Tibetan food at 7A Restaurant, which is located on Dr Zakir Hussain Road, Near Chowrasta.
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