Short Road Trips from Kolkata

Despite February being the shortest month in the year, you can make every weekend count when it comes to your travel goals. This month, we’re recommending gorgeous getaways a few hours’ drive from your city. This means you can have a mini vacation and head back to the city within a day! Think time constraints are throwing in the spanner for your travel plans? Think again! If you’re in Kolkata, rent a car and revel in the literary history of Santiniketan, take a trip down to the bay at Gangasagar, visit the Krishna temple in Mayapur and explore wildlife in the Sunderbans.

 

Santiniketan

Santiniketan is the erstwhile home of Tagore which in later years was transformed into a thriving centre of education, art, and, internationalism. It was Rabindranath Tagore’s father, Debendranath Tagore who started Santiniketan as a spiritual centre in 1863 and everyone cutting across caste, creed, and religion were welcome to Santiniketan for meditation.

Steeped in the legacy of Rabindranath Tagore and his father Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, Santiniketan is a confluence of culture and art. Santiniketan is famous for its many events, including festivals celebrating the seasons like the Basanta Utsav and BarshaMangal. The PoushMela is one of the main events in Santiniketan, it is a three-day festival that features the traditional arts and crafts, and of course the famous Baul music performances. The deer park at Santiniketan is one of the most tranquil spots in the area, a perfect place to unwind over a weekend visit.


Mayapur

Located on the banks of the Ganges, Mayapur is a holy town in West Bengal, the birthplace of the Hindu saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It is believed that Mayapur attracts more than a million visitors each year, due to its importance as a sacred site. One of the main attractions of Mayapur is the Pushpa Samadhi Mandir. The temple is also famous for its museum, which showcases events from the life of Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON and the globally significant “Hare Krishna” movement. Other famous landmarks include the Chandrodaya Mandir with its three different altars. The distance between Kolkata and Mayapur is around 130 kms, involving a scenic drive through Bengal’s countryside. Book a Kolkata to Mayapur car rental and enjoy a memorable trip.

 

Sunderbans

West Bengal’s most famous landmark is undoubtedly the Sunderbans, which is located at the South Eastern tip of the 24 Parganas. It is a part of the world’s largest delta formed by the rivers of Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Of the entire delta, 4,262 sq kilometres of the Sunderbans is situated in India, while another larger portion is a part of Bangladesh. 2,585 sq kilometres of the Indian side of the Sunderbans is dedicated to India’s largest tiger reserve, the Sunderbans National Park. The most famous and popular inhabitant of the Sunderbans is the Tiger and there are over 100 of these magnificent cats roaming the dense forests of this delta and even swimming through the network of channels and mangroves. It is an exciting adventure as you cruise through the world’s largest mangrove sanctuary and its waterways, all the while relishing the breath-taking sights. You can use one of the reliable outstation taxi services in Kolkata that will transport you to the Sunderbans quickly and safely.

 

Gangasagar

Gangasagar over the years has been hosting both pilgrims as well as people who are into adventure sports. This place is situated near the Sunderbans and one shall get enchanted with the beauty of this place as soon as he enters. The beach alongside the calm waves of the sea is a perfect weekend gateway for anyone wanting to take a break from the city life. Gangasagar’s island is also very reputed among the pilgrims following Hindu religion. It is not as widely known, and is still away from the crowd and still has managed to keep intact its raw charm.

Siliguri: The Gateway to North East India

Siliguri, a city on the banks of river Mahananda, is situated between Himalayan foothills and Dooar region of West Bengal. Known as the Gateway to the North East India, Siliguri also serves as a base for other major tourist destinations in the vicinity. However, Siliguri in itself is a perfect holiday destination with plenty to explore. For adventure enthusiasts, river rafting, trekking, and paragliding are among the major activities that will interest you in Siliguri. In between those adventure trips, you also have plenty of nature to traverse with abounding beauty as well as wildlife sanctuaries.

Image source: Wikipedia

The Jaldapara National Park, earlier known as Jaldapara Wildlife sanctuary is on the banks of Torsa River in North West Bengal. The park covers about 217 square kilometres at an altitude of 61 meters above mean sea level and comprises mainly of grasslands as well as riverine forests. The park is renowned for its impressive population of one-horned rhinoceros, Bengal Tigers, Elephants and various species of deers.  Visitors can take an hour-long elephant ride to get the best out of this park.

Kanchenjunga is visible from Siliguri

Kanchenjunga stadium is a multipurpose stadium within the city mainly used for cricket and football matches.  With a seating capacity of 45,000 seats, the stadium is equipped with floodlights to facilitate day and night fixtures. Going back to nature, Mahananda wildlife sanctuary spreads over 158 square kilometres at different elevations.  While the sanctuary has multiple gates, the main gate is at Sukna which is barely 30 minutes from Siliguri. You can witness a wide range of flora & fauna including 330 different types of plantation, 36 species of mammals, and 243 species of birds.

Mirik is an absorbing hill station that has risen to join the ranks of must-visit destinations for visitors exploring West Bengal.  Sumedu Lake, a natural lake in the centre of Mirik is the main attraction here. Visitors also have the opportunity of boating and fishing at Mirik. While boating along the 1-kilometer length of Sumedu Lake, you can even relish the magnificent view of lush green hills covering the lake on all sides.

For visitors keen on a more exceptional experience with untamed and wildlife at close quarters must visit North Bengal Wild Animals Park. Part of Mahanadi Wildlife Sanctuary, this park covers an area of about 300 hectares and serves as a means to enrich the diverse fauna and flora of North Bengal’s floodplains. The park has been developed as a natural habitat for Sal and other associated species. Visitors are prohibited from feeding any animals at the park.

Food in Siliguri is a fantastic amalgamation of different cultures and places. Visitors have the choice of delicious Chinese cuisine, delicacies of Bengal, rich Mughlai cuisine and South Indian Cuisine with vegan as well as non-vegetarian variants. If you have a sweet tooth, you can try some of the famous Bengali sweets too.

You can visit Siliguri anytime around the year as the climate is agreeable and sightseeing opportunities abundant. June to September receives heavy rainfall so that you can avoid these months for a more comfortable outing. Being an important trade centre, Siliguri is well-connected to other parts of the state and country. The Bagdogra international airport is at 17 km, whereas the New Jalpaiguri railway station is situated at 8 km from the Siliguri city centre. Siliguri is connected to the neighbouring cities and states via the National Highways 31, 31A, 31D and 55. Private and state-owned buses are available with reasonable frequency. If you’re worried about the commute, you can book Siliguri car rental and visit Darjeeling, Gangtok, Kurseong, Kalimpong etc. Happy Vacationing!

Celebrate Durga Pujo in the Magnificent Kolkata

The Durga Pujo or Durgotsava or Durga Puja is celebrated with immense joy and magnificence by the Bengali community in India. Though it’s a predominantly Bengali festival, everyone joins the celebration without any restrictions on religion, caste, creed or age. The Durga Puja is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil King Mahishasura. It is also celebrated to welcome the union of the Goddess with her sons, Ganesh & Kartikeya and husband, Lord Shiva.

Why is Durga Puja Celebrated?

According to historical scriptures, Mahishasura engulfed in the arrogance of his boon of invincibility, used to trouble all humans as well as Gods. To put an end to this evil, all gods created Goddess Durga with ten hands from clay and offered her each of their most powerful weapons. Goddess Durga, on her Lion (Simhavahini), defeated Mahishasura on the tenth day of the Bengali month Asvin. Hence, Durga Puja is rejoiced for ten days, from the day of creation of Goddess Durga (Panchami) to the day of slaying Mahishasura (Vijayadashami). It is also said that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga before going to war with Ravana.

Preparations and Grandeur of Durga Puja

Preparations for the festival start 2-3 months before the Durga Puja. Sculptors start making idols of Goddess Durga with her sons using Clay and Straw. Painting the eye of the Goddess (Chokkhudaan) is considered very auspicious, and it is done in the dark, alone by the sculptor. The whole arrangement is called Chala. The Chala is placed in huge decorated pavilions called the Pandals. Carpenters in the city construct these magnificent Pandals with bamboo and cloth. “Pandal-hopping” is a common practice, where people go to different Pandals to check out its grandeur and worship the goddess. People also join the celebrations at home. If you’re looking to experience pandal-hopping first hand in Kolkata, we recommend you book a cab so you can explore celebrations across the city.

Puja Bhog and New Dresses

Other specialities of Durga Puja include new dresses and mouth-watering delicious food varieties. One can witness the craftsmanship and weaving in the authentic Bengali silk and jute dresses that go for sale during Durga Puja. When it comes to food, Durga Puja is the best time of the year to taste authentic Bengali dishes. All through the six days of the festival, afternoon meal called puja bhog is served to everyone. The puja bhog is a pure vegetarian offering consisting of delicious dishes like Khichuri, Labdah, Beguni, Chutney, and Payesh or Mishti for dessert. Although most Bengalis refrain from consuming onions, non-vegetarian foods, wheat, grains and alcohol, during the last four days of Durga Pooja, you can still get the best seafood in town during these days. If you’re planning to go on a shopping spree in Kolkata, book a Savaari cab and explore the city.

Fish, Kathi Rolls, and Sweets

Stalls in the Pandals offer delightful fish delicacies like fish fry, fish chops, pabda, fish orly, chingri, Ilish Mach, Macher Jhal and more. One must try the chicken, mutton, fish and egg Kathi rolls of popular brands like Bijoli Grill and Dilli Haat in Kolkata. Vegetarian food lovers can relish the street foods like Kolkata chaat, puchkas, luchi, jhaal muri, Aloo Tikki, Mughlai Parantha and more. When in Kolkata, you cannot miss the mouth-watering Bengali sweets. You can binge on Malpoa, Mishti Doi, Payesh and Sandesh during Durga Puja celebrations.

 Rituals and Practices during Durga Puja

It is an incredible sight to witness the evening aarti during the six days of celebrations. Some important rituals include the Ashtami Pushpanjali, Kumari Puja, Sindhur Khela and Finally Vijayadashami Visarjan. People pray with diyas, collars, flowers, loud music and fragrance on all days. The Dhunuchi dance is so mesmerising that you would not know when you became a part of it. On the tenth day of Vijayadashami, the idols are taken from the Pandals and immersed in the local rivers marking the end of the festivities.

#60DaysOfSummer – Tea Plantations in Darjeeling

If you can’t properly wake up without a cup of tea, can’t function at work unless you get your regular dose of chai, or if you just appreciate a good cup of tea, we’ve got the perfect vacation spot for you.

Darjeeling – birthplace of the famous hand-rolled Happy Valley tea (it sold at UK’s Harrods in 2008 for a whopping Rs 5,000 per kg!) – is a great place for a quick getaway from city life. With laid back tea estates, a stunning view of the Kanchenjunga mountain range and an endless supply of exquisite Darjeeling tea, you’d be hard pressed to find a more relaxed vacation to go on for tea lovers.

Though the First Flush season (the first harvest in the year) ends in February, you might just get to taste some excellent Second Flush Darjeeling tea April onwards. If you’re planning your trip around May, you might just get to experience tea picking across estates.

If you’re looking to just visit or stay at a tea estate, you have several options to choose from including Happy Valley Tea Estate, Singtom Tea Estate and Resort, Gomtee Resort and Tumsong Chaibari Tea Retreat.

HOW TO GET THERE

Take a flight to Bagdogra Airport. Darjeeling is a 2 hour 30 minute drive from Bagdogra. You can also club your tea estate stay with a visit to the Zemu Glacier in North Sikkim.