When someone says West Bengal, a picture instantly pops up in your mind. You imagine the ladies clad in the traditional white and red sarees chatting in the sleepy lanes of Kolkata, children singing Rabindra sangeet, people crowding at the local eateries to buy Rasagullas and Sandesh for their families, and the fragrance of fish cooking in mustard flitting through the air and all of this leaves you wanting to travel to this beautiful state. Maybe this enchanting Bengali vibe is what made the British love this state immensely and name Kolkata the capital of British India.
Being a diverse melting pot of festivals, religions, architecture, culture, literature, and food, West Bengal is unrivaled as one of India’s greatest tourist destinations. West Bengal is extremely underrated. In fact, the tourists are generally taken aback when they realize that there are so many great things to do and regret not planning enough days for their vacation in Bengal. If you are planning a trip to this state, here are the top 7 exciting things to do in West Bengal to make your trip memorable.
Popularly known as the twin city of Kolkata, Howrah is a lively town that’s perched on the banks of the majestic Hooghly River. Although Howrah is an industrial town, it certainly stands out due to the romanticism that is infused in the city’s atmosphere. Irrespective of whether you know much about Bengal, the word Howrah Bridge immediately conjures a beautiful scene in your mind.
Although the town is connected to the bustling city of Kolkata via 4 bridges, Howrah is known to be the most popular one owing to the fact that it is the sixth-longest cantilever bridge. The name of this town comes from the Bengali word ‘Haor’ which translates to fluvial swamps. The word Howrah thus indicates the topography of the region of and around Howrah. Although the town has undergone rapid development, the spectacular landscape makes it an exciting place to visit.
Being one of the busiest bridges in the world, it is also equipped with a separate walkway for pedestrians. Simply taking a walk across the bridge and feeling the cool breeze on your face is a beautiful experience. You can catch a glimpse of some boats sailing merrily over the Hooghly River and the sunset views literally take your breath away. Apart from this bridge, don’t forget to visit the famous tourist sites like Santragachi Jheel, Botanical Gardens, and Vidyasagar Setu while you are in Howrah.
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One simply cannot travel all the way to West Bengal and not visit the Sundarbans National Park. Famed for being home to the largest mangrove ecosystems in the world, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is shared by India and Bangladesh. The Sunderbans are a nature lover's ultimate dreamland. Comprising a tiger reserve and a biosphere reserve, this national park offers all the elements of nature, be it the animals like the Bengal Tigers, raging rivers, and stunning estuaries.
Dotted with several Sundari trees, gushing rivers, creeks, and springs, this forest perfectly captures the essence of wilderness. Despite being the natural habitat of some lively and wonderful species of flora and fauna, the tranquility of this region manages to allure people with its simple yet dynamic and well-balanced ecosystem. The Park is home to the largest population of the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers and naturally they are the main attraction of the park.
Apart from tigers, there is an abundance of endangered wildlife species here which include the Olive Ridley and the Batagur Baska turtles, spotted deer, king crabs, jungle fowl, salt-water crocodiles, giant lizards, Siberian ducks and so on. To add to that, the park contains more than 64 species of mangroves itself. Sundari, Goran, Kankra, Dhundal, Genwa, etc., are some of the main varieties available here. The best part about the park is that the visitors can go coastal trekking along the mudflats (also called Chargheri-Char) and witness the enchanting flora and fauna of Sunderbans more intimately.
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Appealing to all the history buffs, the quaint little town of Bishnupur is renowned for its terracotta temples. Located in the Bankura district, this town has a rich historical and cultural legacy in architecture, music, art, and handicrafts. The fact that you can hear the delightful classical music melodies from every house, shop for the traditional Baluchari sarees and terracotta pots, and purchase paintings made by the talented locals proves that their ancient traditions and practices haven’t died down.
As mentioned before, the town is renowned for its magnificent reddish terracotta temples that are a visual treat for all visitors. During the 17th and the 18th century, the then ruling family, i.e., the Malla dynasty was a patron of music and painting and that’s why traditional cultural practice really prospered here. It is believed that the terracotta temples were built by the rulers of the Malla dynasty in the same period.
This period in time marked the struggle to revive Hinduism through devotion towards Lord Krishna after a lengthy stretch of Islamic rule. The outcome of this was the terracotta temple designs that are an amalgamation of Odia-style sanctum, arches and domes typical of Islamic architecture, and Bengali-styled curved roofs.
The terracotta tiles that are etched into the walls of the temples feature vivid scenes from Krishna’s life, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. Don’t forget to seek blessings at some of the prominent temples like the Jorbangla temple, Rasmancha temple, Shyamrai temple, etc., when you visit Bishnupur.
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Because of its hypnotic beauty, breathtaking sunsets, rolling hills, and vintage charm, traveling to the hill station of Darjeeling tends to be on the bucket list of almost every other person. However, instead of the usual touristy things to do in Darjeeling, you could explore the Himalayan wonderland more closely by going for the Sandakphu Trek in the Singalila Ranges.
Located on the Nepal-Bengal border, this trek offers you some of the mind-numbingly scenic views of the snow-clad Kanchenjunga range. As you will be trekking through some of the highest trekking trails in Bengal, you can actually catch a glimpse of the peaks of the majestic K2 and also the mighty Mount Everest.
The trekkers start off their journey from Darjeeling and go on to explore some of the remotest and undiscovered parts of Sikkim as well as Nepal. This 47-km trek will probably take you about 6 days to complete. As the temperatures during the winters are freezing cold, it’s best to plan a trip to the Sandakphu peak in the summers. Those who can’t or don’t want to trek can simply hire a land rover and visit the peak. Just remember that you will be missing out on a lot of you by not choosing to visit the Sandakphu Peak while traveling to Bengal.
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All the literature fans traveling to West Bengal make sure that they pay a visit to the charming old university town of Shantiniketan which translates to ‘Abode of Peace’. Lying about 16 km away from Kolkata, this university is famed for being the home of the Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. Named as the Visva-Bharati University, Shantiniketan was founded by Mr. Tagore himself.
Shantiniketan embodies the essence of Rabindranath Tagore’s entire life, philosophy, and some of his best works. To add to that, it carries forward his ideas that are embedded in his unique models of education as well as internationalism. The Uttarayan Complex which was the residence of Tagore ends up attracting lots of tourists. Other than that, the Upasana Griha (prayer hall) with its multicolored glass windows and Kalabhavan with its murals, sculptures, and paintings add to the charm of Shantiniketan.
If this wasn’t enough, Shantiniketan is also a remarkable hub of all kinds of traditional handicrafts like embroidery, pottery, weaving, etc. You can find some great items to purchase as souvenirs at the Alcha boutique and Amar Kutir. Don’t miss out on a visit to Bondangar Haat (the village market) if you are at Shantiniketan on a Saturday. The Baul singers strolling along the street and singing their native tunes is a common sight here.
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From snowy, sky-piercing mountain peaks to sunny, pristine beaches, West Bengal has it all. Constantly traveling from one destination to another during a vacation can certainly get exhausting. Enter Digha! Resting on the shores of the mighty Bay of Bengal, this coastal town is dotted with stunning, untouched beaches, beautiful temples, and some great research centers. In fact, Digha is an ideal location for anyone who wants to unwind, sit back and relax.
There is no end to what you could do in this charming little coastal town. All the adventure junkies traveling to Digha are certainly in for a treat. Water sports are one of the recent additions to all that Digha offers and there is a wide range of such activities available here. For instance, you could either choose to go parasailing, snorkeling, water zorbing, water skiing, banana boat rides, and whatnot!
Those who wish to get rid of their stress could simply sunbathe on the beach and watch a magical sunset unfold in front of their eyes. Sipping on fresh coconut water and having the delicious fried fish from the local eateries is something many people enjoy doing. Apart from chilling at the beaches, do consider visiting some of the main attractions of Digha which include the Chandaneswar Temple, Marine Station, and the Amarabati Park.
The cuisine of each state in India is drastically different from each other which means that the variety of food you will get to feast on is insane. Trying out the authentic Bengali food will not only bring your sheer joy, but it will also give you an insight into the native traditions and daily lives of the locals.
When in Bengal, you simply cannot go without trying their heavenly sweets that melt in your mouth the moment they touch your tongue. Stroll through the local markets of cities like Kolkata and you will find sweet vendors who sell freshly made sweets. Rasagullas, Rasamalai, and Sandesh (made from condensed milk) are some of the delicacies you should definitely try out. We’re sure that once you have them, you won’t stop eating them till the very end of your trip.
Apart from that, Bengal is also known for its fish recipes. The Bengali recipes manage to find the right balance of spicy and sweet which makes their food quite delicious. The Ilish machh’er jhol (mustard cooked Ilish fish), the Chingri Macher Malai Curry or Chingri Malai Curry (thick gravy consisting of lobsters/prawns/shrimps), and Tangra Macher Jhol (Catfish) are some of the fish curries you ought to try. If you’re a vegetarian, West Bengal has got a little something for you as well. Do try out their Shukto, Aloo Potol Posto, and Potol’er Dolma and eat to your heart’s content.
Which Is The Famous Hill Station Of West Bengal?
West Bengal is home to Darjeeling, which is one of the most beautiful and famous hill stations in Eastern India. Hidden away in the Mahabharata range, Darjeeling offers you a chance to escape from the busy city life. The lush green tea estates, panoramic views, Tibetan food cafés, exhilarating train rides, and the surrounding mountains all make Darjeeling a must-visit for avid travelers.
What Is The Speciality Of West Bengal?
West Bengal stands out since it is the only state that houses numerous raging rivers, the mighty Bay of Bengal, vast expanses of dense forests, and the majestic Himalayas all at once. That’s why it is popularly called the ‘Accident of Geography’. In fact, the British were so mesmerized with the state that they named Kolkata as the capital of British India.
What Is Kolkata's Famous Food?
Visiting Kolkata and not having its mouth-watering street food would be an absolute sin. Here are some of the best street food items that you shouldn’t miss out on in Kolkata,
Which Is The Most Beautiful City In West Bengal?
Here are the top 5 beautiful destinations in West Bengal that will leave you wanting to extend your stay in the state.
When Is The Best Time To Visit West Bengal?
The best time to visit West Bengal is anytime from October to March. Although the weather in Bengal tends to be great throughout the year, Bengal tends to be at its best in these months. However, if you want to avoid the crowds, you can also choose to visit during the off-season.
How Can I Reach West Bengal?
Reaching West Bengal is quite easy, especially because it is so well connected to all the states across India. The state houses two airports, namely, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport and the Bagdogra Domestic Airport. You will generally find direct flights to these airports if you are traveling by air.
Do remember that Howrah Station, Jalpaiguri Station, and Sealdah Railway Station are some of the most important railway stations in the state. That's where you will probably get off if you are traveling by train. Lastly, the state is connected to different parts of the country via State and National Highways.