Top Places To Visit in West Bengal
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About West Bengal
Dol Festival in Bengal.Known as 'Dol Jatra', 'Dol Purnima' or 'Swing Festival,' Holi in Bengal is a dignified affair and celebrated by placing the idols of Krishna and Radha on a palanquin. The decorated palanquin is then taken around the main streets and people, dressed up in saffron-coloured or pure white clothes, sing and dance to the accompaniment of musical instruments. Devotees, one after another, swing the palanquin and men spray coloured water at them.
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Gurudongmar Lake, also noted as Gurudogmar Lake, the lake is named after Guru Padmasambhava, otherwise called Guru Rinpoche, originator of Tibetan Buddhism who went to the lake in the eighth century. It is one of the most noteworthy lakes on the planet, situated at a height of 17,800 ft in the Indian state of Sikkim. The lake can be reached by street from Lachen via Thangu. As indicated by a legend, when Padmasambhava went to the lake he saw a favorable phenomenon in the lake and after that he thought of it as a decent augury to enter the territory of Sikkim, then known as Demojong. It is currently said that the lake provides a shelter to any pregnant lady offering prayers to God at the lake. The lake looks small at the spot where devotees offer love, yet the bigger piece of the lake is not visible because of uneven geography impeding the complete perspective at this area.
This place is paradise for adventure lovers. This is the highest point in West Bengal and you have to trek for around 12 hours from Maneybhanjan to reach this place. You can also hire a landrover from maneybhanjan. This is also a village and is a part of the Singalila National Park. As you reach on top of this [point, you will be welcomed with some of the most awesome views including the famous route from Bhutan till Mt. Everest. The view of the mighty River Teesta is also very attractive. This river is apt for river rafting due to the high speed in which the water flows. If you can put in physical effort for the love for nature, this is the right place to choose.
One of the most important attractions in West Bengal, this is around 12 kilometres from Darjeeling and is a point 2555 metres above sea level. The Tiger Hill is famous for the rare views at dawn. The only condition if you want to enjoy this enthralling experience is that you have to be awake and ready by 4AM in the morning. You go straight to the Tiger Hill before the sun comes out and take the last views of the snow capped Kanchenjunga Peak. As soon as the sun comes out, the color of the sbow turns absolutely red and a little later Orange and then turns to Golden which again cpmes back to white when the sun is completely up. This natural show of lights is extra ordinary and is a visual treat. Starting your day to something like this is complete bliss. You can come to this place at anytime of the year except for monsoons and deep winters as the climate is extremely uncomfortable at this time.
Victoria Memorial Hall
The Marble Memorial is a popular attraction in the whole world and people who come to Kolkata make sure they visit this place. The beautiful marble marble monument is built in Indo- Saracenic style with a blend of Mughal style opf architecture. This is also a symbol of British victory in India. The foundation was laid down in 1906 by the Prince of Wales and the building was built in the memory of Queen Victoria and also named after her. The memorial houses a beautiful museum which is also one of the most prominent if you want to know about the British Era. The whole complex covers a huge area and is surrounded by beautiful gardens which is also a popular picnic destination. Inside the museum you find photographs of people who had contributed in some way or the other towards the development of the state as well as the country. There are also a number of ancient artworks and weapons inside the museum. The light and sound show in the evenings is nerve wrecking as the sound of the British armies walking past behind you thrills you and the light work is done inside the memorial. It is like a time travel and is a place where people of all ages can enjoy.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
The Darjeeling Zoo is also known as the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park to honor the ex- governor of West Bengal, Padmaja Naidu. This is a beautiful zoo where you can find some of the high altitutde animals as well as some endangered species of animals too. The zoo is in the Birch Hill area which is presently known as the Jawahar Parvat. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had dedicated the zoo in the honor of Padmaja Naidu who was also a poet and the daughter of the famous freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu. This is one of the best zoos in the world and is the first recipient of the International award of "The Earth Heroes 2014". This is an award given away by the Royal Bank of Scotland. The reason this zoo was chosen among more than 300 zoos all over the world is that it has successfully conserved and looked after Himalayan Animals and also those which are of the Alpine Region. You will find the endangered species such as Red Panda, Snow leopard and Tibetian Wolf here among many others. There are also a number of Siberian Togers and Yaks here. Very old herbs, shrubs, climbers, medicinal plants and orchids cover most of the zoo and you will also find trees such as birch and aldar here. There is a huge aviary too where very bautiful birds find home. The birds conserved here include Rose ringed Parakeets, Ring Necked Pheasants, Himalayan Mynahs, Blue- Gold Mackaws and others. There are steps on many sides inside the zoo and these are for the ones in search of extra adventures. Beyond these steps are the area which are home to H8imalayan bears, Sambhar deer, Blue Sheep. tahr, barking deer, goral and Musk Deer. They roam about openly ball around and thus a trained guide is a must when you opt for these places. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is also closeby.
This is a railway loop a few kilometers from the beautiful Darjeeling. The toy train goes round this loop and there is also a war memorial here. This war memorial was built after independence in memory of all the brave people of Darjeeling who laid their lives in various wars since the time of independence.
Howrah Bridge made from 705m long steel cantilevers, is something that catches the attention of old and young alike. It is one place that defines Kolkata in real terms. Though, the place is always polluted and is really crowded, the view of the place is worth the pain taken to reach there. It is one of the top notch architectural icons of Kolkata from World War II till date. For those who want to click this wonderful bridge, needs to do it from a ferry on River Ganga that passes from below it. The Howrah Bridge is also the connection between the city and the 1906 formed Howrah station.
Singalila National Park
Fact File:Itinerary:Day 1: Train From Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri (NJP).Day 2: Reach NJP. Take a car or shared taxi for NJP to Dhotrey. It takes about 5 hours to reach Dhotrey. Night stay at Dhotrey.Day 3: Start early from Dhotrey for Tumling (Distance: 5kms, Altitude: 9,600ft) or Tonglu (Distance: 6kms, Altitude: 10,130ft). Night Stay at Tumling or Tonglu.Day 4: Trek from Tumling/Tonglu to Kalipokhri (Distance: 13kms, Altitude: 10,400ft). The trail passes through the villages of Jaubari (Distance: 6kms from Tumling, Altitude: 9,186ft), Gairibas (Distacne: 1km from Jhaubari, Altitude: 8,600ft), Kaiyakatta ( Distance: 2km from Gairibas) and finally on to Kalipokhri. Night stay at Kalipokhri.Day 5: Trek from Kalipokhri to Sandakphu (Distance: 6kms, Altitude: 11,929ft) via Bikeybhanjan (Distance: 2kms from Kalipokhri). Night stay at Sandakphu.Day 6: Descent from Sandakphu to Sirikhola via Gurdum. The trek downward is strenuous and the length of the route is about 16-17 kms. Night stay at Sirikhola.Day 7: Take a car/taxi from Sirikhola to NJP. Board train for Kolkata.Alternate Route/ Extended Trek:Day 1: NJP/Siliguri to Maneybhanjan by car, stay overnight at Maneybhanjan.Day 2: Maneybhanjan - Tumling/Tonglu Trek, stay overnight at Tumling/Tonglu.Day 3: Tumling/Tonglu - Kalipokhri Trek, stay overnight at Kalipokhri.Day 4: Kalipokhri - Sandakphu Trek, stay overnight at Sandakphu.Day 5: Sandakphu - Phalut Trek, stay overnight at Phalut.Day 6: Phalut - Gorkhey Trek, stay overnight at Gorkhey.Day 7: Gorkhey - Srikhola Trek, stay overnight at SrikhoilaDay 8: Srikhola - Rimbik Trek, then to NJP via Manebhanjan by jeep/car.Places to Stay:There are numerous places to stay. But most of them are trekker's hut or homestays and private lodges. The best place to stay in Sandakphu is the Sherpa Chalet Lodge. Please see here. Also there are government lodges run by GTA. Please see here to for information on booking GTA Lodges.How to Reach:By Air: The nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport in Siliguri. Taxis/Jeeps/Cars are available from here.By Railways: The nearest rail head is New Jalpaiguri (NJP). From NJP numerous taxis (shared as well as reserved) are available. It takes about 5 hours to reach Dhotrey from NJP Station.By Road: The trek begins from Maneybhanjan/Dhotrey both of which can be reached from Siliguri via Jeeps/Cars.Best Seasons:The best time to visit is during the Spring from March to May. This is the blooming season of the famed Rhododendrons. But occasionally one may find cloudy skies. Autumn, from late September through to November is accompanied by clear skies and lush mountain slopes. Winter is bitterly cold here, with heavy snowfall, but winter treks offer an unique experience. Singalila National Park is closed during monsoon.Other Essential Information:* Guide is mandatory. Porters are also available.* Mobile Phone: Indian mobile networks do not work for most part of Sandakphu/Phalut trek. Vodafone and BSNL are the only mobile networks that work in patches along the way (but are inconsistent).* Clothing & Accessories: Sandakphu can be very cold even in summer. So carry adequate woolens & jackets. In winter take heavy woolens, gloves, caps, and of course wear woolen inners. Additionally, take a rain coat (a must in all seasons ), use good trekking shoes, carry extra pair of socks, a wind-cheater, gloves in winter, cap etc.* There is no electricity or power for most part of the trek route (available up to Tumling).Indicative Costs: For Sandakphu- Phalut trek (Updated April 2016):You need to pay a Permit Fee (i.e. Singalilla National Park Entry fee) of Rs. 100/- per person for Indians and Rs. 200/- for foreign nationals. You can pay this fee at Manebhanjan or Singalila Park check post located shortly after Tumling. Without paying this fee, entry through Singalia National Park (near Tumling) will not be allowed. Carry Photo Id cards (like driving license / Voter's ID Card etc) which may be checked at several intermediate check posts along the route like Tumling, Gairibas, Batasi etc). If you are going through a trek operator, they will take care of the permits. Foreigners must carry passport.Still Digital Camera: Rs. 100/-; Video Camera: Rs. 400/-Cost of food along the trek route would be around Rs. 500 - 600 per person per day.Rate of dormitory bed in trekkers huts = Rs. 100-200 per person per day.Double/triple bedded room in a good private hotel or lodge can cost between Rs. 1,000 to 2,500 per day. Cheaper ones available too.NJP/Bagdogra to Manebhanjan: Rs. 3,000/- for reserved small car.Darjeeling to Manebhanjan shared Jeep fare: Rs. 50/- per person and reserved small car fare: Rs. 1,200/-Rimbik to Darjeeling shared Jeep fare: Rs. 200 per person and reserved vehicle fare: Rs. 2,500.Rimbik to NJP/Bagdogra reserved vehicle fare: Rs. 5000/-.Rate for Guide or Porter (if taken from Manebhanjan) is Rs. 600/- or Rs. 500/- per day respectively. Rate for foreigners is Rs. 900/- per day. Guide & porter rate includes their stay and food. One porter will carry up to 25kg of load in summer and 20kg in winter.Several lodges along the way use solar power or generators and allow you to charge your mobile phone, camera battery etc at a small nominal charge per hour (indicative Rs. 10-15 per hour).
Howrah Railway Station
This is the oldest as well as largest railway station of India and is the second busiest of the country as well. It has 23 platforms andalso one of the largest traffic per day. It is one of the intercity railway stations of India, the others being the Sealdah Station, Shalimar Station and the Kolkata Station. The railway station looks awesome from outside with a typical Church style of design with a huge clock on top. This is on the West Bank of the Hooghly River and is connected by the famous air suspended bridge known as the Second Hooghly Setu or simply the Hooghly or Howrah Bridge. The station was started in the year 1824. All the railway authorities have their trains linked from here to other parts of the country and the local authority is no doubt the Eastern Railway.
Built in 1875 by Lama Sherab Gyatso, this monastery in Darjeeling is mainly known for the beautiful statue of the Maitreye Buddha or the 'Future Coming Buddha'. This place is also blessed by the very famous Tomo Geshe Rimpoche of Tibet. The Monastery has conserved some very rare Buddhist Writeen Manuscripts. The monastery will fall on your way back from the famous Tiger Hill.
New Market happens to be an important shopping center in Bhopal that lies in Madhya Pradesh. The market is close to TT Nagar and one can get some good deals on raw silk and fabrics, Chanderi silk and tussar. The Chanderi silk sarees are quite famous and one can get some very good varieties here at New Market. For everything else like cosmetics, footwear, clothing, perfumes, jewelry and accessories, bags and wallets and other such stuff, there are numerous stalls and shops here to browse through all day long.
As you walk a little from Shovabazar Ghat of River Hooghly or from the west gate of the Shovabazar metro Station towards the Rabindra Sarani Lane, you will come across the Kumartuli. This is a place where a number of Kumars or potters are always busy with their work of designing and sculpting huge statues of Gods and Goddesses which are later used for the festivals of the city. The most common are the statues of Goddess Durga here. Initially clay and straw are used to form the figures and then they are spray painted. The original material used are the marrows of the banana trees but now many other materials are being used in making these idols. Later, the idols are dressed in fine attires and are ready to be sent to the pandals for being worshipped.
College Street (Boi Para)
Also known as boi Para, this is a long stretch from the Ganesh Chandra Avenue to the Mahatma Gandhi Road and is known for the many colleges out here. Apart from colleges there are other building for the city's intellectual group to spend time in. The Coffee House has served as the hangout for budding poets and politicians discussing on serious agendas over hot cups of coffee and kobiraji cutlet for years now. Above all what makes this place even more famous are the presence of many small and big book stalls and thus the name, 'boi para'. If you want to buy old or new books there can be nothing better than a couple of hours in College Street.
Prinsep Ghat with a good spectacular view is names after the famous James Princep. The place was built when the city and the whole country was under the Raj of the British. It is among the serene and quaint places in Kolkata where locals and tourists go for a getaway from city's hustle-bustle. This place is also considered by the locals for morning and evening walks by the banks of the river Ganga with not really a great view but also clean and oxygen free of pollution, amidst the lush greenery all around. For those who want to pay some quality time by the Hoogly without spending much, this is actually the spot to head to. An extra activity here's boat rides that are slow and serene in the waters of the Ganga.
Tiger Hill Sunrise Observatory
We were in Darjeeling in January 2017 on a family holiday after a lull of more than a year. I was lucky to get a confirmed booking at my company’s holiday home in a short span of time. The holiday home was located at a strategic point from where Mt. Kanchenjunga was visible in all its beauty and might.
Gorumara National Park
Along with the Chapramari and Sansung National Parks, this is another one in the Terai Region of the Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal. Mainly known for the beautiful green views and the presence of leopards and rhinos, this is one of the most popular wildlife safaris here. you can also take elephant rides as there are no cars to take you on a wildlife safari. This is an out of the world experience and a must vosit.
Happy Valley Tea Estate
This is a tea estate in Darjeeling and rolling meadows of emerald green tea plantations. It is a bliss watching the women plucking carefully the tea leaves. There is also a factory where you can see the making of tea and fermentation processes. It is both an entertaining as well as educational trip
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway or more dearly known as the Toy Train. With its narrow gauge trains of two feet, things do not get more exciting than when one is on a ride on the toy train. The length that the train covers is about 80 kilometers. The starting point is New Jalpaiguri in the district of West Bengal and the train goes past Siliguri, then Kurseong and Ghum while chugging along many loops and reverses. After having been out of service for quite some time, the toy train is now back in action and promises one a ride of a lifetime.
How does the thought of a cable car ride between hills sound to you? Exhilarating is the word that describes the Darjeeling Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway. Open for the enjoyment by the public since the month of February in the year 2012, this ropeway is perhaps the best way to enjoy the hilltop view of all that Darjeeling has to offer. The ropeway is completely safe and spans across 298 metres making it the longest of its kind in India. The journey begins at North Point in Darjeeling and goes up till Singla.
Shobhabazar Metro Station
Locally known as Lewduh, this is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets and trade center of the North East India. Most of the shopkeepers here are women and there are a number of monolithic idols of gods and goddesses out here. A number of religious ceremonies are performed here every year and this place is directly managed by the government authorities. The best thing you can shop from here are flat bamboo items such as mats, hats and other decoratives. It is suggested that you do not bargain much out here as the women are poor and they work really very hard with very low sales turnover due to the remote location.
So we started at 11 in morning, took an uber and landed up in Belur Math, a place well known after Swami Vivekanand(I'm a big fan of his and this place was on the top in my list). Beautiful, peaceful place, everyone meditating, hardly thought of seeing such calm place right in the middle of the fast moving crowded city. It took us about 30 mins to reach there. Just by the side of Belur Math was river hugly flowing. It was indeed a magnificent site. I have shared the picture.
Darjeeling Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway
Darjeeling ropeway is also known as the Rangeet valley passenger cable car. It gives a mind blowing view of the valley below, the lush tea gardens, dense forests, mountain streams all over along with the breath taking waterfall and snow peak in the background. You can even get down at the lower station and enjoy the tea garden by walking through it. Its really difficult to experience so many things together at the same p lace.
This is a palatial residence of North Calcutta which was built in the 19th Century and named by Lord Pinto. The beautiful residence was built by Raja Rajmohan Mullick who was the adopted son of Nilmoni Mullick. As the name suggests this building was made up of 126 varieties of Italian Marble imported overseas. This is a lavishly built structure where the descendents of Raja Mullick still reside. The whole mansion is surrounded by luxurious gardens with eccentric seating arrangements in the form of marble table tops and chairs. There are fountains and statues of mermens and mermains that are now not in very good conditions. The palace zoo does not function anymore though the aviary is still a place where birds migrate down especially during winter. As you enter the mansion you will find yourself awestruck with the beauty, grandeur and classic taste of everything. There is also a small statue of Raja Mullick near the entrance. The wooden staircases with beautiful chandeliers and huge rooms are a symbol of the lavishness of rich men during the 19th century. There is also a statue of Queen Victoria beautifully carved inside a room that was dedicated to her. All around the house you will find statues of lions spread around in different positions and also other statues including one of Christopher Columbus. There are rooms also on the first floor with billiards tables and musical instruments. Parts of the palace are inaccessible as people stay in these parts. To visit the palace you need a permission from the tourism Department one day in advance.
Earlier known as Bhubandanga after the name of Bhuban Dacoit, this place was named Shantiniketan after the house built here by Maharishi Debendranath Tagore, the father of Rabindranath Tagore. This is from where also started the Brahmo Samaj. This town in the Bolpur District of Birbhum is mainly known for Rabindranath Tagore's visionary Vishwa Bharati University which is over here. The Patha Bhavan school started by Tagore is also an attraction here. Children out here are taught in the open classrooms which are inside the forest of the crimson flowers. This is how children learn to be more friendly with nature. There is also a memorial dedicated to Tagore out here. All these have made Shantiniketan a popular tourist attraction as a neighbour of Kolkata.
Neora Valley National Park
Situated in the unexplored terrains of Kalimpong Hills, the untouched natural forests and dense bamboo groves of Neora Valley give shelter to several endangered species that are protected in this area. The national park is also connected to the Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, another habitat of the Red Panda.To reach Neora Valley National Park, you have to reach Lava (34km from Kalimpong), which is the nearest village. From there take a jeep ride to the national park, which because of the bad roads, takes upto an hour. You can easily get the permit from the forest office in Lava.
Tiretta Bazar Ln
Initially, we were confused what to eat but then decided to try whatever looked tempting. The Chicken momos were succulent and juicy. I did not like the pork dumpling soup but the fried version of pao was what I still crave for. Somehow, I felt there were lesser shops in the market that I heard about; maybe because we reached a little late or because the road was half blocked by a Durga Puja Pandal.If you are visiting Territy Bazaar then you cannot miss out on Hap Hing Co. a medical and Chinese provision store which was opened in 1934. When you enter the store, you will be smitten by its old-world charm. The store sells different Chinese products like homemade noodles, green tea, sauces and condiments, medicines and more.Reaching this place won’t be a problem for most. It is better to take a taxi to reach this market early in the morning, as buses and the metro starts a little late. We returned home via metro as the nearest one was Central.This market should be visited by all those who love to eat and discover new places. What I love the most about this place is that the people are very warm and friendly. It is a perfect place to witness a slice of China in Bengal.
Belur Math Shrine
This is the headquarters of the Ramkrishna Mission and Math and is also the center of the Ramkrishna Movement. This was built by Swami Vivekananda who was a disciple and an ardent follower of Ramakrishna Paramhandsa. When Swami Vivekananda went to Colombo in 1897, he ordered the building of two missionaries, one at Belur and the other near Almora. Thhese were places meant for the young boys who would become future sanyasis and to train them for their activities. The Belur Math is on the western banks of the hooghly River and also encompasses the Ramakrishna Mission University. This is one of the most important institutions as well as an architectural marvel of the country. The design and architecture of the building is a mixture of Hindu, Islam, Christian as well as Buddhist styles of architecture. The reason behind this was the motto of Swami Vivekananda that all human beings are equal and that humanity is their only religion. The building looks different from different angles and the three chattris are inspired from thew thatched huts of Kamarhati, a village which was also the birthplace of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. There is a temple where the statue of Paramhansa is seated on a 100 petalled lotus. There is also a shrine of Swami Vivekananda built on the same place where parts of him were cremated in 1924.
Deolo Cliff Eco Resort, Kalimpong, charms guests with breathtaking views of river Teesta and misty Kanchenjunga. The rocky terrains that form a part of the resort's design add a natural touch. The rooms are tastefully done up and offer ultimate comfort. With various amenities, thrilling activities and gratifying hospitality, this resort offers the true pleasures of vacationing.
Esplanade Bus Terminus
This is the biggest shopping arena in the city where you literary get everything. This place is very interesting because sweaty, haggling hawkers are juxtaposed against the majesty of the Grand Hotel. Dalhousie or Dharamtalla is a place which is infested with buildings from Calcutta's colonial past.
When the locales saw so many red crabs crawling along the beach, it looked like a red mandar and thus the place was named Mandarboni which later became Mandarmani. This is a fast- growing sea resort in East Midnapore and on the Northern part of Bay of Bengal. The sea here is shallower than Digha and thus even better for swimming. The sea beach is a drive- in one and is the longest motorable beach of India. The place is a village and thus is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The views of casuarina and the sound of sea waves crashing the shore are blissful. The main activities you can enjoy here are swimming, cricket, tennis, boat cruises and others. There are also a number of holiday resorts just on the beach. The village is connected to Kolkata via a highway and buses are always available from the city if you wish to travel by public transport.
After trotting non stop, my stomach made funny noises, and so I took myself out to Bara Bazaar, one of the biggest wholesale markets in India, and also the place with cheap priced lip smacking food. On Jagmohan Mullick Lane, the footpaths are covered with stalls of chaat vendors, and their pav-bhaaji is worth dying for! Sizzling hot butter right on top of mouth watering bhaaji made me lose all my table etiquettes, and eat like a crazed up person, who hasn't had meals for days! Right on the crossing of the road sits an old aged man, who sells Pani Puri and Jhalmuri - the things-you-should-eat-in-Kolkata, since 30 years. And he still hasn't lost the charm for sure!