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Best Places To Visit Near Kolkata - Weekend Getaways
Kolkata is India’s pride of the East, popularly referred to as the ‘city of joy.’ What makes Kolkata unique is its culture, its traditions, the lights of Durga pooja, the links of Howrah bridge, the hand-drawn rickshaws and the gullies that still tremor with the passage of victorian trams. There is a plethora of exploration that should happen in this city itself. And yet, if you are bored of the noise and commotion here, if you are looking forward to escaping into the wild, beautiful other-worldly places, but also know that you need to return home soon, then here are some of the best weekend getaways from Kolkata.
The beautiful beautiful Sunderbans, located between West Bengal and Bangladesh, are marshland jungles draining into the Bay of Bengal. Among the dense mangroves and shallow mud creeks, Sunderbans are known world over for being home to the Royal Bengal Tiger. Sightings of both yellow as well as white pelt tigers here are common. There are more than 50 little islands connected through water routes, and you can go kayaking, take a safari, camp out and explore to your heart’s content. What will you see here? Oh, everything from jungle fowls to Olive Ridley turtles, spotted deer to Siberian ducks. What’s the best part? Sunderbans is only 109 km from Kolkata!
Located close to 250 km from the city of Kolkata, Mukutmanipur is a beautiful amalgamation of hills and forests. There is a dam and the sun setting beyond the mountains, there is exotic red-soiled land and deer traipsing by. Such untainted beauty gives you new perspective to life, and helps you clean all those city toxins. Of course, you can also take a train here if you don’t want to drive; regular trains operate from Howrah to Bankura. You can go explore Parasnath Hills, see the Kangsabati dam and check out the ancient town named Ambikanagar here.
As the name suggests, this is a harbour at the southern end of River Hoogly, around 55 km way from Kolkata city. Diamond Harbour makes for a great day trip, with river Ganga taking a turn from this spot too. Hence there is a confluence, and a natural serene vibe, some scintillating scenery and some ferrying and boating to feed your adventure lust. All in all, it is a great place to take your family.
Raichak is a little riverside town, located stone’s throw away from Kolkata, not even an hour’s drive. It is the larger fabric into which Diamond Harbour is ensconced. An out an out weekend getaway, Raichak beckons you with its fresh air, fishing communities, Hooghly-Ganga confluence and the famous F Fort. Here you can also check out the Diamond Harbour Lighthouse, chill by the river banks and visit the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram.
Barrackpore, the hub of British East India Company, the town where the British setup the first of their cantonments before moving forward and claiming the subcontinent, one state at a time. It is located 27 km away from Kolkata and makes for a good weekend getaway, with its beautiful ancient temples, Mangal Pandey’s memorial park, St. Bartholomew's Cathedral and much more. This is a great place to educate your children in Indian history, as well as ensure they have loads of fun.
A historical town in Bankura District of West Bengal, Bishnupur is around 136 km away from Kolkata. The beauty of this place lies in its unique connect to history, its culture, the rich terracotta temples, and hills. From museums to ashrams, you will be on a never-ending exploration. The most famous places to visit on your weekend getaway are the Jor Bangla Temple, Rasmanch, Bishnupur Museum, and the local markets to shop for handwoven Baluchari sarees.
Literally translating to the ‘Kingfisher Island,’ Machranga Dwip is 91 km from Kolkata and pretty easy to reach. It makes for a splendid day trip, and an interesting lesson in Geography as the place is the last bank of India before River Ichamati divides the country from Bangladesh. Here you get to go boating in the river, swim to your heart’s content, accompany the fishermen as they catch the day’s bounty or stroll through the green farms on the bank. Places that add to your fun include Hasnabad and Taki, if you wish to extend your trip. But really, sitting and seeing the sunset behind Ichamati is all that’s going to fulfil you, for sure.
The abode of peace, that’s what Shantiniketan means. It is the hub of Rabindranath Tagore’s life, art and literature. Once upon a time his home, today it has been converted into a University. Located in the district of Birbhum, Shantiniketan is one of the most famous tourist attractions in West Bengal. Not only for its history and throwback to one of India’s most prolific writers, but also its varied museums, halls and galleries to salute arts and music and literatures. From the Kala Bhavan to the Rabindra Bhaban Museum, Amar Kutir to Tagore’s ashrama and Sangeet Bhavan, you will fall in love with an era gone by and a Noble Laurette who was a great deal more than that.
An ideal mix of nature, religion, charming culture and some manmade wonders - Bardhaman is a good place to escape the heat and chaos of Kolkata. That fact that it is a 100 km away from the city centre does not hurt either. Here, you get to experience strolls through Golap Bagh, worships at 108 Shiv Mandir, Kalyaneshwari Temple, and Christ Church, visit the Deer Park, Science Center and Meghna Saha Planetarium and enjoy some downtime at Damodar Riverside. Don’t forget to get a photo at Lord Curzon Gate.
Falta is a rivertown, 52 km away from Kolkata. The town sits on the confluence of River Hooghly and Damodar in the south, and Hooghly and Rupnarayan in the north. In addition to the fertile banks of these rivers, you can also stroll across Falta jetty and see ferries come in and out of the harbour. There is Bose Bigyan Mandir dedicated to scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose, Gadiara Geonkhali, Diamond Harbor, and the historic towns of Tamluk and Haldia.
Digha is a beach town, kissed by the Bay of Bengal. It also hosts a marvellous mix of historical and cultural sites, as well as sandy stretches of beaches that beckon you to come and relax. Located 180 km from Kolkata, Digha is also amazing for surfing, swimming, scuba diving etc. Autumn and Winter months are ideal for a getaway so prefer any time between July and March. Visit the Talasari Beach, the New Digha Beach, Marine Aquarium and Regional Centre and the Amarabati Park for more fun.
Named after a British Statesman, Henry’s Island is a throwback to an era of a century ago, when the said man lived here. It covered the western side of Sunderbans, and is around 130 km from Kolkata. With such a delicious location, it is a taken that Henry’s will be par beautiful. There are beaches and there are mangroves, there is peace and there is only the sound of nature to disturb it. What more could you need? Camp out on the beach, burn a bonfire, indulge in strolls and eat good food. That’s all there is to do here, and what a relief!
Around 250 km away, Chandipur is another seaside escapade from Kolkata. It has lesser crowds polluting it, and the beaches make for the main attraction. With tides ebbing and flowing daily, you get to experience the beach at both times. Especially when the tides are down, they leave behind a silvery slice of beach, and that is a wonderful sight to behold. Another good spot is the confluence point of River Budhabalang with the sea. Hence Chandipur can be your tryst with the sea, the sand and retreating tides.
Bakkhali is home to some really cool things. A crocodile propagation centre for instance, or the windmill of Frasergunj for another. With its beaches and non-crowded surroundings, you are in for a treat. Bakkhali helps you escape all the Kolkata noise and is not even that far from the city; only 132 km. What makes this place nostalgic, especially for lovers of Bengali-English poetry is the presence of thick groves of Casuarina trees. Reminds you of Toru Dutt's evocative lines:
"But not because of its magnificence
Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:
Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,
O sweet companions, loved with love intense,
For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear."
A little tribal village built in the heart of Balasore, Odisha, Roopark Village is a nice place to escape from Kolkata. Along with the classic tribal experience (re: houses, food, nature, culture), Roopark Village also entices you to enjoy the places around like Panchlingeshwar temple, Roopkhanda Beach, Chandipur Beach and bird watching expeditions at Kuldiha Sanctuary. The resort is only 20 km away from Kolkata’s city centre and millions of miles away from its noisy heat.