A mixed bag of art, music, literature, theatre, and cuisine, Kolkata has long been sitting on the throne when it comes to the title of the cultural capital of India. The ‘City of Joy’ is a feast of colonial-era architecture with a pleasant contrast of urban area and dynamic new-town suburbs. There is, hence, plenty on offer for a visitor. But in case you wish to glide away from the continuous clamour and find some peace not so far from the city, we have a list of best road trips from Kolkata for your next weekend adventure. By Sushmita Srivastav
Best Road Trips from Kolkata that should be on your bucket-lists:
Kolkata to Mandarmani
While there are several coastal options like Digha, Shankarpur, and Tajpur falling in the same route, the beach destination of Mandarmani is comparatively calmer, cleaner, and better when it comes to experiences. Come here when you are in a mood for some lounging. Take a stroll on the beach, try beach activities like parasailing, snorkelling, and jet skiing, and relish on coastal preparations of red crabs and other seafood. The best part? You won’t find tourists crowding the beach here as Mandarmani is still largely untouched.
Duration of the trip: 3 hours 45 minutes (171 km)
Best time to visit: October to February
Where to stay: Viceroy Hotel
Where to eat: The Palms restaurant at the Viceroy Hotel serves fresh catches from the sea in a variety of dishes.
Things to remember: The popular seaside town of Digha is just 45 minutes away. You can hit the beach here, and later, visit the Marine Aquarium and Regional Centre (MARC), which is home to sharks, manta rays, and sea snakes.
Kolkata to Santiniketan
The road from Kolkata to Rabindranath Tagore’s home, Santiniketan, is well-laid, to say the least, but the pleasant smooth drive is just a start. What awaits you here in this little town of Bolpur is a delightful mix of quiet bookstores, quaint cafes, thick forests with streams making their ways into nowhere, and philosophical teachings that stay with you for life. While the Nobel Laureate’s father built the ‘abode of peace’ in 1883, he himself built the Visva Bharati University here. Also visit the Uttarayan Complex that acts as a library as well as a museum that houses Tagore’s manuscripts, letters, pictures, and paintings.
Duration of the trip: 4 hours 25 minutes (161 km)
Best time to visit: July to February; on the occasion of Holi
Where to stay: Choupahari (a boutique luxury homestay)
Where to eat: Banalakshmi, located near the main town, is popular for its authentic Bengali menu.
Things to remember: Santiniketan is home to amazing handicrafts made by local artisans and craftsmen. Take home some pots, stoneware, home decor, leather bags, jewellery, and of course, classic books as souvenirs.
Kolkata to Chandannagar
Once the ground of fierce battles between the French and the British for claiming control over India, Chandannagar is a French riviera and gets its name from the half-moon-shaped bank of the River Hooghly. The stunning promenade of The Strand by the Hooghly, the nearby 19th-century Sacred Heart Church, and the cream-coloured Indo-French Cultural Centre and Museum are all reminiscent of the colonial era. The peachy canopy of Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat is a blend of Indian and eastern influences with typical European stucco work. Literally translating to ‘underground mansion’, Patal Bari here is an interesting structure with its major portion built below the ground level, sitting comfortably submerged in the river.
Duration of the trip: 2 hours (47 km)
Best time to visit: October to February
Where to stay: Itachuna Rajbari (40 minutes from Chandannagar)
Where to eat: La Bistro in the heart of the town is a multi-cuisine cafe.
Things to remember: Chandannagar is home to the entire decorative lighting industry. The light makers here are famous for the intricate installations they create for festivals like Durga Pujo. The local artisans ship illuminated panels for pandals all over and beyond Kolkata.
Kolkata to Bishnupur
Bishnupur is a total treat for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts, for the place is home to stunning terracotta temples that remind of the forgotten grandeur of the Malla rulers. A little far from the madding crowd but promising a longish road trip from Kolkata, Bishnupur’s main attraction is the 15th-century Rash Mancha—the pillared community hall built by Bir Hambir, the 49th king of the Malla dynasty, to display idols of Radha-Krishna on the evening of Rash Purnima. Spend time at various sites including Jor Bangla Temple and Madan Mohan Temple to witness Bishnupur in all its glory.
Duration of the trip: 4 hours 45 minutes (140 km)
Best time to visit: August-September; December-February
Where to stay: Hotel Annapurna
Where to eat: The in-house restaurant at Hotel Annapurna serves global flavours in a comfortable setting.
Things to remember: Apart from its intricate and ancient architecture, it is also famous for its distinct style of music, terracotta toys, and Baluchuri saris made of woven Tussar silk.
Kolkata to Sundarban Mangroves
A trip to the mangroves of Sundarbans will take you away from the chaos of the city life and sail you off into a world of natural beauty and serenity. The three-hour road trip to Godhkali Ferry Ghat gifts scenes of the countryside veiled in mist. From here, the world’s largest mangrove forest can be reached by a 90-minute boat ride. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Sundarban National Park is a massive river delta with mangroves, mudflats, and networks of narrow creeks and water channels where Royal Bengal tigers, sunbathing crocodiles, and tree-climbing crabs reign.
Duration of the trip: Approximately 4 hours (109 km)
Best time to visit: September to March
Where to stay and eat: The four-deck MV Paramhamsa by Vivada Cruises offers you itineraries that include stay, meals, and excursions.
Things to remember: As you cruise the waterways, look out for endangered Irrawaddy dolphins, Gangetic river dolphins, Olive Ridley turtles, and the almost-extinct river terrapins.