From misty mornings in Darjeeling to rewarding nature walks in the Sundarbans National Park, there are a range of places to visit near Kolkata during those long weekends. These rejuvenating weekend getaways provide the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. For some, it could be never getting off the hammock, and for others it maybe long drives and stunning landscapes. So pick a place, fill up the tank and hit the road to these must-do weekend breaks around Kolkata.
Famous for its tea, transport, tourism and timber, Siliguri is located about 80 kilometers from Darjeeling. This picturesque plains town lies on the banks of Mahananda River and the foothills of Himalayas. The hill station’s markets- Sevoke and Bidhan Road-are buzzing with travelers throughout the year.
If you are planning a day trip around Darjeeling, you must include Siliguri in your itinerary for its Salugara Monastery, Surya Sen Park, and time your trip to catch one of the town’s famous fairs- Boishakhi Mela, Hosto Shilpo Mela, Book Fair and Lexpo Fair. Perched at an elevation of 2,113 feet, Siliguri is the major transit point for air, road and rail traffic to the neighboring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
Sprawling along a ridge overlooking the Teesta River, Kalimpong is a hill station 50 kilometers from Darjeeling. Located in a major ginger-producing region Kalimpong is also home to a few Buddhist monasteries, multiple nurseries and a buzzing central market popular equally among visitors and locals. Filled with an array of orchids, gladiollis, Himalayan grown flower bulbs, tubers and rhizomes, the flower markets here are a must-see.
The hill town is also famous for exporting a wide range of traditional handicrafts, wood-carvings, embroidered items, bags and purses with tapestry work and copper ware. Located atop Durpin hill (one of the two hills of the town), the Zang Dhok Palri Phodang (a Buddhist monastery) houses a number of rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures and artefacts. Perched at an altitude of 4101 feet, overlooking the beautiful Himalayan ranges, Kalimpong makes for a perfect day trip from Darjeeling.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sundarbans National Park is a sprawling tangle of mangrove swamp and is the only one of its kind in the world. Spread over 54 islands, extending into the neighbouring country of Bangladesh, a large part of the area is home to a 2,585 square kilometre Tiger Reserve, which includes a 1,330 square kilometre national park.
Encompassing three wildlife sanctuaries, one within the national park at Sajnekhali, as well as south of the park at Lothian Island and Haliday Island, the mangroves are riddled with a large variety of birds, mammals and reptiles including the Royal Bengal Tiger, wild boar, spotted deer, jungle fowl, giant lizard, crocodile, Siberian ducks during migration and even some endangered species like the Batagur baska, king crab and Olive Ridley turtle. The people here depend primarily on agriculture and live in adjoining villages. The Sundarbans National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1987 and the Sundarbans region as a whole was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1989.
This dazzling, white hillside pagoda is one of many built by the Japanese Buddhist organization Nipponzan Myohoji as a symbol of peace and tranquility. Showcasing the four avatars of Lord Buddha, the site offers stunning views of Darjeeling and the Himalayan ranges encompassing it. A short half-hour-long walk, the
Japanese Peace Pagoda
lies perched on the hillside at the end of AJC Bose road. Pay a visit during the daily prayers when drums resonate through the forested grounds. JAPANESE PEACE PAGODA This dazzling, white hillside pagoda is one of many built by the Japanese Buddhist organization Nipponzan Myohoji as a symbol of peace and tranquility. Showcasing the four avatars of Lord Buddha, the site offers stunning views of Darjeeling and the Himalayan ranges encompassing it.
A short half-hour-long walk, the Japanese Peace Pagoda lies perched on the hillside at the end of AJC Bose road. Pay a visit during the daily prayers when drums resonate through the forested grounds.
HAPPY VALLEY TEA ESTATE
Located just below Hill Cart road, the Happy Valley Tea Estate is worth a visit, especially during March through May, when the plucking and processing are in progress. Usually, an employee of the tea estate will guide you through the aromatic factory and its various processes, which makes for a very interesting tour, especially if you’re a big tea-drinker. Walking through the tea garden on the gentle hill slopes is a great experience.
A short three kilometres outside of the busy Chowk Bazaar area, the approach to the estate goes through a narrow winding downhill path, which can be slightly cumbersome on the steep climb back up, so be prepared with a good pair of walking shoes, because it’s absolutely worth the walk. a, the approach to the estate goes through a narrow winding downhill path, which can be slightly cumbersome on the steep climb back up, so be prepared with a good pair of walking shoes, because it’s absolutely worth the walk.
YIGA CHOLING GOMPA
Built in 1850, the Yiga Choling Gompa is located a little to the west of the town of Ghum, and is the region’s most famous monastery, patronised by monks of the yellow-hat sect. Apart from the five-metrehigh statue of the Maitreya Buddha, it also houses splendid antique murals and more than 300 Tibetan texts with highly artistic bindings. A quick 10-minute-long walk off Hill Cart road, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Another attraction which is a definitely worth taking time out for, is the Joy Train Ride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Popularly referred to as the Toy Train, this is Darjeeling’s pride and joy. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, the steam engine at the helm and the leisurely pace at which the train chugs along give ample opportunity to observe and admire the surrounding nature.
Besides its regular route to and from New Jalpaiguri and Kurseong, peak season accommodates for rides that move between Darjeeling and Ghum on a twohour return trip. During the journey, the Batasia Loop is a five-kilometer-long loop around which the train completes a steep full circle and offers beautiful views of the mountains as well as the War Memorial which was built in honor of the Gorkha Soldiers who lost their lives during the fight for Indian Independence.
This quaint hill station-located about 49 kilometers southwest of Darjeeling townescapes most visitors’ radars. The drive to Mirik takes approximately an hour and a half. Surrounded by coverlets of tea estates, orange orchards, cedar forests and cardamom plantations, Mirik is watered by Sumendu Lake. With a lush garden on one side and soaring pine trees on the other, the lake side makes for a perfect picnic spot.
Perched at an elevation of 4905 feet, Mirik has multiple hilltop points that offer wonderful views of the snow-clad Kangchenjunga peak. The highest point of the hill town is the Boker Monastery, situated at a height of 5801 feet.