Tourism in West Bengal

  • Post last modified:30 September 2021
  • Reading time:16 mins read

Tourism in West Bengal

West Bengal is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse states of India. The people of West Bengal inherit their identity and aspiration from the larger Indian mosaic. One can still recapture the colonial era in its relics which survived the state’s progressive development. The land of West Bengal has in it intricately woven stories of many bright mornings and dark nights; stories of many civilizations have left their footprints here.

  • Geographical Area: 88,752 sq km Location: Located in the eastern part of India and shares its borders with 4 Indian states (Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Sikkim and Assam) and 3 countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal)

  • State Capital: Kolkata Districts: 20 Major Cities: Kolkata, Asansol, Durgapur, Howrah, Burdwan, Siliguri, Kharagpur , Haldia

  • Climate: The climate of West Bengal varies from tropical savannah in the southern portions to humid sub tropical in the north

  • State Income ( NSDP): INR 728,974 crore Budget Allocation: INR 57,905 crore (2016-17)

  • Population: 91.3 million (Male: 46.9 million & Female: 44.4 million) Literacy Ratio: 77.1% Urban-Rural Ratio: Rural: 68.13% & Urban: 31.87%

Darjeeling

Darjeeling conjures visions of snow peaks, the serenity of vibrant green hills steeped in splendour, a land of breathtaking beauty crowned by the majestic Himalayas. Darjeeling is one of the most magnificent hill resorts in the world.

This heavenly retreat is bathed in hues of every shade. The traveler – whether a tourist or a trekker, an ornithologist or a photographer, a botanist or an artist – will find in Darjeeling an experience which will remain etched in one’s memory – forever.

Darjeeling is well connected to the Rest of India & Kolkata by air, road and train.

  • Air Service: The nearest airport to Darjeeling is Bagdogra about 94-96 kms away from Darjeeling. There are direct flight connections with Delhi, Calcutta and Guwahati. Tourists heading for Darjeeling can get direct taxis/cabs to Darjeeling from Bagdogra or one can head towards Siliguri first and get a transport there.

    There are a number of transport facilities available from Siliguri – one can reserve a taxi or choose to go by paying per head (Rs. 80 – this varies from time to time) from the Bus Junction area.

  • Train Service: Apart from Darjeeling Railway Station the two closest railway stations are Siliguri (80 kms) and New Jalpaiguri (88 kms) from Darjeeling. These railway stations have direct railway connections with Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Varanasi and other major cities of India.

  • Road Service: The major access to Darjeeling by road is via Siliguri, which is connected to all the major cities. Darjeeling is also very well connected to Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and its surrounding hills.

  • Local Transport: Taxis of different models are available for sightseeing in and around Darjeeling at fixed rates. Ponies can also be availed at Chowrasta for local sightseeing.

Kurseong

Kurseong is a hill station (and sub-divisional town) situated in Darjeeling District of West Bengal, India. Located at an altitude of 1458 metres (4864 ft), Kurseong is just 30 km from Darjeeling. It has a pleasant climate throughout the year and the winters are not as severe as Darjeeling’s. The local name of Kurseong is “Kharsang” which in the Lepcha language means “Land of White Orchids”.

Kalimpong

Kalimpong is a sleepy little town that is situated at an altitude of 1,200m and at a distance of 50-odd km to the east of Darjeeling. It was once the hub of the trans-Himalayan trade between India and Tibet-merchants used to ferry goods by mule caravans over the Jelepla Pass on the Sikkim-Tibet border.

The name of this town has historic significance. Kalimong was once the headquarters of a Bhutanese Governor. The word “kalim” stands for “the King’s minister” and the word “pong” means “stronghold”; hence “Kalimpong” means “the stronghold of the King’s minister”.

Lava Lolegaon

urrounded by virgin pine forests and often hidden in mists and clouds at an altitude of 2,350 meters, this small village lies 34 kilometers away from Kalimpong on the old trade route to Bhutan. It has a beautiful monastery of Bhutanese origin and a Nature Interpretation Centre. Popular for nature exploration and bird watching, it is also the starting point for treks into the Neora National Park, which abounds with floral and faunal wealth.

Kaffer / Lolay Gaon

A small peaceful hamlet in the Kalimpong Subdivision of Darjeeling District, Lolay Gaon is nature’s paradise on its own with beautiful landscape, comprising lush green forset & serene valleys. The peaks of Kanchenjunga rises majestically in the morning mist. Loley Gaon is a one-hour journey from Kalimpong & Lava through the serpentine forest road. Lolaygaon offers small treks and trails. An Ideal destination for unwinding & relaxation.

Sundarbans Mangroves

The Sunderbans are a part of the world’s largest delta, formed by the mighty rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Situated on the lower end of Gangetic West Bengal, the Sunderbans is criss-crossed by hundreds of creeks and tributaries. It is one of the most attractive and alluring places remaining on earth, a truly undiscovered paradise.

The Sunderbans is the largest single block of tidal, halophytic mangrove forests in the world. The name can be literally translated as beautiful jungle. The name may have been derived from the Sundari trees that are found in the Sunderbans. The Sunderbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is spans a vast area covering 4.264 sq. km in India alone. It is the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India.

Cultural Hotspot

Shantiniketan

Shantiniketan is a small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal and about 212 kms north of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).

It was made famous by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose vision became what is now a university town – Visva-Bharati University. The place now attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Shantiniketan was earlier called Bhnbandanga (named after Bhuban Dakat, a local dacoit), and was owned by the Tagore family. In 1862, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, the poet’s father, while on a boat journey to Raipur, came across a landscape with red soil and lush green paddy fields. He decided to plant more saplings and built a small house. He called his home Shantiniketan, the abode of peace. He founded an Ashram here in 1863 and became the initiator of the Brahmo Samaj.

In 1901, Rabindranath started a school at Shantiniketan named Brahmachary Ashram that was modeled on the lines of the ancient gurukul system. After he received the Nobel Prize that enhanced not only the Pride of India but also the prestige of Shantiniketan, the school was expanded into a university. It was renamed Visva Bharati, which Tagore defined as “where the world makes a home in a nest.”

Sea Beaches

West Bengal stretches to the Bay of Bengal in the south. The coastal strip of West Bengal, extending from the Gangetic Delta to the border of Orissa, has some beautiful coastal settlements, such as Digha, Shankarpur, Mandarmani, Bakkhali, Gangasagara, and Tajpur. Some of these have beaches which are hard enough for cars to drive on. Decades ago, even aeroplanes were able to land in the beach of Digha

Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks

West Bengal has 3.26% of its geographical area under protected areas comprising 15 wildlife sanctuaries and 5 national parks – Sundarbans National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Gorumara National Park, Neora Valley National Park, Singalila National Park, and Jaldapara National Park. West Bengal also has wildlife sanctuaries and bird sanctuaries like Chintamani Kar Bird Sanctuary and Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary.

7 Wonders of West Bengal NDTV along with the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, conducted a nationwide campaign for searching the “Seven Wonders of India” in 2008-09. The campaign started with shortlisting 200 places from all of the Indian states and then inviting the public to cast their vote for their favorites. It also included seven wonders of particular states.

In West Bengal, a total of 13 were selected of which the “Seven Wonders of West Bengal” were shortlisted. The list of the 30 selected places are as follows:

  • Cooch Behar Palace
  • Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (“Toy Train”)
  • Hazarduari Palace
  • Adina Mosque
  • Gaur, West Bengal
  • Shantiniketan
  • Bishnupur Terracotta Temples
  • Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden with the Great Banyan Tree
  • Howrah Bridge
  • B. B. D. Bagh (formerly called Dalhousie Square)
  • Dakshineswar Kali Temple
  • Second Hooghly Bridge
  • Victoria Memorial
  • Sunderbans
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral

The shortlisted list, compiling of the “Seven Wonders of West Bengal” as per the votings is as follows:

  • Sunderbans l Victoria Memorial
  • Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (“Toy Train”)
  • Bishnupur Terracotta Temples
  • Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden with the Great Banyan Tree
  • 95 l Howrah Bridge
  • B. B. D. Bagh (formerly called the Dalhousie Square)

Architectural Marvel

The state of West Bengal has significant architectural and natural heritage. The capital of the state, Kolkata is also known as the “City of Palaces”. West Bengal is famous for its Terracotta temples of Bishnupur.

Hazarduari Palace

Hazarduari Palace, a popular tourist attraction, is known to have the second largest chandelier in the world and also the largest staircase in India. This three-story palace was built in 1837 by Duncan McLeod for Nawab Nazim Humaun Jah, the then Nawab of Bengal. The palace was built in the Indo-European style. It derives its name from the thousand doors in the palace (among which only 900 are real). In 1985, the palace was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for better preservation.

The Hazarduari Palace Museum is regarded as the biggest site museum of ASI and has 20 displayed galleries containing 4742 antiquities, 1034 of which are displayed for the public. They include various weapons, oil paintings of Dutch, French and Italian artists, marble statues, rare books, old maps, land revenue records, and palanquins (mostly belonging to the 18th and 19th centuries)

Cooch Behar

Cooch Behar Palace built-in 1887, was designed on the model of Buckingham Palace in London, during the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan. The Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu) and the Second Hooghly Bridge (Vidyasagar Setu) are iconic of Kolkata. Aside from colonial and heritage buildings, there are also high rising monuments and skyscrapers in the city. There are also a couple of cemeteries established by the British when Kolkata was the capital of British India. These include the South Park Street Cemetery and Scottish Cemetery

The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden or Calcutta Botanical Garden (previously known as Indian Botanic Garden) is the largest and oldest reserve of greeneries of its kind in South East Asia. It is also a premier institution for botanical and horticultural research in India. The garden is situated on the west bank of the River Hooghly in Shibpur.

Howrah, nearly 8 km from the center of the city Kolkata. Located here is the Great Banyan Tree. It was the widest tree in the world in terms of the area of its canopy and is estimated to be about 200 to 250 years old. It became diseased after it was struck by lightning, so in 1925 the middle of the tree was excised to keep the remainder healthy.

Alipore Zoological Gardens

Alipore Zoological Gardens was founded in 1875, inaugurated by The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). Initially started from the personal menagerie of the then Governor-General of Bengal Arthur Wellesley and Carl Louis Schwendler – a German electrician, it grew based on gifts from British and Indian nobility – like Raja Suryakanta Acharya of Mymensingh in whose honour the open air tiger enclosure is named the “Mymensingh Enclosure”. The zoo was ill-reputed because of cross-breeding experiments between lions and tigers to produce strains like tigons, ligers, and litigons.

Adwaita was a male Aldabra Giant Tortoise in the zoo which died in March, 2006. He was reported to have been more than 250 years old – a candidate for the longest-lived animal. The other success story of the zoo was the live birth of the rare Sumatran Rhinoceros in 1889. The zoo is downsizing to meet animal comfort requirements laid down by the Central Zoo Authority of India. The zoo is also on the flyway for several migratory birds like the Sarus Crane.

The North-Eastern part of our country provides a unique amalgamation of rich cultural heritage, rituals and untouched and serene scenic beauty. The beauty of the northeastern hills are so vibrant and refreshing that one would feel to have stepped into a totally new world. The seven states of the northeast are also called

The Seven Sisters because of their close proximity and unique geographical features. They are Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram,& Manipur. The govt. Of India, Minst. Of Tourism is marketing extensively the destinations of the Seven Sisters, as they really provide the tourists a glimpse of a total different world.

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