A Sneak-Peek Darjeeling Tour

River Teesta on way back from Gangtok to Darjeeling

Yes guilty me, this time the Queen of Hills was not my prime destination; it was an one -day stopover for me between Sikkim and Kolkata. However, I did not forget to make the most of my 24 hours in Darjeeling.

The Queen of Hills with its Crown of Lights

Peace Pagoda

One of the first sites at the city was the Japanese Temple and the Peace Pagoda. Just like the other Peace Pagodas, this one also houses the 4 Avatars of Lord Buddha. This sacred white abode of peace is located at the slopes of the Jalapahar Hills. If you are lucky and is visiting this enchanting tourist destination on a clear day you can even view the beautiful snow capped Himalayas from here.

Tiger Hill

The Lush Greenery on my way to the Top

Yes yes, I know this should come first on the list as watching sunrise at Kanchenjunga from Tiger Hill is one of the most magical experiences on earth. However, thanks to the continuous rains, unfortunately I could not witness sunrise here as well. However, enjoying the floating clouds from a height of approximately 9700 feet while sipping a cup of steaming hot tea (I enjoyed 2 cups!) is nothing less enchanting.

While I had the Himalayan Zoological Park and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, these were closed on Thursday and hence I decided to re-route my trip to Mirik.

Chauk Bazaar

An Eye Treat on the Way
Chauk Baazar- The Gateway to Nepal
Nepal Coins & Other Souvenirs
What to Buy & What not to???

My first destination on the way was to one of the gateways of Nepal, Chauk Bazaar. This is one of the unique tourist spots where on one side of the road you have Nepal and on the other side there is India and you get to shop from both sides. Quaint tea stalls, small curio shops and the buzzing local culture, this market on the Hillcart Road is just not a perfect place for shopping but also walking through the sloping inner by-lanes is a memorable experience.

Gopal Dhara Tea Estate

The Tea Estate wrapped with Fog
Authentic Darjeeling Tea

My next stop was at the Gopal Dhara Tea Estate. Travelling in the monsoons to a tea estate like walking through the clouds. Another best part visiting this tea estate was buying authentic Darjeeling tea at lower rates than at any of the famous markets of Darjeeling. You can enjoy tea testing at just a rate of Rs20 to understand which flavor you like the best and want to take back home. I am providing a link below to a complete range of Gopal Dhara tea available online.

https://amzn.to/3a7TVjl

Small Souvenir Shop
A Wide Range of Colorful Tea Sets
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You can even pickup cute tea sets (kettle and cups) painted and showcasing the local culture here art an affordable rate.

Mirik Lake

On my way to the Mirik Lake I came across a nursery and I could not control buying some beautiful Echeveria. In between the splashing rains and the cool Himalayan breeze, a huge variety of succulents have found a perfect place to bloom and flourish here.

Beware- These Succlents can Steal Your Heart!!!

Witness The Blooms of the Hill Station

Boat on the still waters of Mirik Lake or just walk along the lush greenery of the Mirik Gardens; you can spend hours in this picturesque tourist spot just basking in the natural beauty. Last but not the least; do not forget to explore the shops right across the Lake. The handwoven, soft and beautiful woolen sweaters and shawls are available at quite affordable rates here.

You can also get succulents online at the below link-

https://amzn.to/3ulWgxI

Mirik in the Rains
Woolens that You can’t resist

The Mall Road

The famous Mall Road
Enjoy an English Breakfast at the Keventers
Curios that speak of Culture

My last destination for the day was the Mall Road, located at the top of the Nehru Road. One of the most famous shopping destinations of Darjeeling, you cannot control but go on a shopping spree. However remember to explore few shops, take quotes and then make your purchase. Being one of the most popular town centers, the products are expensive here. So while there is a wide variety of curios, woolen apparels and food products that you can buy here, it is necessary to get the right deal.

Visit for a luxurious sip of Darjeeling Tea

In case you are not visiting Darjeeling anytime soon, you can try out the flavor online!

https://amzn.to/3P0q6Qw

Not a big fan of shopping? Take a pony ride or just take a seat at any of the benches scattered at the middle of the shopping site, and enjoy the scenic views of the Mall Road. So feel the vibe of Darjeeling at the Mall Road.

So do not be upset if you have limited time; in one day you can feel the life of the Queen of Hills.

Bolpur Beckons…

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The Spectacular View On The Way

No Bengali can deny the fact that at least a part of his/ her life has been influenced by Rabindranath Tagore; popularly known as Kabi Guru. As the train chugs into the Bolpur station, you are in the land of laal maati (red soil), the dreamland of this great Indian poet and Noble laureate. There are three prime tourist destinations here; namely, Shantiniketan, Konkalitala and Sonajhuri.

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Back in Time

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Vicinity of Peace

Your trip begins at Shantiniketan, the place which witnessed the renaissance of Bengali literature, art and music. Shanti meaning peace and Niketan home, had been the dream come true for the poet. The quietness of the place beckoned the young heart of creative Rabi and he decided to shift here.  Gradually the place became an open-air gallery of exquisite paintings, fine sculptures and classics. Visiting Shantiniketan will unravel the golden age of Bengali literature in front of you.

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Breathing Images

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Astounding Creations

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Soulful Environment

Ride next to Konkalitala, one of the 51 Shaktipeeths of Hinduism. Dedicated to Goddess Sati, this place is blissful.

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The Goddess

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The Holy Kund

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The Magic of Baul Music

Sonajhuri is a treasure island of Bengali folk dance and song. Tap your feet with the Santhal women at the beats of madol or enjoy the vibrancy of baul song and music, famous worldwide. This place also gives you a feel of a typical village market, haat; Birbhum is known for its leather handicrafts, bags, clay toys and apparels with unique prints and the haat is a shopper’s paradise. Last but not the least; relish authentic Bengali cuisines at complete Bengali ambience here.

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Bolpur Beats

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Cute Creations

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Nature on Paper

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Beauty in Black

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The Melody

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Jewels of Bolpur

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Colorful Drapes

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Leather Gems

Life demands some respite after a hectic week and now a relaxing weekend is just within your reach at Bolpur. Located at the Birbhum district of West Bengal this place is a complete package of fun, frolic and serenity.

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Lip Smacking Cuisines

How to Reach:

Bolpur is easily accessible via rail, road and airways. There are regular trains from all over West Bengal to the Bolpur Station. Both private and government (SBSTC) buses ply to the city on a regular basis. The Kolkata International Airport is the nearest airways to the place.

Local Vehicles:

Rickshaws are easily available outside the railway station and the main bus stand. You may also book a cab through the hotel where you are staying.

Belur Math

Belur Math- The Abode of Peace

Belur Math has always been one of my favourite spots near Kolkata, where I love to spend at least a piece of my weekend. It is really awesome to be amidst a surreal environment, far from the honking horns and dust filled air of the metropolitan. If you also want to find out yourself, removing all the tension of daily life, just be at Belur Math.

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The Main Temple

As River Ganges flows through the heart of Kolkata, several shrines have developed at its bank to enhance the divinity of the place with the touch of the holy waters. Belur Math is another religious centre of India, located at the Howrah district of West Bengal. Established by Swami Vivekananda in 1898, this place is visited by people from all walks of life, just not for pilgrimage but also to experience some soulful moments, far from the maddening crowd of city life.

The 40 acres of sprawling land is dotted with several temples; dedicated to Lord Ramakrishna, Ma Sarada and Swami Vivekananda. There are monasteries for the disciples of the Ramakrishna Movement and a children’s home, known as Sister Nivedita Children’s Home. The main temple of the place worships Ramakrishna Paramhansa, this is the site where Swami Vivekananda worshipped the urns of Ramakrishna; it is said that Swami Vivekananda carried the urns on his shoulder to the place.

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Blossoms in Full Bloom

You can spend a whole day here, strolling through the green meadows, listening to the joyous chirps of birds or relaxing at the banks of River Ganges, listening to its ripples. You can also enjoy a pleasant boat ride over the river, which takes you to another popular pilgrimage of West Bengal, the Dakhineshwar Kali Temple. This is where Ramakrishna used to worship Ma Kali as a priest. There are boats at regular intervals till 8.00 pm in the evening which take you to and fro Belur Math and Dakhineshwar Temple.

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River Ganges at Dusk

Another attraction of the place is its museum. There are relics and paintings depicting various phases of life of Ramakrishn, Ma Sarada and Swami Vivekananda. The shopping arcade consists of photos of various Hindu gods and goddesses, books on the Ramakrishna Movement, preaches of various philosophers and story books based on Indian mythology.

Devotees gather here at afternoon to have the ‘bhog.’ This simple meal is just not a lunch with people but a way of life of love and togetherness. Last but not the least; the evening aarti rejuvenates you. The aarti starts at 6.00 pm in winter and 6.30 pm in summer. Devotees gather at the main temple to witness the aarti. The soulful music and melodious hymns sung by the monks; known as ‘Brahma Sangit,’ relieves you from all stress.

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The Swami Vivekananda Temple

Are you looking for a different kind of Durga Puja celebration this year? Be at Belur Math. The Math is known for its unique Durga Puja rituals, which also includes the Kumari Puja. The Math also celebrates Saraswati Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Shivaratri, birthdays of Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Ma Sarada, Jesus Christ, Sri Krishna and Lord Chaitanya.

Durga Puja at Belur Math
Durga Puja at Belur Math

If you want to engage in some charitable work, Belur Math is one of the best places to do so. The Math is engaged in rehabilitation and relief work and also has its own charitable dispensary.

Hence take your time out this weekend to spend some time of solace at Belur Math.

Deulti

An Escapade From The Hustles Of City Life At Deulti

Stressed and tired of the everyday city life? Escape the commotion this weekend at Deulti. A quaint destination, Deulti is just an hour and forty minutes drive from Kolkata. You can reach the place via local trains and Paskura local is one of the best options to travel to this little hamlet of peace and serenity.

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On The Way

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Way Back

There are a number of resorts at Deulti, one being the Nirala Resort. From premium private cottages to affordable rooms, the resort offers you different types of accomodation amidst lush green meadows. As you play around in the cool waters of the swimming pool of the resort with your loved ones, the layers of stress wash away.

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The Resort

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Blossoms Of Beauty

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The Soothing Greenery Of The Resort

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Swimming Pool At Nirala Resort

Deulti also beckons you with its rich heritage. The great Bengali author, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay had spent much of his life here and his house is popularly known as Sarat Chandra Kuthi or Samtaber. The visiting hours of Samtaber is from 3 pm to 5 pm and you can explore the whole of this two storied Burmese styled house to get an insight into the simple living style of the ‘Katha Silpi.’

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Statue of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay at Samtaber

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The Burmese Styled Cottage Of The Author

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Belongings Of The Author

Last but not the least; bask in the surreal beauty of River Rupnarayan at Deulti. A walking distance from the residence of the writer, the riverside is a sunset point; as the sun bids goodbye to the day, the fusion of red and orange rays create a magical aura over the blue waters of River Rupnarayan.

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River Rupnarayan At Sunset

Hence, inhale some fresh air this weekend far from the maddening crowd, at Deulti.

Rediscover spirituality within simplicity at Kamarpukur and Jairambati

Ramakrishna Paramhansa, known as the Prophet of Modern Age and his wife and spiritual counterpart, Ma Sarada are known to bring renaissance to the religious life of the common men. With their simplistic lifestyle and preaching in lucid language, these nineteenth century mystics rule the hearts of masses till date. Ramakrishna Mission runs on the preaching of Lord Ramakrishna and Ma Sarada and is engaged in various social services.

The Divine Duo
The Divine Duo

A pilgrimage to Kamarpukur

Kamarpukur is the birthplace of Lord Ramakrishna, located at the Hooghly district of West Bengal. Besides regular bus service, you can also reach the place via car.

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The Ramakrishna Math

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The Durga Temple

As you approach the birthplace of the saint, you will come across several schools, guest houses and dispensaries constructed by Ramakrishna Mission for the upliftment of the locals. The guest houses are affordable, offering simple food and lodging. The best time to visit this place is during the ‘Kalpataru Utsav,’ which takes place every year during the first week of January; it is the celebration of the divine transformation of the Lord into a Kalpataru (magical tree) which has the power to grant all your good wishes.

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The Vishnu Temple

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The Deity of Lord Vishnu

The birthplace of Lord Ramakrishna is located within a complex, maintained by the Mission. The whole place is enveloped with peace and serenity; attain the evening aarti which is accompanied with melodious chants to rejuvenate your heart and soul. Among the other must visits are the ‘Haldar Pukur,’ the bathing ghat of the Lord and his family; the pond is also known as the ‘Choto Ganga,’ meaning the small Ganges.

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Choto Ganga

Visit the ‘Pathshala,’ the village school where Ramakrishna Dev used to study. Just opposite the small school lies the Durga Temple of the Laha family, the then zamindars of Kamarpukur. The nearby Vishnu Mandir was the seat of Ramakrishna, (known as Gadadhar that time) for painting pictures of Goddess Kali, escaping from his school. The guides accompany you to these places narrating the remarkable incidents of Ramakrishna Dev that took place at Kamarpukur.

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Pathshala

A blissful journey to Jairambati

Located just 6 kms from Kamarpukur is Jairambati, the birthplace of Sarada Devi. Jairambati is located at Kotulpur region of Bankura district. You can also be at Jairambati first and then at Kamarpukur, as there are lots of vans available at Jairambati which take you to Kamarpukur. Both these spots have safe parking facilities.

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The Hamlet of Peace

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The Simple Life

As you reach Jairambati, you get a glimpse of rustic village life of West Bengal. The thatched huts, the small ponds and the easy lifestyle of the locals enhance the beauty of your journey. Here also the birthplace and the house of Sarada Devi (which is a mud house with thatched roof) is looked after by the Mission. Prayers automatically come out of heart as you sit in front of the large serene statue of Ma Sarada. The whole complex is not only stunningly clean instead of having so many visitors day in and day out but is also impressive with bright, aromatic flowers.

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The Temple

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Floral Exhibition

Devotees do not miss to have ‘bhog’ here, a simple but delicious lunch of rice, vegetable curry, sweets and fruits. You have lot of souvenirs to buy here; be it the idols of Goddess Kali or rare photographs of Lord Ramakrishna and Ma Sarada. Do sip the steaming hot tea and savory sweets to get the real taste of Bengal.

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Yummy Sweets

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Religious Souvenirs

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Iron Utensils

Last but not the least; the visiting hours are stringent:

April to September:

6 am to 12.00 pm & 4 pm to 9 pm

October to March:

6.30 am to 11.30 am & 3.30 pm to 8.30 pm

Best Time to Visit: First Week of January which is the time for Kalpataru Utsav. 

Hence enjoy a weekend where a different facet of spirituality evolved; be at Kamarpukur and Jairambati.

The unification of heaven and humanity-Dakhineshwar

Located at the outskirts of Kolkata, Dakhineshwar used to be a small village. Dating back to the 19th century, when British ruled India, the Dakhineshwar Temple was built by the reverent and fearless queen of Kolkata, Rani Rashmoni, as a fulfillment of her dream.

Dakhineshwar Temple
Dakhineshwar Temple

Temple Premises
Temple Premises

The deity of goddess Kali worshiped here is known as ‘Bhavatarini,’ meaning the ultimate power which can release the soul from the cycle of birth and death. Dakhineshwar temple was also the seat of the great preacher of universal brotherhood, Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa.

Bhavatarini Idol
Goddess Bhavatarini

This popular Hindu pilgrimage is located at the banks of the sacred Ganges and people are often seen bathing in the cool river waters before offering ‘puja’ at the temple. As per folklore, a bath in the pious Ganges can wash away all sins of life.

Bathing Ghat- Dakhineshwar
Bathing Ghat of Dakhineshwar

The temple is encircled by twelve identical Shiva temples, representing ‘Aat Chala,’ the typical Bengal form of architecture. Your ‘puja’ is believed incomplete unless you worship the Shiva Lingas.

Shiva Temples
Shiva Temples

The temple building is really attractive with its bright red color blended with off white texture. There are several shops outside the temple premises where you can get the ‘puja dala’ consisting large red hibiscus garlands, incense sticks, sweets and vermilion.

Puja Items
Puja Items

As you enter the temple premises, you will see happy faces in spite of standing in long queues while the aroma of incense sticks and the continuous sound of bells create a divine atmosphere.

Waiting Devotees
Waiting Devotees

After the ‘puja’ do not miss the delicious ‘hing kachoris’ served with ‘cholar dal’ at the adjacent food stalls. Dakhineshwar is famous for the mouth watering pickles. There are several kinds of pickle available here which can add variety even to the simplest platter.

Lip Smacking Pickels
Lip Smacking Pickles

Amazing Picles
Pickle Shops

Like the other major tourist destinations, Dakhineshwar has several shops glittering with beautiful costume jewelries, items of worship, pictures and idols of Dakhineshwar temple and goddess Kali.

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Collection of Sakhas

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Devotional Souvenirs

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Devotional Artefacts

People visiting Dakhineshwar do not miss a visit to Adya Pith and Belur Math. You can enjoy an enchanting boat ride from Dakhineshwar temple to Belur Math over the Ganges while several ‘toto’ rickshaws ride you from Dakhineshwar to Adya Pith.

You can reach Dakhineshwar from Kolkata via trains, which are available at regular intervals. Regular bus service and taxis also make the place easily accessible.

Visit to the Dakhineshwar Temple hence is a nice weekend escape from the daily hustle and bustle.

A fantastic weekend trip to Bakkhali

Bakkhali is an ideal place to enjoy a short weekend trip. The place is at the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, quite near from the capital city of Kolkata. There is ample bus service available from Esplanade to Bakkhali. You can also travel via car; it is a meagre 3 hours journey from Kolkata.

As you start your journey, the first glimpse of nature awaits you at Diamond Harbour. It is an ideal spot to relish your breakfast, while witnessing the beauty of River Ganges.

River Ganges At Diamond Harbour
River Ganges At Diamond Harbour

As you reach Namkhana, the next phase of journey begins. You need to cross the River Hatania Doania via the vessel service of the Narayanpur Jetty Ghat; it is a unique experience to cross the river on the vessel, sitting in your car.

Crossing River On Vessel
Crossing River On Vessel

As you reach Frazergunj, there are many government and private hotels; you will be spoiled with choices of both budget and luxurious accommodation.

The prime attraction of Bakkhali is the Bay of Bengal. You can enjoy a mesmerizing sunrise and sunset at the beach. There are plastic chairs available on the beach where you can spend some memorable time chatting with your loved ones. Capture the golden moments with the help of the expert photographers roaming on the beach; you can get the photos in just 5 to 10 minutes.

Bakkhali Beach
Bakkhali Beach

Your next destination can be the well maintained park of the Bakkhali forest range. Here you can witness wildlife in natural habitat. The chattering monkeys, the grazing herds of deer and the lazily lying crocodiles are the attractions of this park.

Crocodile Park
Crocodile Park

Your next trip is to the Henrys Island. This quiet island is an apt place to watch various kinds of birds. Prawns and Hilsa are the two main types of fish that are farmed here. You can also checkout the mangroves and sundari trees along with rare red crabs crawling over the marsh land. Get an awesome view of the stretches of Sunderban from the watchtower of Henrys Island.

Henrys Island
Henrys Island

The journey ends with a visit to the Jambu Dwip. It is a thrilling two hours journey from the Frazergunj fishing harbour via motorboat. This coastal area is the confluence of the Hugli River and the Bay of Bengal; another paradise for bird watchers.

Bay Of Bengal
Bay Of Bengal

You can also buy beautiful home décor from the stalls located near the Bakkhali sea beach. The souvenirs made of sea shells are beautiful and worth for gifting.

Home Décor Stalls
Stalls

Last but not the least; you can satisfy your taste buds to the fullest at this deltaic island of West Bengal. There are several sea food stalls near the sea beach. You can relish jumbo crab curry and friend prawns and other local fish at these stalls. Among sweets, the coconut barfis are worth a try. If you are visiting Bakkhali during winters, you can buy home-made jaggery and pure palm sap.

Delicacies Of Bakkhali
Delicacies Of Bakkhali

Hence it can be said that your trip to ‘Beautiful Bengal’ is incomplete without a visit to this eastern coastal region of South Bengal.