West Bengal is known for its sheer beauty, colorful traditions, ancestral cuisine, refined culture, and brilliant architectural marvels including terracotta temples. If merely hearing the word ‘West Bengal’ reminds you of ‘Sandesh’, ‘Durga Puja’ and ‘Mishti Doi’, you’re not entirely at fault. However, Bengal is way much more than that. Not only the place is loaded with attractions that are bewitching but also possess some of the best spots to spend adventurous holidays. Why head to clichéd destinations like Manali, Auli, Munnar or Kodaikanal, when you can explore far more interesting options in West Bengal?
If your definition of ‘adventurous vacation in India’ includes terms like ‘snow-clad mountains’, ‘stunning landscapes’, ‘greenery’, ‘glossy river’, ‘tea estates’ and ‘lush meadows blanketed by a wide variety of flora’, West Bengal has got all you seek. Here are some offbeat vacation ideas if you plan to spend your holidays in Bengal sometime soon.
Neora National Park
Neora National Park is a pearl in an oyster shell. Located in Kalimpong district of West Bengal, this surreal national park is home to furry red pandas, black Asiatic bears and many other endangered species of animals and birds alike. The park stretches in the north up to an altitude of 3,200m touring which is something you cannot miss out on. But to explore Neora National Park, you need a permit from the authorities at the forest range office at Lava and also at Samsing.
The park is considered one of the wealthiest biodiversity hotspots. You can find ample of Sal trees, ferns and bamboo groves as you traverse your way to the forest. If you happen to visit the place during spring and summer, you’ll be welcomed with 10 different species of colorful Rhododendrons. Yews, Hemlocks and wild strawberries also form a part of the forest vegetation.
You’ll frequently see the Barking Deer, Goral Deer when you take a trek on the forest trail. The park is also a habitat to species like Leopards, Himalayan Thar, Flying Squirrel, Leopard Cat, wild cats and even the Royal Bengal Tigers (although rare). Insects and reptiles like King Cobra, bees, beetles, moths, wasps, and lizards are commonly sighted. Neora National Park is a treasure of nature only lucky ones get to explore since people are not aware of this gem like other national parks. Not only this, if you are lucky, you may also spot the rare species Rusty Bellied Shortwing, Myanahs, Swallows, Flycatchers and Parakeets as you trek the park.
- Best time to visit: October to April is ideal for visiting this park
- Where to stay: Eco Huts and resorts are the best option to enjoy your vacation in comfort.
Counted among the best treks in Eastern India, Sandakphu is located at an altitude of 11930 feet, the highest point in West Bengal. The trek to Sandakphu passes through the Singalila National Park which is home for Red Panda. If you anticipate witnessing nature’s full glory, heading to Sandakphu is not a bad idea at all. Here you’ll catch panoramic vistas worth capturing on your camera lens. Moreover, from its peak, you can see four of the world’s highest peaks namely- Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse. A paradise for trekkers, Sandhakphu’s challenging trek demands greater stamina and vigor. From the main town of Darjeeling, you can spot Kanchenjunga cluster that gives you a glimpse of snow-clad mountains that appears as if they are stone’s throw away. Tiny villages of Samanden and Gorkhey welcome you as you pass by.
A trek to Sandakphu is quite easy and can be enjoyed by young and older people alike provided that you are fit and not suffering from respiratory issues. Throughout your trek, you’ll find poisonous aconite plants in abundance, don’t get tempted to eat them or you’ll pay with your life.
- Best time to visit: Sandakphu can be visited at any time of the year
- Where to stay: You can opt for a homestay or lodges when trekking trails of Sandakphu.
Gorumara National Park is known for its good population of one-horned Indian rhino. The park has an impressive collection of flora and fauna that never cease to amaze the travelers. If you intend to opt for sightseeing Gorumara Hornbill Nest, head to Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary which is famous for its elephant population. You can also go inside the forests for jungle safari and experience adventure like you’ve never experienced before.
Species of fauna typically consists of elephants, rhinos, Indian bison, peacock and deer are commonly spotted as you traverse through the forest. For bewildering views and scenic pictures, you may take a break at Chukchuki watch tower and capture hundreds of birds flying in the sky.
Besides jungle safari, you may set up a camp and build a campfire enjoying a beautiful evening. In case you feel bothered by flies, mosquitoes and other creepy-crawlies, book your stay in one of the eco villages whose cottages are hut shaped.
- Best time to visit: Since the climate is pleasant round the year so it isn’t a problem if you’ve set your visit any time of the year.
- Where to stay: There are several lodges and resorts where you can stay during your trip to this place.
Don’t know where to head next after a hectic walk through the city? Phalut has got everything you’ve been looking for an adventurous getaway. Blessed by some of the most rare and exquisite beauty of nature, Phalut with its tranquil environment and awe-inspiring views will take your breath away. Away from the maddening crowd, trekking in Phalut is going to be life-altering experience for you. In case you are looking for solitude, the place won’t disappoint you and shower you with its heart-soothing vistas you normally won’t get to see in cities. As you trek along the Singalila ridge, you are welcomed by Rhododendron and magnolia forest along with fascinating wildlife.
- Best time to visit: October to December is the ideal time to explore Phalut.
- Where to stay: There are ample resorts available for accommodation.
Just in case you have this notion that West Bengal has nothing adventurous to offer, you’d be shocked when you step into the land. There are so many options available for an adventurous holiday in Bengal that you’re most likely to get confused. However, there are handful places you cannot really miss out on and Chapramari forest is one of them. This wildlife sanctuary is quite close to Gorumara National Park so you can easily pay a visit to this sanctuary on your way to Gorumara. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone; in this case it’s going to give you unforgettable memories.
Chapramari forest offers plenty of adventurous activities of which forest safari is something loved by everyone. By indulging in jungle safari, you get to capture fascinating creatures on your camera’s lens. Elephants, spotted deer, barking deer, Indian bison are commonly sighted here. Murti river nearby serves as a great spot for a picnic.
- Best time to visit: The forest can be visited any time irrespective of months since weather and climatic conditions remain favorable for tourism round the year.
- Where to stay: Several lodges and resorts are available at Chapramari forest if you want to stay here for a few days and feel absolute bliss amidst nature.