If you are talking to an Indian and mention the Kolkata, the first response is generally a wistful sigh and an explanation about the amazing street food available there. When you are in a country that is known globally for having delicious food, this says quite a lot! However, there is more to Kolkata than food. The city was once the capital of British India and Kolkata is dotted with beautiful colonial buildings that remind visitors of a bygone era. It is also the location of India’s biggest Durga Puja festival which transforms the city into a giant open air museum. Adorable blue and yellow taxis whirl around the city like cartoon cars and iconic blue buses ply the streets and a wide variety of bars and restaurants line the streets.
Kolkata is a much-loved destination by expats in India because of the delicious food, beautiful architecture and calm city streets. Yet, it gets even better! Kolkata is also the entry point of the famous Sunderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its incredible biodiversity. Known as one of the largest mangrove forests in the world, the Sunderbans are home to Bengal tigers, crocodiles, wild boars, deer and a wide array of birds. While the Sunderbans are located in both Bangladesh and India, the easiest (and cheapest) place to organize trips is from Kolkata itself.
You can opt for an overnight boat trip operated by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation. However, we highly recommend staying in an eco-village located near the park which gives you the chance to help support the local community. (Our favorite “village” employs women from the local village. Most of the jobs available in the Sunderbans are very dangerous and this is a safe way for them to make a living and support their families.)
Kolkata is easily accessible from most major cities in India with direct flights from Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore. For onward travel, flights to Port Blair in the Andamans are inexpensive and relatively frequent. Otherwise, you can grab a train to Darjeeling or even travel overland to Dhaka, Bangladesh!
For more information on West Bengal, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help!