An ideal picnic spot is just a little outside the city and where the sky meets the horizon with a river in-between.
People of Kolkata believe in picnics for it is not only loads of fun but has definite rejuvenating qualities. While lot has been written about picnic gear and picnic baskets but the quintessential question remains – where to go for this year’s picnic?
Ask an old Bengali what does a picnic mean to him and a most likely reply would be: ‘It brings about 15 to 20 friends and family members together. We select a destination about two to three hours away from home. Move out early morning with light bags and raw cooking material… Cooking at the picnic spot is integral to the fun.’
Here are some of the favourite spots, ideal for day-picnics or weekend stay this winter.
Falta is located on the banks of River Hooghly around 51 km from Kolkata. It is well connected by bus and minibus. While direct bus is available from Esplanade it can also be reached via Diamond Harbour. An ideal two hours drive if one decides to go by own transport.
Falta is a true river town, few kilometers to the south of Falta, River Damodar meets River Hooghly (River Ganges is called by this name here) and few kilometers to the north River Rupnarayan meets River Hooghly.
Falta is also known for the beautiful farmhouse of the famous Bengali scientist Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose.
Long walks along the coast of River Hooghly is a great relaxing experience or take a boat ride on Ganges from Falta or arrange a picnic in any spot along the river bank. Bird watching and village walks are other activities to enjoy in Falta. Resorts are available for overnight stay just next to the river.
Gadiara is located at the confluence of Damodar, Roopnarayan and Hooghly rivers. Vast green spaces on the banks of the river, with beautified parks and benches to sit on, is where picnickers put up their tents for the day.
Ruins of an 18th century fort, Fort Mornington, built by Lord Clive, and a lighthouse, await those interested in history and old-world-charm at Gadiara. Located by the river, however, not much remains of these two structures could be seen today. But it is interesting to note that the fort ruins are immersed during high and low tides.
One can go to Gadiara by availing the bus services from Esplanade or take a train to Uluberia, from where bus, jeep and van services are available. You can put up at tourism department’s Rupnarayan Tourist Lodge.
This is the place where Ganges flows towards the sea. This is a place with ancient history. The ruins of Chingrikhali Fort stand as testimony to the times when Diamond Harbour was frequented by Portuguese pirates. The old lighthouse is also a tourist attraction. Those seeking little tranquility can visit the Sarisha Ram Krishna Mission nearby.
The riverside is again the main attraction; just to sit and watch boats go bobbing down the river is soothing to the mind and soul. Boat rides are available and one can even visit the industrial town of Haldia. The breeze is refreshing and balmy. On a moonlit night the riverside looks enchanted – the water turns into molten silver. Modern resorts, hotels and restaurants are available and the spread for lunch or dinner is pretty sumptuous.
51 km on Basanti road from Kolkata is this serene rural village called Babur Haat. The landscape of Babur Haat is filled with huge stretches of natural fishing lakes or bheris, which are used for the purpose of cultivating some of the tastiest fishes of Bengal. Other village attractions include the vast stretches of rice farmlands, vegetable orchards, mango groves, palm orchards, ponds, rural village houses and local temples. This is a getaway we would term ‘far from the madding crowd’. Nature walks through lush green farmlands is a great stress buster. The lakes around are well maintained and the typical village scene is perhaps the closest closeted city dwellers can get to.
15 km away from Babur Haat is Malancha. Malancha is a renowned fishing village of Bengal that has some of the biggest fish markets in all of Bengal. Fish markets here offer fish at amazingly low prices. Located at the confluence of two beautiful rivers, the Icchamati and the Vidyadhari, Malancha offers a great view of sunset from the banks of the Vidyadhari River. The riverbanks are also dotted with many brick kilns with long towers that line up a long way along the banks.
For those wanting to stay at Babur Haat for the night, resorts and hotels with modern facilities are available.
This is one of the closest and most beautiful picnic spots you can go near Kolkata. The riverside lawns of Triveni Sangam Tourism Complex are a place where you can settle down for a hearty daylong picnic. The complex derives its name from the confluence point it offers to visitors – of Hooghly, Damodar and Roopnarayan.
At about 15 minutes (by car/bus) from this spot is Mahishadal Rajbari, where Tollywood stars are often spotted shooting for film and television. And then there is the 200-year-old Mirpur Church and Loknath Mandir which one can visit.
You can reach Geonkhali by taking a train from Howrah for Satish Samanta station. Going by private conveyance is, however, better, especially when with a big picnic group. Geonkhali is about 20 minutes away from Satish Samanta station.
Away from the hustle-bustle of Digha, there are some who reach Talsari for an isolated picnic with their party. The Subarnarekha meets Bay of Bengal at this beach. And the beauty of it all is sensed most at high tide, when you have to take a boat to cross the Subarnarekha and reach the beach. At other times, one can simply walk this distance.
Rows of casurina trees add to the beauty of this beach. After one is tired of sitting on the beach, finding a cool spot under the shadow of these trees is an appealing thought.
The beach is about 10 kms away from Digha, and can be easily reached by motor-vans available in Digha in a span of 35-45 minutes. The beach is a good picnic spot for those who want to spend about two days away from home. It has both government lodges and private hotels.
Located on the banks of Ichhamati River in North 24-Parganas, this small town is well-known among picnickers as the spot from where the Bangladesh border is visible. A little further from Taki was another picnicking spot – Machranga Dweep, where Ichhamati meets Vasa river. But the island is now broken and has been lost to the river. Yet, to see the confluence, groups can take a boat ride from Taki – which is an enjoyable exercise.
Apart from this and long adda sessions on the lush green fields, you can visit the Ramkrishna Mission temple in Taki, which isn’t far from the river bank.
You can visit Taki by train, getting down at Taki Road station, or more conveniently by car/bus. West Bengal tourism department provides lodging facility at Taki.
This is where Damodar meets Hooghly. And it has a barrage with 58 lock (giving it name of Atanna Gates) gates, which attracts a visitor’s attention even from a distance. Closest to Uluberia railway station, you can take several modes of public transport if you choose to go from Howrah Station by train. Alternatively, you can reach this picnic spot located in Howrah in private car by taking the NH6.
When here, while picnicking at the open grounds at the river banks is an obvious choice, you can also visit a deer park nearby. The Garchumuk Deer Park, maintained by the forest department, is home to dozens of freely roaming spotted deer.
You can spend a day and even stay overnight at Howrah Zila Parishad’s guest house in Garchumuk. The deer park, too, provides for lodgings. Overall, the accommodation is inexpensive. You can choose to cook or buy from the canteen at the guest house.
Dhuturdaha is a serene village with endless stretches of fishing lakes (bheri), vegetable gardens, ponds, palm trees, mango groves, local temples and different shades of village life. It’s a nice place to de-stress yourself after a whole week of slogging in your workplace. At Dhuturdaha, you can just relax watching the vast endless skies over the green horizon, get together with your family and friends beside the pond, do some fishing and dip your tired legs in the pond.
If you are going by car, then you have to take Basanti Highway from Science City and reach Minakha. From Minakha, you can take the road going right to Dhuturdaha. All Buses connecting Malancha from Kolkata will cross Minakha. You have to get down at Minakha and take a local Auto Rickshaw to Dhuturdaha.
Dhuturdaha has a number of luxury, ethnic and budget resorts with facilities for accommodating guests. You can stay overnight or visit the place for a day trip or picnic.
Chandur Forest, Arambagh
Located on the banks of the Dwarakeswar River, in Arambagh, thick forest surrounds the place from all sides. Visitors may spot wild animals as the place has a wild life preservation center. It covers an area of 153 acres and has the thick growth of the Sal, the Teak, the Silk Cotton and the Sandalwood trees. Buses are available for Arambagh from the Kolkata. After reaching Arambagh, one has to board a bus to reach the Chandur Bhatar More (Crossing). It takes few minutes to reach the picnic spot from the crossing.