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 a lot has been written about picnic gear and picnic baskets, the quintessential question remains – where to go for this year’s picnics?
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 picnics or weekend stays this winter.
Falta is located on the banks of River Hooghly, around 51 km from Kolkata. It is well-connected by bus. While direct buses are available from Esplanade, it can also be reached via Diamond Harbour; and an ideal two hours drive if one decides to go by own transport.
Falta is a true river town. A few kilometers to the south, River Damodar meets River Hooghly (tributory of Ganga) and few kilometers to the north, River Rupnarayan meets River Hooghly.
Falta is also known for the beautiful farmhouse of the famous scientist, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose.
Long walks along the coast of River Hooghly is a great relaxing experience; or taking boat rides from Falta or picnicking at any spot along the river bank. Bird-watching and village walks are other activities to enjoy in Falta. Resorts are available for overnight stays just next to the river.
Gadiara is located at the confluence of the 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 in the old-world charm of Gadiara. Located by the river, not much of these two structures remains to be seen today, though. It is interesting to note that the ruins of the fort are immersed during high and low tides.
One can go to Gadiara by availing the bus services from Esplanade or by taking a train to Uluberia, and from there, by bus, jeep or van rickshaws. You can put up at the Tourism Department’s Rupnarayan Tourist Lodge.
This is the place where the Ganga flows into the sea. It is a place with an 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 a little tranquility can visit the Sarisha Ramakrishna Mission nearby.
The riverside is the main attraction; just to sit and watch boats go bobbing down the river is soothing to the mind and the soul. Boat rides are available, and one can even visit the nearby 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, where the spread for lunch or dinner can be pretty sumptuous.
51 km from Kolkata on the road to Basanti is the serene rural village of Babur Haat. The landscape of Babur Haat is filled with huge stretches of natural fishing lakes (bheris), where some of the tastiest fishes of Bengal are cultivated. Other village attractions include 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 stressbuster. The lakes around are well-maintained and the typical village scene is perhaps the closest closeted city-dwellers can get to.
15 km from Babur Haat is Malancha. Malancha is a renowned fishing village of Bengal that has some of the biggest fish markets in the state, which offer fish at amazingly low prices. Located at the confluence of two beautiful rivers, Icchamati and Vidyadhari, Malancha offers a great view of sunset from the banks of the Vidyadhari River. The river banks are also dotted with many brick kilns with long towers.
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 near Kolkata. The riverside lawns of Triveni Sangam Tourism Complex are a place where you can settle down for a hearty day-long picnic. The complex derives its name from the confluence point it offers to visitors – of the Hooghly, Damodar and Roopnarayan rivers.
About 15 minutes (by car or bus) away from this spot is Mahishadal Rajbari, where Bengal's film and television stars can often be spotted shooting. And then there is the 200-year-old Mirpur Church and Lokenath Mandir which one can visit.
You can reach Geonkhali by taking a train from Howrah for Satish Samanta station. Geonkhali is about 20 minutes away from Satish Samanta station. Going by private conveyance is, however, better when with a big picnic group.
Away from the hustle-bustle of Digha, Talsari is the place to go for those wanting an isolated and peaceful picnic. The Subarnarekha meets the Bay of Bengal near the 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, you 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 km from Digha, and can be easily reached by motor-vans available in Digha in a span of 35-45 minutes. The beach is also a good place for those wanting to spend a couple of days away from home. It has both government lodges and private hotels.
Located on the bank 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 the Ichhamati meets the Vasa. But the island is now broken and has been lost to the river. Yet, to see the confluence, you can take a boat ride from Taki – which is an enjoyable exercise.
Apart from these, and long adda sessions on the lush green fields, for those who are up to it, you can visit the Ramakrishna 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 or bus. West Bengal Tourism Department provides lodging facilities in Taki.
This is the place where the Damodar meets the Hooghly. It has a barrage with 58 lock gates (giving it name of Atanna Gates), which attracts a visitor’s attention even from a distance. You can choose to take a train from Howrah Station for Uluberia, from where several modes of public transport are available. Alternatively, you can reach this picnic spot located in Howrah in a 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 the 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 the Howrah Zila Parishad’s guest house in Garchumuk. The deer park, too, provides 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 commercial fishing lakes (bheri), vegetable gardens, ponds, palm trees, mango groves and local temples, where you can get to see different shades of village life. It’s a nice place to de-stress yourself after a whole week of slogging at your workplace. In 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 a pond.
If you are going by car, 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 to Kolkata cross Minakha. You have to get down at Minakha and take an auto-rickshaw to Dhuturdaha. It 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 on all sides. Visitors may spot wild animals as the place has a wildlife preservation centre. The centre covers an area of 153 acres and has thick growths of sal, teak, silk cotton and sandalwood trees. Buses are available for Arambagh from Kolkata. After reaching Arambagh, you have to board a bus for Chandur Bhatar More ('crossing'). It takes few minutes from here to reach the picnic spot.
Chandur Forest, Arambagh (Google)
By Team M3.tv