West Bengal, India

You may well be sipping a cup of Darjeeling as you read this – tea may be West Bengal’s most famous export, but it certainly isn’t its only attraction: this teeming Indian state is brimming with culture. Capital city Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) is dotted with grand designs, including Taj-Mahal-tribute the Victoria Memorial, a shrine to art and national history. Just outside this urban hub, the striking, 19th-century Dakshineswar Kali temple is a marvel of intricate domes and spires, resting near the banks of the Ganges. Follow the river to the Bay of Bengal, where glittering coastal views stretch for miles, or travel north to the huge tea plantations in Darjeeling for a trip on the Unesco-protected railway (of Wes Anderson fame) through the Himalayan foothills.

When to go

To avoid the summer heat, visit between September and June – late February to early March the state’s perfectly balmy; bring jumpers if you visit during the winter months, as it can be as cold as England. July marks the start of the rainy season, so you’ll be battling heavy storms.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Fly to Kolkata with Air India or Etihad. There are no direct flights from England, but connecting flights from Bombay are regular and reasonably priced.
  • Trains

    Kolkata Railway Station is large and well-served, for those exploring more than one destination in India.
  • Automobiles

    Driving in India is notoriously difficult, but if you’re up to the challenge, rent a car at Kolkata airport. Avis India has a range of cars available (www.avis.co.in).