West Bengal

A sliver of fertile and densely populated land running from the tea-draped Himalayan foothills to the steamy mangroves of the Bay of Bengal, West Bengal presents a remarkable range of destinations and experiences within a single state. In the tropical southern areas, the wildlife-rich, mangrove-lined waterways of the Sundarbans vie for attention with Bishnupur's ornate terracotta Hindu temples and the cultured, arty vibes of Shantiniketan. Upstream from Kolkata (Calcutta) on the Hooghly River (a branch of the Ganges) you'll reach old European trading towns and three former Bengali capitals at Murshidabad, Gaur and Pandua. The cool northern hills are home not just to British colonialist hill stations like bustling Darjeeling and more laid-back Kalimpong, but also to fantastic vistas of massive Khangchendzonga, rolling green tea estates, some great hiking and the huffing and puffing 'toy trains' of the almost 140-year-old Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout West Bengal.