Kolkata itself is a paradise for travelers with its various offerings - from the fast moving metro-city vibes and five star joints to the traditional pockets which still hold the old world charm, from Yautcha and Oh Calcuatta to Mitra Cafe and Chitto Babur Dokan, from Hard Rock Cafe to Coffee House...the list goes on and on.
While Kolkata alone is enough to entice travelers, there are plenty of places that one can visit from the City of Joy that makes it an even better option to add as part of our itinerary when you are visiting this part of India. There are various places that you can visit from Kolkata for a day or two like Baharampur, Bakkhali, Darjeeling, Diamond Harbour, Hollong, Digha, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Malda, Gadiara and Sunderban, among a host of others. But, there is one particular place that you must add to your list if you are planning to go on a short trip from Kolkata for a weekend - Shantiniketan.
In this blog we will give an insight on how you can plan your trip to Shantiniketan.
How you can reach Shantiniketan from Kolkata: You can book your seats in the AC Chair Car of Shantiniketan Express which leaves Howrah Railway Station at 10:10 am. It is a 2.5 hours journey through picturesque small towns and villages. The train journey was amazing as the seats in an AC Chair Car are comfortable and the coach is clean as compared to other local trains. While there are nearly a dozen trains between the Railway Stations of Kolkata and the Bolpur Railway Station, we would suggest you take this train as it is the only one whose last destination is Bolpur Railway Station and it has the least number of stops making it the quickest journey available.
You will reach Bolpur Railway Station around 12.30pm. Once at the Bolpur Railway Station, you can hire a toto which will take you to your hotel in Shantiniketan.
On your way back from Shantiniketan, booking this same train, which leaves Bolpur Railway Station at 1:10pm, is an added benefit as this is the only train which halts for a long period, making it convenient for travelers to settle in.
Bonus Tip: If you want to make your trip more adventurous, drop into Babu Ghat in the morning and take a ferry from there to the Howrah Railway Station, sailing over the Hooghly looking at the picturesque Howrah Bridge. Keep in mind that it takes about 15 mins to reach from Babu Ghat to Howrah Railway Station.
Following are some of the prices that you might want to take note of:
- Ticket prices for an AC Chair Car in Shantiniketan Express is: INR 305 per person
- Price of reserving a toto from Bolpur Station to a hotel in Shantiniketan: INR 100
- Price of a shared toto from Bolpur Station to a hotel in Shantiniketan: INR 20 per person
- Price of Ferry from Babu Ghat to Howrah Station: INR 6 per person
Where you can stay in Shantiniketan: Shantiniketan is a traveler's delight - there are accommodations available for all budgets. When travelling within West Bengal, we mostly prefer staying in accommodation that is setup and maintained by the state government. Beyond being well maintained, as opposed to popular belief, the rates are also pretty nominal for the amenities on offer. The West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTCL) operates two accommodation options in Shanitiniketan - Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge and Rangabitan Tourist Complex.
Due to the availability of a room of choice, we stayed at Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge. We booked a Deluxe Double Room Cottage directly from the website of WBTDCL the day before the journey. We were lucky to get an accommodation in such a short time as this place stays booked most of the time. And, that is the only caveat of these properties - the demand is so high that you have to be in luck to get a hold of one of their better rooms.
The cottages at Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge are pretty decent with all basic amenities and overlooks a small garden full of flowers. This resort also has inside parking facilities for anyone bringing their own car, which is definitely a boon in case you want to drive into Shantiniketan from Kolkata instead of taking the train. The proximity of the resort to the Bolpur Railway Station is also a benefit - it is actually one of the first properties that you would see once you enter the main area that is designated as 'Shantiniketan'.
How you can travel around Shantiniketan: If you are driving into Shantiniketan you can use your car to go around the various places to visit. But, if you are going to take train to reach Shantiniketan and do not have a conveyance available, the best option to hire a toto. Your toto driver is also your tour guide and will take you around all the main attractions, providing you information about the history behind the places, and also recite Tagore's poetry or sing a line or two of Rabindra Sangeet while he is at - a complete entertainment package. We hired the same toto driver with whom we reached our resort from the railway station.
Price of hiring a toto that you might want to take note of:
- INR 1000 for a 4 hour tour
- INR 500 for a 2 hour tour
Where you can eat in Shantiniketan: Shantiniketan has a lot of places to eat traditional Bengali cuisine. If you’re coming in on a weekend and visiting Sonajhuri Shanibarer Haat, the best place to enjoy traditional Bengali cuisine is at Ram Shyam Village Resort. It is at the heart of Sonajhuri Haat and easy to locate. They have a basic vegetarian thali comprising rice topped with pure ghee, shak bhaja (fried spinach), dal, dhokar dalna (chickpea cakes cooked as a curry), aloo postor tarkari (potato and poppy seeds curry), begun bhaja (fried brinjal), papad and chutney. To this basic thali, you can add any non-vegetarian dish of your choice - multiple types of fish, prawns, chicken and mutton. We ordered parse maacher jhol. The food was simple and good, nothing fancy. What matters is the experience, especially because they serve your food on traditional brass utensils. Reach early or they run out of food, because of the sheer demand of it on a Saturday and be prepared to wait for your turn or share a table with other guests.
The other place where we ate and would definitely recommend is the Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge - they serve to both residents and walk-in guests. Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge surprisingly offers some great food options which taste delicious. We had evening snacks, dinner and breakfast with them as we were staying in their resort. We ordered chicken pakora and fish fry along with a pot of coffee for the evening - all of which were fresh and tasted really good after our 4 hour ride across the length and breadth of Shantiniketan.
As it was Saraswati Puja weekend when we visited, Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge was serving special khichudi and beguni for dinner and we opted for this along with their famous chicken roast. The khichudi and beguni combination is a favorite of Bangali and we loved their version here. The khichudi had the right amount of spices and was cooked to perfection. The beguni was served hot, right off the pan - crispy on the outside and moist and well cooked on the inside.
Now, coming to the chicken roast; the only way we can describe it is - it is different. What is served to you is not what you expect when you hear 'chicken roast', yet it was truly amazing. This is a dish where they serve a piece of cooked chicken topped with a spicy gravy and veggies on the side. If you are in Shatiniketan you must give this a try.
For breakfast, Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge has multiple set menu options and we went for luchi, aloo tarkari, roshogulla and a cup of tea set menu. The food is simple , nothing fancy but quantities are generous enough to fill you up till lunch.
Book Your Stay in Shantiniketan
Places you can visit in Shantiniketan: Shantiniketan has a lot of attractions to visit like Sonajhuri Shanibarer Haat, Visva-Bharati University, Rabindra Bhavana, among a host of others. You can read about them on our blog - Top Places To Visit In Shantiniketan.
If you are visiting Shantiniketan and need any help booking your train tickets to/from Shantiniketan and hotels to stay in or to get connected to a toto driver, you can get in touch with us and we will help you with the bookings.
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4 thoughts on “The Perfect Weekend Getaway Near Kolkata – Shantiniketan”
Just read your 2 articles on Shantiniketan, thank you for very useful info. Couple questions if you can help us. This will be our first trip to India and we arrive 6 days before our tour begins of NE India starting in Kolkata. We arrive Oct 6 and did not realize we will be in the midst of Durga Puja festivities. As foreigners and first time visitors we are wondering how to explore Kolkata and a couple side trips during this time. Will it be difficult by train or hired car to get to Shantiniketan or Sundarbans? Thinking spend 7th in Kolkata (possibly 8th?) then head to Sundarbans 1 or 2 nights 8+9 and then to Shantiniketan 1 or 2 nights 10+11? We have to be in Kolkata Saturday the 12th by late afternoon 5pm to meet our tour group for first meeting only no touring. Can we enjoy the crafts market day in Shantiniketan half day on 12th and return to Kolkata by late afternoon? I think you said there was a 1pm train returning would that work?
We would appreciate any feedback how to observe Durga Puja and whether to take 2 side trips and if need 1 or 2 days at each location? Will this be too much considering it is during Durga Puja?? Although DP ends on Oct 8 I am under the impression it will probably remain festive and busy days afterwards??
Hope to hear from you and please din’t Hesitate to provide honest advice! Thank you, Loretta
Sorry for the delay in replying. Thank you very much for reading our blogs.
Here’s our suggestions for your trip:
Durga Puja is the biggest festival in Kolkata so the whole city is decked up and looks it’s best, but the negative part is that it’s going to be crowded. Since this is your first visit to India, you might find the crowd a bit overwhelming, but again it depends on person to person. If you’re okay with the crowd, then you can stay in Kolkata, it will be an experience to remember (good or bad depends on person to person. We usually avoid the rush and plan our trips outside during this time or stay indoors).
This time we’re travelling to Bhutan between 2nd and 8th October, we will be in Kolkata from 9th. So if you want, we can take a day off from work and take you around Kolkata. We’re not a tour agency so no charges involved. It’s just helping out fellow travellers explore best of Kolkata. 🙂
Regarding Sunderban, it is best to hire a car and go. The stay options are less in Sunderban so you should try booking a government lodge. They will help you plan safaris. This is the link to a government lodge in Sunderban: https://www.wbtdcl.com/home/lodge_search?Lodge_id=Mjc&Lodge_destinationName=MjU
You can directly book online.
Regarding Shantiniketan, the Saturday crafts fair which I mentioned on the blog starts around 2pm so I am afraid if you catch the 1pm train then you will miss it. Even if you hire a car back and leave around 3pm from Shantiniketan, you will not be able to make the meeting at 5pm. So, I think you will have to skip the Saturday fair this time.
Hope this was helpful. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can reply over here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In case, you would like to explore Kolkata city on your own, then we can provide you a list of “must do” attractions and great places to grab a bite.
You mentioned that you’re going to North East India. It’s an amazing region. We are in the process of completing our blogs but just to let you know, we have been to Assam and Meghalaya so in case you have specific questions regarding these states, we can help you out.
I am sure you will have a great time in India. 😀
Hoping to hear from you again.
Thanks for taking time to reply and offer your ideas!
We have decided to stay in Kolkata and experience Durga Puja. Our hotel is the Dee Empresa recommended by the tour company taking us on NE tour located centrally. Do you recommend visiting DP venues within walking distance of hotel? Are there locations that you recommend visiting for DP? Do you recommend joining s tour company that would drive us on s bus to different locations? We don’t mind walking if possible on crowded streets as long as we know where we are going!! I hear there will be a lot of food available on streets is this generally ok for us to eat? Lots of questions, basically what is your suggestion for how to share in this experience? How is air quality I recall 2 years ago on my first trip to central Indua my tour ended at Diwali and there were a ton of fireworks that polluted the sky will there be some of that?
We are heading to Sundarbans on Oct 10-12 with Help Tourism and they will provide car transport! We will have to pass on Shantiniketan.
Our tour takes us to 2 days to Imphal (Ima Keithal Women’s Market and Keibal Lamjao NP), Kohima (visit several villages), Kaziranga (1night and next morning half day safari wish we had more), Shillong(Cherapunjee), in between all these locations we travel by mini bus max of 12 on tour so there will be some LONG, bumpy days!! Then by train to Guwahati and overnight train fr New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling for 2 days and 2 more Gangtok includes Rumtek Monastery. Appreciate any ideas for what to do with free time in any of these locations as this company provides basically transport and accommodation and only a few included activities so we are on our own for at least 1/2 the time and for all meals!! I have copied maps and suggestions from a tour book but if there are any “must dos” live to hear from you.
We dearly appreciate your offer on Oct 9 to show us around Kolkata but we would not want to interfere with your work. If it is possible for you after work we could meet for dinner or a drink as we would love to thank you personally for offering your help!
We would appreciate Your suggestions for what to do in Kolkata beyond DP as we will have 4 full days to explore.
Look forward to hearing back. We actually start out journey Aug 27 landing in Iceland and driving Ring Road 11days, then to Great Britain first time and a week in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England and then Kolkata…we got on a roll going East. In hindsight we bit off a lot but it surely will be an adventure.
Loretta and Reno
Hi Loretta and Reno,
So glad to hear from you both again. Sorry for the delay in replying. We were travelling around Meghalaya last week, mainly Cherrapunji.
If you’re staying at Dee Empressa, you will be close to the most happening neighborhood of Kolkata – Park Street. It is filled with restaurants, pubs and has a great nightlife. Also, your hotel is close to New Market, which is a great place for shopping.
I will update you on which DP venues to visit as soon as I get information about the different themes this year.
I don’t think you need a tour company to go in and around Kolkata as it’s an easy city to get around.
If you like getting up early and walking, you can take a walk and grab breakfast at Flury’s. Then you can take one of the iconic Kolkata yellow taxis or an app cab (Uber/Ola) and head to Victoria Memorial, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Birla Planetarium (these 3 are walking distances from eachother). Then come back to Park Street for lunch at a restaurant of your choice. Download this app called “Zomato” for your restaurant searches, but as a suggestion, we would suggest “Peter Cat” for their Chelo Kebab. You can head to New Market for shopping and grab a bite at Blue Sky Cafe or Raj Spanish Café (the vote for these two are divided between both of us. I vote for Blue Sky Cafe and Shabbir votes for Raj) Nonetheless, both of them are great and you should check them out.
The next day you can get around Howrah Bridge, Princep Ghat and Vidyasagar Setu.
Another day you can go to Jorasanko Thakurbari.
If you have interest in museums, you can check out Indian museum which is close to your hotel.
If you want food suggestions, let us know what you would like to have and we will give you suggestions based on that.
On 9th morning, if you don’t mind waking up early at around 6am-ish, we would like to take you to Tiretta Bazaar for breakfast before heading to work. Then in the evening, we would love to join you for dinner. Are you up for authentic Bengali cuisine or do you want to try some other cuisine? We’re okay with anything. Also, I get over from work at 5.30pm so if you face a language barrier for shopping at New Market, I would be happy to accompany you and help.
Regarding streetfood, that depends on you but during DP, there is a lot of rush and demand for streetfood so the hygiene and quality is a bit questionable, it would be best to avoid it.
There are no fireworks during DP so air quality is normal.
For your Meghalaya part of the trip, we would suggest you try to visit Arwah caves at Cherrapunji (go beyond the point till where lights are fitted and take a guide), Krangsuri waterfall in Jaintia Hills and try to spend a night in Shnongpdeng if possible. These are the top 3 highlights from our last two trips, both of which were in Meghalaya. You can check out our instagram for all the recent updates from our Meghalaya trips: https://www.instagram.com/fofafifl/
If you need a car to get around anywhere in Meghalaya, do let us know and we will connect you to our driver who is very friendly and has the best possible rates for travel around Meghalaya.
I’m sure you will have a great time in India. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to ask.