Explore these 4 offbeat destinations from Kolkata during Durga Puja this year!

Durga puja is just a couple of weeks away. If you are not a fan of the insane crowding that Kolkata sees during this time, you ought to be planning your getaway now! Your kids may have a long break but you probably have only about five days (and a Saturday and Sunday) to get away. Use those seven days to plan a vacation where everyone gets what they want!

Meghalaya

While the NE is experiencing heavy flooding this year, only the southwest Garo hills of Meghalaya has seen flooding. This means that the areas around Shillong and Cherrapunjee are still doable. Fly in to Shillong and spend a day exploring around the city – within the city, Police Bazar is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. Wards Lake can be excellent for boating with the kids. You could also explore the waterfalls around the city – Elephant Falls and Crinoline Falls would be magnificent now after the monsoon.

While in Meghalaya, do not miss Cherrapunjee. It is known for the highest rainfall in the country, and September is an excellent time to visit if you want to see the rains come lashing down. The Nohkalikai falls is, by now, a roaring waterfall, and the Mawsmai limestone caves are also extremely inviting at this time. Set aside a day to visit Asia’s cleanest village – Mawlynnong and visit the neighbouring village of Riwai to explore the living root bridge. If you are up for trekking, you could also explore the double decker root bridge in Nongriat. Dawki may not be as clear as it normally is, given that the rains would have brought down a huge amount of silt downstream. But overall, Meghalaya can be a wonderful getaway for the five days of Durga Puja.

How to get there: You could fly to Guwahati and then take a cab to Shillong (around 100 km). Or you could fly to Shillong’s Umroi airport directly

Where to stay: Find a hotel near Police Bazar or Ward’s Lake to be closer to the centre of the city where all the shops and restaurants are. You could also spend a day in Cherrapunjee if you want to experience the rains there for more than the length of a day trip

What to eat: The Police Bazar area has a lot of stalls for local food. Apart from that, there are a number of restaurants here that serve both local and pan-Indian cuisines. Chinese and continental food are also available. Definitely check out the cafes of Shillong for some excellent finger food and rock music.

Bhutan

If you want a taste of international travel, at a fraction of the cost, we suggest Bhutan! Since it’s slightly offbeat, your kids will probably be instantly interested. The wonderful part of Bhutan is, it is possible to cover a lot of the country and experience the best it has to offer within a very short span. The Taktsang monastery and the Kurje Lakhang monastery are huge crowd-pullers. If you want to see the Dzongs (forts) of Bhutan, don’t miss the Dzongs at Punakha and Jakar.

Trekking is also a popular activity in the country, and if you want to introduce your children to the activity, take them on the Bumthang Cultural Trek to show a part of Bhutan that is rich in cultural sights. Or you could simply visit the many wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the country. Oh, and don’t miss the traditional Hot Stone Bath for a really traditional wellness therapy.

How to get there: You can arrive at the Bagdogra airport and then drive down through Phuntsholing. Or you can take a flight directly to the airport at Paro

Where to stay: There are many options for hotels and homestays in Paro and Thimpu. They might be expensive though, which is why a lot of people prefer to stay in Jaigaon.

What to eat: Local food is available everywhere but if you are not a fan of hot food, ask them clearly not to add chilli. Indian and continental food may also be available.

Orchha

For some serious bragging rights, visit the magnificently offbeat Orchha. While most people head to Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh, few explore the timelessness of Orchha. Interesting fact for the children: in Orchha, the river Betwa splits into seven channels, which, some say, is in honour of the seven old chiefs of Orchha.

The Jahangir Mahal and Raja Mahal palaces offer lots of nooks for that impromptu game of hide and seek with the kids. Meanwhile, the Chaturbhuj temple is a study in architecture. You could see the Sound and Light show, go river rafting, shop for metal craft and even visit the bird sanctuary while on holiday here.

How to get there: You could fly to Gwalior and then take a cab to Orchha. Or you could travel by train to Jhansi and take a cab from there.

Where to stay: There are a lot of hotels in Orchha, right from budget options to heritage properties.

What to eat: Kebabs, Bhutte ki kees, Mawa-Bati, Khoprapak and Malpua are popular local delicacies in Orchha. Regular Indian food is also available in most restaurants.

Tripura

For a Durga Puja of a slightly different flavour from Kolkata, head to the other Bengali stronghold of the country – Tripura. The festival is celebrated with as much fervour in Tripura, but it isn’t half as crowded as Kolkata. So if crowds were the problem for you in Kolkata, Agartala will be a pleasure!

The most revered and most popular puja happens at the Durgabari temple, located in front of the 114-year-old Ujjayanta Palace, India’s largest royal mansion. Dharmanagar and Halishahar also have huge Durga puja celebrations.

If you want to explore more of Tripura besides the Durga puja, the palace-museums are fantastic. You could take the kids boating at Neer Mahal or to see the models of real buildings at the Heritage Park. Seek blessings at the highly revered Tripura Sundari temple and visit the spellbinding sights of Unakoti and Pilak.

How to get there: You can fly to the Agartala airport, or for more fun, take the bus from Kolkata to Agartala via Dhaka

Where to stay: Agartala and Halishahar are cheap and have many hotels to accommodate tourists.

What to eat: Bengali cuisine is most readily available. You will also find some tribal dishes.

So there – our top 4 picks for your Durga Puja getaway. Are you headed elsewhere? Tell us in the comments and also tell us how excited your children are for this holiday.

Feature Image Source: makemytrip.com

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