If you just transiting through Calcutta, or would like to combine a few days in Calcutta with just Glenburn and Sikkim, we would be happy help you book accommodation, transfers, internal flights to Bagdogra or train tickets to New Jalpaiguri.
For accommodation, we would love to welcome you to our sister hotel The Glenburn Penthouse, a boutique 9 room property in the heart of the city. A discrete, elegant residence in the heart of historic Calcutta, overlooking the Victoria Memorial, the Calcutta maidan, the famous bridges, and many other sites that make up the city skyline. www.GlenburnPenthouse.com
For a "Country Club" atmosphere with golf, swimming, tennis, squash and horse-riding facilities, we recommend The Tollygunge Club, a former Indigo Plantation and later home to the exiled family of Tipu Sultan. Spread over 110 acres, the lush green surroundings are home to a multitude of bird life and a resident pack of jackals who howl for the members of the Club at dusk each day. This is truly an oasis in the city, but is located about a half hour drive from the centre of town.
We can also organise accommodation at The Bengal Club on Russell Street, which is the oldest social club in Calcutta. Founded in 1827, its members formed the cream of the Calcutta Society. Traders, lower ranking civil and military officers were not admitted. Until 1962, the club refused to accept Indians. As a gesture of protest, Lord Mountbatten never visited it. The Bengal Club is chiefly a lunch club where anyone that counts must be seen regularly. The main features of the club are the Reynolds Room with a real Reynolds, bound 19th-century collections of the Calcutta Gazette and Punch, and the bar with its silver cobra, the symbol of the club. The rooms are spacious with private verandahs with a personal butler per room.
Please note that "Club" accommodation can be a little on the "old world" side, including the service, and sometimes "mustiness" of the rooms. However they prove to be amazing value for money compared to the larger 5 star hotels, and of course come with the ambience and character!
Calcutta is one of the most "under-rated" and "under-visited" cities in India, and since we started our private guiding in 2007 - our guests are left marveling at the hidden treasures and unique history the city has to offer. We list below some suggested 1, 2 and 3 day itineraries that can be modified to fit your specific interests and time available.
1, 2 and 3 Day Packages
Day 1: Village to First City of the British Empire in 300 years -
A Historical Journey through her Streets, Markets and Heritage Buildings
|Your guide will meet guests at the hotel lobby
(guests are encouraged to have a light breakfast before departure, although tea and a snack will be served during the walk at about 9am)
We start early in the morning simply to beat the heat..and the traffic. There is no better time to walk through this vibrant and bustling city. As the city wakes up, we will witness the passage of humanity from the streets where her people live and work, to the great River Hoogly where they perform their early morning rituals to cleanse and purify themselves. Where better to witness this than in the colourful riverside flower market where all the city's religious flowers originate.
In our mind, it is important to start our journey here, as this is really where it all began. On the banks of this grand river, the battles of Europe were fought in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Alongside Armenian and Portuguese churches, and Jewish synagogues, we embark upon a journey that started the British Raj in India, in and around Dalhousie Square, dating back to the time of the Black Hole, from where it transformed itself into a City of Palaces. The famous Writers' Building - the former HQ of the infamous East India Company, the magnificent Governor's House and the almost forgotten Charnock Mausoleum - Here lay the administrative, judicial and political heart of an Empire that stretched from Aden to Burma.
We break for a cup of tea and a snack at St John's Church, the first Cathedral of the city.
|"The Park Street Cemetery and Victoria Memorial" - Two great institutions left behind by the British. The almost forgotten cemetery dates back a few centuries with poignant images of its early society; and the majestic Memorial that was embarked upon and completed just as the same conquerors abandoned their majestic capital to build another in Delhi. The Victoria Memorial houses a permanent collection of Art and a well laid out Calcutta Gallery telling the history of the city. If on a single-day tour, another option is to visit The Marble Palace, Potters Market or The Indian Museum. Shopping could include local handicrafts, jewellery, textiles (including the famous Bengal Katha stitch work), antique furniture, food, spices and books.
|"Lunch at Bomti's" -offers a rare glimpse of the old Calcutta way of life, now sadly endangered. Mr Surojit 'Bomti' Iyengar, an art collector and socialite, is delighted to welcome visitors to his charming flat in perhaps the most interesting heritage building on historic Chowringhee. Authentic and home-cooked Bengali cuisine served up with hot cups of fresh Darjeeling tea and stimulating insights into Bengali Art (with some for sale) and Modern Kolkata make up Bomti's salon.
|Boat cruise up the River Hoogly. In a private river boat, guests are able to discover a hitherto unseen side of Kolkata, with a ring-side view of the myriad happenings on the river's 'Ghats'. This was the view that greeted many a 19C adventurer as he stepped up to the Princep's Ghat. You will sail past Belur Math, headquarters of The Ramakrishna Mission, as the city's two huge and famous bridges, Howrah and Vidyasagar Setu pass overhead. It is a wonderfully relaxing end to the day with a sumptuous tea menu comprising popular Indian snacks and refreshing Darjeeling Tea.
|Drop back to your hotel.
Day 2:The Bengal Renaissance -
An Awakening of Modern India in the 19th Century
|This morning we travel to North Calcutta - "The Black Town", where a parallel culture heavily influenced by the Europeans, flourished among the pioneering families of Bengal. The Jain Temple Complex of 4 ornate temples is unique with its shimmering mirrors, ceramic tiles and chandeliers brought over to India by rich merchants from lands as far away as Persia, Japan and Europe.
The Marble Palace is perhaps the most bizarre of the Bengali mansions of this area. Built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, a wealthy Bengali merchant with a passion for collecting works of art, it houses a kitsch collection of paintings, marble sculptures and Belgian glass. In the grounds of the mansion you will find remnants of the first Indian zoo, and exotic Indian birds including peacocks, hornbills, pelicans and several species of deer.
From the extravagance of the Marble Palace we proceed to the calm, intellectual heart of the Bengali Quarter, the bastion of Bengali culture, and home of the multi-talented poet, novelist, musician, painter and playwright, the famous Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. His grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore built this grand mansion in the 18th century, and the museum showcases the life of the family in 19th century Bengal, and their involvement in the Bengali Renaissance, the Brahmo Samaj movement and finally the Freedom Struggle of India.
|We will lunch at a lovely little Bengali Restaurant situated in the historic Star Theatre, where Bengali Theatre has its roots, along with much of the drama that initiated the freedom movement in Bengal, and later the rest of India. The food is simple, and fresh, with local specialties like Daab Chingri (prawn curry in tender coconut gravy), Bhekti Paturi (a local river fish cooked in mustard and wrapped in a banana leaf), a vegetable made from the flowers of the banana tree, and an ice cream dessert made with fresh jaggery from the date palm tree.
|In the afternoon we will visit Kumartuli or the Potters' Market, where giant life-like religious idols are created for the city's numerous festivals out of river clay, bamboo and straw, and then adorned with elaborate jewellery and clothes, with beautifully painted features.
|On the way back into town we can visit the Motherhouse, Mother Theresa's home and the centre of her Missionaries of Charity. Her modest tomb and the Spartan room where she lived and died, embodies her life's work, with its simplicity and dedication to only helping the poor and needy
|Tea at Flury's Tea Room - An old Calcutta institution on Park Street where all the culinary action of the city resides, close to the Oxford Bookshop where you can browse through a lovely collection of books on Calcutta and the rest of India.
|Return to your hotel
The 3rd day remains flexible and guests may choose from a number of activities:
- A visit to the Botanical Gardens across the river is a wonderful experience with the largest Banyan tree in the world, gigantic lily pads, and a collection of plants from around the world.
- Shopping - Bengal Handicrafts, Contemporary Bengal Art, Jewellery - traditional/ modern/western, Textiles - silk/cotton, Embroidered Textiles - Kantha Work, Missionary style table linen, antique furniture, Bazaars - food/flowers/ spice/ fruit/ furniture, Books, Designer clothes/accessories and lifestyle products
- A Focus on Art - CIMA, the Centre for International Modern Art, always has interesting exhibitions on, and a lovely gift shop attached to the gallery. We can also arrange a meeting with local art expert Anil Cashyab, who will show you around some other galleries and update you on the local art scene, including the Government College of Art where many budding Bengali artists started their careers from.
- Discover the Art of Kantha - or "stitch painting", with a visit to the elegant home of Mrs Shamlu Dudeja, who has revived this rural embroidery craft that was on the verge of extinction. Through her efforts with SHE (Self Help Enterprise), Kantha is now a popular technique for modern designers, and women around the world. Shamlu's Calcutta Foundation also supports many welfare projects around the city and beneath her quiet elegance is a dynamic woman who has changed the lives of many in the city and beyond its boundaries in rural India.
- Visit to a Textile Factory - Rangeen is the weaving, dyeing and printing unit for Weavers Studio in Calcutta, famous for their high quality cotton and silk garments. You will have a chance to watch the artisans at work weaving at their looms, dyeing using diverse techniques such as tie and dye, batik, Japanese Shibori and African Adire, block printing and stenciling on fabric, as well as hand painting, mud and screen printing. The Resource Centre also has a textile library and museum with a collection of antique fabric from around the world. The history of the world's most popular natural dye - Indigo - weaves its story into the visit as well. Indigo has a huge connection with the history of Bengal, and is thought to have played a major role in the start of the struggle for a free India.
After the factory, we will visit Weavers Studio, where you can have a look at the finished products, as well as Weavers Studio for the Arts that the dynamic Darshan Shah set up to encourage young and upcoming talent by showcasing local culture and art ranging from ceramics, photography, sculpture, handicrafts, textiles and the performing arts.
- An Afternoon at the Calcutta Races - (from noon to 5pm on specific days) The Royal Calcutta Turf Club with its panoramic views of Victoria Memorial and the River Hoogly is one of the oldest and grandest in India and the ambience positively 'Raj'. Guests are entertained by hosts closely associated with the Club and lunch and tea are served in a Member's Box. Betting before, and meeting the jockeys, trainers and horses after, is all a part of the glorious afternoon. Lunch is brought to the box itself, but is mainly "snacky" in nature. Lunch and alcoholic drinks are included in the cost.
- More sightseeing - The Indian Museum, The Asiatic Society and other places of specific historical interest.
- A visit to the Tea Auction Centre
- There are many charitable institutions and schools you can visit.
- A game of golf at The Tollygunge Club or The Royal Calcutta Turf Club
- A full day visit to the Sundarbans Reserve Mangrove Forest and Samarpan Charitable Hospital on Bali Island (supplement applies, cost on request)
(Departure at 7am from city hotel for a 3 hour car journey followed by a 1-2 hour boat journey to Bali Island. Lunch and visit to Samarpan Hospital included. Return to the hotel by 9pm. Overnight stays at the Help Tourism Sundarbans Jungle Camp can also be organised)
Please contact us for a customised quote for a private excursion in Calcutta with one of our expert guides.
The cost includes:
- Expert Guide fees (please see Expert Guide Profiles)
- Transport in an air-conditioned Toyota Innova car
- All meals mentioned in itinerary
- All activities mentioned in itinerary
- A mobile library (a collection of books relating to the History, Art, Culture and Food of Bengal)
- Entry Fees
- Tips (including guide and driver)
- All applicable taxes
- Complete flexibility
- Pleasant surprises where possible!