The Northern Plains of West Bengal come at the midway of South Bengal and North-Eastern India. Consisting of the districts of Alipurduar, Cooch Behar, Dakshin Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Malda, Uttar Dinajpur and the plains of Darjeeling, this region has a distinctiveness in the matter of the dialects spoken, the folk culture and lifestyles. Far away from the madding crowds of the metropolis, it has a quietness of its own.
- 1 Alipurduar — a city in eastern Dooars, close to the foothills of the Himalayas, forests and wildlife preserves
- 2 Cooch Behar — the former capital of the Kingdom of Cooch Behar has a glorious late 19th-century palace
- 5 Jaigaon — a trading city for cross-border business with Bhutan; the neighbouring town of Hasimara is picturesque and surrounded by tea plantations
- 1 Buxa Tiger Reserve — a forested area in Buxa and Jayanti Hills is a habitat for tigers, Asian elephants and other mammals plus a variety of birds, amphibians and reptiles
- 3 Dakshin Dinajpur — home to a museum with numerous ancient artefacts and a historical site as old as the Gupta dynasty
- 4 Gorumara National Park — rolling grasslands and the forest is rich with herbivores such as the Indian rhinoceros and elephants birds, reptiles and amphibians
The Northern Plains consist of two geographic regions, the Dooars (ডুয়ার্স Ḍuẏārs) and the Upper Gangetic Plains.
At the foothills of the Himalayas, the Dooars region is stretched from the Teesta River (তিস্তা Tistā) on the west to the Sankosh River on the east. It is home to animal species like the famous one-horned rhino (গণ্ডার gaṇḍār) and numerous other species of animals and birds. The region has an undulating span of tea gardens and rice plantation. Besides, it offers a pleasant environment, and is more relaxed than the nearby tourist destinations of Darjeeling and Gangtok. Its economy is based on the three "T"s — tea, timber and tourism.
Although the Upper Gangetic Plains are less impressive than the Dooars, it consists of major tourist centres like Siliguri, Raiganj and Malda. Siliguri is the gateway to North-Eastern India and Malda is home to Gour and Pandua, the two medieval capitals of Bengal.
Like other parts of West Bengal, Bengali is the main language in the Dooars. However, the Bengali language spoken in the region is different from Standard Bengali and is known as Rajbanshi or Kamtapuri. The dialect features different pronouns for "I" (মুঁই muĩ) and "we" (হাম hām).
The region is well connected to all regions of India through the wide network of railways. There are many railway stations in the region providing easy mobility. New Jalpaiguri Junction railway station (NJP) in Siliguri is the busiest one. Direct trains from NJP run from Delhi several times daily. From Kolkata's Sealdah station, the best train is the Padatik Express running daily at 11:20PM and arriving in NJP by 9:15AM the next day. Apart from this, the train with the shortest travel duration is the Vande Bharat Express leaving from Howrah at 5:55AM and arriving in NJP by 1:25PM.
Road travel is efficient in this region. There are many highways connecting the region to different parts of the country. Most road networks to North-Eastern India pass through this region. There are state highways that provide easy transport to places within the state of West Bengal. State Highway 12 (SH 12) connects most of the region. All major national highway systems connecting North-Eastern India with mainland India pass through this region.
The Northern Plains, especially the Dooars region, is served by a network of highways running through the jungles and tea gardens. Getting around the region is an attraction in itself.
Bus services in this region are offered by North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC), operating daily bus services to all the cities and villages. The prices are very low and for long distances, online booking can also be done.
Local commute trains run all through out the day connecting almost all town and cities. Note that these trains don't give you specified seats and can get crowdy in the festive season. These trains sometimes tend to get less priority due high traffic of long distance trains leading to delays. The fares are quite nominal and to avoid long queues in ticket counters at railway stations you can book tickets online in the UTS app.
See and do
The Northern Plains are known for their lush green forests, natural wonders and numerous landmarks of historical significance. This region is also a highly active economic zone. There are many wildlife sanctuaries and forests to visit. Some of the popular ones are Buxa Tiger Reserve, Gorumara National Park, Jaldapara National Park and Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary. Apart from these, there are many historical places to discover in Cooch Behar, Gour and Pandua. Every city has parks that are well equipped with recreational types of equipment.
- New Jalpaiguri–Alipurduar Tourist Express — Run by the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), the tourist special train provides awesome sceneries of the Dooars and mesmerising view of the Himalayas. The journey covers Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Sevoke Railway Bridge, Jaldapara National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve and rivers like the Teesta, the Torsa and the Jaldhaka. You will also be entertained by dances performed by locals at some specific stations like Chalsa and Hasimara. There's an observation area at the end of the Vistadome Coach which provides an open view through massive windows and is a perfect spot for selfies.
Festival seasons from October-March attract many tourists. Durga Puja in the region and the Ras Mela in Cooch Behar are few of the famous events.
Eat and drink
The cuisine in this region is mostly similar to that of the general cuisine in the entire Bengal region. In the northern cities of this region like Siliguri, momo, a steamed filled dumpling, is quite popular along with its variations. Apart from this, bhapa pitha, a traditional rice cake is quite popular. Chop, a potato and spice stuffed deep fried snack is also eaten and well liked by locals. Chop can also be made with eggs, prawns and other variations.
There are bars in cities. In some rural areas a fermented rice beverage is available, but it is hard to find. Drinking alcohol in public places is generally frowned upon.
During the festive season of Durga Puja, nights are buzzing and lively with people enjoying food and visiting different pandals. The Ras Mela, a yearly carnival in Cooch Behar is a major event with music events held throughout the night almost every day with food and rides.
There is a low crime rate in the cities thanks to proactive police forces. Thefts like pickpockets can be seen in crowded areas. The weather in summers is mostly clear. During monsoons, there are frequent heavy isolated thunderstorms while in winters heavy fog in night and early morning reduces visibility.
- Darjeeling Hills — if the Dooars is not enough, then definitely visit the hilly area at the northern fringes of West Bengal.
- Bhutan — if Bhutan is your actual destination, there is a notable border crossing checkpoint at Jaigon that leads to your destination.
- Lower Assam — if you are done exploring, visit the neighbouring Assam known for the One-horned rhinoceroes or the Indian rhinoceros.