The capital of West Bengal in India, Calcutta (Kolkata since 2001) has undergone a dramatic transformation in the last decade to become the cultural and intellectual capital of the nation. The city is famed for its feast of dramatic colonial architecture, which was built in a frenzied spate of construction when Calcutta was the capital of British India. Today the numerous palatial mansions across the city are in various stages of photogenic decay, but provide tourists with striking contrast to the modern bustling city. Although parts of the city are still underdeveloped, Calcutta has moved on from poverty of the past and has developed a reputation as the friendliest mega-city in world. The Mother House, which was once the home of Mother Teresa is a stark reminder of city’s history. The building contains an emotional and respectful museum dedicated to the legacy of one city’s most famous former residents. The enormous city of 14 million is a chaotic mix of teeming streets and open markets, where you can sample the mild and fruity tang of Bengali cuisine. If the clamour and the chaos of downtown are getting too much, tourists can escape to the Chowringhee Road where they can explore the open parkland around Fort William, which was site of the former British citadel.
Calcutta has a tropical climate that can be extremely hot and humid during the summer months, but cool and dry during the winter season. The peak season for tourists visiting the city is following the monsoon from November to February. During this period the weather is at its coolest and humidity is low but the cost of local accommodation may be slightly higher. The weather in April and May can be completely unbearable and is best avoided, temperatures frequently exceed 104 degrees F during the day time. If you’re searching for a slightly off-peak alternative, the beginning of October is a perfect time to see the city in full flow. At this time the locals celebrate Durga Puja, a massive six-day festival that honours the goddess Durga by crafting statutes from the mud of the river Hooghly.