The Indian Botanical Gardens, located in south Kolkata (Calcutta), is a veritable oasis of peace amid the traffic and chaos of the city. The 269-acre (109-hectare) expanse of greenery dates back to the late 1700s, when it was used to study and develop commercial plants for trade and was where both Darjeeling and Assam teas were developed.
At the heart of the gardens grows one of the world’s largest banyan trees, more than 250 years old with a canopy covering more than 1,300 square feet (121 square meters). Elsewhere on the sprawling grounds you’ll find a cactus house, lake, orchid collection and a variety of more than 1,700 plant species, some rare and unusual, from India and abroad.
The Indian Botanical Gardens are popular with locals on the weekends, so plan your visit during the week if possible to avoid the crowds. If you come after lunch, many of the scientists who work at the gardens will offer their insights with free tours for those who ask.