Set in a land of rich red soil, Vishnupur was the capital of the Hindu Malla kings from the 16th to 19th centuries, and they saw fit to convert its surroundings into some mind-blowing terra-cotta temples. Between its intricate, lifelike temple panels and old-world charm, Vishnupur is exquisite, an integral part of Bengal. The clay pottery created here—particularly the Bankura horse, named for the district—attracts thousands for its sheer beauty and color. It's a long trip from Kolkata, but Vishnupur is worth a detour for its exceptional carvings and figurines, immortalizing old Bengal at its artistic best.
Built out of the local red laterite soil, the temple town is scattered with monuments to the Malla rulers. Sights are spread out, so the easiest way to explore is to hire a cycle-rickshaw and ride through the maze of narrow streets. Be sure to see the Madan Gopal, Madan Mohan, Radhagobinda, Rasmancha, and Shyamrai temples, all built around the 16th century; each has a story to tell through its intricately carved figurines. Dalmadol is a cannon of pure iron. Pathar Darwaza ("Doorway of Stone") marked the entrance to the Malla fort. Vishnupur is a great place to buy souvenirs, especially terra-cotta toys, conch-shell handicrafts, jewelry, and silk. In August or September, local snake charmers demonstrate their age-old prowess at a snake festival called the jhapan, at which, among other activities, men throw cobras at each other to test their respective mettle.