Your Quick Guide To Kalimpong

Visit this charming hill station in West Bengal for old British bungalows, gorgeous Buddhist monasteries and fantastic views
Zang Dhok Palri Monastery in Kalimpong
Zang Dhok Palri Monastery in KalimpongDepositphotos

Kalimpong, is a relatively quiet Himalayan bazaar, rich in cultural and religious heritage. This quaint town, located in the Indian state of West Bengal, captivates visitors with its breathtaking vistas of snow-capped peaks, lush tea gardens, and meandering streams. Kalimpong's charm lies in its fusion of diverse cultures, evident in its vibrant markets teeming with Tibetan handicrafts, Bhutanese artifacts, and Nepali curiosities. Wander through its winding streets lined with colonial-era buildings, each narrating tales of a bygone era. Nature enthusiasts find solace in the nearby Durpin Monastery, offering panoramic views of the Himalayan range, while adventure seekers can embark on treks to the enchanting Neora Valley National Park. Whether savouring a cup of locally brewed tea or immersing oneself in the tranquil ambiance of its monasteries, Kalimpong beckons travelers to indulge in its serene beauty and cultural richness, making it an enchanting destination worth exploring.

The town was once an important link along the trade routes linking Tibet with India through Sikkim. It was a part of the Sikkim Raja's domain, until the Bhutan kings took over in the early 18th century. In 1865, after the Anglo-Bhutan War, Kalimpong was annexed to Darjeeling. Scottish missionaries came to the area in the late 19th century. As the tea estates grew in Darjeeling, a large number of labourers spilled over into neighbouring Kalimpong. Today it is one of West Bengal's established school towns, a haven for retired people and a quiet hill resort. Recently, Kalimpong became the capital city of its own district.

Monks learning to blow horns at a monastery
Monks learning to blow horns at a monasteryDepositphotos

What To See & Do

View from Kalimpong's highest point
View from Kalimpong's highest pointUnsplash

For starters, take a walk along the main market road and soak in the hill town atmosphere, sipping on a tea or tasting hot momos from roadside stalls selling them fresh.

Kalimpong still evokes strong memories of the Raj, evident in its colonial bungalows and old hotels. These include the lovely Morgan House, Crockety, Surya Sadan, Galingka, Tashi ding and Ringking Farm. En route to Deolo Hill is Dr Graham's Homes, a campus spread across 500 acres.

St Theresa Church, built by local craftsmen to resemble a gompa, has wood carvings on the walls that depict biblical scenes, but the sculpted figures resemble Buddhist monks. From Sherpa Taar, you can see the gorgeous Teesta River drawing the boundary between West Bengal and Sikkim. The views are superb from both the Durga Mandir and the viewing gallery here. Near the Durga Mandir is Hanuman Park, with a 30-ft-high statue of Hanuman.

Deolo Hill
Deolo HillIndia Travel

Deolo Hill, at 5,413ft, is the highest point in Kalimpong and offers a fabulous panoramic view of the entire hilly region. Adventure seekers can enjoy paragliding with trained instructors here. There is a beautiful park for picnicking and a market with food stalls and souvenir shops to bargain with.

Durpin Dara Hill is another vantage point (durpin means telescope in Nepali) from where you can take in views of the Teesta and Rangeet rivers below. On a clear day, you can see Khangchendzonga in all its splendour. The Army's Lions Golf Course, the highest golf course in West Bengal, offers a grand view of the mountains. There is an Army post here from where you can get permission to play.

A monk ringing the gong at a monastery in Kalimpong
A monk ringing the gong at a monastery in KalimpongDepositphotos

The Thongsha Gompa (open 6 am - 6 pm), a Bhutanese Monastery, was established in 1692. Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Gompa (open 6.00am6.00pm) was consecrated by the Dalai Lama in 1976. Built on the Durpin Dara Hill, it contains the Kagyur in 108 volumes, brought by the Dalai Lama when he fled Tibet. Established in 1992, the Tharpa Choeling Gompa belongs to the Dalai Lamas Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Dharmodaya Vihar is a residence for Buddhist monks, and has an excellent library on Buddhism.

Kalimpong's flower nurseries have a lot to offer to floriculture enthusiasts. Pine View Nursery has the largest collection of exotic cacti in Asia. Universal Nursery has cactii, orchids, amaryllis and succulent flowers. Standard Nursery is appreciated for its roses, while Murgi Hatta is known for its brilliant gladioli.

Where to Stay: Kalimpong has accommodation available for all budgets. Mayfair Himalayan Resort & Spa (Tariff Starts INR 7700 Website) is considered the best, followed by Summit Hotels Barsana Resort & Spa (Tariff INR 3999 Website). Other options are The Himalayan Hotel (Tel 03552-255248, 258602), The Elgin Silver Oaks (Tariff Starts 7,500 Website) once belonged to a British family. WBTDC tourist bungalows are located in colonial-era buildings - Hilltop Tourism Bungalow (Tariff 2500-4000 Cell 9836621300), Morgan House (Cell 09733008776 Tariff 2,1003,500) and Tashiding Tourist Lodge ( Cell +91-9733008776 Tariff 1,200 - 2,800), more information here. Holumba Haven Homestay (Tel 255435 Tariff 1,600 - 2,200, cottage 1,800 - 2,800), is a great option that offers home-cooked meals and water from a natural spring. Amongst budget hotels in Kalimpong, Cloud Nine (Cell 09832039634 Tariff 1,800 - 2,000) and Gompus Hotel (Cell 09126000818 Tariff 1,400 - 1,600) are good options. There are several great AirBnBs as well.

Where to eat: Kalimpong spoils you with steaming momo, thukpa, soup and chow stands at most street corners. Andre Butty, a Swiss Jesuit, set up the Swiss Welfare Dairy in Kalimpong and started a major cheese industry. You can still find some good cheese at Larks Provisions. Mandarin Restaurant is famous for its fish and roast pork. Kalsang on Link Road is a rustic place run by Tibetans

Nearby Destinations

Lava (34km) - Lava translates as 'Heavenly Abode of the Gods' in Bhutanese. It is a heavenly abode of mist-wrapped dhupi trees cradled by mountains. This gorgeous hill town is the stepping point into the beautiful Neora Valley National Park, which rises up to these hills from the Dooars below. Lava makes for a perfect base for trekking. The Kagyu Thekchen Ling Monastery, a training centre in Tibetan Buddhist theology for young monks, defines Lavas skyline. The bright red building looms large over the little town, and offers a lovely view of the forests. The popular Changgey Falls, 2-hour-drive from Lava, is at its best in the months just after the monsoon rains. Tiffindara Viewpoint, at a height of 7,700ft, offers the best views of Khangchendzonga. You can also see parts of Sikkim, the Nathu La area and the Jelep La Pass from here.

The picturesque landscape of Lava
The picturesque landscape of LavaDepositphotos

Stay options here include WBFDCs Lava Nature Resort (Kolkata Tel 033-23350064/ 8320 Tariff 900 - 2,200), Hotel Greenland (Cell 09163596075, 09874520005 Tariff 1,500 - 1,850), Yankee Resorts (Cell 09932869205 Tariff1,200 - 2,800) and Hotel Paradise (Cell 09932889565 Tariff 900 - 1,500).

Loleygaon (56km) - Loleygaon in the local dialect means 'happy village', and it is indeed a place where you can blissfully enjoy days spent lazing, interspersed with leisurely walks and admiring the views of the Khangchen dzonga Range. Head to Jhandi Dara for sunrise views. WBFDC's Loleygaon Nature Education and Wilderness Resort (Kolkata Tel 033-23350064/ 8320 Tariff 2,000 - 3,500), has cottages and lovely gardens.

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