Kalimpong is a hill station nestled in the Shiwalik Hills (or Lower Himalaya) in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located at an average elevation of 1,250 metres (4,101 ft). The town is the headquarters of the Kalimpong subdivision, a part of the district of Darjeeling. The Indian Army's 27 Mountain Division is located on the outskirts of the town.
Kalimpong is known for its educational institutions many of which were established during the British colonial period. It used to be a gateway in the trade between Tibet and India prior to China's annexation of Tibet and the Sino-Indian War. Kalimpong and neighbouring Darjeeling were major centres calling for a separate Gorkhaland state in the 1980s.
Kalimpong, located on a ridge overlooking River Teesta, is a tourist destination owing to its temperate climate and proximity to popular tourist locations in the region. Horticulture is also important to Kalimpong: it has a flower market notable for its wide array of orchids; nurseries which export Himalayan grown flower bulbs, tubers and rhizomes contribute to the economy of Kalimpong. Home to ethnic Nepalis, indigenous ethnic groups and non-native migrants from other parts of India, the town also is a religious centre of Buddhism. The Buddhist monastery Zang Dhok Palri Phodang holds a number of rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures
Kalimpong Quick facts
Kalimpong Geography and Climate
Area: 1056.5 sq. mt.
Longitude: 88°28° & 88°53° E
Altitude: 1250 mts.(4125feet)
Average Rainfall: 220 cm Annualy
Tourist Season: February to June
September to December.
Temperature: 27 to 16°C in summer
17 to 5°C in winterv
Best time to visit Kalimpong
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Kalimpong is during summer.
Orientation and Information
Though it's a much smaller town than Darjeeling, Kalimpong follows a similar kind of layout, straddling a ridge and made up of a series of interconnected streets and steps.
Life centres around the sports ground and east through the market, The bus stand and Chowrasta is also a busy area, and it's here that you find most of the cheap cafes and hotels. The Central Bank of India is at the north end of Main Rd; most major travellers cheques are accepted.
Kalimpong Near Getaways
Teesta Bazaar, located 16 km from Kalimpong, is an important place for whitewater rafting. The rafting season is between mid-November to mid-February. The small village of Lava, located at 2,353 m above sea level and about 30 km east of Kalimpong, is an important place to visit. Kagyupa Gompa is located here.
The village of Kaffer, located at 1555 m above sea level, is beyond Lava and one can have magnificent view of the summit of Kanchenjunga from here. The Samco Ropeway across the Teesta River, on the main Siliguri-Gangtok road is an important attraction near Kalimpong. One has to take a bus for Siliguri from Kalimpong in order to visit this ropeway en route.
From Kalimpong it is possible to go to visit Phuntsholing across the Bhutanese border, without a visa.
Kalimpong Arts and Craft Centre
The Kalimpong Arts and Craft Centre is within a walking distance from the motor stand. The handicrafts of this Co-operative Handicrafts Centre received wide recognition all over the country. Some of the things made are tapestry bags, purses, pictorial wall panels, screens, embroidered bags, scrolls etc. Work is done on Bhutanese, Lepchas and Sikkimese designed cloth which is manufactured at this centre. This institution was founded by Mrs. Katherine Graham in the year 1897. It is stated that more than 500 people used to work when it was managed by the Scottish Missionaries.
Dr. Graham's Home
Education through the medium of English was introduced into Kalimpong and this was the work of another Scotsman, the Rev, Dr. J.A. Graham. Since his first 11 years in Kalimpong he spent in routine evangelism, but later he started concerntrating more of his time on establishing an orphanage-cum-school; St. Andrew's Colonial and Industrial Settlement, now simply known as 'Dr. Graham's Home'. The first cottage to house these little unfortunate ones or orphans went up on Kalimpong's eastern hillside, Deolo in 1900 for 35 children. Kalimpong at that time was a village of about 1000 people. With the changing time Kalimpong now has a population of about 50,000 and so has Dr. Graham's changed from a entirely Christian to multi-religious. Now it has students, boys and girls, boarders and day pupils, sponsored children and fee paying children. Deolo Hill is occupied by Dr. Graham's Homes comprising some fifty cottages; it is a unique institution still supported by part by charitable collections and sponsors from all over the world.
En route to the Dr. Graham's Homes are two Tibetan monasteries, the Tharpa Choling Monastery at Tirpai which belongs to the Yellow-Hat-Sect of lamas or Gelugpa Sect of the Dalai Lama. The new Buddhist Monastery, Zang-dog Palrifo Brang, completed, in 1975, is on the Durpin Dara Hill. H.H. the Dalai Lama, on his visit to Kalimpong in the year 1956 presented a set of rare manuscripts "Kangyur" of 108 volumes to the Durpin Dara Monastery. The Dalai Lama visited Kalimpong once again on May 29, 1976, for a four day visit, when he consecrated at the Durpin Dara Monastery.
Gaouripur House is situated on the way to Durpin Dara about 2 km from town (now Co-operative Training Institute). Though a small hill station, Kalimpong was one of the favourite place of the great Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore. Whenever he visited Kalimpong he stayed at Gouripur House. He recited from this house on 25th April, 1940 the poem "Janamadin" through a telephone system linked with the All India Radio, Calcutta. He wrote many poems when he was residing in this house. He left this house last on 28th Sept 1954 never to return again.
Towering over the town of Kalimpong is the Durpin Dara at an altitude of 1402 metres which offers breathtaking views. From the view point at Durpin which in fact means "binoculars" the whole Chola Range of Sikkim can be seen including the Jelep La Pass. On the Northwest horizon can be seen the panoramic view of Kanchenjunga Range. On the Southern horizon looms the Tiger Hill and between the gap in the Teesta Valley can be seen the rolling plains of West Bengal. Far down below, the rivers Relli and Ryang meet the mighty Teesta near the Rambhi bazaar area.
The Golf Courses
The Lion's Golf Course, a challenging and picturesque Army Golf Course, consisting of nine holes, has been laid by the military authorities along the most picturesque, beautiful and undulating slopes at Durpin Ridge, Opposite the historic Singamari Tourist Lodge of Bengal Government and Circuit House. About 1000 plants have been planted here.
Swiss Welfare Dairy
About four km from the town towards the Teesta and just above the Central Sericulture Station is the Co-operative Dairy called the Swiss Welfare Dairy.
Central Sericulture Station
The State Sericulture Department at Kalimpong has taken up an expanding programme of mulberry cultivation in Darjeeling Hills. Following in the footsteps of India's preceptors, medicinal plants are being cultivated among the Rauwalfa Serpentina, Digitalia, Purpurea, Atropa Acuminata, Atropa Belladona etc.
The Nepalese Buddhists have a temple named the Dharmodaya Vihar which is on Rishi Road. It is the residence of Nepalese Buddhist monks. The idol of Buddha inside the temple at Dharmodaya Vihar was presented by Buddhists of Burma. It is run and maintained by the members of Kalimpong Dharmodaya Sabha. They have opened a Nursery school by the name "Dharmodaya Nursery School" in the old premises of the Vihar.
Lava Located on a pass astride the old trade route to Bhutan, at an elevation of 2000 metres, a small hamlet, 35 km from Kalimpong is Lava. It is surrounded by virgin forests and is ideal for nature exploration, bird watching, and for viewing orchids in their natural habitat. It is also the base for exploring the Neora Valley, upto the 3152 m high Rachela Pass on the junction with Sikkim and Bhutan. Sherpa View Point offers good views of the snow ranges of the Chola Range. Treks to Samthar plateau also start from here.
Gitdabling - Budhabare
Budhabare is a weekly market bazar, located at Gitadabling, in the valley of the Git River. This area has scenic countryside, with forests, streams, terraced cultivation, and old style homesteads. A suitable area for easy trekking, at an elevation of 1400 metres, it offers quiet walks, old Lepcha houses, village pubs, church and a Gompa, along with an opportunity to study trival culture and lifestyle.
Lolegaon - Kafer A forest region with exotic flora, unusual serenity, and a sunrise view of Jhandi Dara which rivals the view from Tiger Hill. Accommodation is arranged in the forest bungalow or in tents.
Places of attraction in and around Kalimpong:
1. Lava: Distance-30 km
2. Lolaygaon / Lolegaon: Distance 54 Km
3. Pedong: Distance 20 km
4. Darjeeling: Distance 56 km
5. Gangtok: Distance 85 km
Bus & Jeep There are frequent jeeps for the three hour trip to Darjeeling. The buses are so much less frequent, slower and more uncomfortable that it's hardly worth the small cost saving. All transport, other than taxis, leaves from the Bazaar bus stand.
How to reach Kalimpong by Rail
The nearest railway stations are Siliguri Junction ( 68 km ), and New Jalpaiguri ( 77 km ). Railway tickets for trains ex-New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri can be purchased from the Railway Out Agency, Motor Stand, Kalimpong.
Kalimpong hosts an annual flower festival in the month of October.
Kalimpong - People and culture
The majority of the populace are ethnic Nepali, having migrated to Kalimpong in search of jobs while it was under British rule. Indigenous ethnic groups include the Lepchas, Bhutias,Pradhans (are of newari origin that migrated from nepal) Sherpas, Rais, Yamloos, Damais, Kamais and the Limbus. The other non-native communities are the Bengalis, Marwaris, Anglo-Indian, Chinese, Biharis and Tibetans who escaped to Kalimpong after fleeing the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet. Kalimpong is the closest Indian town to Bhutan's western border, and has a small number of Bhutanese nationals residing here. Hinduism is the largest religion followed by Buddhism and Christianity. Islam has a minuscule presence in this region, with a mosque in the bazaar area.
Popular festivals include Diwali, Christmas, Dussera or dasain in the localnepali dialect and the Buddhist festival of Losar. Languages spoken in Kalimpong include Nepali, which is the predominant language; Hindi, English and Bengali. Cricket and football (soccer) are the most popular sports in Kalimpong.
The most popular snack in Kalimpong is the momo, steamed dumplings made up of pork, beef or vegetable cooked in a wrapping of flour and served with watery soup. Wai-Wai is a packaged snack comprising of noodles which are eaten either dry or in soup form. Churpee, a kind of hard cheese made from cow's or yak's milk is sometimes chewed. A form of noodle called Thukpa, served in soup form is also popular in Kalimpong. There are a large number of restaurants which offer a wide variety of cuisines, ranging from Indian to continental, to cater to the tourists. Tea is the most popular beverage in Kalimpong, procured from the famed Darjeeling tea gardens.
The cultural centres in Kalimpong include, the Lepcha Museum and the Zang Dhok Palri Phodong monastery. The Lepcha Museum, situated a kilometre away from the town centre showcases the culture of the Lepcha community, the indigenous peoples of Sikkim. The Zang Dhok Palri Phodong monastery has 108 volumes of the Kangyur, and belongs to the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism.
Kalimpong Religious Places
St Theresa's Church, an ancient centuries old church, is believed to be built by local craftsmen. This church resembles monasteries and a rare view of the Tibetan architectural design can be seen on the structure of this church. The church walls are enriched with the paintings and inscriptions of Biblical themes. The scenes displayed on the walls carried biblical characters resembling the Buddhist monks.
The church is located at a place from where one can get the scenic view of the distant Himalayan ranges. The spiritual ambience surrounding this old church is inviting for many devotees and one can see a constant flow of believers to this church
Thongsa Gompa: It is the oldest monastery in the towm. It is of Bhutanese origin and was built around 1692. The Pedong Monastery, established in 1837, also shows Bhutanese influence and is situated within a mile of the Bhutanese fort of Damsang. A festival is held there each February.
The Tharpa Choling Monastery: It belongs to the Dalai Lama's Yellow Hat Sect, and was established in 1937.
Dr. Graham's Homes: Started in 1900 by a Scottish missionary, Dr. John Anderson Graham. He and his wife dedicated their lives in building up this beautiful complex for the education and care of orphans and other deprived children. It now enrolls 700 students. It has its own dairy, poultry and bakery. Central Sericultural Farm and Swiss Welfare dairy are worth visiting.
Thongsa Gompa: It is the oldest monastery in Kalimpong. It was founded in 1692. The Pedong Bhutanese monastery was established in the same year near the old Bhutanese Damsang Fort at Algara where ceremonial dances are held every February. Brang monastery is situated at Durpin Dara, the highest point in Kalimpong with excellent over the plains, the Tista and Reang rivers. Brang monastery is one of its kind out side Tibet and has retained the special lamaistic order with a school of Tibetan Medicine and a religious debating society.
Tharpa Choling Monastery: On the way to the Graham's Homes, founded in 1937, belongs to the Gelugpa Sect of the Dalai Lama. It has old documents and scriptures.
Mangal Dham: It is a new and very colourful temple dedicated to Lord Krishna.
Samco Ropeway, with a length of about 1.5 km, is the ropeway located over the famous rivers Teesta and Relli. Christian missionaries, to facilitate Lepcha population to come over to Samthar Suruk, area built the ropeway. This provides a good access to imposing Samthar valley and the hamlets of ethnic tribes.
One can enjoy the thrill of riding over the gorgeous rivers in the ropeway, which is placed at about 120 km above the water level. One can view spectacular view of the river under the ropeway and also the lusting greeneries surrounding the ropeway. This is really an unforgettable view for any kind of travelers.
Cruising – The area has breathtaking snow views of the entire range, superb sunrise and sunset, picture post card hamlets, exotic flora, forests, and ideal for cruising with a local guide.The road are good and except in the monsoon season the drive is magnificient. A leisure drive will provide you with exquisite scenic beauty, spectacular views to watch and appreciate the beauty which nature has provided. This thrilling drive is accompanied with the views of the beautiful tea gardens and it is a good experience.
Rafting – River Rafting in the Teesta takes a day. Teesta in the mountain provides excellent scope for rafting. We can organise rafting in Teesta. Depending on your requirement, longer duration rafting tour can also be organised. White water rafting in Teesta was introduced in Darjeeling and has gained tremendous popularity since then. Teesta is graded on an international scale as grade IV. With a series of rapids with varying intensity and character, Teesta extends a challenging invitation to the enthusiasts.
Open Wednesday and Saturday, the market is definitely worth visiting, especially if you want to meet the locals.
The most interesting shopping is that of fresh local produce. Ginger, honey, a special kind of strongish cheese, Tibetan noodles.
The Bhutia Shop, Dambar Chowk, stocks traditional Bhutia crafts such as woodcarvings, as well as pastel paintings, embroidered bags and other items.
Kalimpong tapestry bags and purses, copperware, scrolls and paintings from Dr Graham's Home are sold at the Kalimpong Arts & Crafts Co-operative. Shops selling Tibetan jewellery and artifacts can be found in the streets to the east of Dambar Chowk.
Famous To Eat at Kalimpong
Tea is the most popular beverage in Kalimpong, procured from the famed Darjeeling tea gardens.
Kalimpong Museum and Hill Stations
The Lepchas are the indigenous people of Kalimpong, Sikkim and now constitute a minority. The Lepcha Museum is situated in Bag Dhara, a kilometre away from the town centre.
The museum showcases the culture of the Lepcha community and displays their musical instruments, manuscripts, articles of worship and other tools & equipments used by the community. It is an important place of learning for those who wish to know about the religion and culture of this vanishing tribe.
A short walk from here brings you to the Lepcha Monastery in Bong Busty, which is also worth a visit.
Gardens and Parks at Kalimpong
Neora National Park
Neora National Park, spread over an expanse of about 88 square km, is located at a woody forest area near Lava in the majestic foothills of the Himalayan Ranges in Kalimpong. It is established in 1986 and is maintained by the forest department. Bhutan and the lush green forests of Sikkim border this National Park.
The vegetation in Neora Park is rich in flora and fauna. The park is enriched with natural forests containing many varieties of dense woody trees. Dense bamboo groves and abundant species of orchids are special feature of this Park. The species of wild animals freely moving in this park include red panda, Himalayan black bear, tiger, wild dog and goral. This is a haven for birds and reptiles. Bird fauna includes Himalayan griffon, redstart and golden-headed black finch and the reptiles include green pit viper, King cobra and blind snakes.
This is a renowned nature friendly region of rich biodiversity and eco-balanced environment. Neora valley is a beautiful picnic spot for nature lovers and tourists seeking for a serene and secluded environment. Rechela Danda, the highest peak in the Park placed at an altitude of about 10600 ft, is a breathtaking attraction and is a ideal location for hiking and trekking.
Nurseries: They are in Kalimpong are famous for the orchids, amaryllis, roses, cacti, dahlias and gladioli. They are also exported. There are many such nurseries in Kalimpong and you can visit one of them to buy some sapling or just to see the flora.
Lake at Kalimpong
It's a small valley in Sing-lila hills region at an altitude of 1767 m . It is 49 km from Darjeeling and 52 km. from Siliguri. Weather is very pleasant here. The main attraction of mirik is a Lake. 1.25 km. long lake is fed by perennial streams. A floating fountain in the middle of the lake is a joy for ever and very often you may find the glory of Kanchenjungha reflected in the lake waters. Trekking from Mirik to Sandakphu, Phalut has become very popular. Short trek from Mirik to Kurseong via Balasan river & Namsu could be covered within the day only.
The beautiful 1.25 km long lake is the most attractive spot of the Mirik Tourism Project. The depth of lake water varies from a minimum of 3 ft. to maximum of 26 ft. The walks on the 3.5 km. long promenade around the lake is a fascinating one. The 80ft. long arch-type overbridge across the lake is a wonderful engineering skill of the project. Arrangements of fishing in the lake is being implemented soon. Boating facility is available at lake.
Kalimpong is a nice place to visit any time in a year. Summers (March - May) are mild, with temperature never touching 30°C. June to September is the monsoon season. Monsoons offer severe rainfalls, causing landslides making road blockages. Winters (December to February) are cool and pleasant with temperature below 15°C and touching a minimum of subzero temperature. During the monsoons and winters, Kalimpong is often enveloped by fog.
Popular festivals include Diwali (October), Christmas (December), Dussera (October/November) the Buddhist festival of Losar (February). Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with much merry making, greetings and celebrations.
Best time to visit Kalimpong is March to May and September to November.