Pleasant, quiet and peaceful, Kalimpong is the ideal retreat for the holidaymaker wanting to be away from the hustle and bustle of city-life. Its 1200 meter elevation ensures a pleasant climate round the year so it isn’t a problem even if you’ve set your date with this charming little town in the dead of winter.
Conquered from Sikkim by Bhutan in 1706, its name supposedly comes from ‘kaleon' and ‘pong' meaning ‘minister's bastion or fort' since it did have the presence of a Bhutanese governor for the period it remained under their rule. However, the Lepcha who were there long before are said to have called it ‘kalibong' meaning ‘the ridge where we play'. In 1865, after the Anglo-Bhutan War, British India brought it under its control on taking into account its advantage as an outpost for trade with Tibet, which, as a matter of fact, they did accomplish in establishing.
Till the early 1950's until China shut down Tibet's border, Kalimpong flourished as a trading post. Trade with Tibet brought in caravans of musk, hides, furs, turquoise, coral, gold, herbs and minerals of medicinal value, and especially lamb wool. Soon large godowns were built where thousands found employment in sorting, drying and baling wool that came from Tibet. In exchange, the Tibetan traders took back cloth, tea, sugar and other food produces.
Alongside the trade with Tibet, the arrival of missionaries also saw to an early expansion of Kalimpong from a sleepy hamlet to a sizeable town that it is today. Schools and hospitals were established as early as 1873, and even till today the town's reputation as an educational center is known far and wide.
Of late, the descendents of early Newar settlers from the Kathmandu Valley with their keen sense for business have taken to floriculture. At a lower altitude than Darjeeling and with much less rainfall, Kalimpong has a different climate, one which has proved particularly suited to flower-growing. Indeed, the Kalimpong plant nurseries are famous throughout the world, while the hillsides in springtime are a vibrant testament to the rich natural environment of orchids and rhododendron.
Sites Around Kalimpong
Kalimpong Haat Bazaar - Raja Dorji Market
Best explored on foot, the main market place is a bustling beehive of
human activity where vendors vie with each other to sell off their homegrown
food produce. The ‘haat bazaar’ typifies the traditional
open-air market, a venue where villagers from the surrounding area are
allowed to set up temporary stalls.
Spice and incense stall inside Raja Dorji Market
Zongdogpaldri Fobrang Monastery
Consecrated by the Dalai Lama in 1976, this monastery has 108 volumes
of the Kangyur brought by the Dalai Lama himself when he fled Tibet.
Dr. Graham's Homes
Established in 1900, by Rev Dr. John Anderson Graham to house and educate
inter-racial offspring of British tea planters and local women who were
disallowed admissions into regular schools by the society then, it is
now an public school open to all. Of interest are the original buildings
and chapel. The School celebrated its centenary in 2000.
Dr. Graham's Homes
Tharpo Choling Monastery
A monastery of the Gelukpa sect built in 1937 with donations from Tibetan
traders paying homage to the gods for safely having crossed the treacherous
The oldest monastery of Kalimpong built in 1692 by the Bhutanese during
the occupation, and in their typical flavour.
Built by British traders during ‘the Raj’, these quaint
houses are mostly found in the upper section of the town. They include
Surya Sadan, Crockety, Galingka, Morgan House, Tashiding and Ringking
Farm to name some. Of these, Morgan House and Tashiding have been converted
as Tourist Lodges and are open to visitors.
St .Theresa Church
Built by local craftsmen to resemble a Gompa, it has wooden carvings
on the walls of Biblical scenes and in continuance to the theme, the characters are
depicted in the attire of the Buddhist clergy.
The flower nurseries of Kalimpong specialize in the cultivation of exotic
orchid species, including other garden varieties such as gladioli, cacti,
amaryllis, anthirriums, roses, gerberas, dahlias and a whole lot more.
Deolo View Point
At 1,914 meters Deolo Hill commands an excellent view of the town, the
Teesta Valley below and the snowy ranges in the distant horizon.
View of Kalimpong from Deolo
A small town 24 kilometers from Kalimpong. It has a monastery of Bhutanese
origin that was built in 1837.
Surrounded by virgin pine forests and often hidden in mists and clouds
at an altitude of 2,350 meters, this small village lies 34 kilometers
away from Kalimpong on the old trade route to Bhutan. It has a beautiful
monastery of Bhutanese origin and a Nature Interpretation Centre. Popular
for nature exploration and bird watching, it is also the starting point
for treks into the Neora National Park, which abounds with floral and
Kaffer / Lolay Gaon
A superb spot to view the sunrise over the mountains to those eager to take a 59-kilometer morning drive from Kalimpong through lovely forested
hills. The area itself has a heritage forest and offers fine views of the snowy Singalila
Scenic and remote, at an elevation of 1,400 meters, Samthar Plateau
is 80 kilometers from Kalimpong, and 45 kilometers from Lava. It has
breathtaking views of the snowy mountains, superb sunrise and sunset,
picture post card hamlets, exotic flora, forests, mountain streams and
river-pools, all far from the madding crowd. This is an area popular
for nature hikes, angling, mountain biking and cultural explorations.
Neora National Park
A 4-day trek through forests and exotic flora of the National Park,
culminating in the ascent of the 3,152 meter Rache La tri-junction,
to view the Chola Range. Other activities include nature and culture
exploration of the Rishi Valley and remote waterfalls. Altogether, a