Kalimpong is a town in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. This small hill station was an important link in the trade route between India and Tibet commonly known as the silk route. The growth of the town was mainly due to its significance as a market place.
Today Kalimpong is one of the main trading centers of the area and also a major tourism hub. The town is situated at an altitude of 1250 meters with an area of about 3.5 square miles. The population is around 50,000. The local inhabitant of the town include people from different origins such as the Gorkha, Lepcha, Sikkemese and Tibetan.
The main attraction of the town for tourists is its rich history, peaceful environment and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains especially from the two hilltops of Deolo and Durpin.
History of the town
Kalimpong has a long and interesting history. Till early eighteenth century, it was part of the state of Sikkim. Later Bhutan captured this land from the Sikkemese. Eventually during the late 19th century, with the British dominance of India, Kalimpong came under British control.
The versatile history and the varied occupants of the town give Kalimpong its mixed culture. There is a vibrant Lepcha community who are trying to preserve their tradition and culture. The British influence is pronounced in several of the educational institutions and building structures. The Nepalese, Bhutanese, Bengali and Tibetan, everyone has their own share of influence in the overall diverse culture of the town.
Kalimpong is just about 70 kms and two hour drive away from Siliguri town which is the gateway to the region with both Bagdogra Airport and New Jalpaiguri Rail Station situated here.
From Siliguri you have to travel through the Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary. About 25 km away is Sevok Bridge over river Tista. continue on National Highway 31A that connects Sikkim with Bengal. you will soon reach Tista Bazar. After crossing to the other side of Tista you have to drive about 12 kms uphill to reach Kalimpong town.
The weather is pleasant for most of the year with winter temperatures hovering around 10 degrees Celsius. During summer it rises up to 27 degrees. The relatively lower altitude and closeness to the plains of Bengal ensures that Kalimpong can be visited any time of the year.
Durpin Dara - Durpin stands for Binocular and Dara means Hill top in the local language. The name itself suggests the specialty of the place. On a clear day, you can see far and wide including Siliguri, Tista and Rangit rivers along with Kanchenjunga range of mountains. The famous Zong Dog Palri Fo Brang Gompa is situated here.
Deolo Hill – The town of Kalimpong is situated on a ridge traversing North to South. If Durpin top is the Southern tip of the ridge, then Deolo is the Northern extreme. Deolo hill is especially attractive for tourists as there is plenty of open space and garden in the top from where you can have a great view of the surrounding mountains of Bengal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet as well as Mt. Kanchenjunga. Deolo also offers great view of the Tista River down below. There is a government tourist accommodation at Deolo top along with a decent restaurant.
Dr. Graham's Home : Dr. Graham's home is a major attraction of Kalimpong. It is about an hour’s walk from the center of the town on the way to Deolo Top. The educational institution was started with an intention to impart education among the children of the tea-workers. It was founded in 1900 on the lower slopes of Deolo Hill, from where the exotic views of Kalimpong town can be seen. Situated in an area covering 193 hectares the institution currently has about 1300 students
Thongsa Gompa: The oldest Gompa of Kalimpong was constructed in 1692 by the Bhutanese. In the riot of the Gurkhas in Sikkim before the arrival of the British, the original building was destroyed. The present monastery is built at the same spot.
Tharpe Choling Gompa: The Gompa is 40 minutes walk from the Kalimpong town. It is situated right of K.D. Pradhan Road. This Gompa was constructed in 1922. It belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Dalai Lama belongs to this Sect which was founded during the 14th century in Tibet.
Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Gompa: This Gompa was made during the 1970's in Durpin Dara Hill. It was sanctified by Dalai Lama and is five kilometers away from the town. Rare paintings and three dimensional 'mandala' can be seen in the Gompa. The views of the surrounding mountains from atop the Gompa is splendid.
Flower Nurseries: Kalimpong is famous for the flowers and creepers grown here. Most of the 'gladiolas' export from India originate here. This is also an important orchid-growing area. Most of the northern cities of India imports flower from here. The nurseries like Sri Ganesh Mani Pradhan Nursery, Udai Mani Pradhan Nursery are the main exporters of flower. These nurseries also specialized in Cacti. To encourage the nurseries a yearly flower festival is organized in Kalimpong.
Sericulture Research Institute: Here the breeding of siklwarm and the procedure of silk preparation are seen. It is situated in the road to Darjeeling and can be visited from 9.30 am to 4 pm.
Nature Interpretation Center: This center consists of the dioramas of the effects of the effect of human activities on the environment. The center, situated in the Rinkinpong Road is maintained by the Soil Conservation Division of the Ministry of Environment & Forests.
Mangal Dham: This gorgeous new temple belongs to Lord Krishna.
Kalimpong is also a shoppers paradise especially if you are interested in traditional handicrafts. Most shops are located below the Main Road, Raja Dorje Market and the 10th Mile Bazaar. Fresh ginger, exotic herbs, flower bulbs and seeds, khukries, honey, jewelleries and other artifacts attracts the tourists. Sikkimese and Bhutanese dresses, purses and fire screens are also available.
Within a few hours drive from Kalimpong is a range of other tourist destinations.
Lava: This beautiful spot is situated at an altitude of 7200 ft and at a distance of 32 kilometers from Kalimpong. On the way to Lava the scenes of Rechi-la and Jelep-la passes are magnificent. Naturebeyond organizes stay at Lava as well.
Lolegaon: This is another place from where the views of Kanchenjunga is splendid. This is 56 kilometers from Kalimpong town and one of the most famous upcoming tourist destinations of the region.
Takdah Orchid Center: The Orchid-lovers should come here to gather the experience of seeing 110 kinds of Orchids on sale.
Pedong Monastery: This is one of the oldest monasteries of Kalimpong. It was built in 1837 and is 26 kilometers from the town.
Teesta Bazar : The upward climb starts from this settlement around Tista Bridge.
Bara and Chota Mangwa : located on the hills on the other side of River Tista at a distance of about 20 km are the villages of Bara Mangwa and Chota Mangwa. Above about 4 kms above Chota Mangwa lies another village tourism destination the Tinchuley. All these places can easily reached from Kalimpong within an hour or so.
Darjeeling – The major tourist destination of the region can be reached through Tista Bazar and Peshok road within couple of hours.
Gangtok – The capital of Sikkim is less than three hours drive away.