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Monday, August 31, 2009

Kalimpong - Quiet and Serene Hill Station

Area : 1056 sq km
Population : 50,000 (approximately)
Altitude : 1250 m (4100 ft)
Summer : Max. 27.1°C, Min. 16°C
Winter : Max. 15°C, Min. 5°C
Annual Rainfall : 220 cm
Best Season : March to mid June & Sept. to November
Languages Spoken : Nepali, Hindi, English, Tibetan and Bengali
Clothing required : Tropical in summer and light woollens in winter.

Kalimpong bears a name of historic significance. Once the headquarters of a Bhutanese Governor, the word 'Kalim' means King's Minister and ' pong' - the stronghold hence the stronghold of the King's minister. It is also called 'kalibong' or the spur by the hill people. 'Kalimpong' in local dialect stands for 'Kaulim' which is a fibrous plant which grows in abundance in this region.
Kalimpong is a bustling and rapidly expanding, though still relatively small, bazaar (market) town set among the rolling foothills and deep valleys of the Himalayan at an altitude of 1250m. It was once part of the lands belonging to the rajas of Sikkim, until the beginning of the 18th century when it was taken from them by the Bhutanese. In the 19th century it passed into the hands of the British and thus became part of West Bengal. It became a centre for Scottish missionary activity in the late 19th century, and Dr Graham's orphanage and school is still running today.

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Kalimpong's attractions include three monasteries, a couple of solidly built churches, an excellent private library for the study of Tibetan and Himalayan language and culture, a sericulture, orchid nurseries and fine views over the surrounding countryside. Although not many travelers bother to visit Kalimpong, there's enough here to keep you occupied for a couple of days, and for the energetic there's some good trekking too, and who can resist trekking. The dense forests of golden oak trees offset by the rich undergrowth of moss and lichen provide an ideal setting for balmy walks on the thick cushions of russet-brown leaves. One comes to Kalimpong to slow down and be pampered by nature's bounties.
The vast rolling meadows covered with a riot of wild flowers, the sparkling brooks and rivulets meandering lazily by the terraced fields are a feast for one's eyes. Kalimpong is a blaze of colour throughout the year owing to the richness of its stunning flora. The orchids of this region in particular are famous for their infinite variety as well as their delicate tints.

Tourist Attractions In and Around Kalimpong :
1. Gompas
Established in 1922, the Tharpa Choling Gompa belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, founded in the Tibet in the 14th century and to which the Dalai Lama belongs. It's a 40 minute walk from town; take the path to the right off KD Pradhan Rd, just before the Milk Collection and Extension Wing Building.
Lower down the hill, the Thongsa Gompa, of Bhutanese Monastery, is the oldest monastery in the area and was founded in 1692. The present building is not so old - the original was destroyed by the Gurkhas in their rampage across Sikkim before the arrival of the British.
Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Gompa, five km south of the town centre at the end of the ridge, was built in the mid - 1970s at Durpin Dara Hill and was consecrated by the Dalai Lama. There are impressive wall paintings in the prayer room, and a rare three dimensional mandala upstairs. Mountain views are good from Durpin Dara Hill. This area is a big military camp, but you are free to walk or drive through it.

2. DR. GRAHAM’S HOME: Dr. John A. Graham, a Scottish missionary founded this Institute in 1900. This Institution built on Deolo Hill north of the main township was established as an orphanage-cum-school for destitute Anglo-Indian children. It is now a renowned regular co-educational school situated in a 500-acre campus.

3. Durpin Dara: an observatory point from where a truly spectacular view of the Himalaya can be enjoyed. This along with the panoramic view of the Teesta and Relli rivers, and the plains far below, provide visitors with a memorable sight.

4. Flower Nurseries : Kalimpong produces 80% of India's gladiolas and is an important orchid - growing area; flowers are exported from here to many cities in northern India. The Sri Ganesh Moni Pradhan Nursery and the Udai Mani Pradhan Nursery are among the most important in the area. The Standard and the Universal Nurseries also specialise in cacti. There's a flower festival in Kalimpong in October.

5. Pedong monastery : Built around 1837, is of Bhutanese origin, while a kilometer away is the historical Bhutanese fort of Damsang, an important landmark of the area before the main town of Kalimpong came into prominence.

6. Mangal Dham Mandir : Sprawling over an area of two acres and built in 1993, Mangal Dham is considered to be one of the most splendid temples in India. It is the ground floor of the Dham, where lies the "samadhi" of their revered Guruji.

7. LAVA : 34 kms away from Kalimpong, Lava at a height of 7 , 755 ft. is a small hamlet, hidden in the mist & cloud all through the year. Most of the proposed treks in & around Kalimpong start from Lava.

8. LAVA LOLAY GAON : Whole day Excursion to Lava with a visit to the Tibetan monastery at Lava and a drive to Lolaygaon, a hamlet situated at 55 kms from Kalimpong, where you can walk among the treetops on a specially built tree top pathway. Late evening drive back to Kalimpong or stay overnight at Lava Lolay Gaon.

9. RISHYAP : 10 km rough jeep drive from lava is this small Lepcha Village situated at a heigh of 8, 500 ft. Rishyap means “lofty cliff of forest of ancients trees” in Lepcha language. Snow capped mountain peaks, dense evergreen forest, terraced agricultural field are the part of Rishyap.

10. DEOLO HILL: The highest point within Kalimpong municipality area (elevation approximately 1650 mtrs) that provides a 360-degree panoramic view. A fantastic bird’s-eye-view of Kalimpong town & Durpian hill can be had from here.

11. Sericulture Research Institute : At this institute silkworms are bred and silk is produced as well as herbs and plants. Locate on the road to Darjeeling, the institute can be visited between 9.30 am and 4 PM.

12. Nature Interpretation Centre : Located on Rinkingpong Rd, this centre consists of a number of well-organized dioramas, which depict the effects of human activity on the environment. The centre is open to visitors from Friday to Wednesday from 10 am to 4 PM and admission is free.

1. Samthar Farm House : A special place for those who appreciate nature Tucked away in the lap of nature in the remote mountains, 80 Kms from Kalimpong, The SAMTHAR FARM HOUSE is a unique getaway - an intimate Wilderness Eco Lodge, offering tranquility, and one of the finest views of Khangchendzonga, the third highest peak in the world. It is ideal for nature lovers, honeymooners, and those seeking unusual places. It has been created by converting an abondoned Lepcha Farmhouse into a deluxe country residence, by Retired Indian Army General "Jimmy" Singh. Its natural stone and old timber construction has been preserved. The house nestles in a clump of pines, with a terraced nature garden rising to the rocky outcrop at the top of the hill. The natural landscape has been retained. The view rivals Tiger Hill (near Darjeeling). As a bonus, the sunrise and sunset views can simply be described as breathtaking.
2. Holumba Haven - HOLUMBA facing Mount. Kanchenjunga is a 2 acres natural landscaped botanical extravangenza, water fed by a natural spring, inhabited by a flora population over 1000 species of orchids, plants & trees, and conveniently located on the main highway,a kilometre ahead of Kalimpong town having own car park & garages. (The Ven. Bikchu Sangharakshita lived in "The Hermitage" (Magnolia) and refers to it as his Garden of Eden.) HOLUMBA offers the nature loving tourists an expansive orchid nursery :-"Nurseryman's Haven", world wide exporter since 1972 - specialist in Indo- Burmese orchids & Himalayan & Exotic - bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, plants, & seeds.
3. Hotel Silver Oaks - Lounging in the landscaped gardens in a profusion of colour, one is treated to breathtaking view at the Silver Oaks, Kalimpong. The natural décor is characteristic in the imposing Kanchenjungha which can be seen on a clear day, blooming petunias and asters, the serrated violet edges of iris, iridescent butterflies flitting through colourful azaleas, drooping geraniums, proud orchids and heaven, temporarily descends on earth. Sitting in one of the quaint gazebos, the tea seems to be flavoured by the refreshing winds of the Himalayas. The Silver Oaks was built in 1930 and once belonged to the prominent architect Frederick Desraj who built the old Teesta Bridge.
4. Hotel Himalayan - In the early days of the last century the hotel was the family home of David Macdonald. After accompanying the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa in 1904 as interpreter, Macdonald was posted to Tibet as a British Trade Agent, serving in Yatung and Gyantse until his retirement in 1924. Macdonald assisted the 13th Dalai Lama's escape from Tibet in 1910, and he was later invited to Lhasa in 1921. Prior to his retirement he served briefly as Britain's Political Officer in Sikkim, in charge of Britain's relations with Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim.
5. Hotel Kalimpong Park - It is situated on a viewpoint, 1 km. uphill from the downtown area. The hotel faces north-east, and has a 270 degree panoramic view of the hills and valleys, with Kachenjunga massif standing majestically on the left. The hotel has its own cars that drive up to the front door.
6. Soods Garden retreat : 8.5 Miles is where you will find the retreat, just 800 meters before the Hustle and Bustle of the Market area, set amidst Nature with a breath taking view, on the sunniest part of the Hills. For whatever you have in mind you can't be better Located. Near to all the site seeing interests. Laze on the rolling Lawns and Gardens or just admire the Glory of the mighty Mt. Kanchenjunga from the Restaurant, Balconies or Lawns.
7. Garden Reach hotel : It is a budget hotel, located at a distance of 0.5 kms from the main town. The hotel is a perfect place for the leisure as well as business traveler.
8. Gurudongma House : Gurudongma House is located 3 kms from Kalimpong town center, away from the pollution, and noise of the town, in the exclusive hilltop locality. The house commands breathtaking views of the panorama of snows, dominated by Khangchendzonga – the third highest peak in the world.
This is not a hotel but a home, providing exclusive hospitality. Paying guests are personally hosted by the General, and are cared for by trained ethnic staffs, which provide spontaneous personalized service. The house offers just four guestrooms.
9. Hotel Tres : It lies at the crossroads of elegance and comfort. The building blends old and new, aesthetically pairing a new modest structure with an old cottage. Superbly located in Kalimpong offers a portrait of the hill station few will ever forget. Kalimpong is a beautiful place blessed with flowers and a pleasant weather all year round.

Banks :
1. State Bank of India
2. Central Bank of India
3. Union Bank of India
Hospitals :
1. Kalimpong Govt. Hospital
2. Dr. Mishra's Nursing Home
3. Dr. Mullick's Nursing Home
4. Dr. Sharma'a Nursing Home

How to get there ?
- Local Transport : Ponies, Jeeps, Private taxis
- Air Connections : Nearest Airport is Bagdogra. Bookings for Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Sahara India and Damania can be made at Kalimpong.
- Rail Connections : Nearest Railway Stations is New Jalpaiguri. Bookings can be had from agencies in Kalimpong around Rishi Road.
- Road Connections : It is 51 km from Darjeeling, connected by all weather metalled road.
Kalimpong to Siliguri (2 1/2 hrs.) - 65 km
Kalimpong to Gangtok (3 1/2 hrs.) - 78 km
Kalimpong to Darjeeling (2 hrs.) - 51 km

External articles / blogs:

1. Traveller's point (link to article)

To everyone who will tell me that 14 people in a jeep is not possible, I will answer them that they have to try the road between Darjeeling and Kalimpong in the jungle XD. Nice ride and I arrived in this bazaar busy city yesterday.

2. Exotic India (link to article):
Welcome to Kalimpong! The dense forests, lone roads, distant vision of mighty Himalayas, vast valleys, green meadows, it is indeed a heaven of the eastern part of India. Not only nature but the culture and tradition of Kalimpong are also a nice thing to experience. Kalimpong in West Bengal is a major center for traditional handicrafts, thanka paintings, metal crafts, Tibetan and Leptcha jewelries, wooden mask and other indigenous products. A large number of tourist throughout the year flock to this small town for its unique beauty.

3. HolidayhomeIndia (link to article)
Kalimpong is a beautiful hill station in the Darjeeling Hills at a height of 1,250 metres (4,101 ft) situated in the Indian state of West Bengal. Kalimpong is known for its educational institutions many of which were established during the British colonial period. Kalimpong, located on a ridge overlooking River Teesta, is a tourist destination for temperate climate and proximity to popular tourist locations in the region. Kalimpong is famous for its horticulture of various rare species of world famous orchids. Kalimpong is a town of religious centre of Buddhism.

4. Travel and Places (link to article):
One of the first things that comes to mind when the name Kalimpong is mentioned is its vast treasure-house of flowers. Rare and beautiful varieties of flowers and orchids grow in abundance, beautifying the region and also contribute significantly to the economy of the same. Kalimpong also boasts of numerous nurseries. Kalimpong is also the habitat of wildlife species including Asiatic Black Bear, Barking Deer, Himalayan Black Bear, Himalayan Tahr, Pangolin, Clouded Leopard, Siberian Weasel, Red Panda, Goral, Gaur and birds like Monal Pheasant, Orioles, Maynas, Besra, Hornbills, Swallows, Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Owls, Parakeets, Woodpeckers, Sunbirds, Black Baza and the Kalij Pheasant. Wildlife enthusiasts would thoroughly enjoy themselves at Neora Valley National Park.

5. Hill Stations in India (link to article):
The name, Kalimpong, has three different origins. One, it means the place where the local tribesmen gathered to organize field sports, second, it takes it’s name from the Bhutanese king’s minister’s stronghold and thirdly, it is named after Kaulim, a fibrous plant found in abundance in this region.

6. my dharmic life (link to article):
Kalimpong, in the north-eastern part of India close to the border to Sikkim, was the home of Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche after he had fled from Tibet. Here Sogyal Rinpoche received instructions by him when he was in his early twenties.

7. Santosh Yatra (link to article):
Kalimpong has a lot to offer in terms of shopping. The Main Road, the 10th Mile Market and the Raja Dorje Market are some of the good places to shop. The must-buys of Kalimpong include fresh ginger and honey, Tibetan noodles, jewelery, artefacts, seeds and flower bulbs. The Kalimpong Arts & Crafts Centre is the best place for authentic Lepcha, Bhutanese and Sikkimese embroidered work on purses and dresses.

8. Adrian Cycling around Sikkim (link to article). Some great photos also here.
I woke in the morning to even thicker clouds and set off on the next leg of my circular route back to Kalimpong. The road to Kaffir (also known as Lolygoan) turned out to be a mostly terrifying route through forests considerably more ominous and misty than the previous day's, but this time on deserted roads full of potholes and loose stones. It was all fairly nerve wracking. It was also almost all very steep downhill, so turning back would be almost impossible.

9. Of Ink, Pennings And Pittoresco's! (link to article):
Cradled in the hills of Darjeeling-India, the small town of Kalimpong is but a place overwhelmed by ardent football enthusiasts. The passion for the game runs back to decades and the zeal has been carried down through the generation. Arguably, the pinnacle of this begins early July and ends in the usually rainy evening of the Indian Independence day.

10. MyTourInfo (link to article)
Most of the drive to Kalimpong from Siliruri is along forests fringing the Teesta River. Built into a steep gorge, the road overlooks this beautiful river as it rumbles and slides through the Himalayan foothills. About halfway, the graceful Coronation Bridge leads off to the east towards the Dooars, West Bengal’s picturesque tea country. Further upstream is Kalimpong.

11. TSI Holidays (link to article):
The road is one of the most scenic routes in this part of the nation. You will get a breathtaking scenic view of the Teesta river all your way to the town. The hill station is at an altitude of 1250 mts above the sea level. From this town one can get a panoramic view of the majestic Mt Kanchenjunga and the snow clad Himalayan range. The Durpin Dara and Deoro Hill are the two most popular scenic points of Kalimpong. Kalimpong belongs to the Darjeeling district. Coming here you will find a number of monasteries. The Kali temple of Kalimpong is very famous. The Tibetan Monastery Dr Graham's home are the remarkable tourist spots.

12. Real Travel (link to article):
I spent the majority of my time (weekends excluded) in a tiny little village called No.12 Dhura (aka Barranumber), which is North-east of Kalimpong near the town of Pedong.

13. Just Another Travel Blog (link to article):
The easiest route to reach Kalimpong is to take a flight from Delhi to Bagdogra/ Siliguri (about 70kms from Kalimpong). At the airport, many taxis are accessible to Kalimpong. [Remember that when you are going to Kalimpong, it is best that you reach not later than 5pm so that there is ready commute, since the towns really stop working after 530pm.

14. Driving directions from Kolkata to Kalimpong (link to article)

Photo Galleries (external):
1. Photo Gallery at world66. com (link)
2.'s public gallery (link)
3. Many photos from Anuj (link)
4. Photos of Kalimpong at Flickr (link)
5. Kalimpong Photos at trekearth (link)
6. High Street in Kalimpong, India (link)

Videos of Kalimpong on Youtube:

1. Kalimpong Videos, West Bengal, India


3. Kalimpong to Teesta Bridge

4. kalimpong mainroad

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