This series of small town attractions intends to introduce you with the unexplored yet beautiful locations of India. India is a land full of surprises and there are so many yet to be explored places here. The endeavor is to add a new page in your travel guides as you plan to make your next trip to India.
1. Brief about the place:
A small town in the ‘Eastern Himalayas’, Kalimpong is one of my favorite small towns for holidaying. Not very steep hills, lush green trees, beautiful landscapes and a crystal clear weather. Escape from the chaos of the urban life to calm yourself in the bed of nature.
Kalimpong was once the headquarters of a Bhutanese Governor. ‘Kalon’ means the King’s Minister and ‘Pong’ means the stockade. Thus, closely translated, it means the stockade of the King’s Minister. People here also call the place as ‘Kalayboong’ or the black spur. Others believe that Kalimpong derived its name from the Lepcha name of a tree called ‘Sterculia Villosa’ that once grew in abundance in this region.
2. When to Go:
Kalimpong has a pleasant weather throughout the year, with a moderate climate. However, during the period between July and September when it receives the summer monsoons, the climate is misty and humid. My suggestion for the best time..Winter of course.Only then can you really enjoy the knock of the ‘Dallay Khorsani’, the local chilli-peppers. And with the Chinese food, its really an awesome experience.
3. Getting there:
The last rail station towards the Eastern part of West Bengal is ‘New Jalpaiguri’. Thereafter, the route leads via NH-31A, over a journey of approximately 70 Kms (1 hr and 30 min). There are abundant taxi services running from ‘New Jalpaiguri’, near the ‘Central Bus Terminal, Hill Cart Road, which can cost you anywhere from Rs.2000 to Rs.3000 for a Sumo/Jeep ride.
4. Where to Stay:
You can choose to stay at various places in and around Kalimpong depending upon your budgets and tour plan. The Central part of Kalimpong is the ‘Thana Dara Area’. You can find everything here from budget hotels to lodges. Accommodations are also available at Hill Top/ Atisha Road, Rinkingpong Road Area, Upper Cart Road, Lall Gulli/ Motor Stand Area, 10th Mile Area and 12th Mile Areas.One should get a decent accommodation for about Rs.1500- Rs.2000 per night during peak seasons as well. You can also bargain here, of course, if you are good at it.
The Kalimpong is a small town though it has many attractions to offer. The tour can be covered in two parts as Eastern and Western Kalimpong. However, apart from sight seeing, there is ample scope of nature photography and adventure activities like camping, golfing and river rafting. The whole city takes about a week so keep sufficient time in hand, lest you do not want to miss out anything.I have tried to cover the major attractions here, you may choose to visit all of them, depending upon the time you have at your disposal.
(a) Dr. Graham’s Homes: A Scottish Missionary, founded in 1900 A.D. by Dr. J.A. Graham. Established as an orphanage-
cum-school for destitute Anglo-Indian children, it now a renowned regular co-educational school situated in a 500 acre campus.
(b) Lord Buddha Statue: On the way to Deolo, an impressive statue of Lord Buddha sitting serenely in Lotus position and consecrated set amidst a landscaped rock garden. Keep your lenses ready as you are about to capture some really great pictures.
(c) Deolo Hill: The highest point within Kalimpong Municipality area (approximately 1650 metres) which offers a 360° panoramic view. The Kanchenjunga massif is to the North, beyond the hills of Sikkim that rise from the river valleys. A fantastic birds-eye-view of Dr. Graham’s homes, Kalimpong and Durpin Hill can be seen from here.The tourism department has developed a sprawling 8-acre park with exotic flora and fauna. Great place for the children to enjoy pony rides here.
(d) Mangal Dham: Constructed in the memory of the late Guru Shree (108) Mangal Dasji and dedicated to Lord Krishna. Devotees, especially of the Pranami Dharma, come from far away places.
(e) Tongsa Gumpha: The oldest monastery in Kalimpong built in the last quarter of 17th Century.
(f) Nature Interpretation Centre: A museum under the jurisdiction of the Forest Department, also responsible to monitor the seasonal changes in the region.
(g) Army Golf Course: A nine hole golf course overlooking the beautiful views of the mountains.Visitors can enjoy a golf tour here at special prices of course.
(h) Morgan House: Situated just next to the Army Golf Course. A Classic example of the Colonial past of Kalimpong.
Now converted into a luxury hotel by the West Bengal State Govt.
(i) Durpin Monastery: Built in 1972 by Hon. Dudjum Rimpoche, it houses some of the rare scripts on Tibetology called ‘Kangyur’, along with the idols bought from Tibet. One can enjpy a spectacular view pf Kalimpong town with Kanchenjunga in the background and the breathtaking views of the plains, the teesta and the Seeang rivers, Pashok Road and the tea estates.
6.Activities to Do:
(a) River Rafting by the Teesta River: Chitray, 14 Kms downward of Kalimpong is the start point for river rafting. The Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council Tourism Department and some private entrepreneurs conduct a three-hour rafting trip on the Teesta river. The river guides are trained enough to take care of the safety process on your drive while ou enjoy your memorable river rafting experience.
(b) Camping by the river Relli: Interested in some camping and picnic?? Well, Kalimpong’s very own beach- of the Relli river. Nice place for an evening campfire or an afternoon sun-tan.
7. Customs & Etiquette:
(a) Plastic is a strict no here and Kalimpong refrains from use of plastic shopping bags, mineral water bottles etc, and it is expected of travelers to be carried with themselves for safe disposal elsewhere.
(b) Respect local customs. Please ask before pointing and clicking.
(c) All sources of water are treated as holy sites. While moving along them, please make sure you do not litter around them in any way.
(d) Water is also a scarce commodity here.The bottled water you drink here has been trucked and brought several kilometres from the main land. So, preserve and respect every drop.
(e) Respect the sanctity of the heritage sites. Some places might require you to keep your cameras and mobile phones switched off. Kindly obey the norms.
And lastly, as you make your way home, I can assure you that you will have the fondest of memories which will want you to come back for more. I hope you make the most of your journey here….