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Kalimpong: Romancing the Vibrant Hill-station

Kalimpong is one of the most admired tourist destinations in West Bengal. Famed for its foggy mornings, vibrant orchids, lavish orchards, bustling markets, serene monasteries, and imposing British colonial structures, Kalimpong has a distinct charm of its own. Less crowded than its more popular neighbour Darjeeling, it is a perfect escape from the daily errands of life.

Spring in Kalimpong
Spring in Kalimpong.

The word ‘Kalimpong’ is often translated as ‘Assembly of the King’s ministers’ in Tibetan (‘Kalon’ means King’s ministers and ‘Pong’ means assembly). In the Lepcha language, ‘Kalimpong’ signify ‘a ridge where we play’. Nestled at an altitude of 1300 metres on the eastern side of the Darjeeling Himalayas, the hill station used to be a gateway in the lucrative Indo-Tibetan trade prior to Tibet’s annexation by China.

Prayer wheels
Prayer wheels at the Durpin Monastery.

Places to visit in Kalimpong:

If you are visiting this charming hill town, don’t miss the following places:

Night
Kalimpong at night.

1. Delo Hill Park:

Standing at 1,704 metres, Delo Hill is the highest point of the Kalimpong town which itself lies on a ridge connecting the Delo and Durpin hills. It is arguably the most popular tourist destination in Kalimpong.

The park on top of Delo Hill is laced with various flowering plants and shrubs. You can also find a few Rhododendron trees here. On a clear, sunny day, the park offers a fantastic panoramic view of Kalimpong.

2. Durpin Monastery:

The monastery’s actual name is Zhangdok Palri. Situated atop Durpin Hill, it was founded in 1957 by Dudjom Rinpoche. It houses numerous valuable Buddhist texts in the Tibetan language.

Durpin Monastery
Durpin Monastery is one of the top draws of this picturesque hill station.

The sanctum of the monastery remains open to visitors only during the morning prayers, which occur daily around 6 AM. The view from the top of the monastery is nonetheless breathtaking.

Doors of monastery
Vibrant doors of the Durpin Mosastery.

3. Tharpa Choling Monastery:

This beautiful monastery was established in 1912. While the more popular Durpin Monastery is always teeming with visitors, the Tharpa Choling Monastery won our hearts with its serene ambience. One monk even took us inside the sanctum, the walls of which were decorated with vibrant paintings from Lord Buddha’s life. The sanctum had idols of Shakyamuni Buddha, Maitreya Buddha, Avalokiteshwara, and so on.

Tharpa Choling Monastery
Tharpa Choling Monastery.
Offerings
Offerings inside the sanctum.

The garden of the monastery has a huge Buddha statue overlooking Kalimpong town.

Inside the monastery
Prayer room of Tharpa Choling Monastery.
Inside the Monastery
Inside the sanctum of the monastery.

4. Pine View Cactus Nursery:

This is another interesting attraction of Kalimpong. This nursery is home to around 1500 varieties of cactus which have been collected over three decades.

Pine View Nursery.
Varieties of Cactus.

The cactus of various shapes and sizes are thriving well inside greenhouses. Along with cactus, the nursery has a number of succulents. You can also buy cactus and succulents from the nursery.

cactus flower
A flowering cactus.

The Pine View Nursery remains open from 9 AM to 5 PM every day, except Sundays. The entry fee is INR 20 per head and the parking fee is INR 30.

Cactus
An interesting place to explore in the hill town.

5. Morgan House:

Built by the British jute baron George Morgan in the 1930s, this colonial-style mansion has now been converted into a heritage hotel and maintained by the WBTDCL.

Only guests who have a room booking are allowed entrance inside.

KALIMPONG 171 Edit

6. Dr. Graham’s Home:

Previously St. Andrew’s Colonial Homes, it was founded by a Scottish missionary John Anderson Graham in 1900. It started as a vocational training school for abandoned children of British officials and tea planters. At present, it is a boarding and day school providing quality education to 1,400 students.

7. MacFarlane Memorial Church:

Renowned as the oldest church of Kalimpong, it was constructed in 1891 in memory of the Scottish missionary, Rev. William MacFarlane. It is one of the few churches in India where service is held in 10 languages.

8. Hanuman Temple:

Located near Delo Hill Park, this temple opened its door in 2004 and is characterized by a 30-foot statue of Lord Hanuman.

Where to eat in Kalimpong:

From hole-in-the-wall momo joints to chic and artsy cafes, Kalimpong offers a plethora of gastronomic experiences.

1. Café Kalimpong:

Located on the road leading to the Durpin Monastery, this cute café specializes in serving the local delicacies of Kalimpong such as Sel Roti, Tingmo, and Phumbi. The regular fares such as pizza, burger, and momo are also available here. You can also order various cakes like carrot cake, blueberry cheesecake, and red velvet cake.

Cafe Kalimpong
Cafe Kalimpong is perfect for relaxing after a day’s trip.

The USP of Café Kalimpong is its fantastic seating area which provides a breathtaking view of the Kalimpong town. The café also promotes local talents by displaying their paintings and photographs.

Momo
Fluffy chicken and pork moms at the cafe.

2. Art Café:

Started back in 2015, Art Café is centrally located just opposite the post office. Decorated in a rustic theme, the café has a beautiful terrace offering a gorgeous view of the valley. The café is also known for its thin-crust pizzas.

3. Za Khang:

It is famous for serving authentic Bhutanese cuisine, set apart by offal-based dishes, buckwheat pancakes, stews loaded with chunks of meats, hand-cut noodles, and so on. If you are going for breakfast, have their Balep (crispy and fluffy Tibetan bread) and Aloo Dum with a side of Suja (butter tea).

Rooftop view
Rooftop view from Za Khang.

For lunch and dinner, relish Ema Datshi (the national dish of Bhutan made with chilli and cheese), Kewa Datshi (potato with cheese), Jaju (soup), Itshum (Bhutanese Red Rice), Paksha Paa (dried pork cooked with dried chillies and radish slices), and Jatsha Tshoem (chicken with glass noodles).

Bhutanese cuisine
A plate full of Bhutanese delicacies.

4. Gompu’s:

Momos of this iconic restaurant are regarded as the best in Kalimpong. Gompu’s has become legendary for its bigger, fluffier, thicker, bao-like pork momo. Its chicken momo is equally lip-smacking. Apart from momos, Gompu’s is also known for its hearty thukpa, gyathuk, and shyapta.  

Important FAQs:

How can I reach Kalimpong?

By train: Opt for any of the overnight North Bengal trains from Sealdah railway station (such as 13147 Uttarbanga Express, 12343 Darjeeling Mail, and, 12377 Padatik Express) and reach New Jalpaiguri station in the morning. You can also look for day trains from Howrah station such as 22301 Vande Bharat Express and 12041 Shatabdi Express.

By bus: Since train tickets in North Bengal always remain high in demand, you can travel by sleeper Volvo buses, which start from Esplanade and are quite comfy. Moreover, multiple buses of NBSTC (North Bengal State Transportation Corporation) ply daily from Kolkata. However, these buses are mostly Spartan, and hence quite uncomfortable for a long 14-15 hours of journey.

By air: The nearest airport is Bagdogra, which in turn is very well-connected with important Indian cities.

Prayer flags at Tharpa Choling Monastery
Prayer flags at a monastery in Kalimpong.

How can I reach Kalimpong from NJP/Bagdogra?

You can hire a car from NJP or Bagdogra to reach Kalimpong. The flat rate is INR 3000. However, if NH 10 is closed owing to heavy rainfall or landslide, you will need to travel via a diverted route. In that case, vehicles will charge you INR 5000.

You can also opt for shred jeeps from NJP to Kalimpong if you are travelling on a budget. It will cost you INR 400-500 per head.

A cloudy sunrise
A cloudy sunrise.

Where can I stay in Kalimpong?

The hill station has numerous hotels that suit every pocket. If you are looking for a luxurious retreat, go for The Elgin Silver Oaks, Mayfair Himalayan Spa Resort, and Sinclairs Retreat. You can also opt for pretty homestays such as Windsongs Homestay, Root Shoots & Beds, and Kalimpong View Homestay.

The Elgin Silver Oaks
The Elgin Silver Oaks.

What is the best time to visit Kalimpong?

Kalimpong can be visited around the year. However, avoid the monsoons as the road is often closed due to landslides.

Stupas
Stupas inside a monastery.

What can I shop in Kalimpong?

The Kalimpong market sells wonderful woollens, locally handmade incense sticks, hand-rolled noodles, pickles, Thangka paintings, Lepcha jackets and bags, and so on.

What other places can I visit from Kalimpong?

From Kalimpong, you can visit Lava (32 km), Rishop (28 km), Lolegaon (30 km), Kaffergaon (31 km), and Neora Valley National Park (36 km).

The Floating Pebbles

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