Kalimpong Hill Station Tour Guide:
Straddling a ridge between the Deolo and Durpin hills, Kalimpong is a quiet and peaceful town nestled at a comfortable elevation of 1,200 meters, which ensures a pleasant climate round the year. 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 their control on becoming aware of its vantage position as an outpost for trade with Tibet, which 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.
HISTORY OF KALIMPONG:
The etymology of Kalimpong has several interpretations. According to one view, Kalimpong means a place where tribesmen gather and organize traditional tribal games. The second view suggests that the name has been derived from a place in Bhutan. A third interpretation is that Kalimpong is named after Kaulim, a fibrous plant found in abundance in this region.
Until the 18th century ad, Kalimpong was a part of the Kingdom of Sikkim and was ruled by Sikkimese rulers. It was then taken over by the Bhutanese. In the 19th century, the British took over Kalimpong and merged into the present Indian state of West Bengal.
PLACES TO SEE IN KALIMPONG:
Sdr. Graham’s Homes: A unique educational institution, started in 1900 by Dr. John Anderson Graham, a Missionary, with six orphans, the school, situated in a 500 acre estate on the slopes of Kalimpong’s highest hill, Dealo, has today a strength of well over 700 boys and girls who are accommodated in small cottages in a picturesque set-up. It has its own diary, poultry and bakery and every year in the month of May the school organises “MAYFAIR”. A day’s visit there can be enthralling.
Durpin Dara: It is the highest point in Kalimpong accessible by car. It offers a breath-taking view of the plains and the mighty Teesta.
Gauripur House (Now Co-operative Training Institute): Situated about 2 km from the town centre on the way to Durpin Dara, Gauripur House was one of the favourite haunts of Poet Rabindranath Tagore. He stayed there on his many visits to Kalimpong.
Kalimpong Market: Your visit to Kalimpong won’t be complete unless you spend several hours or better still, several days at the two Kalimpong bazars, one on the Main Road, the other near the 10th mile. It is a unique experience to see villagers turning up in their local costume at the bazars on weekly market days to sell their farm products.
Kalibari: Kalibari is about 2 km from town Huge statue of Goddess Kali, the main deity of this temple.
7th Mile View Point: 3 km from the town on the way to Teesta Bazar. A panoramic view of Teesta Rangeet Valley can be seen from here.
Thongsha Gumpha: 1 km from town. Situated at 10th mile this monastery of Bhutanese origin is built in the year 1630 and it is the oldest monastery in this region.
Tharpa Choling Monastery: It is situated at Tirpai Hill and built around 1937 belongs to Gelupka Sect to which the present Dalai Lama belongs.
Mangaldham: This recently constructed place of worship is a marvellous piece of architecture.
Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brtang Monastery: This is a fairly new monastery located in Durpin Dara. One can get a panoramic view of the town and surrounding from this monastery.
Pedong Monastery: 26 Km from Kalimpong and was established in 1837.
EXCURSION IN KALIMPONG:
Teesta Bazaar, located 16 km from Kalimpong, is an important place for white water rafting. The rafting season is between mid-November to mid-February. The small village of Lava, located at 2,353 m above sea level and about 30 km east of Kalimpong, is an important place to visit. Kagyupa Gompa is located here.
The village of Kaffer, located at 1555 m above sea level, is beyond Lava and one can have magnificent view of the summit of Kanchenjunga from here. The Samco Ropeway across the Teesta River, on the main Siliguri. Gangtok road is an important attraction near Kalimpong. One has to take a bus for Siliguri from Kalimpong in order to visit this ropeway en route.
From Kalimpong it is possible to go to visit Phuntsholing across the Bhutanese border, without a visa.
WEATHER IN IN KALIMPONG:
The weather in Kalimpong is alpine. Summers (April-June) are mild and winters are cold (November-February). It experiences southwestern monsoon rains in July-September.
FAIR AND FESTIVALS IN IN KALIMPONG:
Kalimpong hosts an annual flower festival in the month of October.
SHOPPING IN KALIMPONG:
Markets in Kalimpong, which are open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, are good places for the souvenir hunter. Kalimpong offers a wide range of traditional handicrafts to the traveler. Woodcarvings, embroidered items, bags and purses with tapestry work, copperware, scrolls, Tibetan jewelry and artifacts can be picked up from the shops and markets across the town.
HOW TO REACH KALIMPONG:
Kalimpong is connected to all the major cities of India by Air, Rail and Road.
Air : The nearest airport is Bagdogra which is 80 kms from Kalimpong.
Rail: The nearest railway stations are Siliguri Junction & New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.
Road: Kalimpong is connected to Darjeeling, Siliguri and Gangtok by road through buses, jeeps and private taxis.