Kalimpong, a beautiful hill town in the north of Bengal, is situated in the Darjeeling district in the Indian state of West Bengal. Quiet, peaceful, and pleasant, Kalimpong is an ideal retreat for those who want to get away from the rush and toil of daily life. There are three stories attached to the name Kalimpong. According to one version, it takes its name from the Bhutanese king’s minister’s stronghold, another explanation is that it means ‘the ridge where we play’- the place where the local tribesmen gathered and organized traditional tribal games, and the third view is that Kalimpong is named after Kaulim, a fibrous plant found abundantly in this region. Part of the kingdom of Sikkim till the 18th century, Kalimpong was then taken over by Bhutan and was annexed by the British in 1865 and merged into the present state of West Bengal, India. Located in the foothills of Himalayas, at an altitude of 1250m, this tranquil hill station borders the state of Sikkim, and is close to Darjeeling and Gangtok. Kalimpong has a multicultural population comprising Nepalese, Bhutanese, Bengalis and Tibetans.
There are many places to interest the tourists in Kalimpong, apart from its natural beauty. There are three important gompas or Buddhist monasteries which are renowned. Tharpa Choling Monastery, which belongs to the gelukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhists, headed by the Dalai Lama is renowned for its huge library of Buddhist manuscripts. The 17th century Thongsha Gompa, a Bhutanese monastery is the oldest in Kalimpong. 5 km from the town is Zong Dog Parli Fo Brang monastery which has very impressive wall paintings and offers a panoramic view of the town. The Lepcha Museum, located in Bag Dhara houses manuscripts and valuable artifacts of the Lepchas. Besides these monasteries, there are other places of interest like Dr. Graham’s Homes, sprawling over 500 acres on the Dealo Hill slopes. Established in 1900 to house and educate the inter-racial off-springs of British tea planters, it is now a public school open to all. Durpin Dara Hill, the highest point in Kalimpong is famous for the breathtakingly enchanting views of the Kanchenjunga peak, the town and the surrounding tea estates. Kalimpong is world famous for its plant nurseries and flowers.80% of India’s cultivation of gladioli is in Kalimpong. Some of the nurseries famous for the export of exotic flowers like roses, orchids, and gladioli are Brindaban Garden Nursery, L.B. Pradhan Nursery, and Pinewood Nursery to name a few. Kalimpong hosts an annual flower festival in October.
Raja Dorgi Market or the Kalimpong Haat Bazaar is a bustling place best explored on foot. This is the traditional rural market where villagers from nearby areas come to sell their wares and set up temporary stalls. This bazaar is a shoppers delight with the wares ranging from Buddhist Thankas, Bhutanese weaves, Chinese lamps and Lepcha daggers just to name a few.
Kalimpong has a well laid out golf course near the Durpin Dara monastery. The Sericulture Research Institute and the Nature Interpretation Centre are two places worth a visit. Kalimpong affords ample opportunities for trekking and walking in the tea estates, orchid gardens and soaking in the beauty of the surrounding mountains. Teesta Bazaar is 16 km away from the town of Kalimpong and is a good place for river rafting.
Kalimpong with its pleasant climate through out the year, extensive meadows covered with wild flowers, bubbling brooks, meandering rivulets and the mountains of Himalayas towering above is a travel destination not to be missed.