Set in beautiful wooded mountain scenery with an unhurried air about it, Kalimpong was a meeting point of the once 'Three Closed Lands' on the trade route to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. Away from the crowded and scruffy centre near the motor stand, the town becomes more spaced out as mountain roads wind up the hillsides leading to monasteries, mission schools and orchid nurseries. Some say that the name is derived from pong (stronghold) of kalon (king's minister), or from kalibong, a plant fibre.
From Darjeeling, the 51-km journey (2½ hours) is through beautiful scenery. The road winds down through tea estates and then descends to 250 m at Tista where it crosses the river on a 'new' concrete bridge. 'Lovers' Meet' and 'View Point' give superb views of the Rangit and Tista rivers.
at the 10th Mile has a great atmosphere. The
here every Wednesday and Saturday draws colourful villagers who come to sell fruit, unfamiliar vegetables, traditional medicines, woollen cloth, yarn and much more. It is remarkably clean and laid back, a delight to explore. Unusual merchandise includes: curly young fern tops, bamboo shoots, dried mushrooms, fragrant spices, musk,
paraphernalia, large chunks of brown soap, and tiny chickens in baskets alongside gaudy posters.
There a number of monasteries in and around Kalimpong; the oldest of which,
Thongsa Gompa Bhutanese monastery
(1692), 10th Mile, has been renovated. The
(1922) has a library of Tibetan manuscripts and
. Further north, is the
(Yellow Hat) at Tirpai.
, was started by the missionary Doctor John Anderson Graham in 1900 when he admitted six needy children. Now there are 1300 pupils. The
Pedong Bhutanese monastery
(1837) near the old Bhutanese Damsang Fort at Algara (15 km from Kalimpong) holds ceremonial dances every February. South of town, at Durpin Dara, the highest point in Kalimpong with superb views, stands the
of Zang Dog Palri Phodrang. Unique outside Tibet, it has a school of Tibetan Medicine and is particularly interesting when prayers are being chanted.
Kalimpong excels in producing orchids, amaryllis, roses, cacti, dahlias and gladioli.
on 12th Mile;
on 8th Mile;
on BL Dikshit Road; and
on East Main Road.
There are pleasant hikes along Tista Road and through rice fields to
(9 km), and a 1½-hour downhill walk from the motor stand to the Relli River. Scenic two-three hour treks leave from
(32 km east; monastery and weekly market on Tuesday), and
(56 km east), which has spectacular views of Kangchendzonga; both villages have a good choice of accommodation. You can picnic on the river beaches at Tista Bazar and Kalijhora.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF