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History of Kalimpong

Once the headquarters of a Bhutanese Governor, the word 'Kalim' means King's Minister and 'Pong' - the stronghold of the King's minister. It is also called 'Kalibong' or the black spur by the hill people. 'Kalipong' in local dialect stands for 'Kaulim' which is a fibrous plant which grows in abundance in this region. The meaning that has found the most favour is the Lepcha meaning of the name - 'ridge where we play'. It is said that these local tribesmen used to organise field sports while not engaged in agricultural pursuits - hence its name. Somewhat secluded and tucked away in the corner under the big Darjeeling umbrella, Kalimpong offers a quiet and relaxed holiday against the backdrop of Kanchenjunga.

Kalimpong was originally part of Bhutan. In 1865, after the Anglo-Bhutan War, it was merged with Darjeeling, and became a sub-division of Darjeeling in 1916, and developed as a hill station. It flourished as a wool trading centre with Tibet till 1950, when the Chinese took over Tibet. It continues to be part of Darjeeling District, and is now an attractive tourist and educational centre.

Fact File

Altitude 1,250-1,600 metres for the town area. Country side averages 1,600 metres. Maximum Rachela 3,152 metres.
Population Approximate 40,000. Main ethnic groups are Nepali, Bhutia and Lepcha.
Climate Summer : Mar to Jun 15°C -25°C. Sunny days, mild weather, flora in bloom. Monsoons : Jul to Aug. Drifting clouds, rain and lush green. Autumn & Winter : Sep to Feb 7°C -15°C. Blue skies, clear views of snow peaks, sunshine.
Rainfall Average Annual 2030 mm (80 inches)
Season All year round
Clothing Tropical in Summer with a light sweater and rainwear. Woolens in Autumn and Winter. Parka jacket for Jan-Feb.
Language English, Nepali, Hindi and Tibetan.

How to Get Kalimpong

By Air: Nearest Airport is Bagdogra (80 kms) 3 hours drive. Bagdogra is presently connected to New Delhi, Guwahati and Kolkata, by the different leading airlines of India.

By Rail: The nearest railheads are Siliguri 66 kms (Metre Gauge) and New Jalpaiguri 80 kms (Broad Gauge), which connect you to all parts of India. Two and Half hours drive.

By Road: 66 kms from Siliguri, 79 kms from Gangtok, 51 kms from Darjeeling. All reachable under 3 hours. Connections to Bhutan and Nepal.

Distance - Bagdogra Airport- 80 K.M. New Jalpaiguri Rly. Stn. - 80 km; Downtown Area 0.5 km; Darjeeling - 51 km; Gangtok - 79 km; Siliguri - 66 km.

From New Jalpaiguri, Bagdogra, Siliguri, Darjeeling and Gangtok share taxis and buses are available at regular intervals. Visitors can spend 3 to 4 days based in Kalimpong.

You do not need a special permit to visit Kalimpong, your normal visa to India is all that is required.

Things to Do

Local Tour: A full days Jeep tour covers all the sights. These can also be enjoyed over two days of walking. Inner Town & Bazar exploration.

River Rafting: In the Teesta takes a full day.

Samco Ropeway Excursion: A full days Ropeway crossing, nature walk and river pool swim and picnic.

Flower Nursery Tour: Visiting selected Nurseries takes a day or two, depending on whether you drive or walk.

Kalimpong Places of Interest - Around Town

Panoramic snow views: Kanchenjunga, Siniolchu, Paunhari, Lama Anden, Chola, Nathu La, Jalep La and Gymochen peaks. Best view points are Durpin Dara and Deolo Hill.


Thongsha Gumpa: Oldest Gumpa built during the Bhutanese period, in 1630.


Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Monastery: Consecrated personally by the Dalai Lama in 1976, it contains the Kanguyar, in 108 volumes, brought by the Dalai Lama when he fled Tibet. Excellent view point for snow and valley views.


Tharpa Choling Monastery: Belongs to the Gelukpa sect. Built in 1937.


Nature Interpretation Centre: Operated by the Forest Department, focuses on flora, fauna and local people interacting with ecology.


Colonial Bungalows: Built by British wool traders during the "Raj" period, located on Rinkingpong and Hill Top Roads. These include Surya Sadan, Crockety, Galingka, Morgan House, Tashiding, Ringking Farm. Of these, Morgan House and Tashiding, now Government Tourist Lodges, can be viewed.


Army Golf Club: Hewn out of a hillside, to keep officers fit for high altitude soldiering. Excellent angle for photography of Durpin Monastery from 3rd Green.


St.Theresa Church: Built by local craftsmen to resemble a Gumpa, it has wood carvings adorning the walls, depicting biblical scenes, in which personalities resemble Buddhist monks. An interesting example of Tibetan influences.


Flower, orchid and exotic flora nurseries: Gladioli, orchids, cacti, amaryllis, anthuriums, roses, gerberas, dahlias and other exotic plants are grown in a number of flower nurseries in Kalimpong, mainly for export.


Mangal Dhaam: This recently constructed place of worship is a marvellous piece of architecture. The temple has been built in the memory of the late Guru Shree 108 Mangal Dasji. The samadhi of the Guruji is located within the temple


Dr. Graham's Homes Campus: Started in 1900, by Rev Dr. John Anderson Graham as an institution to house and educate offspring of British planters and local women, it is now a public School. Of interest are original buildings and chapel. The School celebrates its Centenary Year in 2000, with most functions focussed around 24th September.


DR. 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.


Deolo View Point: Atop Deolo Hill at 1914 metres. Excellent views of snow peaks, Kalimpong town and the Teesta Valley.


Kalimpong Bazar: Best explored walking. Shop for Buddhist Tankhas, hand beaten silver, Bhutanese weaves, Chinese lanterns, copperware, hand stitched clothing, local cheddar-type cheese and lollypops.


Entrance Fee: Rs. 5/- FLOWER NURSERIES: Kalimpong is famous for its nurseries which export exotic flowers like Amaryllis LiLies, Anthuriums, Roses, Gerbera, dahlias, gladiolas as well as Orchids and Cacti. Some important nurseries are : Brindaban Garden Nursery, Ganesh Mani Pradhan Nursery, L.B. Pradhan Nursery, Pinewood Nursery, Standard Nursery, Shangrila Garden Nursery, Twin Brothers Nursery, Universal Nursery and others.



Pedong: A small town 24 kms from Kalimpong, it has a monastery built in 1837, of Bhutanese origin.

Lava: 34 kms away, hidden in mists and clouds, at an altitude of 2,350 Metres, this small village, on the old trade route to Bhutan, is surrounded by virgin pine forests. It has a lovely monastery of Bhutanese origin and a Nature Interpretation Centre. Popular for nature exploration and bird watching. It is also the starting point for trekking to the Neora National Park, which is a storehouse of flora, wildlife and leads to the 3,152 metre high RacheLa tri-junction of Bhutan, Sikkim and West Bengal, with a panoramic view of the Chola Range.

Lolegaon: Also called Kapher, is 25 kms from Lava, along a lovely forest drive. It has a heritage forest and a view point for snow ranges of Singalila Range.

Samthar Plateau: Scenic and remote plateau, at an elevation of 1,400 metres, it is 80 kms from Kalimpong, and 45 kms from Lava. It has breathtaking snow views of the entire range, superb sunrise and sunset, picture post card hamlets, exotic flora, forests, mountain streams, river pools "far from the maddening crowds". Popular for nature holidays, walking tours, angling, mountain biking and nature and cultural explorations on foot.

Samco Ropeway: 20 kms from Kalimpong on the highway to Siliguri, this ropeway was constructed by Christian missionaries to spread the gospel. Spanning the Teesta and Relli Rivers over 1 1/2 kms, it is a thrilling ride over 120 feet over the river with unforgettable views. It provides a second access to Samthar Plateau, and for Forest exploration, and visit to ethnic villages.

Teesta Valley: The main drainage of Sikkim, Kalimpong and Darjeeling region, it is only 14 kms from Kalimpong. It provides nature walks and river rafting, from base at Chitrey, near Teesta Bazar.

Things to do: Pedong & Lava/Loleygaon: A 2 to 3 days holiday to live with nature, walk through the forests, relax, and see the sunrise on the Chola Range.

Neora National Park: A 4 day trek through forests and exotic flora of the National Park, climbing up to the 3,152 metre high RacheLa tri-junction, to view the Chola Range, followed by a nature and culture exploration of the Rishi Valley, remote waterfalls, is an experience to remember.

Samthar Plateau: 3 to 4 days Nature holiday, offers options of easy walks, treks to hidden valleys, fun and frolic at river pools and cascades, exploration of forests, village lifestyles, bird and butterfly watching, meeting people, song and dance, or just relaxation. Can be enjoyed by jeep, riding mountain bike or by trekking.