Kalimpong is a sleepy hill station in West Bengal, India. Located just 50 kilometers away from Darjeeling, this hilly town is a real delight. Famous for its panoramic views, Buddhist monasteries, Tibetan handicrafts, and a warm local community used to be an erstwhile Bhutanese territory. It is the original home of the Lepcha people and was a popular summer resort of India’s British colonial rulers. That is why Buddhist influence is quite strong here and the hills are dotted with many colonial buildings. Add to that heritage, deep green forests, lots of wildflowers, and less crowd, Kalimpong is perfect for slow traveling. So, if you are interested in a less popular hill station, then skip Darjeeling and go to Kalimpong. Find below a comprehensive travel guide to enjoy Kalimpong to the fullest.
Where is Kalimpong located
Kalimpong is located in the state of West Bengal in India. Sikkim lies adjacent to it and River Teesta River flows nearby. Situated at an altitude of 1250 m above sea level, Kalimpong is 50 km from Darjeeling and 80 km from Gangtok.
How to reach Kalimpong
Kalimpong is well connected by road, train, and flight with the rest of India. The nearest railhead is NJP (73 km and 2.5 hours by car). Bagdogra airport is the nearest airport and it is 75kms (2hours 45mins by car).
Private taxis of various sizes and shared vehicles like Sumo are available from Siliguri and NJP. Local buses are available from the Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminal in Siliguri on Hill Cart Road. Pre-paid taxi counters are available at Bagdogra airport and NJP railway station where you will get pre-paid taxis for Kalimpong. These taxi services are government controlled and regulated and have a fixed tariff. Make sure to ask for a proper receipt with mention of the taxi number issued to you. Prices vary depending on whether you select an ac or non-ac car along with the capacity of the vehicle. Some popular Siliguri taxi stands Kalimpong taxis include the ones near Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminal on Hill Cart Road, Darjeeling More, Vishal Cinema, etc.
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From Darjeeling and other places
Getting around in Kalimpong
In Kalimpong, shared jeeps are available from the bus stand area. Sikkim Nationalised Transport (SNT) buses, as well as many private buses, leave for Gangtok from the Kalimpong bus stand. GTA mini coaches ply between Kalimpong bus stand and Darjeeling. Reservations for the mini coaches can be made at Kalimpong Tours & Travels located at the motor stand.
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Travel from Kalimpong
Kalimpong is best suited for walking around by yourself. It has a few attractions which can be explored by foot, shared jeeps, and rented motorcycles. Kalimpong is also a very popular jump-off base for exploring Lava, Loleygaon, Rishyap, Pedong, and Riksum. Day trips by road are possible to these places, although at least an overnight stay is advisable. Shared Jeeps are available between Kalimpong and various other places including Gangtok, Lava, Loleygaon, etc. These usually ply between 7 am and 3 pm. The road condition between Kalimpong and Lava and Loleygaon are quite bad. Larger vehicles like Tata Sumo or Scorpio are advisable for such terrain. The same applies to the road from Lava to Rishyap.
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Distances between Kalimpong and other destinations
Pedong: 20kms (1 hour)
Best time to Visit
Kalimpong summers are mild and are followed by the monsoon rains between June and September. Winter lasts from December to February. Spring (March and April) are quite pleasant and prior reservation is advised. The summer months are the peak of the tourist season in Kalimpong. This lasts from May to June and Kalimpong gets very crowded. Tourism sometimes halts during the monsoon months of July, August, and September because of landslides and blocked routes. July is the wettest month and best avoided. Tourism in Kalimpong again starts picking up from the months of October and November, with the cooler winter months of December, January, and February offering great discounts and bargains.
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Where to Stay in Kalimpong
Kalimpong has plenty of hotels, guesthouses, and homestays. These cater to all tastes and budgets. We stayed at the excellent Roots, Shoots, and Beds homestay. It was one of our Kalimpong trip highlights. Alternatively, you can choose to stay at either of the heritage accommodations of Morgan House and Deolo Tourist Lodge. These can be booked online at the West Bengal Tourism website. Government-run tourist lodges, Morgan House and Deolo tourist lodge can be booked online from West Bengal Tourism site.
Kalimpong Sights and Places of Interest
The places of interest in Kalimpong are Deolo Hill, Durpin Dara, Zang Dhok Palri Phodang Monastery, Dr. Graham’s Homes, and the Morgan House. Nature lovers should visit the beautiful flower and cacti nurseries of Kalimpong. Adventure lovers can opt for some wildlife watching at Neora Valley National Park. The surrounding forests of Kalimpong are home to endangered species like the Red Panda, Himalayan Tahr, and barking deer. Bird watching is a very popular activity there and the Himalayan woodpecker, flycatchers, pheasants, warblers, etc are commonly spotted here. The hills of Kalimpong are hiker’s paradise and it is possible to trek all the way to Pedong. The hike from Lava to Rishop is also very pretty. Other activities which can be done at Kalimpong are paragliding, white-water river rafting, golfing, and fishing. One can book an adventure tour or a guide through your accommodation or from any of the tour operators in town.
Where to eat
Food in Kalimpong is an interesting mix of Nepali, Tibetan to Chinese delicacies. Do try the popular local snack of momo (steamed dumplings made up of pork, beef or vegetable cooked in a wrapping of flour and served with watery soup). Churpee is a local delicacy. It is a kind of hard cheese made from yak’s milk. Thukpa is a must try local dish. There are a large number of restaurants in Kalimpong which offer a wide variety of cuisines, ranging from Indian to continental to cater to the tourists. The Darjeeling tea is the most popular beverage in Kalimpong and the adventurous foodies should try the homemade pickle available in the market at Motor stand.
Shopping in Kalimpong
Kalimpong is not really a shopping destination and the limited options include buying Indo-Tibetan souvenirs like handicrafts, embroidered items, thangka paintings, ornaments, bags, and Buddhist artifacts. To support the local economy, you can shop for homemade pickles, preserves, and orchid bulbs. You can buy these at the local shops and nurseries.
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