Everything You Need To Know
Kalimpong was earlier a subdivision of Darjeeling district, but now a separate district of West Bengal effective 14th Feb 2017 with an area of 1,056 square kilometers and inhabiting 49,403 people (as per 2011 census). Kalimpong town itself is small, located about 2.5 hours drive from both Darjeeling and Siliguri. But the town and its surrounding areas offer immense opportunities for tourism.
Kalim in local dialect means King's Minister and Pong means Stronghold. So the name Kalimpong actually means Stronghold of King's Minister and has originated from the time of king's dynasty in the region. Some say that the name has been derived from the word Kalibong (locals call it Kaulim). It's a type of fiber plant used for making paper. This plant is found in abundance in Kalimpong.
Kalimpong is located at an altitude of 4,100ft. Because of its relatively lower altitude compared to Darjeeling or Gangtok, the weather is milder and pleasant for most part of the year. And therefore it suits all tourists who are looking for such pleasant weather combined with magnificent views of Kanchenjunga and other Himalayan snow peaks, sweeping landscapes and lush greenery.
Kalimpong was once under that dynasty of the King of Bhutan. However they had to hand over the administration to the British on December 6, 1864. Since then the British flocked to this part of the country in numbers, built great schools with high standard of education (which Kalimpong is still well known for), created lovely housing architectures in traditional British style that will remind you of typical British countryside, built several charity institutions and of course many flowering gardens. While the British have long gone, you will still get an essence of all these in Kalimpong.
In 1866 Kalimpong was made a part of Darjeeling district. When the British had taken over Kalimpong, many Nepalese migrated to Kalimpong in search of livelihood. Lepchas, the original inhabitants of the place also flourished. Many Indians from the lower plains settled here for business. And slowly Kalimpong became a hub of trading center with Tibet. Mules & caravans would wend down from the Tibet plateau and trade wool here in exchange of manufactured goods. However the trade with Tibet ceased to operate in mid 1960s when Tibet was taken over by China.
But by then Kalimpong had already become a melting pot of diverse cultures and traditions from Lepchas, Nepalese (also known as Gorkhas), British, Indians, Tibetans and even Sikkimese. And you will find all its reflections in the local food & beverages, house architectures, language, and many other cultural dimensions. Today Kalimpong is well known for its stunning mountain views, great hill walks, bird watching, and wonderful scenic drives.
The towering Delo Hills is located in the north of Kalimpong. The reservoir here is the main source of water supply to the town of Kalimpong. On the south is the Durpin dara hills and at the center of the town is the main Kalimpong Market Square (Bazaar).
Kalimpong Market Square
Straight ahead is Rishi Road
The Rishi Road from the square goes north having numerous Bhutia & Tibetan shops and many restaurants & eateries on both sides. This is where the main taxi stand of Kalimpong is also located. You will get ample taxis for sightseeing & tours.
So what can you expect in Kalimpong?
Although Kalimpong town itself is a bit congested, but the vast district is full of greenery, forested land and terraced fields where rice, corn, millet and seasonal vegetables are cultivated. The place is also well known for growing quality spices like cardamom, ginger, turmeric etc.
As you drive around the hills, you will find numerous flowering plantations, ferns and mosses. Just to give you an idea, there are over 4,000 species of flowering plants in Kalimpong district including over 400 types of orchids. Other than tourism, a major driver of economy here is Floriculture - there are numerous flower nurseries here that cater to both export and domestic markets. Some of the flowering plants grown in the nurseries include Cacti & Succulents, Orchids of different types, house plant & bulbs etc. You will see year-round flower shows in some nurseries here.
Kalimpong is an excellent location to base your vacation in North Bengal. Several great tourist destinations like Lava, Loleygaon, Rishyap, Charkhole, Pedong and Rikkisum are part of Kalimpong district and well connected by road. You can easily make day trips to these places. In fact you can also make day trips to places like Darjeeling, Mirik, Kurseong and even Gangtok. And in case you plan to make onward holiday trips to any of these places, Kalimpong can be an excellent starting point.
How to reach Kalimpong - Transport & Fares
The nearest railway junction is NJP (New Jalpaiguri) and the airport is Bagdogra. From Darjeeling it takes about 2.5 hours (55kms) to reach Kalimpong by car via Peshoke Road. From Siliguri it takes about 2.5 hours (65kms) via Teesta Bridge. From NJP & Bagdogra it takes between 2.5 to 3 hours by road via Teesta.... More info about how to reach Kalimpong...
Tourist Sites & Activities
There are numerous view points to get lovely sight of the Kanchenjunga snow peaks, historic monasteries, temples, tourist complexes, heritage buildings, parks, flower nurseries, heritage schools, charitable institutes, one of the most scenic golf course in the country which is administered by the Indian army and more.
There are standard local packaged tours available. Take a taxi from the market stand and get set for local sightseeing tours. You can plan east Kalimpong in about 4 hours and west Kalimpong in another 4 hours. On other days make day trips to some lovely places like Lava, Loleygaon, the new Nok-dara boating complex (about 40kms away), the quaint village Pedong... enjoy the drive and see the attractions & view points around those places.
Where to stay in Kalimpong
Kalimpong offers a wide range of accommodations. There are several heritage hotels and lodges, all inclusive tourist complexes, luxury hotels & resorts, as well as budget hotels, homestays and guesthouses. I have reviewed a select set of such hotels on this page
You can also use the search box below to find all the good hotels in Kalimpong. You can then sort the list by price, property type etc, go through the amenities, guest reviews & scores and book a hotel at attractive low rate. This service is provided by World's no.1 online hotel booking site.
Where to dine in Kalimpong
While most hotels have in-house restaurants and room services, the main market in Kalimpong has several mid-range and budget restaurants of different types including vegetarian food, Chinese and Indian food. More info about Kalimpong restaurants...
The main market area and shops are on Rishi road which is the main road leading from the tri-junction market square. You should also visit the Old Market (bazaar) at 10th mile which too is full of shops. The Old Bazaar used to be a very busy shopping center during the trading days with Tibet.
Destinations near Kalimpong
Lava & Lolegaon Tour & Stay
Lava and Loleygaon are two small and quaint mountain villages that are part of Kalimpong district. You can make a day trip or plan overnight stays. While Loleygaon is known for its sweeping view of Kanchenjunga snow peaks, Lava is surrounded by dense coniferous forests. Lava is also the place from where you can visit the Neora Valley National Park. In Loleygaon you can not miss the forest Canopy Walk and in Laval the wonderful Monastery & Tiffindara sunrise.
Visiting Neora Valley National Park
Great opportunity to explore a wide bio-diversity in the forest that comprises of hundreds of varieties of flowers, plantations, birds, butterflies and of course amazing animals rarely seen anywhere else. The national park is located about 44kms from Kalimpong and beyond Lava, and spreads across a forested land of 88 sq. kms on the mountains.
Rishyap - A small virgin hamlet
Rishyap is located at an altitude of 8,500ft and about 2 hours drive from Kalimpong. If you are a nature lover, this is where you will want to go. There is hardly any other place that offers 180 degree view of the Himalayan range on a vast stretch of continuous snow. Being part of Neora Valley, you will also see abundance of flora and fauna including forests of pine, birch and fir along with colorful orchids.
This is a small quaint hamlet with only handful of resident village families and located in one hour driving distance from Kalimpong. Other than abundance of greenery and welcoming village life, the place offers 180 degree view of Kanchenjunga and Himalayan range, as well as view of a long stretch of Teesta river. There are several picturesque spots that can be visited nearby including historic fort, view points and valleys. You can find several nice homestays here.
Pedong, Rikisum & Surrounding Areas
More lovely small hamlets around Kalimpong that are hardly visited by the tourists. But they all have their unique charms, lovely view points and of course wonderful people. It makes a great sense to make a day trip from Kalimpong and complete this circuit. You can also plan to stay overnight. There are homestays available in these places. More info...
Visit Zuluk and The Historic Silk Route
If you are looking for a remote place in the mountains seldom visited by tourists that offers wonderful views of the mountains, passes, lakes and valleys, and nice comfortable homestays where you can get to know the village life and have freshly cooked homemade food, then Zuluk is the place to choose.
Darjeeling & Kalimpong Itineraries
If you are planning a combined trip of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, then you are at the right place to plan your days, best use your time and see all the main attractions in both places.
Kalimpong Weather & Best Time to Visit
Kalimpong weather is pleasant & comfortable almost all through the year although you will certainly feel the chill during the winter (December - February). During monsoon the landscape and the forests becomes lush green which is a sight by itself.