A trip to Pedong & surrounding areas
Pedong is a small sleepy village located 22kms north east of Kalimpong at an altitude of 3970ft and on the lap of sloping Damsang Fort ridge. It takes about 1 hour by car from Kalimpong to reach Pedong. You can easily make a day trip from Kalimpong along with visits to an old historic fort (Damsang Fort), heritage sites and several lovely view points & villages in surrounding areas.
For a day trip from Kalimpong, you should either have a reserved car or book a taxi from the market taxi stand. Start in the morning and first drive to the ruins of Damsang Fort which was built in 1690 by the Lepchas. In about half an hour, the jeep will take you close to the fort and then you will need to walk for about 15 minutes through forest of rhododendrons and many different native trees to reach the Damsang fort. This is the only fort in the whole of Darjeeling district.
The last Lepcha king Gyabo Achyok used to run his kingdom from this fort. Although the fort was mainly meant to defend attacks from the Bhutanese, the Lepchas eventually lost and had to hand over the fort to Bhutanese. The fort was later used to defend attacks from British East India Company.
Following the Anglo-Bhutan war in 1864, the fort was taken over by the British. However the fort was no longer in use and over time resulted in the ruins that you see now.
The local Lepcha community has formed an association to preserve the ruins and do necessary renovation of the fort. Every year the Lepcha community here celebrates the birth anniversary of the King at the fort in December. The popular fair 'Chaitey Mela' is also held over 3 days every year within the premises of the fort during Ram Navami (April).
Having seen the ruins of the fort and recollecting the history behind it, you will walk back to your jeep and proceed for Rikisum, a wonderful view point which falls on the route to Lava and is about 20kms from Kalimpong. It's located at an altitude of about 6,000ft. You get awesome views of Himalayan range from Rikisum including the snow peaks Kanchenjunga.
You will also see a half burnt old British bungalow here built in 1902 and several villages that have no names. Rikisum is a great picnic spot as well.
Next visit Pedong. Pedong in Bhutia means 'place full of fir trees'. Pedong's cultural heritage started when Kalimpong subdivision, now a district (in which Pedong belongs) was integrated with British Sikkim in the 2nd half of 1800s. Large number of Nepalese immigrated to Pedong, while Lepchas and Bhuitas were already existing. As a result a fusion of culture started taking place here. Although all communities still have their own distinctive traits, their lifestyle, traditions, customs and even food habits have transformed over time. They all speak Nepali though.
A narrow road from the highway winds down to the Pedond bazaar at the lower level and ends at a large open field. This is where the famous agricultural fair (Pedong Mela) is held annually in the last week of February. During the week of the fair the whole of Pedong swings into life. Villagers from the surrounding hills come and sell their farming produces and handmade products, numerous food stalls are set up offering all kinds of local food. Pedong Agricultural Fair also draws large number of visitors and tourists.
So what to see in Pedong? There is an old Bhutanese monastery here which was built in 1706 known as Sangchen Dorjee Gompa. It follows the Drukpa Khargu order of Buddhism and is an important place of pilgrimage for many Bhutanese followers. Inside the monastery, you will see many paintings on the wall depicting Tantric Buddhism.
It is at this monastery where the famous religious & cultural dance program 'Chaam', popularly known as 'Gumpa Dance' is held every year in honor of Guru Rimpoche Padma Shambhava. Pedong is one of the very few places where such Gumpa Dance is held more like a festival over three days on the 10th day of the 2nd month of Tibetan calendar. The festival attracts large gatherings from the local communities, particularly the Buddhist community.
After lunch take a leisure walk to Cross Hill. You will see a cross here and hence the name. In 1882, a French missionary Father Augustine Desgodins erected the cross here which faces Tibet. Many missionaries who went to Tibet around that time did not return. In their memories, Desgodins placed the cross here with the hope that one day they would return from Tibet. You can see Tibet from here. The views of the mountains ahead is wonderful and so is the sunset.
Father Desgodins also established the first Catholic mission in Pedong and a chapel. The Chapel still stands and the mission is still active here. Pedong also has a famous Christian missionary boarding school - St. George's Higher Secondary School.
Pedong Chapel at the far end
Next visit a nearby village called Kashyong and see an old traditional Lepcha house. You can then visit Tinchuley View Point. You get sweeping views of Kanchenjunga peaks as well as the valley below, Jelepla pass, Nathula and also Sikkim hills. Another wonderful view point is Ramitay. From here you can see the river Teesta meandering through the valley below and also the towering Kanchenjunga.
If you have time, visit the nearby Sillery Gaon
, a small sleepy hamlet almost hidden on one side of a mountain slope. It's located at an altitude of 6,000ft at a distance of about 8kms from Pedong and surrounded by pine forest. This small little mountain village with only handful villagers & their families, offers stunning views of Kanchenjunga and the river Teesta meandering through the valley. You get the view of longest stretch of Teesta from Sillery Gaon.
While farming remains the main livelihood of the villagers, they have also started participating in eco-tourism and introduced nice home stays for tourists. The rooms are basic but clean. There is no permanent electricity here, however the villagers provide lanterns and even generators.
While returning, stop at Algarah and walk up to Jhandi Dara (6,800ft) - a great view point to get a panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range including Kanchenjunga. This is also a famous sunrise and sunset point.
From NJP or Bagdogra you can take a reserved taxi to reach Pedong via Kalimpong. It would take about 3 hours. Small reserved taxi fare would be about Rs. 2,500/- (Fare updated: January 2018).
Shared taxis are available from Siliguri taxi stand up to Kalimpong. From there you can take another shared taxi to Pedong (the service is not frequent though).
Pedong Stay Information
A good budget place to stay at Pedong is Damsang Guest House which is the oldest in Pedong and family run. It is nestled in a quiet area with a nice lush garden at the back side. The guesthouse has 8 rooms that includes nice cottage style rooms as well. Some of the new rooms upstairs are fully wood paneled, have flat TV, attached bath with geysers etc. The guesthouse offers free wi-fi.
Meals are of Bengali style and served in the dining room. There is a museum at the basement (Maya Museum) showcasing old culture and heritage of the area. There are two Kanchenjung view points within walking distance. Email: [email protected]
; Mobile: 7602534734 / 9933390727.
Srijonee Choudhury (April 2017)
Hi Raj, I want to go to Pedong from Kalimpong..and cover the above mentioned places near Pedong... I don't want to stay in Pedong for a night and want to return on the same day to Kalimpong. Is that possible??
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2017
Yes, day trip from Kalimpong to Pedong and surrounding areas is quite doable. You need to hire a car for the day and work out the cost with the driver depending on what you want to cover.