Travel Guide to Kalimpong: Everything you need to know about this hill town

Welcome to the ultimate travel guide for Kalimpong - a magical hill town nestled in the Himalayan foothills, where every corner whispers tales of adventure and enchantment.

Just a stone's throw away from the renowned Darjeeling, Kalimpong stands tall at an altitude of 1200 meters, beckoning you to uncover its hidden treasures and bask in its serene beauty.

Lost in the Charm of Kalimpong: A Journey of Serenity and DiscoveryAs you stroll through the charming streets and verdant gardens, you'll feel the echoes of ancient trade routes and mule caravans that once traversed the rugged paths of the Sikkim-Tibet border.

Despite its tranquil demeanor, Kalimpong brims with vibrant energy, weaving together a tapestry of natural splendor and colonial allure.

Also read: Cherry Blossom in India: Witness the bloom in these places

So, dear traveler, prepare to lose yourself in the soul-stirring chants of the monastery, tantalize your taste buds with local delicacies, and embark on an adventure that promises to ignite your spirit of exploration.

Now, let's dive into the nitty-gritty of planning your journey to this enchanting paradise:

Getting There

By Air:

  • Touch down at Bagdogra Airport, your gateway to the wonders of Kalimpong. From there, hop on a taxi or bus for a scenic 3-4 hour drive to your destination.

By Rail:

  • All aboard the adventure train! Arrive at New Jalpaiguri (NJP) Railway Station and embark on a thrilling 3-4 hour ride through winding roads and breathtaking vistas to reach Kalimpong.

By Road:

  • Hit the road, Jack! Kalimpong is well-connected by road to nearby cities like Siliguri, Darjeeling, and Gangtok.

  • Whether you drive yourself or opt for a state-run bus or private taxi, the journey promises to be nothing short of spectacular.

Getting around:

1. Taxi Tales:

  • Hail a vibrant taxi and dive into the colorful narratives of Kalimpong's winding roads. Feel the wind in your hair as you traverse the town's picturesque lanes, guided by seasoned local drivers who double as storytellers.

2. Toto Trails:

  • Hop aboard a toto, where every ride promises an adventure through the town's vibrant alleyways. These quirky electric rickshaws offer a unique perspective of Kalimpong's sights and sounds, buzzing along its bustling thoroughfares with a hint of whimsy.

3. Bus Adventures:

  • Embark on a journey of discovery aboard the town's whimsical local buses, where each route unveils a new facet of Kalimpong's allure.

  • From the bustling main market to the tranquil hilltop monasteries, these colorful buses traverse every corner of the town, offering a glimpse into its vibrant tapestry of life.

4. Stroll Stories:

  • Wanderlust meets wonder as you wander through Kalimpong's enchanting streets on foot, unraveling tales whispered by the mountain breeze.

  • Meander past quaint shops, blooming gardens, and centuries-old architecture, immersing yourself in the rich tapestry of local life at every step.

5. Cycle Chronicles:

  • Pedal through picturesque landscapes and write your chapter in Kalimpong's storybook of exploration with bicycle rentals.

  • Feel the rhythm of the town as you glide along its winding paths, discovering hidden gems and panoramic vistas that await around every bend.

Best Time to Visit:

  • Mark your calendars, fellow travelers! The best time to experience the magic of Kalimpong is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) seasons, when the weather is just right for outdoor adventures and sightseeing.

  • Avoid the monsoon season (June to August) unless you're a fan of dancing in the rain!

Accommodations

Luxury:

  • The Elgin Silver Oaks: Dive into luxury at The Elgin Silver Oaks, where every moment is a pampering experience amidst the majestic Himalayan backdrop. Prices start from ₹10,000 per night.

  • Mayfair Himalayan Spa Resort: Rejuvenate your soul at Mayfair Himalayan Spa Resort, a tranquil oasis nestled amidst nature's embrace. Prices start from ₹8,000 per night.

  • Sinclairs Retreat Kalimpong: Treat yourself to a lavish stay at Sinclairs Retreat Kalimpong and immerse yourself in opulence and serenity. Prices start from ₹7,500 per night.

Mid-Range:

  • Himalayan Hotel: Find comfort and convenience at Himalayan Hotel, where cozy rooms and friendly service await. Prices start from ₹3,000 per night.

  • Hotel Garden Reach: Experience warmth and hospitality at Hotel Garden Reach, the perfect retreat for budget-conscious travelers. Prices start from ₹2,500 per night.

Budget-Friendly:

  • Silver Oaks Boutique Hotel: Enjoy affordability without compromising on comfort at Silver Oaks Boutique Hotel. Prices start from ₹1,500 per night.

  • Kalimpong Tourist Lodge: Dive into simplicity and convenience at Kalimpong Tourist Lodge, managed by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation. Prices start from ₹1,000 per night.

  • Relli Valley View: Escape the hustle and bustle at Relli Valley View and immerse yourself in nature's tranquility without breaking the bank. Prices start from ₹800 per night.

Places to visit:

1. Neora Valley National Park:

Red panda in Neora Valley National ParkEmbark on a thrilling wildlife expedition in the untouched wilderness of Neora Valley National Park.

Traverse through dense forests, alive with the sounds of exotic birds and the rustling of unseen creatures.

Keep your eyes peeled for rare Himalayan species such as the Red Panda and the elusive Snow Leopard as you explore the pristine trails amidst breathtaking mountain vistas.

  • Location: Neora Valley, approximately 32 kilometers from Kalimpong town.

  • Timing: Open from sunrise to sunset.

  • Duration: Plan for a full-day excursion to explore the park's trails and wildlife.

  • Price: Entry fee of ₹100 for Indian nationals and ₹200 for foreign tourists.

2. Cactus Nursery:

Kalimpong Cactus Nursery, a paradise for succulent enthusiastsStep into a world of botanical wonder at Kalimpong Cactus Nursery, a paradise for succulent enthusiasts.

Wander through rows of fascinating cacti, marveling at their diverse shapes, sizes, and vibrant colors.

Discover the resilience of these desert plants and their ability to thrive in the Himalayan climate, making each specimen a unique testament to nature's creativity.

  • Location: Upper Cart Road, Kalimpong.

  • Timing: Open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

  • Duration: Spend around 1-2 hours exploring the diverse collection of cacti.

  • Price: Free admission; optional donations are appreciated.

3. Tharpa Choling Monastery:

Tharpa Choling MonasterySeek inner peace and spiritual enlightenment at Tharpa Choling Monastery, a serene sanctuary nestled amidst lush greenery.

Admire the intricate architecture, adorned with intricate carvings and colorful murals depicting Buddhist teachings.

Breathe in the tranquility of the surroundings as you listen to the soothing chants of monks, transporting you to a realm of profound calm and introspection.

  • Location: Kalimpong, near Durpin Monastery.

  • Timing: Open from early morning to evening.

  • Duration: Allocate 1-2 hours to explore the monastery and soak in the peaceful ambiance.

  • Price: Entry is free; donations are welcome for maintenance and upkeep.

4. Science City:

Science City KalimpongEmbark on a fascinating journey of discovery at Science City, an interactive museum where science comes to life.

Engage your mind with hands-on exhibits exploring diverse scientific principles, from the mysteries of space to the wonders of the natural world.

Delight in thrilling demonstrations and immersive planetarium shows, igniting your curiosity and sparking a lifelong passion for learning.

  • Location: Science City Road, Deolo, Kalimpong.

  • Timing: Open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM; closed on Mondays.

  • Duration: Plan for 2-3 hours to fully enjoy the interactive exhibits and shows.

  • Price: Admission fee of ₹50 for adults and ₹25 for children.

5. Mangal Dham Temple:

Mangal Dham TempleImmerse yourself in the divine aura of Mangal Dham Temple, a magnificent architectural masterpiece dedicated to Hindu deities.

Marvel at the intricate craftsmanship displayed in the ornate carvings and sculptures adorning the temple complex.

Experience a sense of spiritual transcendence as you participate in rituals and prayers, enveloped in the serene ambiance of this sacred sanctuary.

  • Location: Mangal Dham Road, Kalimpong.

  • Timing: Open from early morning to evening for visitors.

  • Duration: Spend around 1-2 hours admiring the temple's architecture and serene surroundings.

  • Price: Free entry for all visitors; donations are appreciated.

6. Samthar Plateau:

Samthar PlateauEmbark on a soul-stirring journey to Samthar Plateau, a hidden gem offering panoramic views of the majestic Himalayas.

Traverse through picturesque terraced fields, where the rhythm of rural life unfolds amidst breathtaking natural beauty.

Encounter warm hospitality in charming villages, where locals welcome you with open arms and share tales of their timeless way of life.

  • Location: Samthar Plateau, around 25 kilometers from Kalimpong.

  • Timing: Best visited during daylight hours.

  • Duration: Plan for a half-day trip to explore the plateau and nearby villages.

  • Price: No entry fee; costs may vary for guided tours or transportation.

Things to Do:

Buckle up, adventurers! It's time to explore the wonders of Kalimpong:

Adventure Activities:

1. Trekking:

Trekking in KalimpongEmbark on a journey through the heart of nature as you trek through the enchanting trails of Neora Valley National Park or the rugged terrain of Samthar Plateau. Feel the adrenaline rush and witness the beauty of untouched landscapes.

  • Location: Various trekking routes, including Neora Valley National Park or Samthar Plateau.

  • Timing: Trails are open throughout the day.

  • Duration: varies depending on the trek chosen.

  • Price: Prices vary depending on the trekking company and route.

2. River Rafting:

River Rafting in KalimpongBrace yourself for an adrenaline-pumping adventure as you navigate the thrilling rapids of the Teesta River. Hear the roar of the waters, feel the rush of excitement, and witness the breathtaking scenery that surrounds you on this unforgettable rafting expedition.

  • Location: Teesta River.

  • Timing: Rafting trips usually start in the morning and continue until late afternoon.

  • Duration: Typically lasts for 2–3 hours, depending on the chosen stretch of the river.

  • Price: Prices range from ₹1,500 to ₹3,000 per person.

Cultural Experiences:

1. Visit Monasteries:

Durpin Monastery in KalimpongStep into a world of tranquility and spirituality as you explore ancient monasteries like Durpin Monastery and Tharpa Choling Monastery. Lose yourself in the serenity of these sacred spaces, adorned with intricate artwork and imbued with the essence of Tibetan and Buddhist culture.

  • Location: Durpin Monastery, Tharpa Choling Monastery, etc.

  • Timing: Monasteries are usually open from early morning to late afternoon.

  • Duration: Spend around 1-2 hours exploring each monastery.

  • Price: Entry to most monasteries is free, but donations are appreciated.

2. Kalimpong Arts and Crafts Centre:

Kalimpong Arts and Crafts CentreImmerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of local culture at the Kalimpong Arts and Crafts Center. Watch in awe as skilled artisans weave their magic, creating exquisite handicrafts, artwork, and souvenirs that capture the essence of Kalimpong's rich heritage.

  • Location: Kalimpong Arts and Crafts Centre, Rishi Road.

  • Timing: Open from morning to evening, closed on Sundays.

  • Duration: Spend 1-2 hours exploring the center and shopping for souvenirs.

  • Price: Prices for handicrafts and souvenirs vary depending on the item.

Sightseeing:

1. Deolo Hill:

Deolo Hill, KalimpongAscend to the summit of Deolo Hill and behold the awe-inspiring panorama of the Himalayas and the verdant valleys below. Take a moment to soak in the beauty of nature's masterpiece, perhaps even taking flight on a thrilling paragliding adventure.

  • Location: Deolo Hill, Kalimpong.

  • Timing: Open throughout the day.

  • Duration: Spend 1-2 hours enjoying the panoramic views and engaging in activities like paragliding.

  • Price: Paragliding prices start from ₹2,000 per person.

2. Pine View Nursery:

Pine View NurseryLose yourself in the tranquil oasis of Pine View Nursery, a botanical paradise renowned for its diverse collection of rare plants and exotic blooms. Wander through winding pathways, breathe in the fragrant air, and marvel at the wonders of nature's canvas.

  • Location: Pine View Nursery, Kalimpong.

  • Timing: Open from morning to evening.

  • Duration: Spend around 1 hour exploring the nursery.

  • Price: Entry is usually free, but donations are welcome.

Nature Exploration:

1. Garden Visits:

Neora Valley National Park, KalimpongEmbark on a sensory journey through Kalimpong's lush gardens and parks, such as the enchanting Kalimpong Cactus Nursery and the pristine Neora Valley National Park. Discover a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, and fragrances; each garden is a testament to the beauty of Mother Nature.

  • Location: Kalimpong Cactus Nursery, Neora Valley National Park, etc.

  • Timing: Open during daylight hours.

  • Duration: Varies depending on the garden visited, typically 1-2 hours.

  • Price: Entry fees, if any, vary by location.

2. Bird Watching:

Bird Watching in KalimpongSet out on a quest to spot the myriad avian species that call Kalimpong home. From the panoramic vistas of Durpin Dara to the serene landscapes of Samthar Plateau, let the melodious songs and vibrant plumage of Himalayan and migratory birds enchant your senses.

  • Location: Durpin Dara, Samthar Plateau, etc.

  • Timing: The best time for bird watching is early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

  • Duration: Spend 1-2 hours observing the birdlife.

  • Price: Bird-watching tours may be available at varying prices depending on the guide and location.

Local Foods to Try:

Now, let's talk about everyone's favorite topic - food! Kalimpong is a paradise for foodies, offering a delightful array of local delicacies that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.

1. Momos:

MomosDive into the flavorful world of momos at Taste of Tibet. From classic steamed to crispy fried, these delectable dumplings are served piping hot with a side of spicy dipping sauce, enticing your taste buds with every bite.

  • Price: ₹60 for a plate of momos.

2. Thukpa:

ThukpaHead to Hotel Shikhar for a bowl of soul-warming thukpa. With a backdrop of breathtaking hills, indulge in this hearty noodle soup packed with vegetables, meat, or seafood, seasoned to perfection with aromatic spices.

  • Price: ₹100 per bowl.

3. Alu Phing:

Alu Phing in KalimpongDiscover a culinary gem at Holumba Haven with their Alu Phing. Made with glass noodles, potatoes, and a spicy sauce, this dish bursts with flavor and texture, captivating both locals and tourists alike.

  • Price: ₹150 for a serving.

4. Sel Roti:

Sel RotiTreat yourself to a crispy delight at Himalayan Hut with their Sel Roti. Made from rice flour and sugar, these golden-fried treats are a beloved Nepali snack, offering a delightful crunch with every bite.

  • Price: ₹40 each.

5. Gundruk:

Gundruk - Fermented leafy green vegetable dishImmerse yourself in authentic flavors at Rikisum with their Gundruk. This fermented leafy green vegetable dish, rich in probiotics, offers a tangy taste that pairs perfectly with steamed rice for a comforting and nutritious meal.

  • Price: ₹80 per serving.

6. Churpee:

ChurpeeSample the essence of Himalayan cheese at Taste of Tibet with their Churpee. Whether enjoyed as a snack or grated over dishes for added flavor, this traditional delicacy is a must-try for cheese enthusiasts.

  • Price: ₹120 for a portion.

7. Sha Phaley:

Sha PhaleyDelight your senses at Himalayan Hut with their Sha Phaley. Crispy on the outside and flavorful on the inside, this deep-fried bread stuffed with seasoned meat or vegetables is a satisfying snack or light meal option.

  • Price: ₹90 for a plate.

9. Chhang:

 Chhang, a traditional fermented rice or millet beerQuench your thirst and immerse yourself in local culture at Holumba Haven with their Chhang. This traditional fermented rice or millet beer is a staple beverage enjoyed by locals during festivals and social gatherings, offering a light and refreshing taste.

  • Price: ₹70 per glass.

Local Souvenirs to Buy

No trip is complete without some souvenirs to cherish those unforgettable memories. Here are some must-buy items to take home from your Kalimpong adventure:

1. Himalayan Handicrafts Galore:

Himalayan HandicraftsDive into the bustling markets of Kalimpong, where you'll discover an array of Himalayan handicrafts that will make your heart skip a beat!

From intricately carved wooden artifacts to vibrantly woven textiles, there's something to suit every taste and style.

  • Location: Explore the vibrant markets of Kalimpong, particularly the bustling stalls along Rishi Road and the Main Market Area.

  • Price: Prices vary depending on the item, but expect to pay around ₹300 to ₹1000 for handcrafted items like wooden artifacts or woven textiles.

2. Thangka Treasure Trove:

Thangka paintingsGet ready to be mesmerized by the enchanting Thangka paintings adorning the walls of local shops.

These intricate masterpieces, depicting Buddhist deities and mystical landscapes, are like windows to another world. Choose your favorite and bring a piece of Tibetan spirituality home with you.

  • Location: Visit the local art galleries and specialty shops dotted around the town, such as Thangka House or Kalimpong Arts and Crafts Centre.

  • Price: Thangka paintings range from ₹500 to ₹5000, depending on size, intricacy, and quality.

3. Fluttering Prayer Flags:

The colorful prayer flagsLet your spirits soar with the colorful prayer flags fluttering in the mountain breeze. These sacred symbols of blessings and goodwill are not just souvenirs; they're little bundles of joy that will fill your home with positive vibes and good karma.

  • Location: Look for stalls selling religious items and souvenirs near monasteries or along the roadsides.

  • Price: A set of prayer flags can cost anywhere from ₹100 to ₹500 depending on size and quality.

4. Tea-riffic Darjeeling Delights:

Darjeeling's finest teasTake your taste buds on a tantalizing journey with a selection of Darjeeling's finest teas. Whether you're a connoisseur or just a casual sipper, there's a brew for everyone. Stock up on your favorite flavors and treat yourself to a cozy tea party back home.

  • Location: Visit local tea estates or specialty tea shops like Gorkhaa Hill Tea Estate or Makaibari Tea Estate.

  • Price: Prices vary depending on the quality and type of tea, ranging from ₹200 to ₹1000 per packet.

5. Paper Paradise:

Handmade paper products Indulge your inner writer or artist with handmade paper products that are as beautiful as they are eco-friendly. From journals adorned with traditional motifs to quirky stationery sets, you'll find plenty of inspiration to unleash your creativity.

  • Location: Explore the handmade paper stores along Rishi Road or Main Market Area.

  • Price: Handmade paper products typically range from ₹100 to ₹500 depending on size and design.

6. Musical Magic:

Traditional Himalayan musical instrumentsLet the music play with traditional Himalayan musical instruments that will transport you to faraway lands with just a few notes.

From soulful Tibetan singing bowls to whimsical bamboo flutes, there's an instrument for every melody maker.

  • Location: Explore music stores or artisan workshops specializing in traditional instruments.

  • Price: Prices vary depending on the instrument, but expect to pay around ₹500 to ₹5000 for items like singing bowls or bamboo flutes.

Also read: From tea gardens to Monasteries - 10 Things you must do in Darjeeling!

Kalimpong: Where Nature's Majesty and Cultural Riches Await Your Discovery! With this guide in hand, you're fully equipped for an unforgettable journey to Kalimpong. Whether trekking in Neora Valley or indulging in local cuisine, every moment promises adventure and discovery.

So pack your bags, fuel your wanderlust, and get ready for an unforgettable experience. Happy travels!

And remember, "Khambu Khaba Pani Bhayeko Chaina!" - which means "Once you taste the waters of Kalimpong, you'll never be satisfied elsewhere!"

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