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Kalimpong, West Bengal
Kalimpong, a hill town in West Bengal, is a little less crowded than its more illustrious neighbour, Darjeeling (50 kms away). Located in the lower Himalayas at an altitude of about 1,250 metres, Kalimpong offers stunning views of snow capped peaks.
Although some parts of the town are quite crowded, most of the hotels and lodges are situated in the quieter and more peaceful areas. Walking is the best option to get around town. You can choose to hire a vehicle for the day.
Like in any hill town, time passes slowly. It also starts early and ends early, so plan accordingly. Don't be surprised to see some hotels/ restaurants pulling their shutters around 8 pm just when you think of heading out for dinner!
Airfare for Rs 599 and less!
Kalimpong market is the centre of a lot of hustle and bustle. There are loads of things to buy like woolens, hand stitched clothing, shoes etc. Walk into the many souvenir shops and spend time haggling with the shopkeepers. You will find a lot of shops selling beautiful Tibetan stuff like colourful purses and bags.
While on your shopping expedition, you might want to step into one of the little cake and coffee joints for a break.
There are quite a few Buddhist monasteries in Kalimpong. In 1976, the visiting Dalai Lama consecrated the Zang Dhok Palri monastery, which houses many rare Buddhist scriptures.
Graham's Homes (more than 100 years old and spread over 500 acres) on the Deolo Hill is one of the major viewpoints of Kalimpong. The Durpin Dara is another high point of Kalimpong from where you can watch the sunset on a clear day. Kanchenjunga the world's third tallest peak is clearly visible from Kalimpong.
Make sure you book into a hotel that offers excellent views of the Kanchenjunga and the surrounding mountain ranges.
Kalimpong has quite a few decent eateries like Gompu's and China Garden. Don't leave Kalimpong without tasting the locally made lollipop!
How to get there
The nearest airport is at Bagdogra (80 km).
The nearest railheads are Siliguri 66 km and New Jalpaiguri 80 km.
Kalimpong is 66 km from Siliguri, 79 km from Gangtok and 51 km from Darjeeling.
Where to stay
Deki Lodge offers decent and comfortable rooms and a homely atmosphere. They also serve meals if told well in advance.
Other options include Sood's Garden Retreat, the Himalayan Hotel and the Holumba. For more options, check http://www.kalimpong.org/accomodation.html.
Text and photographs: Anita Bora
Also read: The old-world charm of Darjeeling
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