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Kalimpong Calling : A Guide to the Perfect Family Destination

Last Updated on May 9, 2024

After spending three nights in Dooars region of North Bengal and wondering where's the winter chills of the Himalayas, we drove to Kalimpong via Lava. Within an hour the weather changed as we made our way to the Lava monastery while shivering in the cold. And from there we drove to our hotel at Deolo Hill, Kalimpong – our sojourn for the next three days.

In this Kalimpong travel blog I will talk about this trip and share all practical tips and details for the perfect Kalimpong itinerary with family. But before that, a quick introduction of this offbeat town, which is now one of my favorite places in India.

I love Kalimpong sign at Deolo Park - a charming landscaped park with pine trees in background
I Love Kalimpong – And so will you!

Kalimpong – The Humble Sister of Darjeeling

Think of a British-era Hill station in India, a place to escape the scorching summer, see the mighty Kanchenjunga against the verdant tea gardens, seek some solace from the busy city while also enjoying great food and amazing nightlife! That's Darjeeling, isn't it? But every time I go there, the crowd and traffic keep increasing, making it impossible to explore as much as I'd want to with my little toddler and senior citizens of my family.

That's where Kalimpong comes into picture – the humble sister of Darjeeling. It's the same amalgamation of Anglo-Indian and Nepalese culture, throbbing markets, Tibetan monuments, tea gardens and Kanchenjunga views, but in a place that's way less famous and easy to explore with family. 

Kalimpong town is the administrative center of the Kalimpong district in the northern region of West Bengal. Perched at 4101 ft above sea level, it offers temperate to cold weather throughout the year. It's known for some of the best boarding schools, momos and monasteries. Sounds interesting? Let's see the 3-day Kalimpong itinerary at a glance. 

Bright red blossoms and Christmas tree infront of a building in Kalimpong
At Dr. Graham's House School in Kalimpong

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3-Day Kalimpong Itinerary – In a Nutshell

Illuminated valley at night in Kalimpong as seen from Summit Barsana Hotel on Delo Hills
Illuminated valley at night in Kalimpong as seen from Summit Barsana Hotel

Day 1: Arrival and Exploration

Drive to Kalimpong via Lava while stopping at the scenic viewpoints on the route.

Stay at Morgan House, a heritage property owned and operated by West Bengal government with landscaped parks and Kanchenjunga views. However, you need to book in advance to get a room here. If you miss this, I recommend staying in neighborhood of Deolo Hills.

Day 2: Exploring the Key Attractions of Kalimpong

Morning to noon:
Visit to Kalimpong Science City, a haven for curious kids of all age-groups. Continue your journey to the Hanuman Temple and Buddha Park. Then drive to Graham's House boarding school. Then drive through scenic roads towards Kalimpong market for lunch.

Afternoon to Evening:

Visit Durpin Dara neighborhood – stop at viewpoints, visit the monastery. End the trip with a visit to Cactus Garden in Kalimpong. Relax and watch the starry night from your hotel.

Day 3: Exploring the countryside of Kalimpong District

Morning to Afternoon:

Embark on a day trip to the enchanting locales of Lolegaon, Rishap, and Charkhole. Each destination offers its unique charm, from tranquil forests and panoramic viewpoints to quaint villages nestled amidst nature. Enjoy lunch in one of the small cafes in Lolegaon.

Late Afternoon to evening:

Return to Kalimpong and head to Delo Park by 4 pm, just in time for an exhilarating paragliding experience. Soar high above the landscapes, taking in the majestic views from a bird's-eye perspective. Conclude your day and your Kalimpong journey by watching the sunset from Delo Park. 

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How Many Days Are Enough for in Kalimpong

Meeting point of two rivers as seen from a vantage point in the hill-forests in Kalimpong
Lover's point – the meeting of two rivers seen on the road between Kalimpong and Darjeeling

Kalimpong, like other places in Northern part of West Bengal is over 600 km away from the nearest big city Kolkata. Which means, it isn't a weekend destination. Although one and a half days are enough to see Kalimpong's highlights, I highly recommend this three-day itinerary for a fully immersive experience with family. 

But people usually plan a holiday for at least 5 days for a trip to this part of West Bengal. During this time, you can combine a trip to Kalimpong with a trip to Dooars, or Darjeeling or even Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. It's an ideal place for summer vacation – a week off to the Eastern Himalayas. If you are looking for a Kalimpong tour package, check these out.

Where to Stay in Kalimpong?

A charming hotel building in the hills at Kalimpong
Yuru Resort – one of the best places to stay at Deolo Hills

If you are visiting with your family in summer or spring, I highly recommend staying at Deolo Hills. The place is secluded and has amazing views of the mountains. However, the disadvantage is the lack of availability of markets, or restaurants nearby. There are quite a few hotels here, Yuru Resort being the biggest and best known.

We stayed at Summit Barsana Resort , because Yuru was all booked when we planned.

My top recommendation remains Morgan House, which is the most sought-after place to stay in Kalimpong. You can book online on WBTDCL site.

If you prefer staying near the Kalimpong town, book the Sinclairs Retreat or Elgin Silver Oaks Resort & Spa.

How To Reach Kalimpong?

Siliguri is the closest city which also serves as the starting point for any tour to the north-east. The NJP railway station located here and the Bagdogra airport located 10 km from Siliguri are the main connecting points of north-east to the rest of India.

The most convenient route to reach Kalimpong is by air and road. The nearest airport to Kalimpong is Bagdogra Airport, located approximately 80 kilometers away. From the airport, you can easily hire a taxi or board a shared cab to reach Kalimpong. The journey takes around 3 to 4 hours, depending on the traffic and road conditions.

You can also reach Kalimpong by train. New Jalpaiguri Railway Station (NJP) is the nearest major railhead to Kalimpong, situated around 75 kilometers away. Several trains from major cities like Kolkata, Delhi, and Guwahati connect to NJP. From the station, you can hire a taxi or catch a bus to Kalimpong. The journey by road takes approximately 3 to 4 hours.

You can also take a bus from esplanade bus station in Kolkata. Book your ticket online from Kolkata to Siliguri here. Although there are AC buses which are more easily available than the trains, I'd prefer the overnight train journey to the 12-hour bus journey while travelling with a kid.

Kalimpong Itinerary in Detail

A beautiful mountain home at Charkhole with flower garden infront of it.
A lovely home at Charkhole – about 30 km from Kalimpong Town

As I mentioned before, my first trip to Kalimpong was on a 10-day North Bengal vacation with my family in December. We took it slow as we had 3 senior citizens and an active toddler with us. We crafted our itinerary in a way such that we could slowly acclimatize to the lower temperatures and didn't have to travel more than 100 km in a day.

Day 1: Journey to Kalimpong via Lava

The drive from Batabari (where we stayed in Dooars to Kalimpong is 90 km and takes 2.5 hours. Enroute is Lava, which is only 65 kilometers from Batabari, but in this journey you ascend from 800 ft at Batabari to 7200 ft at Lava. Be prepared for this drastic change of altitude, serpentine roads with several hairpin belts and drop in temperature when you take this journey.

If you are travelling from Jalpaiguri, then the route to Kalimpong via Lava is 138 km as shown in the map below. It will take around 5-6 hours to reach Kalimpong via this route considering the stops at Lava monastery and lunch break.

Driving road map from Jalpaiguri to Lava View point

If you have small children or people prone to nausea at high altitudes take the precautionary medicines as prescribed by your doctor. Keep a warm jacket and cap in your carry-on luggage. Have a light breakfast before your journey to avoid nausea. Keep taking short breaks on your way to Lava to enjoy the changing scenary. 

Some of the where we stopped are the Ambiok Tea Garden and viewpoint, Chelkhola river viewpoint and Hanuman Mandir at Gorubathan.

Visiting Lava Monastery: A Spiritual Retreat Amidst the Clouds

Misty views from the balcony of Lava Monastery

Nestled at an altitude of 7014 feet (2,138 meters), Lava Monastery, also known as Lava Kagyu Thekchen Ling Monastery, stands as a beacon of spirituality amidst the serene landscapes of Lava. This Buddhist monastery is approximately 30 kilometers east of Kalimpong, offering a tranquil escape into spirituality and nature.

Its origins trace back to the 1980s, established under the guidance of the Third Kongtrul Rinpoche, Karma Lodro Chokyi Senge, one of the prominent figures in Tibetan Buddhism.

The monastery serves as a vital center for the study and practice of Buddhist philosophy, meditation, and rituals, following the Kagyu lineage, which is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. This monastery not only provides a tranquil retreat for spiritual seekers but also plays a crucial role in preserving the rich Buddhist teachings and traditions.

Tourist Info:
Weather: The monastery experiences cool to cold weather year-round, with fog often enveloping the area, adding to its mystical ambiance.
Entry Fee: There is no entry fee.
Open Times: 5:30 am to 5:30 pm, daily

Lunch on the way to Kalimpong

You can take a lunch break after visiting the Lava monastery. There are a few restaurants here which offer simple Tibetan food like momos (dimsums), noodels etc. The one where we had our lunch was right next to the Lava Monastery, and I can't really recommend it. It's not terrible, but it's the first place in the world where I found chicken bones in chicken momos.

Reaching Kalimpong

Me with a family of senior citizens and my toddler at the breakfast area of our hotel with Kanchenjunga at the backdrop
Us at Summit Barsana against the backdrop of Kanchenjunga in the morning

We had put up in Summit Barsana, Deolo Hills. At 5590 feet, it is the highest point in the Kalimpong town, and gets very cold in the winters. The rooms are aesthetically decorated but too small. It was the week before Christmas and Christmas lights adorned this beautiful abode in the hills.

The highlight of this hotel, and all the hotels in this area is the majestic Kanchenjunga views, from your bedroom. We literally woke up to the view of the third highest mountain peak in the world and the panoramic view of the valley with Teesta River winding its way through Kalimpong.

Day 2: Exploring the Charming town of Kalimpong

Considering you chose the right place to stay, you are likely to wake up to the most memorable views of the hills. After that have a wholesome breakfast before starting your sightseeing tour. After a few photo-sessions against the views from the balcony, we drove off to our first attraction – the Kalimpong Science City.

Kalimpong Science City: Expanding Horizons

Child in blue jacket trying to touch the dinosaur sculpture in the Kalimpong Science Center
My son showering his love to these after crying his way out of the 3-D dinosaur show

Kalimpong Science City, set against the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas, is designed as an educational playground where visitors of all ages can explore the wonders of science. It stands out as a beacon of learning, inviting curious minds to delve into the mysteries of the universe. It's like an amusement park, but focused on education and science, rather than joyrides. Here are some highlights:

  • 3-D Dinosaur Show: Step back in time with a captivating 3-D show that brings the ancient world of dinosaurs to life. It's an experience that mesmerizes both children and adults, blending entertainment with education.
  • Sculptures of Eminent Indian Scientists: Wander through the park and encounter sculptures of India's greatest minds in science. These sculptures serve not only as a tribute but also as an inspiration, highlighting the contributions of scientists like C.V. Raman and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
  • Science Experiments: Engage in hands-on experiments that make complex concepts accessible. The mirror puzzle and kaleidoscope offer fascinating insights into light and reflection, demonstrating the principles of physics in an interactive manner.
  • Zurassic Park: A special zone within the Science City, where you can marvel at life-size models of dinosaurs. It's a journey to the prehistoric era, offering a glimpse into the Earth's distant past.
  • Kanchenjunga Viewpoint: Beyond the scientific explorations, the Science City offers a breathtaking viewpoint to admire the Kanchenjunga range. It's a reminder of the natural beauty that surrounds this unique educational site, blending the wonders of science with the majesty of nature.

Tourist Info:
– Entry Fee: A nominal fee is charged for entry.
– Open Times: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
– Holidays: Closed on certain national holidays; it's best to check ahead of your visit.

Dalap Chan Buddhist Monastery

Also known as Buddha Park in Kalimpong, this is a small but lovely monastery on the side of the road to Hanuman mandir. The architecture is centered around a magnificent statue of Lord Buddha, offers a space for meditation and contemplation amidst beautifully landscaped gardens.

Tourist Info:
– Entry Fee: Free entry.
– Open Times: 10 am to 5pm.
– Holidays: Open daily.

Don't confuse this with the real Buddha Park – the huge complex in Ravangla, Sikkim.

Hanuman Mandir

Hanuman Mandir, known for its towering statue of Lord Hanuman, provides a spiritual atmosphere combined with splendid views of the mountains. The park is a recent addition, enhancing Kalimpong's cultural and religious diversity.

Tourist Info:
– Entry Fee:Free entry.
– Open Times: 10 am to 5pm

Dr. Graham's Homes School

Toddler running in an empty field surrounded by large trees in the Dr. Graham's Homes in Kalimpong
My son is in love with the field at Dr. Graham's Homes School

Dr. Graham's Homes stands as a testament to the region's rich cultural tapestry and colonial history. this sprawling educational institution was founded in 1900 by Dr. John Anderson Graham, a missionary from Scotland, with the noble aim of providing a home and quality education to the children of tea planters, British settlers, and local citizens.

Over the years, Graham's House has morphed into a landmark of immense educational and historical significance, drawing visitors not just for its academic heritage, but also for its stunning architectural allure and the panoramic beauty of its surroundings.

Visiting Dr. Graham's Homes School is an experience that transports you to a bygone era with its rich history, sprawling campus, and quaint architecture. The verdant surroundings and well-maintained buildings make it a picturesque site worth exploring for anyone interested in educational history, architecture, or simply enjoying a peaceful day amidst nature.

One of the highlights of this campus is the 19th century Gothic Church which was under renovation when we visited. My little one had fallen asleep in the car by now but woke up just in time to run around in the playground with Kanchenjunga still smiling bright in the backdrop.

This place reminded me of our trip to the Montfort High School in Yercaud, another amazing boarding school of the British era in the Easter Ghats of India.

Visiting Time : Monday to Friday . 9 a.m. to 3pm. Although we visited without any prior notice, it's better to seek pre-approval by mailing at the email addresses [email protected] / [email protected] / [email protected]. Check out the official website for visitor's guidelines.

Entry Fee : none, but you are expected to make a small donation like Rs. 100 for the entire group.

Lepcha Museum: Preserving Cultural Heritage

The Lepcha Museum, located near the main town, showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Lepcha community, indigenous to the region. It houses a collection of musical instruments, artifacts, and traditional Lepcha attire.

The museum aims to preserve and promote the understanding of Lepcha culture and history.

Tourist Info:
– Entry Fee: A minimal fee is charged.
– Open Times: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
– Holidays: Closed

Cactus Garden: A Prickly Paradise

The Cactus Garden, officially known as the Pine View Nursery, showcases an extensive collection of cacti and succulent plants from around the world. It's a unique botanical garden that attracts enthusiasts and tourists alike.

The Cactus Garden, officially known as Pine View Nursery, is a testament to the passion and dedication of its founder, Mr. Mohan Pradhan, who started the collection in the early 1970s. From a small personal collection, the garden has grown into one of Asia's most extensive cactus collections, boasting over 1,500 species.

The garden's evolution reflects a broader interest in botany and the conservation of plant species that thrive in arid conditions. It has become a center for botanical study and a major attraction for visitors, showcasing the diversity and resilience of cacti.

Established over four decades ago, the garden boasts over 1,500 species of cacti, making it one of the largest collections in Asia.

Tourist Info:
Entry Fee: Rs. 30 for adults

Open Times: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Holidays: Open daily.

Durpin Dara – Binoculars Hill

Durpin Dara, meaning ‘binoculars hill', offers panoramic views of the Himalayas and Kalimpong town. This neighborhood is slightly rural and offbeat compared to the places we have visited so far.

Atop the hill stands the Zang Dhok Palri Phodang monastery, also known as the Durpin Monastery, a significant spiritual site. The monastery houses rare Buddhist manuscripts brought over from Tibet.

Tourist Info
– Entry Fee: No entry fee for the hill; nominal fees for monastery entry.
– Open Times: Sunrise to sunset.

Day 3 : Exploring the hidden gems near Kalimpong

On day 3 we head out of the Kalimpong town into the interiors of the Kalimpong district. This is the beautiful countryside of Kalimpong where you can also spend a couple of days or more. We only had the time to visit Lolegaon and Charkhole on this day, You can also try spending some time exploring Rishop. We headed home targetting to reach Deolo Park by 4pm.

Drive from Kalimpong to Lolegaon

Wide road in the hills flanked by huge Pine trees

The road trip from Kalimpong to Lolegaon is a picturesque journey through the heart of the Eastern Himalayas, known for its scenic beauty and tranquil nature. To my surprise the road condition is absolutely amazing, with further construction going on to expand the road. As you embark on this route, you are greeted by lush green landscapes, meandering roads, and the majestic view of the Himalayan range, which stands as a backdrop to this stunning vista.

The road stretches for about 55 kilometers, taking approximately 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on the road conditions and weather. Along the way, we had the opportunity to witness the rich biodiversity of the region, including tall pine trees reminding us of the impending Christmas.

We stopped at Rishop, and just some random spots to stand and stare at the natural opulence of the place.

Check out the ten most beautiful and offbeat places to visit near Kalimpong.

Lolegaon Eco Park

Alpine forests under the bright blue sky in Lolegaon Eco Park

One of the top attractions of Lolegaon is the Canopy Walk – a 180-meter-long hanging bridge through the forest. However, to our dismay, it was closed for visitors then (and now to the best of my knowledge). You should definitely check this with the local driver when you visit Kalimpong.

So, we decided to spend more time in the Lolegaon Eco Park.

It is also one of the few places on this route where you will get a pay for use toilet. It's not at all up to the mark, but it's decent for a countryside in this region. It was still better than the clumsy excuse of a ladies' toilet I found in a tourist spot like Cactus Garden in Kalimpong city. 

Lolegaon Eco Park is a serene haven showcasing rich biodiversity and picturesque landscapes of this region. The park is flanked by lush green forests, home to a variety of flora and fauna, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers. A recently constructed Buddha Statue has become the landmark of this place.

Our kid loved this place and the bright sunshine made way for spectacular views of the hills.

Drive to Charkhole

snowy peak of Kanchenjunga as seen from the vantage point at Charkhole filled with yellow blossoms
Kanchenjunga views as seen from Charkhole

Located in the Kalimpong district of West Bengal, India, Charkhole is a lesser-known gem that beckons the lovers of offbeat travel. I'd love to stay in one of the homestays in this fairytale village on my next trip.

This small hill station, nestled at an elevation, offers panoramic views of the majestic Himalayan range, with the Kanchenjunga peak playing peek-a-boo amidst the clouds. The journey to Charkhole itself is a beautiful experience, with winding roads flanked by lush greenery and the occasional glimpse of vibrant Rhododendron flowers when in season.

There are several short treks through the forests of charkhole – namely, the sunrise viewpoint, sunset viewpoint, table-top viewpoint etc. While the view of Kanchenjunga on a clear day at these viewpoints are magical, the treks through the verdant landscape makes it worthwhile in itself, on any given day.

Deolo Park: The Summit of Kalimpong

Walkway at Deolo Park

Delo Park, situated on Delo Hill, is the highest point in Kalimpong, offering 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. Perched at an elevation of 1,704 meters, Delo Park marks the highest point in Kalimpong, offering unmatched views of the surrounding valleys and the majestic Kanchenjunga range. 

Established as a recreational and ecological park, Delo has evolved from its historical significance as a strategic vantage point to a beloved tourist attraction. 

The park is a result of concerted efforts to provide visitors with a space that blends natural beauty with leisure facilities. Over the years, Delo Park has become synonymous with Kalimpong itself, representing the town's commitment to preserving its natural charm while facilitating tourism.

Tourist Info:
– Entry Fee: No entry fee for the park; charges apply for certain activities.
– Open Times: Open throughout the day.
– **Holidays:** Open daily.

A Few Other Places and Acitivities in Kalimpong

Here's a quick walkthrough of a few activities I have skipped in this itinerary, along with my recommendations.

Paragliding in Kalimpong 👍👍

Kalimpong is soon becoming the Paragliding Paradise of the east, an alternative to Bir Billing in the West. The favorable wind conditions and thermal currents in the Deolo Hills ensure a smooth and exhilarating flight. I couldn't go for this epic adventure, but I found a framed form of Poran Bandhyapadhyay, a veteran actor of Bengali cinema who signed up for this adventure here at the age of 80. Photos of him and other adventurers adorn the walls of paraglifing camps at Deolo Park.

Kalimpong Golf Club 👎

The Kalimpong Golf club located near the Morgan House property. The entry to this park is restricted to visitors, but it is an overhyped place for the views that can only be seen through the metal nets. I don't think it's worth it. On top of that the cafe that's so aesthetically decorated but prepares such awful food! I've been there, done that, so you don't have to.

Morgan House 😑

It's a beautiful heritage property that we couldn't book due to lack of availability. However, every tourist brochure names this place as if it's a tourist spot. It isn't! Unless you are staying there, you won't be allowed to enter. So please save your time and avoid both Morgan house and Golf Club during your local sightseeing.

Mangal Dham Temple 👍

Mangal Dham temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple is beautiful and well-maintained, a lovely place to spend some time.

Though it is about 1km from the Kalimpong bus station, the approach-road is a narrow and littered single-lane road. This makes it difficult to reach and come back from the place, taking away a lot of time from your sightseeing plans of the day.

Teesta River Rafting (Adults only activity) 👍

Rafting in the Teesta river at Kalimpong

If you have one more day in Kalimpong, i recommend an excursion to the Teesta river-rafting center. It is located about 16 km from the town. Reaching the place and completing this adventure is a half-day plan in itself. It is not suitable for families with kids and senior citizens in general.

I had the pleasure of river rafting in the month of February with my friends while returning from our Sikkim trip. Surprisingly, this (the winter season) is the best time for this activity, and you will love it if you are on a trip with friends.

7th Mile Viewpoint

It's a viewpoint you will come across on your way to Darjeeling from Kalimpong. While it's lovely, if you are short on time, or don't have Darjeeling on your tour plan, you can easily skip this.

What's Next?

That's a wrap to my Kalimpong Guide. You can check out my favorite travel resources for holiday-planning in India below.

Top Travel Sites in India for 2024

🏨 Booking.com for the best hotel prices (Price match and free cancellations)

🚗Get discounts on package tours and special experiences with Viator

🚶🏼‍♂️Free walking tours on Freetour

🛏️For free accommodations, use Trusted House Sitters

Before moving back to Kolkata in 2020 I had lived in Bangalore for over six years and travelled extensively in the south. If you want to know more about such offbeat hill stations check out the best hill stations near Bangalore.

If you want to see the Eastern Himalayas and Kanchenjunga in India, I highly recommend Pelling – my favorite place in Sikkim. Want a little more adventure? Drive to Lachung and North Sikkim to experience the unspoilt beauty of mountains.

Check out my complete Sikkim itinerary here.

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6 Comments

  1. What a nice guide to Kalimpong! Would love to visit Lava Monastery and and the cactus garden

  2. Great tips for someone planning a visit.

  3. I’ve been to India so many times but I have never been to any region that looks like this! What a goldmine, I’m definitely going to start looking into Kalimpong for my next India trip!

  4. I definitely have heard of Darjeeling, and did not know about Kalimpong at all. Thank you for featuring this alternative.

  5. Would love to visit Kalimpong to enjoy the views, visit the monastery, and explore the area.

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