Boasting some of the best Himalayan views, Buddhist monasteries, colonial-era architecture and a fascinating nursery industry, Kalimpong is a must-see for travellers this season. The top attractions of this bustling bazaar town are listed down.
Kalimpong’s largest monastery, formally known as Zang Dhok Palri Phodang, sits atop panoramic Durpin Hill and was consecrated by the Dalai Lama in 1976. There are impressive religious murals in the main prayer room downstairs (photography is permitted), interesting 3D mandalas (visual meditational aids) on the 2nd floor, and stunning Khangchendzonga views from the terrace.
Lepcha Heritage Museum
This offbeat collection of Lepcha treasures could be likened to rummaging through the attic of your grandfather’s house. A guide explains Lepcha creation myths, while pointing out religious texts, sacred porcupine quill hats and old pangolin skins. It’s a 10-minute walk downhill below the Sports Ground.
Himalayan Handmade Paper Industry
Visitors are welcome to drop into this small unsigned workshop to see traditional paper-making processes, from boiling and pulping of the local argayli (daphne) bush to sifting, pressing and drying. The resulting insect-resistant paper is used to block-print monastic scriptures, but it is also sold as notebooks and cards. Morning is the best time to see production.
St Teresa’s Church
A fascinating missionary church built by Swiss Jesuits, St Teresa was constructed to incorporate designs from a Bhutanese gompa. The wooden apostles resemble Buddhist monks, and carvings on the doors resemble the tashi tagye, eight auspicious symbols of Himalayan Buddhism.
Tharpa Choling Gompa
This Gelugpa-school Tibetan monastery of 50 monks contains statues of the past, present and future Buddhas. Don’t miss the fascinating museum, next to an unusual Chinese temple, just above the main monastery.
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Horticulture fans should surely visit Pineview Nursery to gaze at its extremely photogenic cactus collection.
Dr Graham’s Home
This orphanage and school was built in 1900 by Dr JA Graham, a Scottish missionary, to educate children of tea-estate workers, and now it has 1300-odd students. There’s a museum that commemorates Graham and his wife, Katherine. The 1925 chapel above the school seems lifted straight out of a Scotland parish, with its grey slate, spire and fine stained-glass windows.
Neora Valley National Park
This birding haven lies in the vicinity of Lava, a town about 40km from Kalimpong, and is home to red pandas, clouded leopards and countless species of woodpeckers, owls, pigeons, eagles, warblers, babblers and finches. Hiking, birding and jeep tours are the main activities here.
On a clear day the morning views of Khangchendzonga from this hilltop park are simply superb. After savouring the views you can have breakfast at the attached Tourist Lodge and then walk down to Kalimpong via Dr Graham’s Home.