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Kalimpong

This pretty hill station straddles a ridge above the River Tista, almost on the border between the Indian states of West Bengal and Sikkim, and used to be on the trade route linking Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. Surrounded by forests of mountain oak and carpets of flowers in the spring, its soil and climate are perfect for the cultivation of roses, orchids and dahlias which can be viewed at the splendid flower market.

Kalimpong has some interesting sights and includes a fascinating mix of Tibetan and colonial architecture. Visitors may be interested to learn about some of its colonial buildings such as MacFarlane’s church, which was constructed in 1891 by Scottish missionary Robert MacFarlane, who also built the town’s first school. The church follows a traditional Gothic style with buttresses and arches, although sadly one of the steeples had to be repaired after it collapsed during the earthquake of 2011.

Located on top of scenic Durpin Hill, the Zang Dhok Palri monastery or Durpin Gompa as it is also known, has a backdrop of the snow-peaked Himalayas and epitomises the ornate style of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, with a red and gold exterior and an interior that holds some quirky mandalas and rare Tibetan scriptures. The monastery was consecrated by the Dalai Lama in 1976. 

Visitors may also like to learn something of the production of local crafts. At the Himalayan Handmade Paper Workshop, 15 minutes’ walk out of town, the process of making paper from the local argyli bush can be witnessed. The paper is used for Buddhist manuscripts but can be made into colourful notepads and cards for visitors to buy.

Neighbouring hilltop Dealo Hill is the highest point of Kalimpong town, and ideal for a short walk up from the town. The top of the hill has lovely scenic views over Kalimpong and on a clear day the snowy peaks of Sikkim can be viewed. Locals and tourists alike come here for picnics amongst the flower-filled landscapes and for the adventurous paragliding is also available.

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