Explore Kalimpong with Paila

Pleasant, quiet and peaceful, Kalimpong is the ideal retreat for the holidaymaker wanting to be away from the hustle and bustle of city-life. Its 1,200 meter elevation ensures a pleasant climate round the year so it isn’t a problem even if you’ve set your date with this charming little town in the dead of winter. Further, due to its proximity to Siliguri, Darjeeling and Sikkim, it acts as a convenient and quaint ‘base camp’ for travellers exploring this region.

Conquered from Sikkim by Bhutan in 1706, its name supposedly comes from ‘kaleon’ and ‘pong’ meaning ‘minister’s bastion or fort’ since it did have the presence of a Bhutanese governor for the period it remained under their rule.

However, the Lepcha who were there long before are said to have called it ‘Kalibong’ meaning ‘the ridge where we play’. According to Arthur Foning in his book “Lepcha, My Vanishing Tribe”;  the Bhutan revenue officials used to come from Damsong Fort once a year to Rinkingpong (the side of Kalimpong Cantonment since 1962), an hour’s walk south of Kalimpong to collect grain and other produce from the Lepcha villagers of the area. The local tribesmen used to organise field sports on such occassions on level ground as they would find up there, hence the name ‘Kalibong’.

In 1865, after the Anglo-Bhutan War, British India brought it under its control on taking into account its advantage as an outpost for trade with Tibet, which, as a matter of fact, they did accomplish in establishing.

Till the early 1950’s until China shut down Tibet’s border, Kalimpong flourished as a trading post. Trade with Tibet brought in caravans of musk, hides, furs, turquoise, coral, gold, herbs and minerals of medicinal value, and especially lamb wool. Soon large godowns were built where thousands found employment in sorting, drying and baling wool that came from Tibet. In exchange, the Tibetan traders took back cloth, tea, sugar and other food produces.

Alongside the trade with Tibet, the arrival of missionaries also saw to an early expansion of Kalimpong from a sleepy hamlet to a sizeable town that it is today. Schools and hospitals were established as early as 1873, and even till today the town’s reputation as an educational center is known far and wide.

At a lower altitude than Darjeeling and with much less rainfall, Kalimpong has a different climate, one which has proved particularly suited to flower-growing. Indeed, the Kalimpong plant nurseries are famous throughout the world, while the hillsides in springtime are a vibrant testament to the rich natural environment of orchids and rhododendron.

Kalimpong has also been host to noteworthy personalities from the Prince of Greece, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Nicholas Roerich, the famous Russian painter and the princess of Burma, among others. Crumbling remnants of this by – gone era still remains to remind us all of the richness of its past.

Steeped in history with rich stories passed down from one generation to the next, our service offering, ‘Paila’, which provides curated travelitineraries, helps you take the momentous journey through stories, sights and experiences that will make you fall in love with Kalimpong and its people.

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