Another spellbinding view of the distant Himalayas is to be had from the monastery of Zong Dog Palri Phodrang, whose gilded finials and Tibetan-style upswept eaves crown Rinkingpong Hill, above the hill station of Kalimpong. Unlike Darjeeling, 31 miles west, the town is neither a major centre for tea production nor tourism.
Formerly a way stage on the trade route to Tibet, it has a grittier, more down-to-earth feel than its sibling. The main attractions here are some beautiful market gardens – where orchids, amaryllis, palms, ferns and cacti are cultivated for export – and the unspoilt hill villages and deep river valleys to the south, where predominantly Lepcha communities still lead traditional lives.
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