Sandakphu literally means ‘Peak of the poison plants’. Sandakphu is a wonderland for the trekkers. It’s located at an altitude of 11,929ft (i.e. 3,636 meters) in Darjeeling district and North West of Darjeeling hill town.

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Sandakphu trek, rightly called the highest peak in Singalila National Park, is a scenic wonder. It offers stunning views of the four tallest mountains in the world, i.e., Mt. Kanchenjunga, Mt. Makalu, Mt. Lhotse and Mt. Everest. On this trek, you can soak in these amazing experiences under clear skies. Your Sandakphu trek guide will make the necessary arrangements and provide you with all the help to explore this beautiful region. The trek route to Sandakphu goes all along with the Singalila range and therefore this is also known as Singalila trek. Sandakphu attracts backpackers and trekkers from around the world and gives you a chance to build lifelong memories.

More About Sandakphu

 

Highlights of Trek 

The Route Upward

There are some alternate trek routes (mentioned later) to Sandakphu as well apart from the most opted one, which is from Manebhanjan. The trek upward is of 32 kilometres from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu, which is covered commonly over 3 days.



Experienced trekkers manage it in a day less. There happens to be a yearly race where trekking enthusiasts run to the top, like a Marathon. I have heard they cover the entire route in about 7-10 hours.

 
1. Manebhanjan – At an elevation of 7050 feet, Manebhanjan is a non-descript little roadside hill-town significant only perhaps as the gateway to the Singalila or more precisely Sandakphu.

The conventional trek starts from here. This is the place where one has to get an entry permit for the Singalila National Park.

 
2. Tonglu – At slightly more than 10k feet, Tonglu takes 6-7 hours to reach on foot. Now that that the road is concreted, should not even take an hour by a vehicle for the 11 KMs from Mane.

Tonglu actually is one of the high peaks of the Singalila Ridge, noted for its own sunrise spectacle over the Kanchenjunga.

 
3. Tumling

Geographically situated in the Ilam district of Nepal, Tumling (9600 feet) is about a couple of kilometres downhill from Tonglu.

Tumling was the last place on the trail to have got conventional electricity, however, even the other places supply solar power points to charge phones and devices at an additional cost.

More Info about Tumling

 
4. Singalila National Park

The national park boasts of rare flora and fauna. Eastern Himalayan sub-alpine-sub-tropical pines and conifers constitute the basic biome of the region.

The fauna is equally diverse with endangered species like the Red Panda, Shrouded Leopard, Himalayan Black Bear, Himalayan Barking Deer, and the Himalayan Newt apart from more than 120 recorded species of birds which makes it, besides everything it already is, a birder’s heaven too.

 
5. Kalipokhri

13 KMs from Tumling and 15 KMs from Tonglu, Kalipokhari at 10,400 feet in a day’s trek (7-8 Hours). As the name indicates, the greatest feature of the place is a not too large lake containing black water. The locals say the water never freezes too.

The real accent, however, begins from Gairibas. The 12 kilometres till Sandakphu will test even the seasoned trekkers at moments. Kalipokhri is located almost equidistant from both Gairibas and Sandakphu. Which makes it the most opted halt for the second night for trekkers.

 
6. Sandakphu

The trek from Kalipokhari to Sandakphu may only be 6 KMs, but undisputedly the most excruciating of the entire stretch. Trekking over the altitude of 10k feet is never easy. The air gets thinner which exhausts the hiker’s stamina easily, making it all the more difficult.

Out of Kalipokhari, the trail initially accents gradually for the first 2 KMs till Bikheybhanjan, which is another tiny settlement of few huts and an SSB check post. One can stop and rest here briefly over a cup of tea before proceeding towards the steepest 4 KMs till Sandakphu.

The gradient of this final section, as if metaphorically illustrates the saying, ‘No great thing in life come easy’. It is advisable to take small steps and frequent breaks. The last 4 KMs could easily take more than 2 hours to conquer. On the last bend before Sandakphu, a milestone reads, ‘SANDAKPHU 0 KM, PHALUT 21 KM’, when it is still another 400+ meters of a steep uphill walk from this point to the top.

All the pain, all the exhaustion, will wither away once you reach Sandakphu, all the more if the view is clear by the time you reach (for which starting early from Kalipokhari is recommended). The graceful Sleeping Buddha will welcome you with a smile.

More Info about Sandakphu

 

The Route Onward and Downward

 

1. Sandakphu – Phalut

The gravel path goes on from Sandakphu till Phalut, which is the second-highest peak of the Singalila Ridge at 11810 feet. The distance is 21 kilometres north of Sandakphu. Trekkers cover the distance in about 10-12 hours, mostly over an easier gradient.

The route passes through picturesque vistas and for most of the journey, the Kanchenjunga keeps a watch on you. Some trekkers break for the day at Sabargram, which is 14 KMs from Sandakphu and has a forest hut to stay at, to complete the remaining 7 KMs the next day.

Some seasoned trekkers and few beginners too, go on further from Phalut, crossing the Singalila Pass and ending the trek at Uttarey, on the Sikkim side, which requires camping over 2-3 days. The famed Mainibas Waterfall occurs on the way.

More Info about Phalut

 
2. Sandakphu – Srikhola

From Sandakphu, the return has many variations. The obvious one will be retracing the same way that took you up (i.e. Sandakphu-Kalipokhari-Gairibas-Tumling-Manebhanjan). But this one is rarely opted by trekkers coming down. Though if you wish to be driven down from Sandakphu, this will be the only option. Sometimes, people who trek up, return in a vehicle or vice versa (i.e. take a vehicle for the upward journey and trek downhill).

The most opted, shortest and quickest way down would be a 16KM downhill trek from Sandakphu to Srikhola via Gurdum. This enables the option of coming all the way down to a road-head in a single day. Its 10 KMs from Sandakphu to Gurdum and a further 6 KMs to Srikhola, which takes 4-5 hours and 2-3 hours respectively.

More Info about Srikhola

 

Sandakphu Trek Day by Day



Day-1: Manebhanjan to Tonglu (11kms), 6-7 Hours Trek

 Manebhanjan 

Altitude: 7,054ft

Arrive at Siliguri/NJP/Bagdogra and hire a car for Manebhanjan via Mirik. Hire a guide and porters as per requirements. Many trekkers come to Manebhanjan a day before the trekking starts. This is to acclimatize themselves with the conditions before starting the trek early next morning. Manebhanjan is a small settlement. There are small hotels and homestays here for overnight stays. Many small grocery and stationery shops are available at the market area to pick up your provisions like packaged water, biscuits, peanuts, dry food, medicines etc.

 
Chitre(3kms from Manebhanjan)

Altitude: 8,340ft

Time: 1.5 hours trek

Chitre is a small village about 3kms from Manebhanjan located at an altitude of 8,340 ft. The route up to Chitre passes through pine, fir, birch forests and bamboo glades. This part of the trek route is very steep and really warms you up. It takes about 1.5 hours to trek up to Chitre.

 
Lamaydhura (further 3kms)

Altitude: 8,792ft

Time: +1.5 hours trek 

Lamaydhura is a hamlet inhabited only by five odd Tibetan families. This part of the trek is more comfortable than the earlier stretch up to Chitre. It’s a steady but gradual incline from Chitre and takes over an hour of trek. From here, one side of the road is part of Nepal, while the other side is in India.

 
Meghma (further 3kms)

Altitude 9,514ft

Time: +1.5 hours trek

This is another small village located at the border of India and Nepal, and about 3kms from Lamaydhura. Meghma is at an altitude of 9,514 ft. From Lamaydhura, it takes about 1.5 hours of trek to reach Meghma. If you trek continuously from Manebhanjan, it will take about 4.5-5 hours to reach Meghma.

 
Tonglu (2kms from Meghma)

Altitude: 10,130ft)

Time: 1 Hour trek

Tonglu is a small hamlet located at an altitude of 10,130ft. This is where most trekkers take the first night halt. There is a GTA lodge here. The lodge is about 2kms from Meghma and takes about 1 hour to reach. The last section is a steep climb.

Alternatively, now that the road has been paved, hire a vehicle for Tonglu/Tumling and start trekking onwards on Day 2. This will save one day and cut down the 13 kilometres of the trek. Alternatively, Drive on another 17 KMs after crossing Manebhanjan till Dhotrey and stay overnight before commencing the trek from here through the Dhotrey-Tonglu forest trail.

 
Day-2: Tonglu to Kalipokhri (15kms), 6-7 Hours Trek

If starting from Manebhanjan, trek uphill till Tonglu or Tumling and stay overnight. If commencing the trek from Tumling, trek up to Kalipokhari or Gairibas. From Tonglu your next destination is Tumling which is about 2kms away.

Tumling (2kms from Tonglu)

Altitude: 9,600ft

Time: +1 hour trek

2kms trek from Tonglu will take you to another small Village called Tumling located at an altitude of 9,600 ft. Tonglu to Tumling is a steep descend, but thereafter it’s a gradual descend till Gairibas. Tumling is a great place to stop for a while, freshen up and then get moving for the next leg of the trek.

Some trekkers actually prefer to stay at Tumling for the first night instead of at Tonglu. This is due to the availability of better private lodges and facilities here. This is the last point up to which electricity is available. However solar powered lights are available all through the trek.

About 1km from Tumling you will reach the arch gateway of Singalila National Park, which is the highest altitude national park in the state of West Bengal.

 
Jhaubari (6kms from Tumling)

Altitude: 9,186ft

Time: +3 hours trek

Jhaubari is a small village further along the way to Sandakphu at an altitude of 9,186 ft. This place may not be important from trekking perspective (in fact as I mentioned above, it lies on an alternative route between Singalila park entrance and Gairibas, and passes through Nepal). But I usually combine trekking with the exploration of local life in the mountains.

 
Gairibas (1km from Jhaubari)

Altitude: 8,600ft

Time: +0.5 hour trek

From Jhaubari one has to take a right turn towards Gairibas. It is further 1km ahead and located at an altitude of 8,600 ft. From Tumling up to Jhaubari is a gradual descend and a relatively easy trek. But after Jhaubari it is a steep descend up to Gairibas.

The trek route passes through bamboo glades. Gairibas is essentially a valley full of bamboo grooves. If you are here during spring (April), you can see colourful red Rhododendrons in full blossom.

 
Kalipokhri (6kms from Gairibas)

Altitude: 10,400ft

Time: +3 hours trek

From Gairibas, the trek up to Kalipokhri takes about three hours. It’s at an altitude of 10,400ft. Initially, you will trek uphill through forests of oak, rhododendrons and bamboo to reach Kaiyakatta in about 1.5 hours which is about 2kms from Gairibas. The trail is up & down from here. In another 1.5 hours or so you will reach Kalipokhri.

 
Day-3: Kalipokhri to Sandakphu (6kms), 3 Hours Trek

Start next day early morning from Kalipokhri for Sandakphu. You will not like to miss out on the panoramic view of the snow peaks from Sandakphu, which is best seen early in the morning. An early start from here will give you a chance to view the snow peaks twice, once as soon as you reach Sandakphu and again next morning before you start your return or onward trek.

Take it slow especially after Bikeybhanjan.

 
Bikheybhanjang (2kms from Kalipokhri)

Time: +40 minutes trek

From Kalipokhri, the trekking route gradually ascends up to Bikheybhanjang which is located 2kms away. On the way, you will cross a place called Chowri Chowk where you can take a break for a couple of minutes. There is a hut here where mostly drivers leaving tourists at Sandakphu come back for night stays.

 
Sandakphu (further 4kms from Bikheybhanjang)

Altitude: 11,929ft

Time: 2.5 hours trek

And now the final destination and the climax. You could see the Sandakphu Peak from Kalipokhri itself. But like all great things in life, this won’t come easy. From Bikhheybhanjang the climb up to Sandakphu is the steepest. The 4kms route can easily take about 2.5 hours. There are stretches where the gradient is so steep that you will think your nose is about to touch the ground.

But the final rewards are awesome. All your strains will disappear as you see the board saying “Welcome to Sandakphu”. You are at an altitude of 11,929ft, on the summit of Singalila range and at the paradise of trekking.

Information about Sandakphu

 

Day-4: If trekking all the way up from Manebhanjan, you will reach Sandakphu today. If already here, start the trek for Srikhola via Gurdum. Stay overnight at Gurdum if there is an additional day or else in Srikhola.

Take one of the two daily service jeeps from Srikhola for Darjeeling. Change either at Rimbick, Manebhanjan or Darjeeling for NJP or alternatively hire a vehicle directly for NJP.

 

The Route Onward and Downward

Phalut Trek from Sandakphu

Trek the 21 KMs from Sandakphu to Phalut which will take 8-10 hours. Overnight at Phalut

 

Day-5: Sandakphu to Sabargram

Altitude: 11,950 ft (3,642 m) to 11,807 ft (3,599 m)

Time: 7-8 hours, 21 km

Start early as there is a lot of distance to be covered. This route, in April and May, has an immense concentration of rhododendron in full bloom, and you will also have yaks for the company in some places. Proceed north-east, following the logical trail.

A 20-minute descent is followed by a 5 to 10-minute ascent and another short section of an easy descent. Gradual ascents and descents over 2 to 3 hillocks and you join the road again. This section takes 1.5 hours as you reach Thukumb Checkpost. Get your entry tickets checked here.

The trail to Sabargram is towards your right while the Nepal road goes via the left trail. Take a left via the Nepal trail and walk for 10 minutes till you reach a hut. Another 15 minutes on the same trail will connect you back with the trail to Sabargram.

This stretch takes around 3 to 4 hours till you find yourself at Forest Check Post of Sabarkum. This will be your campsite for today.

 
Day-6: Sabargram to Gorkhey via Phalut

Altitude:  11,807 ft (3,599 m) to 7,546 ft (2,300 m) via 11,950 ft (3,642 m)

Time: 6 hours, 16 km

The trail from Sabargram to Phalut is a 7 km zigzag route, which will take you about 2.5 hours to cover. There are a series of gradual descents and level field walks, each coming in intervals of 15 minutes. After this is a 1/2 km flat meadow walk followed by 1 km of a steep climb, which can be negotiated by taking shortcuts. Look out for the trekkers’ hut on your way. From this point, you will reach Phalut by climbing steadily for about half an hour.

The viewpoint is on the hillock to your left. Reach there early to get magnificent views of the entire panorama of mountains and peaks. You will get the best views of Kanchenjunga while trekking to Phalut.

Information about Phalut

From Phalut, you begin to descend. The trail passes through forests, with several openings. In the initial stretch of the descent, you will be able to view Pandim, Tenzingkhang, Jubanu, and Narsing through the openings.

Continue on this trail for around 10 km to reach Gorkhey. The final stretch to reach the village is a steep descent through fields. Trek Phalut to Gorkhey and stay overnight (One of the most beautiful villages of the Singalila beside a khola). The 15 KMs trek takes 6-7 hours for the average trekker.

Alternate trek routes from Phalut to Sirikhola: Route 1: Phalut to Gorkhey (15 km), to Rammam (9 km), to Sirikhola (4 km), total distance – 24 km. This is a longer route but very scenic. Experienced trekkers may want to take this route.

 
Day-7: Gorkhey to Sepi (Srikhola) via Samanden and Ramam (15 km)

Altitude: 7,546 ft (2,300 m) to 6,234 ft (1,900 m)

Time: 4-5 hours

Start early from Gorkhey and proceed to Sepi via Ramam. The trail from Gorkhey to Ramam is through a forest with gradual and steep ascents. On the way, you will pass Samamden, a very pretty village with quaint wooden huts and lush fields. There is a tea house at Ramam, next to the SSB post, where you can take a break.

The route from Ramam to Sepi is mostly made up of descents through dense forest. Just before Sepi, you will cross a wooden bridge at Srikhola. To get to Sepi (our final destination), walk up the motor road for 30-40 minutes. You will reach Sepi at around 1.00 pm.

After a hot lunch, depart for NJP. Vehicles can be arranged on demand. You will reach NJP at 7.00 pm.

Take one of the two daily service jeeps from Srikhola for Darjeeling. Change either at Rimbick, Manebhanjan or Darjeeling for NJP or alternatively hire a vehicle directly for NJP.

 

How to reach the base (Manebhanjan)

In Darjeeling district, the trek route to Sandakphu starts from a place called Manebhanjan, a small township located at an altitude of 7,054 ft (2,150 m). This is virtually the gateway to Singalila and Sandakphu. Manebhanjan is about 4 hours by taxi from NJP (the nearest major railway station) and also from Bagdogra (the nearest airport). The route is via Mirik, and if a direct taxi is not available, you need to come up to Mirik and then take another taxi.

From NJP or Siliguri you can also get shared taxi up to Mirik and then take another one. However, shared taxis are not available at Bagdogra Airport. Manebhanjan is only 26kms from Darjeeling and takes about 1 hour 15 minutes by taxi. Trekkers usually reach Manbhanjan on the previous day, stay at a hotel or homestay, and proceed early next morning. 

 

Accommodations and Food along Sandakphu/Phalut Route

Accommodations along Sandakphu/Phalut trek route are mostly basic lodges and trekkers’ huts. Most offer dorm beds and few lodges also offer private rooms. Do not expect luxury like TV, geyser etc. For the most part of the route, there is no electricity although some lodges offer limited use of solar-powered lights (usually 6 pm to 9 pm). Almost all provide basic food like rice, daal, noodles (locally known as wai wai), vegetables and sometimes eggs, and if you are lucky, chicken.

GTA Trekker’s Huts and Lodges are located at Tonglu, Gairibas, Kalipokhri, Sandakphu, Phalut and Srikhola. They are quite cheap and provide basic facilities with common toilets commonly. A bed in the dormitories cost around 300 INR per night. GTA has offices in Kolkata and Darjeeling from where bookings can be made.

Information centers are available at Kalimpong, Siliguri and Kolkata. GTA also conducts organized treks for Sandakphu and Phalut. Details regarding which can be found at their website. However, online booking facilities are still non-existent.

 

GTA Tourism Centers at Darjeeling area

Tourist Information Center

Deputy Director of Tourism, GTA

Silver Fir Building, Bhanu Sarani, Darjeeling – 734101

Phone: (0354) 2254879 / 2255351; Fax: (0354) 2254214

Tourist Information Center, GTA 

Laden-La Road, at the new car park. Walk down the Laden-La road from the Gandhi Road Police Point and you will find the place.

Phone: (0354) 2256683

Tourist Information Center 

Darjeeling Railway Station

Reception Center 

Damber Chowk, Kalimpong

Phone: (03552) 257992

Tourist Information Center 

Pradhan Nagar, Opposite Mainak Tourist Lodge

Hill Cart Road Siliguri. Cell: 9434007080

GTA Tourism Centers at Kolkata

GTA Tourism, Gorkha Bhavan, Salt Lake (GTA Lodge Booking & Info) 

No. DD28, Sector 1, Salt Lake City, Kolkata – 700064

Gorkha Bhavan is located opposite the City Center Mall.

Mobile: (+91) 99031 74047, Landline: 033 – 23377534

GTA Tourism Desk in ITDC Office X Closed and moved to Salt Lake 

4 Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata – 700071

Phone: (033)2282-1715, 2282-5813, 2282-1402

 

Sandakphu Trek Difficulty

According to most trekkers, difficulty is a subjective concept. In most cases, it depends on weather conditions, fitness level of the trekker, terrain and other factors. If you consider various factors for Sandakphu trek, you’d notice that it’s easier compared to other treks near the Himalayas. The average distance of the trek is 32 km if you complete the entire circuit. However, this trek is also doable in a car or a Jeep, which cuts off several kilometres from the total distance.

Just like any other high altitude trek, it’s important to get acclimatized. Therefore, once you’ve reached the basecamp, it’s better to rest for a day or two. Needless to say, this trek will also test your stamina and endurance. With proper guidance and the right approach, you won’t experience many issues. Your Sandakphu trek guide will always be there to help.

Sandakphu Trek Best Time to Visit

As mentioned earlier, Sandakphu is the highest peak in the beautiful and famous Singalila National Park. Thus, Sandakphu trek weather is a crucial factor in ensuring a good trip. Though the trek is open throughout the year, two periods are considered to be amazing to plan a visit. During the summer season, nature lovers should plan a visit, while the autumn season is perfect for viewing high peaks under clear skies.

From the month of April to June, the region sees orchids, magnolias, rhododendrons and other species of flowers in full bloom. Thus, the entire valley is covered in a sheet of pink and red. On the other hand, clear skies give a huge advantage from October to December. It allows trekkers to see high peaks without any obstruction.

Every year, tourists start visiting this scenic wonder from March. In the summer season, the temperature remains close to 15-degree Celsius. If you plan a visit in this season, it allows you to avoid freezing cold temperatures. However, if you like snow, January or February is the ideal time to plan trekking with a Sandakphu trek guide.

If you’re planning a visit in winter months, it’s important to make the necessary preparations. You should carry the right kind of trekking gear, clothing and footwear. According to experienced guides and trekkers, beginners should plan a trek during the summer months. It offers a comfortable and safer trekking experience.

Sandakphu trek is the perfect mix of several scenic wonders. It’s one of the most scenic and exciting trekking experiences. Some beautiful villages and towns you’ll visit on the trek include Jaubhari, Gairibas, Bikheybhanjan, Kalipokhri and Manebhanjan. Your Sandakphu trek guide will help you throughout the trek. The average duration of the trek is 7 days.

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