Sandakphu Trip: A Thorough Travel Guide (2021)
Sandakphu is one of the most underrated places in India. At the height of 11926 feet, Sandakphu is not only the highest point of West Bengal but also it is its pride. It is one of the few places in the world that offers tourists breathtakingly beautiful views of mountain peaks like Mount Everest, Mount Kanchenjungha, Mount Makalu, and Mount. This 180 degree-view of these mountain ranges is known as the Sleeping Buddha. When you reach there, you will notice the positioning of these peaks resembles the sleeping positioning of Lord Buddha pretty well.
The panoramic view seen at Sandakphu can never be replicated anywhere in this world. As this site is partly located in Nepal, the majestic Mount Everest view is so vivid from there. Among adventure enthusiasts, Sandakphu is a pilgrimage. This is one of the best trekking destinations that one could ever participate in in their lifetime.
Although the unparalleled natural beauty is one of the primary reasons behind this trip’s popularity, blooming Rhododendrons, vibrant villages and their people, monasteries, and others are also crucial it being famous. Apart from these aspects, the tea plantations and the mesmerizing beauty of Singalila National Park also make this journey even more special. Image Source
Apart from the tourists from West Bengal, this trekking trail is immensely famous among adventure enthusiasts worldwide. Even though many tourists reach Sandakphu through trekking, there are other easier ways to get there. In this blog, we are going to provide you exhaustive knowledge regarding a trip to Sandakphu. We will allow you to know both the options that you can avail to go there.
Ways to Reach Sandakphu Other Than Trekking
Many people have the wrong perception that Sandakphu can only be reached via trekking. Although this fact was true many years back, now things have changed. People can explore the different sites of Sandakphu by availing motor vehicles. But there is a hurdle in renting a car. Due to the roads’ horrible condition, you will have to hire only the ancient Land Rovers available over there. These gravel-filled roads can cause severe damage and lead you to accidents if you avail of a regular car. Due to the poor conditions of the streets, drivers do not get to drive their vehicles smoothly.
These Land Rovers are from the British regency and can be availed from Manebhanjan. Before 2018, tourists used to take these Land Rovers to Phalut, but now, they do not get that far due to lack of safety. At such a high altitude and challenging terrain, these Land Rovers do not provide effortless service. The total distance from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu is approximately 30 km. It might not sound that much; in reality, this journey can seem quite hectic. The gravel pathway leading to Sandakphu makes the journey quite uncomfortable. If you visit Phalut from Sandakphu, you will have to travel another 21 km.
The road up to Gairibas, 12 km away from Sandakphu, is relatively smooth as it has been paved with concrete. Due to this renovation, the journey has been cut short. Some adrenaline-junkies prefer bikes to cover the entire trip. For them, we must warn that the road from Gairibas to Phalut via Sandakphu is perilous. Even if you plan on traveling to Gairibas from Manebhanjan via bike, do not opt for the same measures to cover the rest of the journey. Moreover, if you are not an expert biker, abandon the decision of biking towards Sandakphu. It is not worth risking your life.
Vital Things to Know About Sandakphu and Phalut Trek
Now, trekking towards Sandakphu or Phalut might sound too intense, but it is not that tricky in reality. If you are an experienced hiker, you will know most of the easy to moderate pathways. But that does not mean a newbie will have to forget their dream of trekking towards Sandakphu. They can certainly participate in this journey if they keep the following points in their mind.
The most important thing that you should know is that there is no rock climbing on this trip. So, do not panic unnecessarily.
In a day, you might have to walk for four to five hours in this trekking adventure. If you can walk or hike for 8 to 10 km in smooth fields by taking 2 to 3 minutes of breaks, you will have no problem completing this adventure.
Throughout the trekking trail, you will notice markings that allow you to know if you are on the correct way. In case your guide tells you to take shortcuts, the paths can be steeper than the original trail.
It will be an excellent idea for you to hire experienced guides from Manebhanjan before starting this journey. Many tourists even hire porters to trek with them.
If you are worried about the seclusion of the location, do not worry. Every 2 to 3 km, you will find tiny roadside stalls that would serve you a bowl of delicious noodles and piping hot tea or coffee. These Chawls allow tourists to rest and rejuvenate themselves for the rest of the journey.
The best part about the trek to Sandakphu is unlike other trekking trips, and you would require no specific gear for this. By only investing in a good pair of shoes, you will be able to complete this trek quite comfortably.
As this trek’s intensity is not that difficult, most expert trekkers complete it within four or five days. In case you are a newbie, it would take you a few more days to complete the trek.
Apart from the meager trekking gear requirement, another significant part about Sandakphu trek is its convenience. As motorable roads and trekking pathways often intersect, you can quickly call for a Land Rover if you face difficultly walking. Unlike other trekking trips, the Sandakphu trip is pretty convenient.
All the lodges where you will stay overnight during your trek are relatively well-established. With comfortable accommodation and hearty meals, these properties are perfect for spending a night and get the desired rest while completing your tour.
You must know that the cost of hiring a Land Rover from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu is approximately INR 5500. The night halt charge is not included in this cost. If you plan to go to Phalut by these Land Rovers, you should know that the price is INR 9000 from Manebhanjan to Phalur. These are the round-trip fare of these cars, and for the night stay, you will have to pay the driver INR 1500 per night.
Many people visit Manebhanjan from Bagdogra or New Jalpaiguri Station. Usually, people rent a car to reach the destination. It would cost you around INR 3500 to go to Manebhanjan from the said sites. If you are visiting there from Darjeeling, it would cost you only INR 1400 to reach there.
Trekking Routes for Reaching Sandakphu and Back
Now, coming to the blog’s main point, let us delve into the main trekking route from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu. Although some people love the alternate routes, today, we provide you all the information regarding the most popular path to Sandakphu. Before going into all the nitty-gritty details of the various halts of this trek, you should know that the trekking distance from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu is 32 km. As this trek is upwards, it takes new trekkers around three days to reach Sandakphu.
Some experienced trekkers can cover this distance in a day. You will be even surprised to hear that some tourists have accomplished the goal of completing this journey in seven to ten hours. In the following part of this guide, we will get to know about the halts and villages that you will encounter on your trekking adventure to and from Sandakphu to Manebhanjan.
Manebhanjan: The Starting Point of The Spectacular Trek
Your trekking adventure starts from the breathtakingly beautiful hill station of Manebhanjan. With an altitude of 7050 feet, this town is lovely. As it is the base and gateway for Sandakphu and Singalila National Park, you will notice a wide variety of trekking gear stores over there. If you are not planning on trekking towards the destination, you might change your mind by the persuasion of the local store-keepers. In case you are planning on exploring the majestic Singalila National Park for a day or two, you will have to get its entry-permit from this town only.
Moreover, to hire a guide, rent Land Rover, and buy any last-minute trekking gear, you will have to go to the shops of Manebhanjan’s primary market. Although for many people, Manebhanjan is the starting point of the trekking expedition to Sandakphu, many people now opt for the route from Dhotrey. Firstly, the trek from Dhotrey allows you to trek 5 km less than the road from this town. Secondly, the trekking route from Dhotrey to Tonglu is gorgeous and full of greenery. On the other hand, the way from Manebhanjan to Tonglu does not offer that panoramic view. If you are a beginner, always opt for this town path as it is well-marked and allows tourists never to get lost.
Tonglu: First Spot for Night-Staying
Even though the distance from Manebhanjan to Tonglu is only 11 km, it takes tourists around six to seven hours to reach there by trekking. If you are traveling by Land Rover, you will get there in an hour. At the height of 10,000 feet, Tonglu allows you to witness the mesmerizingly beautiful views of the surrounding mountains quite easily. This site is a peak of the Singalila mountain range and is mostly famous for being a pit stop during the trek towards Manebhanjan. To reach Tonglu, you will pass beautiful hamlets, namely, Chitre and Meghma.
If you are not an experienced trekker, you should be warned that the route from Manebhanjan up to Chitre is quite steep. You can have a bowl of Maggi or a piping hot cup of tea in the stalls at Chitre and start your ascent again. Thankfully, the route from Chitre is relatively more straightforward. After Chitre, you will come across the charming village of Meghma. It is the first point that you will encounter, which lies at India and Nepal’s border.
During the Sandakphu trek, you will have to cross the border at different times. Do not worry, and you will not have to produce any paper for doing it. As the GTA-run trekker’s hut is located in Tonglu, people spend a night there before starting the trek again.
Tumling: Alternate Pit Stop to Tonglu
At Meghma, the trail bifurcates into two different ways, one way leads you to Tonglu, and the other way takes you to Tumling. Technically, Tumling is located in Nepal and is way more popular than Tonglu. With more variety of lodges and eateries, Tumling is slowly growing to be a famous hamlet. Situated at the height of 9600 feet, the beauty of Tumling is unparalleled. Moreover, unlike Tonglu, this site is renowned for staying overnight and is famous for its surrounding ambiance. Right from the moment you will reach Tumling, and you will feel that you are not in India.
The sloping tin-roofed houses, the beautiful park amid the town’s enthralling beauty make it different from India’s regular hillside hamlet. If you visit there during clearer weather, you might also see Sandakphu peak from there. We should also warn you that this town is the last point of your trekking to get regular electricity. That is why it will be better for you to charge your phones to the fullest while staying there. Apart from being more vibrant, there is another reason why so many people prefer Tumling over Tonglu is that visiting the Singalila National Park from there is relatively more straightforward. Apart from Manebhanjan, the entry permits to the park can be acquired from there. For both trekkers and non-trekkers, Tumling is the better place for an overnight halt.
Kalipokhari: Last Pit Stop Before Reaching Sandakphu
After trekking for more than seven to eight hours from Tonglu, you will reach Kalipokhari. Now this village is spectacular and is quite crucial to the tourists visiting Sandakphu. Even though there is only a lodge available in this hamlet, it is quite helpful to tourists. Before starting there, the trek from Kalipokhari towards Sandakphu, they make an overnight stopover there. With a height of 10,400 feet, the natural allure of this village is genuinely mesmerizing. With a minuscule population, Kalipokhari is a hidden gem in India. Even if you are not trekking, do not forget to spend some time in this hamlet for a much-needed dosage of solitude.
If you visit Singalila Park on the way of going towards Sandakphu, you can opt for trekking trails other than this one. One trekking trail will take you to a tiny Nepalese hamlet Jhaubari, another one will take you to Gairibas, and the other one will take you along the majestic forestry of the Himalayas. No matter which trails you opt for, Gairibas will be the overnight-halt for you while ascending from Singalila. Like Kalipokhari, Gairibas also allows tourists to do an overnight stay comfortably. Now, while climbing from Singalila, you might be too tired to move forwards after Gairibas, but it is always a better idea to cover some distance before the last ascend towards Sandakphu. That is why we will suggest that you spend the night before reaching Sandakphu in Kalipokhari, as it is relatively closer to your destination than Gairibas.
Sandakphu: One of the Most Beautiful Places in the World
Now, it is time for you to know about the final leg in the trekking excursion towards Sandakphu. Even though the distance between Kalipokhari and Sandakphu is only 6 km, you will be pretty surprised by the time you will take to cover it. This excruciating ascend is the hardest among all the trekking trips in this guide. The main reason behind the trek’s difficulty towards Sandakphu is the altitude. As you will be hiking at the height of more than 10,000 feet, your lungs will not function as it does in other altitudes. Due to the thin air, your stamina will be hampered. Your lungs will slow you down. At a distance of 2 km from Kalipokhari, you will reach Bikheybhanjan. This is a great spot to catch up some air and have some light snacks and tea.
4 km from Bikeybhanjan, Sandakphu is located. You will remember these last few km for the rest of your life. At the time of trekking, you might regret participating in it, but later in your life, you will be thankful that you dared to do it. Each moment in the last lap of your journey towards Sandakphu will feel like a significant achievement. The breathtakingly beautiful surrounding views of the route will take your mind from the steep ascent for some time. Even after reaching Sandakphu, you will have to hike 400 meters of the steep upward climb to reach its topmost point.
Incidentally, the topmost point of Sandakphu is also the top point of West Bengal. When you reach there, you will be glad that you decided to go on this trekking expedition. The view that you will get to see from there will be one of the best things that you will ever see in your life as we have said earlier in this guide that from Sandakphu, you will get to see four out of five most gigantic peaks in the world. But when you visit the panoramic scenery comprising the majestic mountains of Mount Kanchenjungha, Mount Everest, Mount Kangte, Mount Makalu, and others, you will genuinely be dumbstruck.
While staying in Sandakphu, it will be the best decision of your life to see the sunrise. The view that you will see amid the rising sun of this sleepy town is genuinely unfathomable. On the western horizon of Sandakphu, you will get a crystal-clear view of the highest peak of the world, Mount Everest. The massive snow-peaked mountain will undoubtedly make you forget all the stress of your life at that instant. Located close to this magnificent site are the Makalu and Lhotse peaks that compliment the main attraction of Sandakphu, Mount Kanchenjungha. Among the 180 degree-view, Mount Kanchenjungha takes center stage. You will never visit any other place on earth where you will get to see Mount Kanchenjungha this vividly. Other peaks of this enthralling mountain are also located there. The said mountain peaks are commonly known as “Sleeping Buddha.” Capturing this view and witnessing it with your eyes is among the best things that you will ever achieve in your life.
Apart from the said peaks, other mountain ranges like Kangte, Simvo, Pandim, Kabru, and others are also visible from Sandakphu. At the time of sunrise, the mountain ranges are a combination of colors. The view of these peaks on the background of clear blue sky and an array of reddish-orange color will stay with you forever. There is a lodge called Sherpa Chalet located in Sandakphu. To witness the breathtakingly enthralling view of the mountain clusters, you will have to walk 100 meters from Sherpa point to reach there.
Phalut: First Stop in the Downward Journey from Sandakphu
After spending a day or two in Sandakphu, now it is the time to start your descend trip. Before discussing this trip, we should inform you that the descend journey is a lot easier than the ascend trip and would take you lesser time.
Phalut is the first main attraction that you will encounter while descending from Sandakphu. As this is the second highest peak of the Singalila range with an altitude of 11810 feet, it is also prevalent among tourists. Even though the distance from Sandakphu to Phalut is 21 km, almost every tourist gets to cover it within ten to twelve hours.
There are no pit stops in this route, and hence bringing an adequate quantity of food and water from Sandaphu with you would be smart. Sabargram is the only place where you can spend a night in the lone humble trekker’s hut available there. This point is located 14 km from Sandakphu. Even though Phalut does not offer you views of the wide variety of mountain peaks, the view from Kanchenjungha from there is more vivid. If you notice the 180 degree-view of the Sleeping Buddha from Phalut, you will see that it seems closer and reachable.
There is only one place to stay in Phalut, and if you do not reserve a room in that lodge beforehand, you might not even get a place to wait for the night. That is why it is better to book a room from before than risking your way out there. Many adventure enthusiasts trek further from Phalut for two to three days to see the enthralling Mainibas Waterfalls in Sikkim. If you are an expert trekker, you can hike to Uttarey in Sikkim and spend a night camping over there.
Gurdum: Easiest Way to Reach Srikhola From Sandakphu
Now, not everyone has to reach Phalut to descend to Manebhanjan. Most trekkers avoid Phalut and trek towards Srikhola via Gurdum. Apart from Manebhanjan, Srikhola is the only place where you will get to hire vehicles to travel back to Bagdogra or New Jalpaiguri. The distance between Sandakphu and Srikhola is 16 km. Most tourists often break this journey comprising 16 km into two days. On the first day of descending, they reach Gurdum, which is located only 10 km from Sandakphu, and on the second day, they get Srikhola by walking 6 km. The trip from Sandakphu and Gurdum is a lot easier and takes only four to five hours.
The best part about this expedition is its pathway. As this route follows the dense forest of Singalila, you will get to see the beautiful varieties of flora comprising Bamboo, Oaks, Magnolias, and Chestnut trees. In case you are participating in the Sandakphu trek in the spring season, you will get to witness the fully-bloomed Rhododendrons in this route. Among all the roads of this trek, this path is the most beautiful. You even might be lucky enough to see a red panda while hiking this route. With only seven to eight houses, Gurudum is a dream-like hamlet. The natural beauty of this area resembles the picture-postcards that you are acquainted with a lot. Tourists often spend a night in the lodge located over there to rest and explore the town.
Srikhola: Only Motorable Option for the Downward Journey from Sandakphu
After having a restful sleep in the lodge in Gurdum, you will have to start your descend journey towards Srikhola. As the distance between these locations is only 6 km, you will reach within two to three hours. Srikhola river’s babbling can be heard after walking a few km from Gurdum. There are some lodges located on the footbridge by river Srikhola. These places are located around 2 km from Gurdum. Although many tourists stay there, we would suggest you take the overnight halt at Srikhola. The main reason we are advising you to keep at Srikhola is that, after trekking for so many hours, your legs will be tired, and you will not have the mental and physical capability of hiking the last lap of your journey.
By staying at Srikhola, you will cover the entire trekking expedition and get an early start of your return trip back home. Moreover, Srikhola’s natural beauty is worth exploring. The hamlet is situated by the beautiful river by the same name. Capturing some pictures in the last lap of your trip will be a great way to end it. After resting well enough at Srikhola, you can hire a jeep from there to take you to Darjeeling. The route to Darjeeling from Srikhola will allow you to explore some beautiful sites, including Rimbik, Dhotrey, and Ghoom. If you want, you click on some pictures of these beautiful towns.
A Small Summary of the Entire Trek to Sandakphu
To sum it all up, we include the summary of the entire trek in this guide’s following part. While planning your trip, consult this portion for the correct itinerary.
Day 1: After arriving at New Jalpaiguri or Bagdogra, rent a car to take you to Manebhanjan. As you will have to walk for more than eight hours from Manebhanjan, it is a good idea for you to stay a night over there. By resting and exploring the beautiful topography of Manebhanjan, you will get a fresh start the following morning and get energized for your trek. Moreover, by staying there overnight, you will acquire the required permits and hire your guide from the city center.
Day 2: On the second day of your trip, you will have to walk around six to seven hours to reach Tumling or Tonglu. It will be better for you if you make your night halt at Tumling rather than Tonglu.
Day 3: On the third day of your trek, you will be traveling from Tonglu or Tumling to Kalipokhri. Always avoid continuing your journey from Kalipokhri to Sandakphu on the same day of reaching Kalipokhri. You can also trek up to Gairibas if you feel exhausted. Gairibas is located a few km before Kalipokhri.
Day 4: Start the most challenging trek of this entire trip from Kalipokhri towards Sandakphu on the fourth day of the tour. After reaching Sandakphu stay there overnight.
Day 5: If you visit Phalut, you will have to trek for approximately eight to ten hours from Sandakphu. After reaching Phalut, spend a night there and get ready for the following day. If you are not visiting Phalut, start your trek towards Gurdum or go directly to Srikhola. Either you can stay at Gurdum or Srikhola, depending on your opinion.
Day 6: If you are descending from Phalut, you will have to trek to Gorkhey for around six or seven hours. It will be better for you if you stay there a night. On the other hand, if you are not traveling via, Phalut, you can rent a car to take you to Manebhanjan from Srikhola on the sixth day of your trip.
Day 7 : In case you are walking from Gorkhey, you will have to trek to Srikhola and stay a night there.
Day 8: Rent a Jeep from Srikhola to take you to Darjeeling or NJP or Bagdogra.
Best Time to Visit Sandakphu
Sandakphu is located at an extremely high altitude, and the weather conditions are often unfavorable. But people across the globe visit there throughout the year apart from the monsoons. Apart from constant rainfall, hazardous roads, the closure of Singalila National Park from mid-June to mid-September is another reason why almost nobody visits Sandakphu at that time. An equal number of trekkers visit the region in the summer as well as the winter months.
If you visit there from March to May, you will get a comfortable climate and get to witness the beautiful Rhododendrons in their original state. But if you go from October to December, you will get crystal-clear views of the magnificent mountain peaks. The view that you will get to see in the winters will be much clearer than that in the summers. So, depending on your tolerance of cold, you will have to choose the correct season to visit Sandakphu.
Accommodations Available in the different points of the Sandakphu Trek
We include the list of the lodges and homestays that you will get in the different sites while trekking towards Sandakphu in the following.
a. Hotel Exotica
Phone Number: +91-9733044512
Address: Mane Bhanjang, West Bengal 734221.
b. Keshav Gurung’s Homestay
Phone Number: +91-99323397449
Address: Manebhanjan, West Bengal.
a. GTA Trekker’s Hut
Address: Contact GTA Bhawan in Salt Lake City Kolkata.
a. Shikhar Lodge
Address: Tumling 57300, Nepal.
Phone Number: 091488 24227.
a. Pandim Lodge
Address: Kalipokhri 57300.
Phone Number: +91-9735916541.
a. Sherpa Chalet
Address: 4232+WQ Singalila national park, Sandakfu, Singalila Forest, West Bengal 734221.
Phone Number: 085092 52318.
a. Magnolia Lodge
Phone Number: +91-7602168750
a. New Singalila Park Homestay
Address: Near Srikhola Government High School, PO.Rimbick Bazar, Block, Bijanbari – Darjeeling Rd, West Bengal 734201.
Phone Number: 081033 56670.
Sandakphu trek is not for everyone. Even though the hike is not that difficult in terms of intensity and awareness, walking uphill for eight to ten hours a day requires a high physical fitness level. That is why we have included both the options of trekking as well as driving in this guide. You might feel overwhelmed by studying about Sandakphu, but once you visit there, you will feel everything was worth it. As we know, good things do not come easy in life.
Similarly, the trip to Sandakphu might feel exhausting, but in the end, the views that you will get to see at its top will make every trouble worth it. By studying this blog, we hope you got a detailed and clear idea regarding a trip to Sandakphu. So, what are you waiting for? Venture into a new adventure in your life by exploring the beauty of Sandakphu.