The Ultimate Guide to Sandakphu Trek


Psst. Let me pass on a secret. Did you know, you can see the Mount Everest’s peak with your naked eye? If yes, then you might have heard of one of the most favourite treks in India, The Sandakphu. Standing on the India – Nepal border, this hike to the West Bengal’s highest peak is the one spot where you can see a panorama with 4 of the 5 highest peaks of the world.

What can you expect?

If you think your view from your balcony in a Darjeeling resort or from a Gangtok rooftop is ultimate, this is going to blow your minds with its pristine best and top of the world experience. Including some of the beautiful terrains like stony slopes, lush green forests, snow-capped peaks and alluring waterfalls; this is the one trek that has it all.

Darjeeling Manebhanjang Tonglu

Darjeeling - Manebhanjang - TongluDay 1 starts with a jeep ride to Manebhanjang from Darjeeling, early in the morning. This little village inhabited by the Buddhist sherpa tribe, will be the breakfast point and the starting step to the Trek. The hike will pass through pine, fir and bamboo plantations on a steep stony path. It is a 5-6 hour walk filled with picturesque valleys and tribal hamlets. The camping point, Tonglu gives a beautiful panorama of the Himalayan range. The nights here are comfortable enough to venture out for a perfect star gazing session.

Tonglu  Kalipokhari

Tonglu - KalipokhariWith a beautiful sunrise, the day starts with an easy downslope to Gairibas, through the Singalila National park. Filled with hundreds of photo clicking spots and exotic flora, this is also the only natural home of the red panda, which is on its verge of extinction. After a hearty lunch at Garibas, gear up for a straight uphill climb to Kalipokhari, that takes nearly 3 hours. Contrasting to the downhill walk which passes through tribal settlements, farmlands; this climb is a dry and scarcely populated area on the edge of a valley. Kalipokhari loosely translates to black lake, named after a dark coloured pond decorated with prayer flags whose water is never, ever, seen frozen.

Kalipokhari Sandakphu

Kalipokhari - SandakphuThe day you reach the peak, is also the day that demands the most. After a brief downslope to Bhikebhanjang, the steepest ascent of the trek, taking you to Sandakphu, starts. There are two trails, one passing through Nepal, which is a longer but less steep track. But the steeper path gives more beautiful landscapes. The winds are so cold, yet the sun is so harsh; we can find zig-zagging streaks of ice layered on the ground, wherever there are shadows. The 360-degree panorama from the pinnacle is so mesmerising, making every step totally worth it. Starting from the left, the tops of Makalu, Lhotse, Everest, Nuptse, Baruntse, Chomolonzo, Machapucchare and other peaks of the Annapurna range spread on towards the west. The infamous spectacular view of Kangchendzonga with its associates is found in the north, forming a hazy outline of a sleeping Buddha.

Sandakphu Phalut

Sandakphu - PhalutThe sunrise on this mountain chain, is the most beautiful thing, you might have ever seen, as the snow caps shine like the grandest gold. The hike to Phalut is a long but levelled walk through thick, high trees and yaks grazing over ever-stretching meadows. This is the day, will find the most beautiful landscapes and aesthetic views. Save your battery for lots of pictures to be clicked. The edge of the ridge crest stops at Phalut, which giving the closest view of the Khangchendzonga range.

Phalut Rammam

Start the hike early in the morning to witness a little forest magic and spot an occasional animal venturing out. The trek descends downhill and will take you through thick virgin woods. It takes 3 hours of jumping over the roots to reach Gorkhey, a stop for lunch. Gorkhey Khola is where two smaller streams meet, and make an alluring little spring of fresh water, tempting and safe enough to take a swim in. Two more hours of walk through the local villages after you cross the metal bridge, will take you to Rammam, the final camp spot.

Rammam Rimbik

Rammam - RimbikThe walk to Rimbik is an easy stroll on the village roads through civilised hamlets. It is a constant downhill up to the river Sirikohla, followed by a little climb. You can spend the night in the village guest houses or directly head to Darjeeling or Siliguri, for a well-earned rest and relapse.

Can you do it?

Agreed, this is not an easy trek anyone can jump on to, but this is not something unachievable too. A little cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility training from a month prior to the trek will make you ideally fit for this trek. This can be achieved by either jogging (for 20-30 minutes daily),swimming, cycling or endurance training. This, complimented with a few sets of squats and lunges to strengthen the legs must do the trick.

A high altitude trek often requires a steady control over one’s breathing. Be prepared for a little altitude sickness and cold in the night. There is limited electricity over the hills, so extra batteries will come handy. A water shortage is often a problem due to freezing, so the cautious use of water is recommended. The access to motor-able road and the military camp at Sandakphu makes this the safest amateur trek there is. Overall, it can be classified as a moderate trek, and with sufficient effort, its rewards are beyond proportion.

When to do it?

This trek is feasible all year, but certain time frames are best suited for certain kinds of experiences. The summers, from April to June give beautiful orchids and blooms all over the valley, attracting nature enthusiasts from all over the country. The winters, from December – February, fill the paths with snow and freeze the waters deep, to give an adventure of a lifetime. To strike the perfect balance, get the best out of this trek by visiting from September – November, where the skies are perfectly clear to give a magnificent view of the peaks, still maintaining a brief encounter with snow.

Pack your bags and head out now!! The mountains are calling..


About Author

Sushant Kanumuri is a passionate explorer, taking his audience with his journeys using his pen and camera. He clicks photographs, writes articles and prepares content and does research for a spectrum of travel blogs, websites and magazines. Follow more of his work and listen to his stories on his fb page, ‘Cyphographer’.

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