If you think Darjeeling or Sikkim gives you the grand experience of living in the mountains, wait till you reach Sandakphu and realize the ultimate grandeur of life in the high mountains where nature is at her pristine best.
Located at an altitude of 3,636m, Sandakphu is the highest peak of the Singalila Ridge and the entire state of West Bengal; no doubt you shall witness the most visually stimulating view from here. What if I tell you that you would see four of the five highest mountains in the world? Yes, the peaks of Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse all appear at the horizon and would baffle your eyes. The grandeur of snow capped mountains, battalions of colorful wild flowers like primulas, rhododendron, magnolias, orchids and many other sub-alpine flowers, the melodic chirp of birds filling the air and the fresh green smell... soaking in all of this would definitely elate all your senses. Of course you will have to make an effort and trek uphill to experience this ‘top of the world’ feeling but we assure you it is definitely worth all the effort.
Should you ever plan to undertake this trip on your own, here is our recommended Sandakphu trek map and itinerary that you can finish in 6 days. As you plan your travel to Darjeeling, make sure you don’t miss out on Sandakphu trekking or Singalila trek. All the best!
Day 01: Darjeeling -Manebhanjang – Tonglu/Tumling
Wake up early (around 5:30 - 6 am) and reach Manebhanjang, your trek should start early in order to have fulfilling adventure tours and panoramic grandeur. This little village is 58km from Darjeeling i.e about 1.5 hours ride and is inhabited by modest village dwellers of the Bhuddhist Sherpa tribe. (If you are a foreign traveller, you will need to make some entries at the Immigration Check Post here). Have some breakfast before starting the trek.
Today you could hike up to Tonglu (3070 m), it is 11 km from Manebhanjang and would take you 5-6 hours to reach. Enroute you shall pass through pine, fir, birch, bamboo glades and reach another tiny Buddhist settlement, Chitre (2530 m). This will be a quite steep uphill climb on a stoned pathway. Crossing Chitre you shall reach a small hamlet Meghma (2900m). You could take a break here and have local, forget not to interact with the friendly villagers and resume trek after lunch.
You shall have two choices now to halt either at Tonglu or Tumling as the route will bifurcate here but meets again at Tumling. If you want a good view of the mountains then head to Tonglu, just 2 km from here and commands an excellent view of the entire Himalayan Mountains. If you halt in Tumling then in clear nights you would see dazzling night-lights of Darjeeling Kurseong, Pasupati town and Siliguri.
You could camp overnight or stay at a homestay, both the options are available.
Day 02: Tonglu -Gairibas –Kalipokhari
Try and wake up early to witness the magical golden sunrise behind the Himalaya Range. It will be a rewarding day today as you shall enter the famous Singalila National Park (declared Indian National Park in 1992) and discover some exotic plants of the mountain and perhaps even spot a red panda. After breakfast you could begin your easy downhill trek to Garribas (2621 m). This small village is approximately 9km from Tonglu and will take you around 3 hours to reach. Enroute you shall pass through the simpler walks of life, a quaint hamlet, their modest farmlands and lots of bamboo glades. You should have lunch at Gairibas and then gear up for a continuous uphill climb to Kalipokhari (3170 m). It is 6km form Gairibas which should take you around 3 hours of hike. If you are trekking in springtime then you will love this hike because you shall pass though the blooming forest of rhododendron. At Kalipokhari (Black Lake) as the name suggests you shall find a small dark colored lake amidst pine tress and fluttering prayer flags.
I should tell you that you also have the option of taking a 2hr jeep ride form Tonglu in case you feel tired (the jeep needs to be organized at Manebhanjang). You could halt overnight in Kalipokhri at a homestay or tent.
Day 03: Kalipokhari - Sandakphu
Good morning and gear up for ‘the day’. Sandakphu, the highlight of the entire Singalila Trekking route also called the ‘paradise of trekkers’ shall be yours today. Sandakphu (3636 m) commands an expansive 360-degree view from the top and a spectacular vista of the entire Himalayan belt. The towering pinnacles in Nepal - Mt. Everest, Lotse, Makalu and Sikkim’s Mt. Kanchenjunga and Mt.Pandim all appear at the horizon in a continuous arc. While the foreground valley is surrounded by hills covered with rhododendrons and silver fir trees.
But to reach this awesome place you should start early from Kalipokhari. The ridge trail descends till Bikhebhanjang (Valley of Poison) but from here it is a steep climb of 4 km till Sandakphu. It is the steepest slope of the entire Singalila trek ridge and perhaps the most tiring one too but it is equally rewarding. The route passes through thick magnolia and rhododendron forest and it should take you 2-3 hours to reach Sandakphu (Height of the Poison Plant). The poisonous aconite plants are found in abundance in the region and said to have harmed cattle in the past, hence both Bikhebhanjang and Sandakphu have been named after it.
You have a choice of lodges, guesthouses and trekkers hut or camping areas at Sandakphu.
If the entire uphill trek till Sandakphu seems tiresome to you then you could also hire a vehicle form Manebhanjang itself. It is a 4-hour journey by jeep and could be a very adventurous ride.
From Sandakphu you can choose between a longer or shorter downhill trek. To finish the trek you can take a shortcut route though dense forest and reach Rimbik or you could head towards Phalut.
Day 04: Sandakphu - Phalut
You should wake up early to see the golden rays of the morning sun shining on the white snow of Himalayas Mountains. You could stay for one more night at Sandakphu and indulge in the heavenly atmosphere else resume your trek and walk towards Phalut (3600 m). If you think that nothing after Sandakphu might interest you as much then hold your thoughts. The trail form Sandakphu to Phalut is one of the most spectacular sights. You shall cross through thick rhododendron, oak, pine trees but the burned silver fir forest makes the most of the beautiful and dramatic landscape. You might also spot some yak herds at the lakesides on the way and yes you shall not miss a roofless stone house on a small hillock in Sabarkum.
The trek is easy and walking on the ridge crest you shall cross the indo-Nepal border and reach Phalut. The distance is 21km and should take you around 6 hours to reach. Mt. Kanchenjunga range appears much closer from here as compared to the rest of the trek. You could halt tonight in the trekkers hut or camp.
Day 05: Phalut – Rammam
Wake up early and witness the magical sunrise behind the prodigious Himalaya Mountains. From Phalut the trail descends downhill and would take you though thick virgin forest of chestnut, pines, hemlock and more. After breakfast resume your trek, perhaps take some light picnic snacks too and walk till you reach Gorkhey Khola, this fresh water stream is where two small streams meet. Don’t hold back, jump into the running stream and bathe to devour the freshness of this fresh water. You could enjoy your picnic lunch here and resume trekking to Rammam via Samandin. The total distance covered is 14km today and should take you around 5 hours of walk. You could halt overnight at Ramman in a local homestay, guesthouse or camp.
Day 06: Rammam - Rimbik
Today would be the last day of your trek; you will walk 19km from Ramman to Rimbik. You could start your trek after breakfast, the road is almost level for 9km and then it descends down to reach Sirikhola (river). From here you shall hike uphill to reach Rimbik. Enroute you shall pass through quaint hamlets and their farmlands. After reaching Rimbik you could check into a hotel and take a leisure walks around the town in the evening.
The extraordinary tale of your long journey to the ‘paradise of trekkers’ ends here. It is time to rejoice and celebrate it with friends or locals in Rimbik.
Next day after a rested night and good lunch you could head to Darjeeling or Siliguri. Passenger vehicles are readily available in the town.
Sandakphu is one of the fun places to visit and can be visited at any time of the year but the best time is spring (April-May) when the wild flowers and rhododendron are in its fullest bloom. However the monsoon months (July-August) are not very pleasant because of the rain.
Note: The trek route passes through dense forests and remote areas at times, trekkers have even lost their way in the past, so safety also needs to be considered.
You could also book a guided Sandakphu Trip package with us where we would organize all your transport, accommodation and food.