About this blog: Sandakphu Trek is one of the few treks from where you can see 8000m+ mountain ranges. In this blog, we have given a complete and comprehensive guide on Sandakphu and Phalut Trek.
Sandakphu is one such place from where you will get the view of four of the world’s tallest peaks. The Kanchenjunga family along with Lhotse and Makalu (4th and the 5th highest peak in the world) stands tall while the Everest, the highest one stands between, towering over them.
Sandakphu Trek starts from the picturesque village of Manebhanjan, near Darjeeling. Sandakphu Phalut Trek is spanned across 5 days through the Singalila National Park, giving you the magnificent and best views of Kanchenjunga ranges. In this Sandakphu Guide, we will give you all the information related to the Sandakphu Trek route, the campsites and other details.
The entire Sandakphu trek route is interspersed between West Bengal, Sikkim and parts of western Nepal. Sandakphu is the highest peak of the Singalila range as well as in West Bengal standing at an altitude of 11930 feet. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most picturesque treks in the eastern Himalayas with the Kanchenjunga cluster playing hide and seek with you at intervals.
What does Sandakphu mean?
Sandakphu literally means “height of the poison plants”. This is so because the poisonous aconite plants grow in abundance at Sandakphu, the highest point in the Singalila range. Medicines are extracted from the roots of aconite plants, but the small purple-blue flowers of the same plants can be quite toxic if you consume them.
How hard is the Sandakphu Trek?
Sandakphu is categorized under Moderate trek for an avid trekker. For the first timers also, the trek is quite manageable. If you are relatively fit, you can manage the trek upto Sandakphu without much problem. The distance between Sandakphu and Phalut is 21 km and has almost no settlement in between. This part is slightly difficult.
Why should you do the Sandakphu Trek?
Primarily because from Sandakphu, you will get an out of the world panoramic view of all the peaks of the Sleeping Buddha along with three other world’s highest peaks. Apart from these, there are many other reasons as to why Sandakphu should be on your trekking list.
1) Get the best view 4 of the world’s highest peaks, mainly the Kanchenjunga family
The Sandakphu Phalut Trek offers impressive views of some of the world’s highest peaks. The Kanchenjunga cluster is known as the Sleeping Buddha because of its appearance. Mt. Kumbhakarna forms the head and face of Buddha, while Kanchenjunga forms the upper body. The other peaks of the Sleeping Buddha are Kokthang, Rathong, Frey, Kabru South, Kabru North, Simvo, Pandim, Tenzingkhang, Jubanu and Narsing.
Kanchenjunga is the third highest peak at 8586 m. Lhotse and Makalu are the fourth and fifth highest peak standing at 8516 m and 8463 m. The jewel in the crown is world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest. You will get an out of the world panoramic view of these ranges from Sandakphu as well as Phalut.
The best thing about the trek is that the view of the ranges stays with the trekker throughout the trek. You don’t have to wait for a day; the first clear view of Kanchenjunga is seen on the very first day of the trek, at Upper Chitrey. Kanchenjunga plays hide and seek with you throughout the trek. After a tired and torturous hike, all your tiredness melts just at a look at the beautiful mountain ranges!
2) A trek with the best sunrise and sunset points
Sandakphu Phalut Trek gives you the best views of sunrises and sunsets. It is a humbling experience to watch the first rays of sun falling on some of the highest mountain peaks. See the sky changing colours from golden yellow to orange as the sun slowly showers its first rays on the snowclad peaks. Sunrise from Tonglu and Tumling is quite gorgeous. The climax is viewing the golden rays of the sun falling gradually on the snow-capped Kanchenjunga and then on world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest at Sandakphu. The icing on the cake is, however, the sunrise from Phalut. Each day, you see a new and a better sunrise – a speciality of the Sandakphu Phalut Trek.
The sunsets are also stunning at Kalipokhri and Sandakphu. Infact, Sandakphu has separate points for sunrise and sunsets.
3) The stretch from Sandakphu to Phalut is a perfect potboiler
The trail from Sandakphu to Phalut is a long 21 km but is full of twists and turns. You cross through rocky and muddy paths, go through forest trail as well as see the vast meadows under the clear sky. The landscape keeps changing. For us, we got the best is the view of Kanchenjunga ranges from the green meadows. The day is a long one and is packed with every delight a trek has to offer.
4) Food and lodging easily available throughout the Sandakphu trek route
There are trekker’s hut and home-stays throughout with very warm and hospitable people. They will go all out to make your stay comfortable. This is one of the treks where you do not have to worry about carrying tents and ration.
Home-stays are available at Chitrey, Meghma, Tumling and Kalipokhri. Trekker’s huts are available at Tonglu, Sandakphu, Phalut and Gorkhey.
5) Different view at different seasons
Sandakphu has a different look in different season. If you love colours, visit Sandakphu during the springs. See the rhododendrons bloom in a riot of colours. The whole path will be blasting in red, pink and white.
Autumn gives you the best view of the ranges. The sky will be clear and Kanchenjunga will appear with all her glory in front of you.
If you love snow, visit Sandakphu during December and January. The path will be covered with snow and you might even see a few frozen waterfalls on the way! Sandakphu will itself be snow-covered during this time.
6) A photographer’s paradise
Each day of the trek will give you different views of Kanchenjunga and Everest ranges. The path through the jungles will give you ample scope for photography. The sunrise and sunsets from the campsites are simply amazing.
You will also get the night sky and city lights together for photography! From Manebhanjan and Kalipokhri, Darjeeling city can be seen; and at night, little pecks lighting up Darjeeling city under the starlit sky is a great subject of photography.
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Sandakphu Trek Route with Phalut
There are a couple of alternate routes for this beautiful trek. You can start the trek from Manebhanjan or Jhaubari. The Sandakphu Trek route that we present here is the one that we took to Sandakphu and further to Phalut.
Day 1: Reaching Manebanhanjan, the base camp
Manebhanjan is a quaint village near Darjeeling at an altitude of 7054 feet. The conventional and widely known Sandakphu trek route starts from here. It is better to arrive at Manebhanjan one day earlier for proper acclimatization. There are a number of hotels and homestays available at Manebhanjan for overnight stays. The local market also has a few grocery shops from where you can get your stock for the trek.
There is a Porters and Guides Welfare Association here from where you have to hire guides and porters. The landrover stand is also just at the end of the market.
Alternative Base Camp: Dhotrey is an alternative starting point for the Sandakphu Phalut Trek. If you take this route then your total trekking distance is cut down by 5 km.
Day 2: Manebhanjan – Chitre – Tonglu – Tumling
We had stayed for the night at Manebhanjan. Early morning, with much enthusiasm we started towards the Sandakphu trail. After about 10 – 12 minutes walk from the market area into the trail, we arrived at the office of Singalila Wildlife Division. You will get the permit for the trek from here.
Earlier the entire trek route was full of gravel and boulder. 4-wheel drive vehicles take the tourists all the way to Sandakphu. Now, the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (GTA) has made another path for the trekkers through the forests and trees. But this trekking trail merges with the vehicle trail often within the entire trek route.
The first few kilometres of trail to Chitre is a steep uphill path. The first day of the trek is always difficult and the trail from Manebhanjan to Chitre did not make it easier for me. Within minutes I was panting, my legs felt like bricks and the thought that comes to my mind always came again – “why did I trouble myself so much?”
After 3 km of an uphill trek through forests of pine, fir and birches, we reached Chitre, a small picturesque village located at an altitude of 8340 feet. This part of the trek is quite steep and it took about 1.5 – 2 hours to reach Chitre.
There are a number of small shops at Chitre where you can rest and have food. There is also a small and beautiful monastery at Chitre.
Many trekkers start their trek from Chitre. They take a vehicle up to this point before starting the trek.
After Chitre, the ascent becomes relatively easier. The next village on the way is Meghma, 6 km from Chitre lying on the border of India and Nepal. There is a monastery at Meghma. The trail bifurcates from here. The trail on the right goes to Tonglu situated in India, while that on the left goes to Tumling, situated in Nepal.
Sandakphu is one such trek where borders between countries do not matter. There are many times when you will cross borders between India and Nepal. No paperwork is needed here, neither are there any restrictions for this trek route.
Tonglu is 2 km from Meghma. It is one of the highest peaks of the Singalila range known for its spectacular sunrise over the Kanchenjunga. On the hilltop, there is a trekkers hut where you can stay for the night. There is also the DM’s bungalow for night stay.
The route to the left goes to Tumling in Nepal, 4 km away. There are a number of homestays and lodges available at Tumling offering private rooms and dormitory beds.
If you wish not to stay at Tonglu and hike to Tumling, then just before the GTA lodge there is a bifurcation from the main gravel road on the left. It goes towards Tumling.
Both Tonglu and Tumling offers spectacular sunrise views. There is a viewpoint at Tumling from where you can get a spectacular view of the Sleeping Buddha. There are better and more accommodation options at Tumling. As for us, we took the route towards Tonglu, did not stop there for the night, but came to Tumling for the night stay.
Day 3: Tumling – Jhaubari – Gairibas – Kalipokhri (15 km, 6-7 hrs trek)
We started from Tumling after a hearty breakfast. After 1 km of the trek, we reached the arched gateway of Singalila National Park. This is the highest altitude national park in West Bengal and is the home to many exotic animals like red panda, Pangolins, Himalayan Black Bear, monals and many other Himalayan birds. We got our permits checked here.
As you enter the Singalila National Park Gateway, you will find the trail dividing into 3. One straight road goes to Gairibas. This road has been made into concrete and mainly used by the vehicles. Trekkers also use this route. The entire route is in India.
The trail on the left is a dirt trail going to Jhaubari in Nepal and then to Gairibas. Though this route is longer, but is more scenic going through the rolling meadows of Nepal. Excited we were to cross borders again, we took this route to Gairibas.
Another route is through the forests going all the way to Gairibas.
Jhaubari is a small village, 6 km from Tumling and it takes around 3 hours to reach there. From Jhaubari, we took a right turn towards Gairibas. From Jhaubari to Gairibas, the trail goes through a steep descent.
Once you reach Gairibas, you will see some shops here selling tea and different eatables. Gairibas has a number of lodges for a night stay if you so choose to. But during the peak season, it is usually difficult to find accommodation at Gairibas. You can rest here for some time because the next part of the trek to Kaiyakatta goes through a steep ascent.
After a rest, we started our ascent towards Kaiyakatta, another 2 km from Gairibas. From Kaiyakatta also, there are 2 routes – one going through India and the other through Nepal, finally both meeting at Kalipokhri. We took the route through India which was a gradual climb to Kalipokhri.
Kalipokhri is located at an altitude of 10400 feet and it takes about 3 hours from Gairibas. There is a small lake having black coloured water. This lake is considered sacred by the local people. At Kalipokhri there are a number of homestays. We stopped for the night at one such homestay. At Kalipokhri, we had one of the best dinners in the entre Sandakphu trek trail. The owner also served us Roxy, a local alcoholic drink made from rice or rhododendrons.
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Day 4: Kalipokhri – Sandakphu (6 km, 3 hours)
The distance from Kalipokhri to Sandakphu might seem only 6 km, but this stretch is clearly one of the most difficult ones in the entire Sandakpu trek route. You can see the Sandakphu Peak from Kalipokhri itself, but reaching there is not easy.
From Kalipokhri, the trail gradually ascends to Bhikeybhanjan, 2 km away. From Bhikeybahanjan, the climb to Sandakphu is the steepest. Haven’t you heard of the saying, ‘great things do not come easy’? The same happens in this case too. As it is, trekking at an altitude of 10000 feet is not that easy. And here the trail is also quite steep. The 4 km stretch can easily take more than 2 hours to cover.
We understood that quite well. The last few kilometres were literally a struggle for me. While we could see the Sandakphu peak near, but we were not arriving at the place. Finally, when the milestone saying “Sandakphu 0 km, Phalut 21 km’ arrived, we were simply ecstatic. But then there was another 500-metre steep climb from the milestone to the top.
All the pains that we took to climb simply vanished when we reached Sandakphu. The weather was clear with blue skies and balmy breeze and we could see the mountain ranges in front of us. we could see some of the highest and the most beautiful peaks of the world from Nepal to Arunachal. The place is surrounded by green conifers and time seemed to still at this paradise. It was such an overwhelming feeling!
There is a trekkers hut, a few private lodges at Sandakphu for staying overnight. We stayed at the Trekkers hut for the night.
Day 5: Sandakphu – Phalut (21 km, 12 hours)
The next morning we watched a magnificent sunrise at Sandakphu over the mighty Himalayan ranges. After that, we decided to trek towards Phalut.
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Phalut is another 21 km from Sandakphu and is one of the highest peak in the Singalila range at an altitude of 11811 feet.
The word Phalut is derived from the Lepcha word “Fak-Luk” that means barren peak. Infact the Phalut area and even the last few kilometres to Phalut is quite barren. This is in contrast to the greenery at the lower levels.
Sandakphu to Phalut Trek
The trek from Sandakphu to Phalut is perhaps the most dramatic one in the entire stretch. The way is quite a long one and there is only one settlement in the entire trail. 14 km from Sandakphu is the village of Sabagram or Sabarkum, which is the last settlement before you reach Phalut. So it is better to carry food and water on your way to Phalut.
The trek route from Sandakphu to Phalut is relatively easier with undulating gradients. There are both downhill and uphill stretches going through rhododendron forests, pine forests, vast meadows with the magnificent snowclad mountain ranges at the backdrop. You will see the Kanchenjunga family on your right and the Everest family on your left as you walk through the lovely meadows.
It takes about 10 – 12 hours to reach Phalut and experienced trekkers can do this in one day. Sometimes, trekkers prefer to stop at Sabagram, but accommodation option is limited here.
Phalut is basically a tabletop where there is a single GTA trekkers hut. The stay is quite basic here. but once you look around you, you will see the beauty all around. The Kanchenjunga ranges just seem to be at a stone’s throw distance. It is about 50 km on a straight line distance and appears gigantic and awesome. This is the closest view of the Kanchenjunga that you will get from the Singalila range. And believe me, the view id simply numbing. You will realise how small a place you occupy in front of the mountains and nature.
Phalut gets quite windy in the afternoon. The winds are quite strong, especially at night and it is better to stay indoors at night. The sunrise from Phalut is also spectacular.
Day 6: Phalut – Gorkhey
The next day, after watching a mesmerizing sunrise, we started our downhill trek. The trail is through beautiful forests of pine and conifers and bamboo blades. Gorkhey is about 15 km from Phalut. It is a lovely little village surrounded by pine trees. The Gorkhey Khola flows in between the village. There are about 30 families living in this village. There is a GTA Trekkers Hut and a few homestay options at Gorkhey for overnight stay.
The next day, we hiked from Gorkhey to Ribdi and then took a shared jeep to Jorethang. From Jorethang we took another jeep to Siliguri.
Return routes from Sandakphu
If you do not wish to trek all the way to Phalut, then there are a number of routes by which you can return from Sandakphu. Most of these routes pass through Srikhola.
Route 1: Sandakphu to Srikhola via Gurdum
This is the most common route and also the shortest one. Sandakphu to Gurdum is only 10 km and can be covered in around 3.5 – 4 hours. Gurdum has a private accommodation option if you want to stay there for the night.
Srikhola is another 1.5 hours walk from Gurdum. This trail passes through the jungles and the rhododendron forests. In spring (April & May), the forests bloom with rhododendrons. If you are lucky enough, you might spot a red panda or a Himalayan bear.
Srikhola is named after the river by the same name. There are many options for accommodation at Srikhola. Usually, trekkers, stop for the night at Srikhola and the next day take a shared keep to Darjeeling via Rimbik, Manebhanjan and Ghoom.
From Srikhola, you can also trek uphill another 7 km to Rimbik. You can stay there overnight and the next day take a jeep to Siliguri.
Route 2: Sandakphu to Srikhola via Molley (16 km)
In this route, you have to trek upto Sabargram. Here the route bifurcates. You have to take the route on the right towards Molley, then to Rammam and finally to Srikhola.
Route 3: Sandakphu to Rimbik via Bhikeybhanjang
In this route, take the trail back to Bhikeybhanjang, 4 km away. From here, there is a direct trail to Rimbik through dense forests and steep downhill slopes.
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Sandakphu by Car (Land Rover)
Trekking is not the only way that you can reach Sandakphu. There are motorable roads where 4-wheel drives are required to manoeuvre the tricky gravel-boulder track. Landrovers are available from Manebhanjan all the way to Sandakphu and also to Phalut. Lately, most of the roads to Sandakphu has been paved partly with tarmac and partly with concrete.
Many tourists, who do not want to trek all the way to Sandakphu, now avail the facilities of the land rovers to travel to Sandakphu.
Remember: No private cars and bikes are allowed inside the Singalila National Park.
Some important information
Land Rover Fare Maneybhanjan to Tumling (round trip): INR 2500 + Night Halt Charge
Land Rover Fare Maneybhanjan to Sandakphu (round trip): INR 5500 + Night Halt Charge
Land Rover Fare Maneybhanjan to Phalut (round trip): INR 9000 + Night Halt Charge
Night Halt Charge for Land Rover: INR 1500 per night (applicable for night stays)
Vehicle Entry Charge: INR 100
Contact of Singalila Land Rover Association: 8145822708, 9800667075, 9647790545
Unlike trekking, guides are not mandatory for visiting Sandakphu by jeep.
Best season to visit Sandakphu
Sandakphu is a trek for all seasons. But during each season the region looks different. Each season has own speciality for Sandakphu trek.
Sandakphu in April (spring) – the season of rhododendrons
April is one of the best seasons to do the Sandakphu trek or visit Sandakphu by car. During this time, the entire forest burst into colours because of the blooming rhododendrons. Everything looks colourful and bright. Also, you can see some of the amazing wildlife that the place has to offer.
Sandakphu Trek in October & November (Autumn) – for clear views of the mountains
If you want to see the mountains in their full glory then autumn months of October and November are the best time to visit Sandakphu. The sky remains clear and you will get clear views of the mountain ranges and glorious sunrises. Of you trek into late winters like January and February, you will even get snowfall at various parts of the route.
How to reach Manebhanjan?
The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri (NJP) and the nearest airport is Bagdogra.
Manebhanjan, the small village near the Indo-Nepal border is about 90 km from Siliguri. From NJP and Bagdogra, you can get a reserved car to Manebhanjan. A reserved car will take around INR 3000 from NJP/Bagdogra to Manebhanjan.
You can also avail shared jeeps, but in that case, you have to change the vehicle at Sukhiapokhri or Mirik. From Siliguri SNT Stand, you will get a shared jeep towards Sukhiapokhri and Mirik. From both these places, you have to take another shared jeep to Manebhanjan.
Alternatively, you can also reach Manebhanjan from Darjeeling. From Darjeeling shared jeeps are available from the jeep stand.
Where to stay during the Sandakphu trek?
You will get basic accommodations at almost all the places in the Sandakphu trek route. However, these accommodations are mostly basic lodges and trekkers huts. You might get a few homestays also. Almost all these places provide basic food like rice, daal, vegetables, eggs and sometimes chicken also.
How to book the GTA Trekkers Hut?
GTA Trekkers Huts are available at Tonglu, Gairibas, Kalipokhri, Sandakphu, Molley, Phalut and Srikhola. GTA Lodges can be booked only physically by visiting one of their offices at Kolkata, Siliguri or Darjeeling.
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
Pradhan Nagar, Opposite Mainak Tourist Lodge
Hill Cart Road Siliguri. Cell: 9434007080
Laden-La Road, Phone: (0354) 2256683
Darjeeling Railway Station.
Other private accommodations at Sandakphu route
There are also a number of homestays and lodges coming up in the area. Here is a list of such accommodations along with their contact numbers. Care has been taken to collect these contact details, but these information are subject to change)
|Manebhanjan||Keshav’s Home Stay||9232695120
|Kalipokhri||Pandim lodge||(+91) 9333964774
|Sandakphu||Sherpa Chalet Lodge||(+91) 9332599261
|Srikhola||Hotel Shovraj||9933488243, 9932216197
Camping options are available at Tonglu, Gairibas, Kalipokhri, Sandakphu, Molley, Gorkhey and Srikhola. If you are carrying your own tents, you can definitely find places to pitch your tent at these places. It is not possible to camp at Phalut because of extremely strong winds.
Are Guides required for Sandakphu trek?
It is mandatory to take a guide if you are doing the Sandakphu trek along with Phalut. However, if you are going to Sandakphu or Phalut by car, then guides are not mandatory. If you are starting from Manebhanjan, then you can get a guide from Highlander Guides and Porters Welfare Association, located near the roadside as you enter the village.
If you are taking a porter, then you can negotiate with him to also be your guide.
The rate for a Guide for Indians: INR 1000 per day for Indians for up to 7 persons in the group; thereafter INR 150 per additional person.
Guide rate for foreigners is INR 1200 per day for a group of up to 7 persons, then INR 300 per additional person
The rate for Porter: INR 800 per day + INR 200 for food at Sandakphu and Phalut each.
Guides are also available at Dhotrey and Rimbik. At Dhotrey, you will get guides from Nature Guides Association. In Rimbik (in case you want to do the trek in the reverse way), you will get guides available at Rimbik Guide Association.
How to obtain permits for Sandakphu trek?
Entry into the Singalila National Park requires a permit. You can obtain the permit at Manebhanjan or at the Singalila National Park entry gate just after tumbling.
The cost of the permit is INR 100 per person for Indians and INR 200 for foreign nationals. Camera fees is INR 100 for still digital cameras and INR 400 for video cameras.
Note: Singalila National Park remains closed between mid-June to mid-September (for 3 months). This is the monsoon time and animal breeding season. So Sandakphu trekking cannot be done during this period. However, you can trek up to Tonglu and Tumling during this time.
Some Essential Information about the Sandakphu Trek & Phalut Trek
Mobile Signal during the Sandakphu Trek
Indian mobile networks mostly do not work in the trek route. You might get intermittent network from BSNL. Mobile network is available at Manebhanjan and once you reach Srikhola.
At some places, Nepal mobile services are available and your mobile tower might switch over to Nepal international roaming. So be careful before making long calls.
To be honest, we both remain very happy if no network is available. We would be happy to spend a few days away from mobiles and other vagaries of city life while on a trek.
There are no ATM facilities available nearby, not even at Manebhanjan. The closest ATM is at Sukhiapokhri. So carry enough cash while starting the trek.
After Tumling, electricity is not available. But the people use solar panels for their minimal power needs. The hotel and lodge owners can charge your mobile phones and camera at some marginal cost.
Clothing, accessories & medication
Sandakphu can be quite cold during the winter months. So carry enough warm clothes and jackets along with scarves and gloves. We had done this trek in January and it was biting cold then.
Use proper trekking shoes and carry extra pairs of socks. It is advisable to carry rainwear because you cannot predict the weather in the mountains. A trekking pole can be helpful while trekking.
Also carry all the necessary medications like a pain spray and common medicines for cold, pain and stomach upsets.
Respect the mountains and be responsible
Last, but not the least, please respect the mountains and nature. Try to avoid using disposable plastic bottles like Bisleri etc. Carry a bottle with you and keep refilling it. The water is good here. Do not throw plastics and trash on your way. Try to have proper meals like rice, daal & vegetables instead of instant food like Maggi.
Finally, please be responsible for the mountains. Of late, we had heard that a young man lost his life while doing the Sandakphu Trek. This trek is not very difficult, but even at 10000 feet, the body needs some discipline. Refrain from having alcohol in the trek, how so ever happy you might be after completing the trek. Alcohol can be quite detrimental to your health. The same goes for those who visit Sandakphu by car.
Phalut and Sandakphu Trek in Pictures.
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