Sandakphu Phalut Trek - Walking along Sleeping Buddha
Upcoming Spring/Summer departures to Sandakphu Phalut Trek:
Trek Code SP17SP1 – 1st April (Day 1) to 8th April’17 (Day 8)
Trek Code SP17SP2 – 15th April (Day 1) to 22nd April’17 (Day 8)
Day 1: NJP to trek base Chitrey (3 Km above Maneybhanjung) by car – 100 Km – 4/5 hours
Day 2: Trek to Tumling – 9 Km – 6 hours
Day 3: Trek to Kalapokhri – 12 Km – 6/7 hours
Day 4: Trek to Sandakphu – 6 Km – 4/5 hours
Day 5: Sandakphu to Phalut – 21 Km – 8/10 hours
Day 6: Trek to Gorkhey – 15 Km – 5/6 hours
Day 7: Trek to Srikhola – 12 Km – 5/6 hours
Day 8: By car from Srikhola/Rimbik to NJP – 150 Km – 6/7 hours or to Darjeeling town (90 Km, 4 hours)
*** Trekkers need to reach on their own to NJP/Bagdogra on Day 1 morning (by 10 am) or the previous night. Return to NJP/Bagdogra on Day 8 evening (by 5 pm). Arrange your tickets for inward journey and back to home from NJP accordingly ***
Cost : Rs 9800 (Chitrey to Srikhola) + 9% Service Tax
(Book for 3 persons and get a discount of 5%; Book for 5 or more to get a 10% Group Discount)
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Customised Trek: If the dates above don’t match or you want a separate private tour for your group then fill up the Customise Your Trip form with correct details.
The Trek Highlights:
About Sandakphu Phalut Trek:
Sandakphu is the highest point of West Bengal at 3636m in the district of Darjeeling and Phalut is another table top on the same ridge. This trek follows the famous Singalila Ridge, a prominent spur of high ground that lies at the southern end of a long crest, which runs down from the Kanchendzongha massif and forms the border between Sikkim & Nepal. One of the unavoidable necessities of trekking in Himalaya is that the best views are had from high up but the trek along this ridge, passing through small settlements, is perhaps the one of the most scenically rewarding in the Himalaya. This is indeed an ideal trek for the beginners with a tea-house style but a must visit for the experienced trekkers also. There are spectacular panoramic views of Nepal Himalayas including Kanchendzongha range, Makalu, Everest, Lhotse, Janu, Chamlang, Baruntse and a host of Sikkim peaks all seen in one stretch. The famous “Sleeping Buddha” formation of peaks is a delight for all. The Singalila National park area has rare species like Red Panda and is a birder’s paradise. Flowering of Rhododendrons and Magnolia turn the forest with red, pink and white shades during spring and foliage hue during fall.
Access to Chitrey/Maneybhanjung (The trek base):
We will arrange a pickup and drop from NJP/Bagdogra to Chitrey and drop from Rimbik to NJP/Siliguri. This will be shared by the team members on actual basis. Typically a SUMO/Mahindra Max cost around 3500 Rs for Chitrey and to 4500 Rs from Rimbik to NJP. One such car can accommodate 6 to 8 people.
If you want to reach Chitrey by public transportation then here are the options.
1) Take a shared jeep for Darjeeling from NJP Railway station and get down at Ghoom railway station. You can get one such shared jeep from Tenzing Norgay Bus terminus in SIliguri also.
2) Get another shared jeep from Ghoom to the town of Sukhiapokhri.
3) From Sukhiapokhri avail the jeep service for Maneybhanjung. From here you have to walk steep 3 Km up on the Sandakphu road to reach Chitrey.
This is a “Tea House” trek, i.e we don’t camp inside Singalila National Park but stay in Homestay/Lodge available on the trail. As you should expect on a mountain trail, these are basic accommodation run by the local Nepali/Tibetan families. Rooms are dormitory bed type with triple/quad sharing or more. Beds and blankets are neat and clean. Don’t expect an attached toilet or running hot water anywhere.
Phalut has only one Govt. operated GTA Trekkers Hut with 20 beds. Due to heavy demand mostly this is full in the season. Also it has been observed that beginners/first time trekkers are often finding it difficult to cover the 21 Km trail from Sandakphu to Phalut. So considering both we either keep you at Phalut Trekkers Hut or at Sabarkum/Molley, a place 14 Km from Sandakphu on the way to Phalut. This is decided case to case as per each individual group. However the itinerary remains same and you reach Gorkhey via Phalut in case the accommodation is at Sabarkum/Moley.
Though the trail is throughout Easy considering the terrain, but the route involves 6 days of trek covering around 80 Km. Often it can be strenuous if not prepared well. Also beginners as well as experienced trekkers can find it exhausting to reach Phalut, 21 Km from Sandakphu in a day.
However we have started arranging a smaller version of this trail omitting Phalut from the itinerary. This is the shortened version of Singalila ridge trek and called “Sandakphu Trek”. The wonderful walk along the ridge is ideal for the beginners/first timers, who want to explore Darjeeling/Sikkim Himalayas. This essentially retains almost all the flavour that the Sandakphu and Phalut produces, certainly the not scenic walk to Phalut! However this is not a showstopper considering the trail is same (initial 3 days of trek) till Sandakphu. Sleeping Buddha, Famous trio (Everest Lhotse, Makalu), and numerous Sikkim and Nepal high Himalayan ranges can be observed. The descent from Sandakphu to the beautiful village of Gurdum is similar in beauty that of Phalut to Gorkhey trail. Finally the Sandakphu trek also ends at Srikhola same as the longer duration Phalut trail. Advantage of Sandakphu trek is this trail requires 4 days of trekking and can be done year long apart from the monsoon (June to September). The walk is not strenuous like Phalut and covers around 40 Km in 4 days which is indeed an Easy grade trek and can be completed comfortably by anyone who has got basic physical fitness and will to walk.
The trip itinerary:
Day 1: Pick up from NJP railway station in the morning by 10 am and drive to Maneybhanjang (~ 1980m, 6500ft). Distance around 110 km and takes 6 hours. The road goes through the foothills of Eastern Himalaya (also called Dooars) and gradually gains the height. There are two roads of which one goes through the hill town of Mirik and the other by Ghoom. The last 2 Km from Maneybhanjung to Chitrey is a steep road with several hairpin bends and eventually reaches the hilltop clearing at Chitrey (~ 2200 m, 7200 ft). Chitrey is a small hamlet with of handful houses and a solitary lodge. There is a colourful monastery and Buddhist Stupa beside. Walk up to the top of the hillock for sunset and a distant view of the hill queen Darjeeling city. All the major mobile networks work here. Night stay in lodge.
Day 2: Our trek starts today. There is a motor able road to Sandakphu from Maneybhanjung and the distance is 33 Km. This is not at all advisable as the height gain is abrupt. Only few 1930’s made Landrovers ply between Maneybhunjung and Sandakphu on the bumpy road. These wonder cars ferry local villagers with loads of provision. Our trekking trail often crisscross with the road. We start walking and after few turns on the table top meadow reach the tea stall at Lameydhura in an hour. Now the trail can be seen clearly till Meghma and while we slowly gain height. As the route often defines the border between India and Nepal so posting of Paramilitary camps of SSB (Sashastra Seema Bal) at all the major points are common. From Meghma the the road splits and we take the left one. The one in the right leads to the top of Tonglu and then by descending eventually joins at Tumling. After traversing for an hour and half we reach the destination Tumling (~ 2900m, 9500ft). Total distance is 9 Km and can take 5 hours. We stay for the night in tourist lodge.
Day 3: Wake up early in the morning to view the sunrise. High Himalayan peaks look magnificent in the golden hue. We start our walk on a level ground and reach the Check post of Singalila National Park in 45 minutes. From here we obtain the permit and get into the national park. Shortly after check post the road bifurcates. We leave the jeep road and take the left trail into Nepal. The terrain is wide spread and walking on the rolling trail we reach the Nepalese village of Joubari. From the village the main road leads to the eastern Nepal town of Ilam and we take a right turn and descend on the stoned trail. The trail far ahead is clearly visible from here and after an hour we descend to the Indian settlement called Gairibas. There is a Trekekrs Hut, SSB camp and a shop which serves tea and noodles. From this point our climb for the day starts. The road enters into the dense forest and we take shorts cuts often which meet the jeep road while gaining altitude in short distance. A moderate climb of one and half hour leads us to a valley and a small settlement called Kaiyakata. There is a tea stall at the left hand side of the road. From here the road turns to a semicircular arc and splits. We take the left one which gradually enters into the thick forest of conifer, birch. and Rhododendron. After walking an hour a small pond is seen on our left. This is called Kalapokhri ( Kala is Black and Pokhri is a Pond in Nepali). From here we take a right turn and reach our destination for the day Kalapokhri (~ 3100m, 10200ft). There are ample lodges beside the main road strip inside Nepal and we stay in a lodge here. Total distance is 12 Km and may take 6 hour.
Day 4: Today we need to cover a short distance but gaining altitude. The lodges on top of Sandakphu can be seen from Kalipokhri. We traverse the mountain ridge to reach Bhikeybhanjung in an hour. This portion of the trail is inside Nepal and Indian road joins here from the other side of the mountain. There is a tea stall on our left and a forest check post on the right. The road splits and the newly built road inside Nepal takes a longer path on our left to reach Sandaphu. We take the straight road ahead and start climbing. The switchback road has several turns and we go off road in few occasions. On the right hand we can see one ridge after another meeting the horizon. Silver fir and Pine tree dominate the treeline. After ascending for an hour and half we turn left and reach the top of the ridge Sandakphu (~ 3636m, 11930ft). The left side of the ridge is in Nepal and the right side in India. On both sides of road there are lodges and tourist huts. The top of the ridge is somewhat flat and the north side is open. There is no ridge higher than this point and so the view of the mountains are uninterrupted. Total distance we cover is 8 Km and can take 3/4 hours. Infrequent mobile signal is available. We stay for the night at Trekkers hut in the Indian side of the top.
Day 5: Wake up before sunrise for remarkable view of the Himalayas. The wide panorama of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan ranges about 320 Km long is visible from left to right. Snowy mass of mountains looking like a gigantic wall mesmerise. Towering Kanchendzongha is straight ahead and marks the border between Sikkim and Nepal, along with Kabru, Pandim and Janu (Kumbhakarna) dominates the scene. To the left of these peaks and in the west graceful and majestic Everest stands tall in a distance along with Lhotse, Baruntse and Chamlang. Today’s walk surely makes entry in the list of finest ones in the Himalayas. The main trail from Sandakphu goes to the left towards Phalut and a secondary trail on the right descends to Rmbik via Gurdum and Srikhola. The 21 Km long trail runs along the ridge line while high mountains to the north and northwest. Terrain relatively flattens with receding treeline. The trail gradually descends to Sabarkum (~ 3350m, 11000ft), 14 Km away. A lone tea stall welcomes you here with noodles and biscuits. From here the trail splits, straight one descends to Rimbik via Molley. We take the left trail which gradually ascends to Phalut (~3600m, 11800ft). There are only two options to stay here, the Trekkers Hut can comfortably accommodate 20 people and the Forest Hut with two rooms. Phalut is a table top mountain without any trees but rolling meadows all around and notoriously windy. Fierce wind swirls around the trekkers hut in the night. To cover a distance of 21 Km it takes around 8 to 10 hours.
Day 6: Most of the people only visit Sandakphu and descend directly to Rimbik via Gurdum and Srikhola, bypassing Phalut. There is an old argument about which is better, Sandakphu or Phalut? In a different approach, the reward for visiting Phalut is threefold, (a) The spectacular walk from Sandakphu to Phalut (b) being situated further northeast, Phalut is aerially closer to the mountain ranges (c) descending trail from Phalut leads to the picturesque villages of Gorkhey and Samandin. There is small table top in front of Trekkers Hut which shields the view. We wake up before sunrise and climb to the top for 20 minutes. In the morning it can be cold and windy. Use windproof, gloves and balaclava. The views are simply breathtaking while the entire range is much closer. The shape of the Sleeping Buddha formation is surprisingly beautiful, Janu (Kumbhakarna) forming the head, Kanchendzongha the body and Pandim forms the toe. Everest group of peaks are a bonus! Today we descend 15 Km to Gorkhey (~ 2400m, 7900ft). Take the trail on the right from the Trekkers Hut and after a kilometer we cross the SSB camp of Phalut on our right. Taking a turn on our right we start the moderate descend. The main trail takes a longer path revolving on the face of the mountain while the shortcut is steep cutting the main trail at perpendicular in intervals. The vegetation is thick with bamboo cane forest making a canopy at times. As we go down, tress become larger and denser. Moss laden trees, different varieties of Rhododendron, Silver fir, pine, spruce, chestnut, oak, giant magnolia and hemlock are abundant, teeming with bird life. Look out for the board and arrow showing the direction for the village Gorkhey. From this point we leave the traversing trail and descent to the village. It will take 4/5 hours to reach. This is picturesque small village with a stream flowing by side and borders with the northern part of West Sikkim. Private lodges and a Trekkers Hut are available for stay.
Day 7: We start the day by climbing a small hill to reach another village called Samandin. A picture perfect village on the table top, a school for the kids, farming fields, and fenced with the tree. We keep moving along the trail which runs inside the village and enters into a pine forest. Gradually descending through the forest for an hour we reach a small side stream. From here we climb a ridge to enter the next village Rammam. Kids playing on the ground beside the school welcome the visitors. From here we can see a vast open valley and numerous scattered villages on the mountains of the Sikkim side. We walk on the level ground to cross the village and reach a point where the trail splits. Take the left one which is cobbled with rocks and steadily descend for another hour to reach our destination for the day Srikhola (~ 1900m, 6200ft). Total distance is 15 Km and can take 5/6 hour. Here both the trails from Sandakphu and Phalut meet. The private lodges and Trekkers Hut are placed in a narrow valley beside the river. A cable suspension bridge connects it to the road which leads to Rimbik. Now the motor able road has been built till the other side of the river. Night stay in tourist lodge.
Day 8: We cross the bridge and walk for 10 mins to get the car. Then drive back to NJP/Bagdogra via Rimbik and Maneybhanjung by 6 pm.
P.S: Altitudes and distances are approximate and may not be exact.