Sandakphu Trek - Delight of Singalila ridge
Upcoming post monsoon/fall dates for Sandakphu trek:
1st Oct (Day 1) to 6th Oct (Day 6)
15th Oct to 20th Oct (Day 6)
22nd Oct to 27th Oct (Day 6)
Sandakphu trek brief Itinerary:
Day 1: NJP/Bagdogra to Sandakphu trek base Chitrey (3 Km above Maneybhanjang) 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: Trek from Sandakphu to Srikhola via Gurdum – 18 Km – 7/8 hours
Day 6: From Srikhola drive to NJP – 150 Km – 6/7 hours or 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 6 evening (by 5 pm). Arrange your tickets for inward journey and back to home from NJP accordingly ***
Cost : Rs 7800 (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 Sandakphu 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 Trek:
Sandakphu trek route reaches the highest point of West Bengal, called Sandakphu at 3636m/11926ft, (Coordinates; 27.105096N, 88.001708E) inside Darjeeling district. 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, Jannu, 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 trail goes along the motor able road to Sandakphu (yes, there is one!), frequently taking detour and shortcuts. Sandakphu trek trail switches between India and Nepal all the way till Sandakphu. In fact the PWD motor road is the de facto border in stretches. Most of the settlements and hamlets we pass by are geographically in Nepal. As a matter of fact all our homestays/lodges during Sandakphu trek are in Nepal. The trail is inside Singalila National park which boasts numerous species of birds and wild flowers. This region is in Eastern Himalayan diversity hotspot (http://www.biodiversityofindia.org/index.php?title=Biodiversity_hotspots_in_India) and home to endangered Red Panda (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/714/0) . It is rare but not impossible that you get a glance of this shy animal, especially around Gairibas or while descending to Gurdum. Flowering of Rhododendrons and Magnolia turn the forest into red, pink and white shades during spring time. Scent of mist and flowers have its own charm. During fall weather turns clearer and hue of the foliage is eye catching.
Access to Chitrey/Maneybhanjang, Sandakphu trek base
We will arrange a pickup from NJP/Bagdogra/Siliguri to Chitrey and drop from Srikhola to NJP/Bagdogra. This will be shared by the team members on actual basis and paid directly to the driver. Typically a Tata Sumo/Mahindra Maxx charges Rs 3500 for a drop to Chitrey and Rs 5000 from Srikhola to NJP/Bagdogra. One such car can accommodate 6 to 8 people.
If you wish to reach trek base independently:
Reaching Chitrey without a reserved vehicle will require some local road knowledge and changing of vehicles. Return from Srikhola is much easier as there are direct shared service to Siliguri and Darjeeling.
- From NJP railway station take a shared jeep for Darjeeling and get down at Ghoom railway station. You can get one such shared jeep from Tenzing Norgay Bus terminus/Junction area in Siliguri also. From Ghoom take one shared service for Sukhiapokhri which is 12 Km. Change from here to Maneybhanjang, 7 Km away. Our trek base Chitrey is 3 Km up on the Sandakphu road. You are supposed to reach our Homestay at Chitrey on your own. You may get one vehicle to hire from Maneybhanjang to Chitrey (for Rs 400/500) but that depends on time and on driver’s will.
- From NJP/Bagdogra reach Darjeeling Mor (crossing/chowk in Siliguri on the way to Darjeeling) on Hill Cart Road. From here you get shared services for Sukhiapokhri. From Sukhia you can reach Chitrey as mentioned earlier. Be sure that you have enough time as you may have to wait long for your turn. Sometime you may get a direct Maneybhanjung service (essentially the cars returning to Srikhola) in around noon/early afternoon.
- While returning things are much easier. There are morning shared services from Srikhola to Siliguri and Darjeeling. For Srikhola there are two vehicles early in the morning at 5:30 am to SIliguri. It takes 6/7 hours to reach Darjeeling Mor in Siliguri (Rs 400 per seat). From here take an auto rickshaw to NJP/Bagdogra.
- From Srikhola you get shared services for Darjeeling city. Early morning vehicles start between 6 and 7 am. Then you get jeeps between 10 and 11 am. It takes around 4 hours to Darjeeling (Rs 200 per seat).
Seasons for Sandakphu trek:
Being in the Nepal/Sikkim border this area observes longer monsoon. Clouds start to hover from April and prolong till October beginning. There are two distinct seasons when this year trek is particularly beautiful:
1) Spring/Summer for Rhododendron trek: From mid of March to Mid of May. Flowering starst from early March in the lower elevation, and gradually towards end of spring on higher altitude. Rhododendron and Giant Magnolia are two most famous along with several other wild flower species. Cloudy or misty atmosphere is common during Spring. Though clear mountains views are not uncommon, specially during morning.
2) Fall/Winter for clearer weather: From mid October to January. In the beginning of October clouds start moving out from this region and weather becomes clearer. November is particularly known for its crystal clear views of the mountains.
Regarding accommodation during Sandakphu trek:
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.
Mobile network connectivity during Sandakphu trek
You will get network around your all the night accommodations. However the networks are not steady and working network depends upon provider.
Detailed itinerary of Sandakphu trek:
Day 1: Drive from NJP/Siliguri/Bagdogra to Chitrey – 100 Km – 5 hours
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 accommodation in Homestay lodge.
Day 2: Trek to Tumling – 9 Km – 6 hours
Our trek starts today. There is a motor able road to Sandakphu from Maneybhanjung and the distance is 33 Km. The same bumpy road goes further even till Phalut. This is not at all advisable as the height gain is abrupt. Only few 1950/60’s made Land rovers ply between Maneybhunjung and Sandakphu. These wonder cars ferry local villagers with loads of provision. Our Sandakphu trek trail often crisscrosses with this road. We start walking and after few turns on the table top meadow reach the tea stall at Lameydhura in an hour. The trail ahead is clearly visible till Meghma 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: Trek to Kalapokhri – 12 Km – 6/7 hours
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 Jaubari village inside Nepal. From here the main road leads to the eastern Nepal district town of Ilam while 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 GTA operated Trekkers 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. In spring this stretch is particularly vibrant with blooming Rhododendrons. 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 6/7 hour.
Day 4: Kalapokhri to Sandakphu trek – /6 Km – 4/5 hours; In the evening a walk on Phalut road for the sunset
Today we need to cover a short distance but will be gaining altitude. The lodges on top of Sandakphu can be seen from Kalapokhri. 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, variety of conifers 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 6 Km and can take 4/5 hours. Infrequent mobile signal is available. Overnight in private lodge.
Day 5: Sunrise at Sandakphu – Trek down to Srikhola via Gurdum village – 18 Km – 7/8 hours
Wake up early to observe the fascinating sunrise. During fall and winters this top remains cold, specially early in the morning. Wind blows directly from Kanchendzongha side. Expect a temperature between 0°C to -10°C (with the wind chill) in fall and winters. Strainght ahead is gigantic Kanchendzongha massif along with Jannu (Kubhakarna) to its left and Pandim to its right, forming as rightly said the “Sleeping Buddha”. Further left in the westward direction you can spot Three Sisters, Barunstse, Makalu, Lhotse, Everest and Chamlang. You will never forget the changing hue on Kanchendzongha.
After breakfast we start our descent. Today the trail is more likely you get in the other regular treks without an accompanying motor route. Intially the trail goes inside the conifers and later into bamboo forest. The slope of the descent is moderate at stretches and mostly gentle. In 3 hours we reach on the edge of the ridge and vast valley opens up. The picturesque village of Gurdum is seen below, along with the farming fields. After crossing the village we continue our descent till we reach Srikhola. This is a beautiful opening beside a stream called Srikhola (Khola means river in Nepalese language) along with couple of private lodge and one government oepratated GTA Trekkers Hut. Have your lunch/snacks here. An old suspension bridge connects the motorable road on the other side towards Rimbik. Distance is around 16 Km and can take up to 8 hours. Accommodation in private lodge.
Day 6: Drive from Srikhola to NJP – 160Km – 6/7 hours or extend your trip to Darjeeling town and other destinations (4 hours drive from Srikhola)
Today morning after breakfast we take the car back to NJP/Siliguri. We will cross Rimbik, and roads goes either through Dhotrey or through Bijanbari to finally Siliguri. If you have few days extra to carry on with vacation, then you can move out towards Darjeeling town which is 90 Km from Srikhola and takes around 4 hour.
P.S.: Altitudes and distances are approximate and may not be exact.