How about walking along with the extensive views of the world’s highest mountains? You may not believe and ask yourself, is it even for real? Indeed, there’s this distinctive Sandakphu Trek – (the highest peak of West Bengal) in the Eastern Himalayas, which actually give pristine views of the:
with many other peaks in its backdrop. Just pure white color spread all over the ranges and you won’t be able to resist being composed and soaking in its serenity and purity!
If you are still wondering, why not the second-highest mountain, K2? Because it is in Pakistan towards the Northern part of India.
The trail of Sandakphu trek goes through the dense Singalila National Park. Since nature knows no boundaries, one constantly moves in and out of the Indo-Nepal border immersing in the tradition, culture, and cuisine of both countries.
This was just a brief description of the trek, it has much more in reserve. I will try to cover up most of the things but just don’t plan out too much, just go for it!
I booked with an agent but surely, Sandakphu Trek is a Do-It-Yourself trek. The locals are extremely helpful and kind, there are many places to stop by to eat, stay and the route is really simple to navigate.
My Sandakphu Trek Journey:
Being a mountain lover, I was just looking out for any moderate winter trek and to my surprise, I came across this so unique trek that is still not so famous but still so pleasing. And then, there was no looking back. Out of excitement, I casually asked a friend if she wishes to join and she too couldn’t resist even without having any experience of high altitude trekking.
We booked our flight from Pune to Siliguri and our trek with Indiahikes and that is it! We felt a lot sorted and thought of looking out options to reach our trek base camp “Jaubhari” only after reaching the Bagdogra Airport. Although Indiahikes had arranged a morning cab for every one of us, but our flight was to land in the afternoon. 🙁
*Day 1 – Siliguri to Jaubhari/Mane Bhanjan*
Siliguri – Groom – Mane Bhanjan – Jaubhari -> 85 km drive
And finally, the day had come, we landed on time. After coming out of the airport, we started searching for options to reach our base camp.
We took a shared taxi from Bagdogra Airport till Ghoom and then another till Mane Bhanjang. If you search Jaubhari on the maps, it doesn’t show as it is a very hamlet nearby. While traveling from Ghoom to Mane Bhanjang, we were constantly relocating between India and Nepal on the way (No permit is required there for anyone). And, in the evening, finally, both of us managed to reach Jaubhari.
If you are planning to do trek by yourself then you can opt to stay at Darjeeling and drive early in the morning to Manebhajan which is around 25 km (1 hours’ drive). Or stay at Manebhajan/Jaubhari/Kopidana in any of the tea houses/hotels there and start your trek the next day. There’s also a local market nearby to buy essentials and to book a local guide. One can also get compulsory permits to enter Singalila National Park from here.
*Day 2 – Jaubhari to Tumling*
Jaubhari – Chitrey – Lamey Dhura – Meghma – Tumling (Gmaps link) -> 11 km trek
After the meet-up, introduction round and storytelling session that went yesterday, we all geared up early in the morning to kickstart our trek. The distance was around 11 km inside the Singalila range with ascending and descending some steep mountains.
The initial part of the trek started with a challenging steep climb through the thick forest and lasted for a couple of hours. We then halted for some tea and snacks at Upper Chitrey, a small village in the forest with a small human settlement on the Nepal side.
And going further, for the entire trek route, we kept tossing between India and Nepal.
The border even includes the Himalayan territories, but the two countries remain in peace and provide free movement of citizens across. Basically, there is no war, open international borders between the countries but just the border posts.
Now, since there are absolutely no restrictions to cross the border. Land Rover, vehicle suitable for rugged paths can also be opted (for the entire trek or some parts) as an option for people who cannot cover the distance by trekking.
After having our brekkie, we resumed again and now the trail was through the ridge. The real adventure had begun!!! The stroll amidst the mountains and the clouds was just impeccable and we started to immerse in its beauty!
After about 3 km walk, we stopped at another small village Lamey Dhura for some snacks again and to calm our nerves for a while!
Yet another 3 km walk from Lamey Dhura was a gradual incline to Meghma hamlet, route a mix of the rugged path and motor road.
Meghma means Mother of Clouds and we could actually perceive so! The hamlet was all hazy, covered in clouds. Even could feel that chilly wind, also because of the excessive height gained.
This pretty place welcomes its visitors with an SSB check post first 😀 because of the border. Although no one came out to check our Identity card (but anyway carry it). Now, after the check post, an alluring monastery was just a few meters ahead (Anyone can enter the monastery if the gates are open).
With many tea houses and large human settlements, people provide accommodation and serve food to the trekkers, making a living out of it. We halted by at one of the tea houses for lunch and enjoyed some delicious local cuisine.
Now, finally, the final part of the day was left and it looked like an endless journey. At last, somehow we made to Tumling, leaving our country behind and reached a foreign land – Nepal
It was a tough, LONG DAY, but there’s more to this, longer and tougher routes but many loftier, mesmerizing views and trails too! <3
*Day 3 – Tumling to Kalipokhri*
At 5ish AM, someone banged our door, get up to watch the sunrise. We knew it wouldn’t be just lightening the sky but also the mountains that were hidden by the haze, the previous day. And for the first time, “The Sleeping Buddha” showed up. And, it just looked, MAJESTIC!
After thoroughly enjoying views, it was time to enjoy our hot Himalayan tea and Nepalese food, we were also preparing ourselves for some more new adventures.
Today’s trail was a mix of motor trail road, then again a mix of forest trail and meadows inside the Singalila National Park with catchy sights of some Himalayan birds.
After a 3km walk on the motor road, we halted for a few minutes at our first stop – Jaubhari (Nepal side) to relax a bit before getting lost in the mountains!
After hiking through the dense forest and meadows for a couple of km around, we reached Gairibas Hamlet and had some yummy momos (our treat for all the hard work). 😛
By lunchtime, we had reached Kaiyakatta, and it was so chilly out there. Even the trail further was all covered in snow.
Until I hadn’t visited these small hamlets – Gairibas and Kaiyakatta, I didn’t believe in this thing – “Not on Maps“. 😀 They are so tiny that they aren’t even spread out at a distance of even a km.
And the day then ended with a much more interesting place – Kalipokhri
Kali (Dark) and Pokhri (Lake) in Nepalese – is a small Himalayan village with a bean-shaped dark water sacred lake and prayer flags, worshipped by villagers here. The lake here contains black water which is a rarity at such a high altitude. Also, despite the sub-zero temperature in the winters, locals say the lake never freezes – Interesting enough right?
*Day 4 – Kalipokhri to Sandakphu*
Kalipokhri – Bhikey Bhanjan – Sandakphu -> 6.5 km trek
Today was A BIG DAY, not because of the distance but because in a few hours’ time we were to reach the highest point – Sandakphu (3,636m).
After some hot and tasty breakfast, we were all pumped up for a steeply-inclined trek today. Today’s stretch was to be the most dreadful hike of the entire trek.
With it, the further part would be in India and we will be back to our homeland, so happy..haha.
Bid Adieu Nepal!
The route looked amazingly a blend of blonde and white color today! With a gradual ascent for half an hour, we all relaxed for a bit and soaked in the beauty of nature!
We halted a lot today but to soak in and not just for the pictures. And yessss, after the steep climb for another 4 km, we finally made to the destination! Felt like, I accomplished a lot in life! 😀
Climbing up a bit more, there were many lodges to stay (famous one – Sherpa Chalet) or to munch on some snacks. But, we chose to camp, one can set up a tent a bit further near the Sunset Viewpoint.
After a few more meters walk, we made it to the HIGHEST POINT and the panoramic views were just killer! I believe no picture can justify how grand and beautiful it looked!
At the sunset viewpoint, we started pitching in our tents post-lunch. The air was already thinner and as time passed, it started getting colder and windier. People started to gather at the sunset point, waiting for the mesmerizing sunset.
This picture isn’t put with some filters. I really watched one of the best sunsets in my life. The sky had looked just so magical and I couldn’t find enough words to thank God for bringing me to this place!
Sunset Views (Eastern side views)
It started getting too dark (no electricity near the area) and unpleasantly windy and cold after the sunset and the dinner was scheduled at 7 PM. Post that by 8 o’clock, we were supposed to hit the bed to start the next day a bit early. I truly don’t remember when I had dinner before the usual time and slept this early. 😀
*Day 5 – Sandakphu to Sabargram*
Sandakphu – Sabargram (Molley Forest Hut) -> 12 km trek
In the morning, as I came out of the sleeping tent, strong wind gushed on my face. Now, it was much windier than yesterday and I feel the temperature had dropped enormously. Still, I couldn’t resist going to the top to catch the morning views. (Had already missed the sunrise). And I was stunned to see “The Sleeping Buddha” all glittered in bright red-pink-golden hues.
We had to descent today and I had thought with a heavy heart that the mountains will be left behind. But to my surprise, as we descended, the mountains looked much more massive and closer, the sparkling Everest too showed up!
We had packed lunch and had to carry filled bottles, as en route there were no hamlets or human settlement.
Today was the last day to see the Kanchanjanga in the form of The Sleeping Buddha, and felt like it provided a wide-angle for that reason, always following, walking and keeping an eye on us!
The trail was a bit of up and down but mostly flattish and too much glorious. I truly liked it more than any other day during the entire trek.
The route was so scenic going further through meadows. It looked like scenery painted by nature and snow has been spread creatively to enhance its beauty more.
The mountain sky started to faint away partially covered by fog.
The walk was on a ridge on fresh snow, leaving our marks behind we kept going.
Today, yaks were the main companions, I saw more yak herds than humans today. 😛 They are quiet animals unless annoyed. It is advisable not to go near them unless they are not tamed.
By the early evening, we made it to Sabargram deep inside the forest which has wide grassland and many species of the beautiful fir tree.
There’s only one place to stay known as Molley Forest Hut in the middle of the forest, managed and owned by the forest department. One can camp but the temperature may fall up to -10 degrees at night.
*Day 6 – Sabargram to Gorkhey*
Sabargram – Gorkhey -> 14 km
The weather was freezingly cold, the body was almost numb! Despite that, we all went a bit uphill from our stay and were amazed to see everything covered in white! Sandakphu Trek is not only limited to just watching out mountain peaks!
The route was pre-decided as Sabargram to Gorkhey via Phalut, 21 km of descent in total. But we had cut short it and chose not to go via Phalut which decreased the distance by 7 km. But, if one chooses to go those extra miles, they probably have the best views of the sleeping buddha.
After breakfast and after packing our lunch we started to descend mostly through the dense bamboo forest. The entire route was with some steep descents, that even some trekkers and I slipped a few times. Now, after a few km of walk, possibly, there won’t be any snow on the trail!
While traversing through the bamboo forest, there are chances that one may encounter Bears or Red Pandas as well, but you need to be really lucky for it! 😀
After a few hours of descending down, we started to see colorful wooden huts and farms.
In total 4-5 hours’ time, we made it to Gorkhey. I hadn’t seen such a beautiful forest village before, it had many vegetable farms, patches of pine trees, streams, beautiful colorful houses and so much of scenic beauty all around!
The valley here divides between Sikkim and West Bengal boundaries.
In the evening, after strolling around, we danced with the local Gorkha Army men, we shared how this whole trek was like, we all made plans to meet again because it was the last night with the co-trekkers and the trek was nearing to its end. 🙁
*Day 7 – Gorkhey to Sepi*
Gorkhey – Rammam – Srikhola – Sepi -> 15 km
We started from Gorkhey through the forest via Samanden village and Rammam to reach our last destination Sepi.
The trail from Gorkhey to Ramam was through a beautiful dense forest with gradual and steep ascents and with gushing streams. On the way, we passed Samamden, a very pretty village with quaint wooden huts and lush fields. There was a tea house at Ramam where we took a break.
The route was then descents through the forest. Just before Sepi, we crossed a wooden bridge at Srikhola. And then walked up the motor road for half an hour to reach Sepi (trek’s last destination) by lunchtime. We weren’t able to believe, how quickly the trek came to its end.
After lunch, we headed to Manebhajan and everyone bid their last goodbye. The vehicles were arranged on demand by IH. My friend and I left for Darjeeling which took around 2 hours while others had left for Bagdogra Airport/NJP which would take another 4-5 hours.
I realised Sandakphu Trek wasn’t just limited to the accomplishing the peak, it was all about the whole journey and experiencing out everything it offers!
How to Reach Siliguri?
Flight – Trek being towards the northern side of West Bengal, the nearest airport to the basecamp is near the Siliguri City – Bagdogra Airport. Direct flights are available from major cities like New Delhi, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata. (Skyscanner)
Train – The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri – NJP in the Siliguri city. It is connected to major cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, and Cochin. (IRCTC)
There’s no Airport, a regular broad gauge railway station or a bus stop at trek’s basecamp nearby town Darjeeling.
How much Sandakphu trek costs?
Trek agents may charge somewhere around 9-15k INR (accommodation, food, permits, guide included) for the whole trek from the first basecamp to the last one. If one cuts out the middleman, it would cost around 5-9k INR depending on the local guide, food, accommodation and season of the year one chooses.
Moderate to Difficult – A lot of distance needs to be covered at a stretch. In total, we had covered 65 km in 6 days by walking. I was practicing running and stair climbing and was also eating healthy food on a daily basis before the trek. Good physical fitness is a must to enjoy the entire Sandakphu trek to the fullest!
Best time to go for trekking
November to Feb – If you want to walk on the snow and experience snowfall.
March and April – If you want to see rhododendrons (Himalayan flower) and ample of Himalayan birds and animals.
Essentials to Carry
- Wicking t-shirts, trekking pant
- Raincoat, jacket (which can handle sub-zero temperature), fleece, thermals
- Hiking backpack and its rain cover
- Neck gaiter, hand wolves, woolen cap
- Sunglasses/Reflector (not just for fashion but to protect eyes from snow blindness)
- Good trekking shoes (the most important essential), woolen socks
- Head touch, walking pole, dry fruits or protein bars, lunch box (for packed lunch), insulator water bottle, power bank, medicines, etc
- Portable tent, sleeping bag (if you are opting to pitch your own tent).
A site/store to find all trekking essentials: Decathlon
Places to Stay and Eat
At all the villages and hamlets here, pay and stay facility is there. GTA (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration) Trekker’s huts and lodges are mostly everywhere (~300 INR per night).
There are many other inexpensive homestays/teahouses/hotels which provide only basic necessities and local cuisines. Do not consider this a luxury trip. On the way, there are numerous tea stalls that provide tea, noodles, Maggi, eggs, etc.
One can also carry their tent but do carry insulators as the temperature goes sub-zero at night.
Bits of Advice
- Indian sims don’t work in Nepal if required one can buy Nepal Telecom (Recommended) sim, although making ISD call facilities are there.
- Carry sufficient cash as you won’t find ATMs on the way or most of them running out of cash, although some Nepalese accept Indian Rupees as well.
- Carry enough water and snacks, before leaving for the day, you may not find many options on the way for long durations.
- If you are not a Nepalese or an Indian, it is better to carry to your passport/permits because of many checkpoints on the way.
- Respect the locals, they are very simple people with basic living. Don’t get offended by the facilities offered there.
- Bring all the plastic/trash back to the lower lands, there ain’t places to dump or process the trash.
- A little preparation and a bit of fitness help one to enjoy as the whole Sandakphu trek requires a lot of physical activity.
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Thank you! ♥