Sandakphu, situated at a height of 11,000 ft, is the highest point in West Bengal and a perfect destination for someone who is doing a trek for the first time in life. Located at the border of India and Nepal, it offers magnificent view of four of the five highest peaks in the world – Kanchenjunga, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu if the weather is clear. The entire route is located inside the Singalila National Park.
Sandakphu Trek Plan
A Normal trek to Sandakphu from West Bengal side starts from Maneybhanjan in Darjeeling district. A standard plan is as follows:
- Day 1: Get permit for Singalila National Park from Maneybhanjan and start trek. Stop for the day at Tumling
- Day 2: Start from Tumling and reach Kalipokhri. Visit the Kalipokhri Lake.
- Day 3: Start from Kalipokhri and finish the day at Sandakphu. Enjoy the top of the world feeling.
- Day 4: (Optional rest day) – You may either move around a bit or head back to Maneybhanjan
- Day 5: Start the decent – night halt at Gurdum.
- Day 6: Start from Gurdum for the final leg of the trek. Reach Srikhola and take a car to onward destination.
Sandakphu Trek – my first hand story
We did the 5 day trek to Sandakphu in November 2012. It was just after the Durga Puja festivities had died down. Weather in the hills of eastern Himalayas is always a thing that can get you worried. However, considerable research pointed that November / December gives the best chance of clear skies and proper sighting of The Sleeping Buddha.
My wife (it was her first trek) and myself landed in NJP station early morning and booked a cab to drop us to Maneybhanjan. Maneybhanjan is the starting point of the trek. We spent the night in the Maneybhanjan trekker’s hut, and got familiar with the guide and porter who would be accompanying us through the next few days.
Sandakphu Trek – Day 1
Once we got our entry tickets for the Singhalila National Park, our trek officially started. The guide – Nima Sherpa and the porter – Pranay Rai encouraged us that the trek would not be very difficult. However, in our hearts we knew that it was not to be. As with any trek, the first day, when we try to gain altitude, is normally the most difficult. The picture here gives the idea of the kind of incline we faced. Grim faced, we carried on, reaching Chitrey Monastery in about 1 hours’ time. After getting a quick tour of the monastery, we carried on, till we reached the small hamlet of Chitrey for our breakfast halt. This was where we got introduced to Maggie-with-soup, which was going to be our staple food for the next few days.
Post breakfast, the walk continued towards Tumling. We took a quick break at Lameydhura. Next came the village of Meghma – where we stopped for lunch.
Post lunch, the walk continued towards Tumling. We took a quick break at Lameydhura. Next came the village of Meghma – where we stopped for lunch. Meghma in Nepalese means the village of clouds. When we first sighted Meghma – it was really enveloped by a thin layer of clouds. Post lunch, the trek continued till we reached Tumling, which was going to be our destination for the day. We put up in Sikhar Lodge. The people of the lodge were extremely friendly and caring.
Sandakphu Trek – Day 2
Day 2 started with our first sighting of Mt Everest. Almost immediately after we started from the lodge did we get the first sighting of the Sleeping Buddha. The crispy chilly air and crystal clear skies added to the beauty of the view. A few kilometres into the trek, we got inside Nepalese territory.
The terrain in this part of the journey was more forgiving, with relatively less steep slopes and lots of downhill climbs. The first stop, for breakfast was in Jaubari, a small Nepalese hamlet. We got our first view of Mt Everest from here.
We resumed our downhill trek till we reached Gairibas. From here, the trail follows a steep ascend till it reaches the village of Kaiakatta. The gradient looked quiet a challenge for us. Gritting our teeth, we moved on.
At Gairibas, we had to get another ticket for entry into the Singalila National Park. 100/- was also charged for the camera. I was frowning regarding the ticket for the camera while trudging along. And then the incident happened – the camera somehow slipped out of my hand and fell on the rocky path – lens first. The result: as expected. The kit lens got dislodged from the barrel. I tried to bring it back to position – but to no avail. Finally I had to give up and fit the tele zoom. Imagine taking all the landscape shots using a high zoom!
We reached Kalipokhri around 5 in the evening and halted for the day. Kalipokhri, or the black lake is a holy lake for the local people. The hamlet near it is by the same name, and is a cluster of 7/8 huts. Without electricity, we had hardly anything to do for the evening. Dinner came in quick around 7PM, and we hit bed by 7.30.
Sandakphu Trek – Day 3
D DAY. We started very early in the morning for Sandakphu. The hotel Sherpa Chalet was visible right from the moment go. As if enticing us with the view. However, it was the gradient between our present location and Sandakphu that was the hurdle. Undoubtly the most difficult part of the trek, with gradients of close to 60 deg at times, this was the last hurdle before we could reach the highest point in the state of West Bengal.
Finally, the milestone of “Sandakphu 0 kms” greeted us. Ah! Joy!
However, the joy was short-lived as we still had the final 1 Km to the hotel, the grueling 1 kms. We reached Sherpa Chalet around 12.30PM and declared victory.
Famished, we had lunch and took some well-deserved rest. We saw some awesome sunset and some snow storm on the Kanchenjunga top and called it quit for the day.
Sandakphu Trek – Day 4
The next day was rest day. We started late and walked for a few kilometres towards Phalut. We stopped by a dog kennel, and had some tea made from yak milk. For the remaining part of the day, we stayed back in the hotel, enjoying the bright sunlight and soaking the natural beauty of the place.
Sandakphu Trek – Day 5
The next day we started from Sandakphu and came downhill towards Gurdum. We reached Gurdum and stayed in a small lodge for the night. This marked the end of our first trek. It was difficult, painful and places. But the joy of achieving the target overshadowed all such feelings.