Planning out my Sandakphu trek was not difficult though I was confused with the many route options. This terrain can be done in a number of ways and across days. I wanted to do mine solo (sans a guide) and over six days. However, I completed the trek in five days, with a guide and a fellow trekker.

Here is the route I took and all other details you may need if Sandakphu is on your 2015 list.

Day 1: Darjeeling-Manebhanjan-Tumbling

I left Darjeeling for Manebhanjan in the morning and the drive took less than an hour and a half. This village is the starting point of the trek. Once I was there, I had a quick word with Keshab Gurung, the local coordinator for Help Tourism and who helped book a guide, even though it is possible to find a guide once you reach Manebhanjan. Non-Indian nationals are expected to complete some official formalities at the check post here.

Amar was my guide and after a cup of chai, the three of us started the trek. The marginally steep climb continued until Chitrey Monastery, after which the cold mists kept me busy. We crossed the check post of Meghma, the village of Gurasai and finally Tumbling, where we would stay for the night. We were officially staying in Nepal this night!

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The first leg of the trek saw some comfortable hiking.

Distance: 14 kilometres
Time: 6 hours
Accommodation: Nila Didi’s Lodge (also known as Shikhar Lodge.) Probably the best place to stay in Tumbling with great hospitality and delicious hot food. We also got hot water bags for the night!
Expenses:Cab Darjeeling to Manebhanjan: ₹200 (usually ₹60 per seat, we bought more seats to leave quickly) | Lunch and tea: ₹90.

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Noodle soup was our usual lunch. Taking a break in Lamey Dhura.

Day 2: Tumbling-Kalapokhari-Sandakphu

We left Nila Didi’s lodge early morning after breakfast and I got a first glimpse of the Kangchenjunga. Shortly, we entered Singalila National Park and proceeded onwards to Joubari, Garibas where we stopped for tea and bought passes for the National Park. The climb was similar to the first stretch to Chitrey and soon the forest trails made way to Kaiyakatta. The flat walk to Kalapokhari was comfortable where we stopped for lunch. This is where the afternoon began getting very cold. If you didn’t get a chance to buy a ticket for the National Park at Garibas, you can buy one at Bikhey Bhanja. Bikhey is also where the very steep and tedious last three kilometres to Sandakphu begin. This repetitive path was gloomy and tough for me. Towards the end of the hike, I was worn out and just as I thought I couldn’t go on any longer, I suddenly saw the magnificent Kangchenjunga at the light of the setting sun. I had reached Sandakphu and the evening here was under deep blue skies with unbelievable views of the mountain ranges.

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The kitchen at the PWD Shed in Sandakphu. Photo courtesy Marcel Neubacher.

Distance: 19 kilometres
Time: 8 hours
Accommodation: The PWD shed, which was very basic stay but we were blessed with hot water bags again. The toilet wasn’t very clean and electricity is only on solar at stipulated hours.
Expenses: Check out at Nila Didi’s: ₹1200 for two (accommodation, two meals and tea) | Lunch and tea: ₹240 for two | Singalila National Park pass: ₹100 for Indian nationals.

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As we left for Phalut, we realised the three of us didn’t have a photo together!

Day 3: Sandakphu-Sebargram-Phalut

We woke up very early to see the sun arise from a bed of clouds as the Kangchenjunga and the Sleeping Buddha changed its colour accordingly. Battling the very strong winds, we had some quick breakfast and set out for the most beautiful day of the trek. While walking through the ridge, the mountains never left our sight. First we hiked across stony paths, then the barren grasslands, yet-to-bloom slopes of Rhododendron and spookily silent forests; finally reach Sebargram, where we had lunch. After that the hike to Phalut was comfortable till the last kilometre. Phalut was warmer than Sandakphu with milder winds.

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Walked all that way and more to Sebargram.

Distance: 21 kilometres
Time: 7 hours
Accommodation: Sole government shed. This was probably the most simple of our stay and yet the most memorable.
Expenses: Check out at Sandakphu: ₹1210 for two (accommodation, two meals and tea) | Lunch at Sebargram: ₹200 for three.

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Posers with Kangchenjunga in the background.

Day 4: Phalut-Gorkhey-Ramman

Another spectacular sunrise and since Phalut was warmer, I was happy to spend more time outdoors here. After a quick stop to see the mountains for the last time from a stone’s throw distance, we proceed our downhill walk to Gorkhey. Initially the non-threatening path, soon became repetitive and I hurt my toes resulting from the constant pressure of the angular walk. Once we reached Gorkhey, we made a long stop for lunch. While I enjoyed being next door to Sikkim, we started our short and scenic eight kilometres walk to Ramman. Walking through the forest and the infrequent streams, we reached Ramman just in time for tea.

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The beautiful valley of Gorkhey, which is divided from Sikkim by River Rammam.

Distance: 23 kilometres
Time: 8 hours
Accommodation: Ramman homestay where the hosts were lovely. At night, the stars of the sky merged with the lights lit in Sikkim.
Expenses: Check out at Phalut: ₹1400 for two (accommodation, two meals and tea) | Lunch and tea at Gokhrey: ₹400 for two.

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Trying Tongba- the local drink made of millet and traditionally served in bamboo glasses.

Day 5: Ramman-Srikhola-Rimbick-Darjeeling

After significantly hurting my toes the previous day, I was weary of any downward walk. Thankfully this terrain was friendly. With Sikkim on one side, the hike was picturesque throughout and the hanging bridge of Srikhola was quite the attraction of the day. This day was a cakewalk, as if we were being rewarded by nature! A lunch break at Rimbick and then we drove to warmer climes of Darjeeling. Jeeps from Rimbick only leave at either 0700 hours or 1200 hours. We pre-booked the latter which was packed with 13 passengers, excluding the driver. The drive to Darjeeling took us about 4.5 hours via Manebhanjan, where we bid farewell to Amar.

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At the old suspended bridge of Srikhola.

Distance: 15 kilometres
Time: 4 hours
Accommodation: Alice Villa in Darjeeling for a night.
Expenses: Check out at Ramman: ₹1000 for two (accommodation, tea, Tongba and two meals) | Tea at Srikhola: ₹100 for three | Cab from Rimbick to Darjeeling: ₹160 per seat | Lunch at Rimbick: ₹70.

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He drove 13 adults to Darjeeling!

Good to know:
-It is courteous to pay on behalf of the guide. We definitely did.
-Most of the costs here are inclusive of tip.
-My trek dates were November 29 to December 3, 2014. Prices may vary accordingly to season and places.

Note: I was guided and aided by Piran of Kipepeo and Raj Basu of Help Tourism immensely. Both the organisations travel responsibly and work in sustainable tourism projects across Northeast India. I’d highly recommend them in case you want to travel the unexplored and mystical Northeast India.

If there is anything you’d like to ask, do leave them in the comments below.

Images © Amrita Das.

Amrita Das

Amrita is a freelance travel writer and professional travel blogger. She has been contributing to some of the top publications in India and internationally. She propagates female solo travel and shares her experiences from off-beat, culture and adventure travel through her writing.

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17 thoughts on “Itinerary: Sandakphu Trek, Bengal

  1. Thanks for sharing, Amrita, this is so interesting. The Kipepeo website is very interesting too, I’m intrigued. Will keep in mind if I do go to North-East India some day.

    1. Kipepeo are doing good work. Do consider them if you’re travelling Northeast India. Thanks for stopping by, Kat. Happy travels!

  2. great article,okay you did not stay at manebhanjan,and saved a day by taking first halt at tumbling.great.as per my case I will be reacing manebhanjan maybe at 2 pm.so is it a good idea to do the same as you,or is it better to relax that day.btw I do have buffer days in my plan.also one question,me and my wife are going for the trek,is it needed to prebook accommodations at manebhanjan for the halts upto sandakphu??
    thanks

    1. Hi, I didn’t not stay at Manebhanjan because I started the trek early. Since you will be reaching in the afternoon, you could do a night stay there and then climb early the next day. Once in Mane, ask the village coordinator for a homestay and you will be guided to one. During high season, you may want to check on availability of homestays. Pre booking is not necessary but it’s always good to enquire about the inflow of trekkers. Have a good trek.

  3. hi,i did this trek with my wife in june this year.you and your comanions were really strong.as we took 2 days from tumbling to sandakphu…tumbling-kalapokhri and kalapokhri-sandakphu…this way…and you guys completed it in just a day..
    great adventure..

    1. I was impressed by myself too. But I wish we got clearer skies and some flowers. It’s a choice I made while climbing off season. It is a beautiful trek to do in any season and I’m glad you did it. It’s just beautiful, in spite of the number of days, etc. Happy travelling! :)

  4. thanks this was great help.. can you also suggest best way to reach Darjeeling (where the trek starts) from Delhi?

    1. You’re most welcome. If you’re taking the train, book yourself on a Rajdhani and get off at NJP station. You can take a shared cab from the station to Darjeeling. By flight, Bagdogra is the nearest airport. Here is my guide to Darjeeling.

      Also, Darjeeling is NOT where the trek starts. It’s your base-town. The trek starts in Maneybhajan, a drive from Darj.

    1. Good stuff, Apurba. Your post brought in so many memories. It is quite something noh? :)

  5. Hi! I am planning to follow the same path for Sandakphut Phalut during April 2016. I am planning to stay at Gorkey for night while comeing down from Phalut. Could you please tell me, whether it will be possible to get a car for Siliguri from Srikhola(Sepi) if we start early from Goreky next morning.

    1. Hi Dibakar, welcome to Travelling Ides of March. If you’re walking down from Phalut to Gorkhey, it will only take you 2-4 hours. What do you want to do the remaining part of the day? I ask this because the walk from Gorkey-Ramman-Srikhola will, thus, become very long. If you’d rather do this, then it will be an approximate 10+15kms walk. There are plenty of places to stay in Gorkhey, Samanden, Ramman-if you so wish. Keep in mind that cabs from Rimbick for Darj only leave at stipulated hours. Happy trekking! :)

  6. Hi,
    Thanks for the detailed information.
    I need your valuable suggestions.
    I am planning sandakphu phalut trek around mid may. Could you please tell me how did you manage all the hotel booking for the trek and what was the overall approximate cost for the itinerary that you shared. I tried contacting help tourism too but didn’t get any reply from them as of now. Thanks in advance for your time and help 😊

    1. Hi Nitesh, there are no hotels on the trail. There are homestays and some government run guest houses. I did not pre-book my stay on the trek. Once I reached Sandakphu or any other points (like Tumling, Phalut, etc) I sought-out rooms which were available. The costs are written above in the post. Have a good trip :)

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