Sandakphu (3636 m; 11,941 ft) is the highest peak in the state of Ilam, Mechi, Nepal and West Bengal, India. It is the highest point of the Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling District on the West Bengal – Nepal border. The peak is located at the edge of the Singalila National Park and has a small village on the summit with a few hostels. Four of the five highest peaks in the world, Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, and Makalu can be seen from its summit. It also affords a pristine view of the entire Kanchenjunga Range. The trek along the Singalila Ridge to Sandakphu and Phalut is one of the most popular ones in the Eastern Himalayas due to the grand vistas of the Kanchenjunga range and the Everest range which can be seen from the ridge, and also for the seasonal wildflower blooms and birding. Treks begin at Manebhanjan which is 28 km (approx. 1 hour by road) from Darjeeling.
Sandakphu throws open an incredible panorama of world’s highest snowline, swerving from the snow ensconced peaks of Nepal to Bhutan and farther east to Tibet. The trek route zigzags along the Singalila Ridge and moves this side and that of the Indo-Nepal border, switchbacking and switch-bordering towards an enchanting visually charged summit that makes it all worth it.
The charming wilderness and wildlife expected of a Himalayan Trek are met as we pass through Singalila National Park, making the hike also one of the keen naturalist interests. There are innumerable intriguing bird life, animals, and flora that you would be fascinated to explore in the diversity along this trek route’s sub-alpine and temperate coniferous, broadleaf, and subtropical coniferous forest biomes.
The route is not really out of civilization’s way. Lined with quaint localities inhabited even through long winters and their economy depends largely upon the Sandakphu Trek and tourism which run around the year, the route is logical, realistic, and “safe” in many regards. Sandakphu-Phalut trek is also one of those few high-altitude Himalayan treks which are provided through and through with comfortable teahouse accommodation.
A Mesmeric High Peak Panorama
What stands Sandakphu out as a journey are many things—the replete hairpin bend ridden Old Silk Road route to the base camp, the impeccable hospitality of the people of Sikkim and Nepal along the way at the teahouses, the charming green haven of Singalila, and the theatre of the clouds. But it’s the absolutely mesmeric peak view that brings a climax so superb!
The greatest of the greats unravel and shine their glory beams on this Everest view trek as the sun comes up every day and we are moving inches closer to the top-
- Makalu– one of the eight-thousanders of the world and the fifth highest stands at 27, 838 ft., visible in the Everest range of peaks along the horizon from Sandakphu summit on a clear day.
- Lhotse– Meaning the “south peak” in Tibetan is part and parcel of the Everest massif and forms one of the most marked climbing routes of the world’s highest summit through Everest’s South Col. Lhotse is also the fourth highest peak, toweringly present from the vantage point of Sandakphu.
- Everest– The world’s highest peak towers over the above two. A pair of powerful binoculars will bring the Lhotse Face zone of the Everest climbing route closer, where it joins with South Col when looking on from Sandakphu. The view from Phalut trekking in India, extending further from Sandakphu will bring this glorious ice capped tower even closer.
The Ultimate Vision of Kangchenjunga
The Kanchenjunga family of peaks had to come as a different pointer. The sunlight streaming upon this ice ensconced conglomerate becomes a vision to behold from early on, on this trek. Looking out of your Tumling teahouse at dawn reveals the “Sleeping Buddha” structure of the Kanchenjunga in its relentless glory, and comes to get bigger and sharper as we approach the summit.
Gold and amber spreading through the crystal vision of Kanchenjunga up close at sunrise and sunset on this prized trekking in Darjeeling make moments you should reserve for your most prized photo-ops.
Rhododendron and Magnolia Spring
Spring comes in these mountains in a plenitude of colors. Cottony white Magnolias and pink-red rhododendrons sweep the slopes with the spirit of summer mirth. There is a festive feel to the days of Singalila forest walks on this trek in the northeast at the height of spring that you must look out for.
The Elusive Red Panda
The Singalila National Park is the natural home to red pandas. These charming but elusive creatures move inside the jungles hopping in the trees and you just might get lucky enough to catch one in your photo frame!
Kalipokhri- The Black Lake
On Day 3, we will reach the Kalipokhri settlement build around the small lake of Kalipokhri. Literally meaning black water, this little waterhole makes for a quiet, contemplative, and picturesque site cradled amidst the gorgeous mountainous terrain with the Kanchenjunga beckoning in the distance. This area is well within the Nepal border and shows the signs of the ethnoreligious Buddhist community of Nepal living in the Kalipokhri settlement. Prayer flags strung around the lake flutter in the wind as the sun starts to dip behind ice peaks soon after we reach the site on Day 3.
Sandakphu happens to be a mixed terrain trek with no abrupt height gain and mostly swinging through a tree cover, therefore remaining clear of the risks of Altitude Sickness. However, the sheer distance can be challenging and one must prepare for lasting stamina to make this