Sandakphu & Singalila Trek

Sandakphu is a wonderland for the trekkers. It's located at an altitude of 11,929ft (i.e. 3,636 meters) in Darjeeling district and on the north west of Darjeeling hill town. This is the summit or the highest point in Singalila range, and is also the highest peak in the state of West Bengal, India. The trek to Sandakphu goes all along the Singalila range. 
So, why do you think the trekkers from all over the world are so fanatic about Sandakphu and Singalila trek? The answer is simple. 
Where else can you see four of the five highest peaks of the world including Mt. Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga, and Lhotse, along with many other peaks of Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan in one single stretch of snow? Yes, this is what you get to see when you stand on summit of Sandakphu.  
Where else in the world will you be able to walk through the forests of flowering rhododendrons of numerous types, giant magnolias, spruce and wide range of amazing orchids? There are over 600 varieties of orchids in this area, the largest concentration in any single geographical area in the world. You can see them bloom in spring. 
The trek route passes through the Singalila National Park all the way. So your trek journey is further complemented with the national park that has some of the most fascinating rare animals like Red Pandas and Pangolins. 
In Darjeeling district, the trek route to Sandakphu and beyond to Phalut starts from a place called Manebhanjan, a small village located at an altitude of 7,054 ft (2,150 m). This is virtually the gateway to Singalila and Sandakphu. 
From Manebhanjan the distance up to Sandakphu is 32kms which is usually covered in two or three days. If you can trek for 8-9 hours a day, you can complete the one way trek in 2 days time, otherwise in 3 days. Usually trekkers do it over 3 days. From Sandakphu, you can trek further up to Phalut which is another 21kms away. It takes an additional day of trek from Sandakphu on a relatively easy terrain. 
From Sandakphu, you can either return by the same route or take one of the several alternative routes. A popular return route is via Gurdum, Srikhola and then finally to Rimbik where one takes a transport. A full circuit or round trip trek to Sandakphu takes a total of four to five days (depending on your ability). It can be undertaken by anyone who likes to walk. In trekkers world, it's considered a soft or light trek. 
Visit Sandakphu & Singalila Route Map before I start the trek description. The map has both the distances and altitudes of the important places that you will be passing by. The route goes along the border of India and Nepal, and at some places even enters Nepal. But there is no need for Nepal visas along this route. 
Note that you should be ready with all your trek logistics before you start ... and they include transport to Manebhanjan, guide (which is mandatory now), permit (required for all), lodgings (dormitory beds or rooms), food & water along the way, porter (if required), gears in case you are trekking in the winter which sees lots of snow & harsh weather conditions, camping equipment (if you plan to camp instead of staying at the huts), and transfers to station or airport. Carry a bottle of drinking water which you can keep refilling with spring water (quite safe) along the way. 
I have discussed about permits, guide, lodging etc in the sections below. Unless you want to arrange every thing on your own, use a Trek Operator who can arrange all such logistics for you, but of course at a price. 
Day-1: Manebhanjan to Tonglu (11kms), 6-7 Hours Trek 
Many trekkers come to Manebhanjan a day before the trekking starts. This is to acclimatize themselves with the weather before starting the trek early next morning. Check out Manebhanjan: Gateway to Singalila to know about this village, how to reach the place, available accommodations there and more. 
Manebhanjan. Route to Sandakphu. 
As you walk from Manebhanjan Bazaar towards the trail for Sandakphu, in 15 minutes or so you will reach the Check Post. This is where you get the permit. 
Earlier, the trekking route up to Sandakphu was same as the gravel road on which 4-wheel drive Jeeps and Land Rovers take tourists to Singalila National Park and Sandakphu. Since 2001, Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC, now GTA) and the park authorities have created a separate trekking route that mostly goes through the lovely forests and flowering trees, although merges with the gravel road at several places. 
Chitre (3kms from Manebhanjan), 1.5 hours trek 
Chitre is a small village about 3kms from Manebhanjan located at an altitude of 8,340 ft. The route up to Chitre passes through pine, fir, birch forests and bamboo glades. This part of the trek route is quite steep and really warms you up. It takes about 1.5 hours to trek up to Chitrey. You will get drinking water here. 
The sharp winding gravel road at Chitre 
There is an old Buddhist Monastery (Gompa) at Chitrey, a make shift lodging for trekkers, a tea stall and few village huts. You will pass by the monastery. If you want to take it easy, halt for a while, freshen up and start the next leg of the trek. 
Lamaydhura (further 3kms), +1.5 hours trek 
Lamaydhura is a hamlet inhabited only by five Tibetan families. This part of the trek is more comfortable than the earlier stretch up to Chitre. It's a steady but gradual incline from Chitre and takes over an hour of trek. You will get drinking water here. 
This place probably won't figure on any map, but it's very dear to me. On one occasion due to heavy rains I had to stay back here for a night. One of the village families offered me a room in their hut. The candle lit night in heavy rains, chat with the family members, simple dinner with rice, dal & eggs are all part of my fond memories. 
A young lady Cheki runs a small tea stall here. Other than tea and biscuits, she can also offer noodles (like Magi) just in case you like to have a simple lunch. Once I asked Cheki how such small hamlets located miles away from civilization actually survive? She mentioned that in most cases one or more family members actually go and settle down at the plains, and earn to support the families who live in the bare mountains. In fact her own younger sister who earlier assisted her in the shop, is now living in Dehradun to support the family financially. 
Shortly after Lamaydhura, I had one of my best experiences of trekking. We spotted a Red Panda crossing the trek route just yards ahead. I had always longed to see this rare and beautiful animal once in its natural form & habitat. And here it was right in front of us, looking at me eye to eye. 
Red Panda climbing the tree 
Initially it was puzzled having seen us, wondering whether to cross the road or return. But soon it made up its mind, quickly crossed the road and started climbing a tree, and that's when I could finally capture it on my camera (see the picture above). As you walk further up, you will pass though forests full of Chimal and Magnolia trees. 
Meghma or Megma (further 3kms, 9kms from Manebhanjan), +1.5 hours trek 
This is another small village located at the border of India and Nepal, and about 3kms from Lamaydhura. Meghma is at an altitude of 9,514 ft. There is a small hut at the center of the village which is a tea house and serves tea & light meals. At the back side of the cottage, there are couple of rooms for trekkers. Meghma is the border area of India and Nepal, and you will see posting of Border Security Forces here. From here, the border continues for most part of the trek route and you won't know when you are stepping on the soil of which country. It's like a freeway. Visit Meghma to know about this sleepy village and the amenities you can get here. 
On the way to Meghma, first sign of snow 
From Lamaydhura, it takes about 1.5 hours of trek to reach Meghma. If you trek continuously from Manebhanjan, it will take about 4.5-5 hours to reach Meghma. Drinking water is available here. In fact at the corner where the trail to Tonglu branches off, there is a pipe through which spring water comes out. 
From Meghma, the trekking route goes towards right for Tonglu, and that part belongs to India. And the motorable gravel road goes along the left through Nepal towards Tumling. During winter time, from Meghma onwards it can get very cold and it would be wise to carry heavy woolens, jackets, caps and hand gloves and keep them handy. 
Tonglu (2kms from Meghma), +1 hour trek 
Tonglu is a small hamlet located at an altitude of 10,130ft. This is where most trekkers take the first night halt. There is a GTA trekkers hut here. The lodge is about 2kms from Meghma and takes about 1 hour to reach. The last section is a bit steep. From Tonglu you can get lovely views of Darjeeling and Kurseong town areas. Down below you can see the great valleys and the plains of North Bengal with rivers like Teesta and Koshi flowing. Tonglu also offers a fine view of Kanchenjunga snow peaks. 
Tonglu, GTA Trekkers Hut 
Day-2: Tonglu to Kalipokhri (15kms), 6-7 Hours Trek 
From Tonglu, you should start your trek early next morning. There are two routes from Tonglu towards Sandakphu. A shorter trek route goes through the village called Jobber and all the way up to Gairibas. The other route which is more popular, is the gravel road that goes through Jhaubari which is part of Nepal and finally meets at Gairibas. Here we will follow the second (i.e. the more popular) route. 
Tumling (2kms from Tonglu), +1 hour trek 
2kms trek from Tonglu will take you to another small Village called Tumling located at an altitude of 9,600 ft. Actually from Tonglu to Tumling and all the way up to Gairibas is a gradual descend and the trek is relatively easier. Tumling is a great place to stop for a while, freshen up and then get moving for the next leg of the trek. Some trekkers actually prefer to stay at Tumling for the first night instead of at Tonglu. This is due to availability of better private lodges and facilities here. If you like to do the same, then you can either come here via Tonglu or take the direct gravel road from Meghma. Distance would be more or less the same. Drinking water is available at Tumling. Check out Tumling to know what the place offers including private lodges and attractions. 
Footbridge, on the way to Tumling 
If you take the gravel road from Meghma towards Tumling, initially there are few village huts on both sides of the road. And soon the area becomes quite barren. Tumling is 4kms away along this road. Remember, during the winter time it becomes very cold from Meghma onwards. So take adequate measures to counter the cold (like heavy woolens, caps, gloves etc). Often snow fall takes place along this stretch. 
Tumling Village & the road to Sandakphu 
About 1km from Tumling you will reach the arch gateway of Singalila National Park, which is the highest altitude national park in the state of West Bengal. This park is well known for rare and fascinating high altitude animals like Red Panda, Pangolins, Himalayan black bear, Monals etc. There is a check post here at Singalila gate. 
Jhaubari (6kms from Tumling), +3 hours trek 
A small village further along the way to Sandakphu at an altitude of 9,186 ft. This place may not be important from trekking perspective. But I always combine trekking with exploration of life in the mountains. And if you do that too, you will like to stop here and have a cup of tea. Fudri, a young lady serves hot tea and light snacks from her home. She lives here with her husband and her daughter Yanzi.  
On one occasion I had stayed back in Tumling for a night and came all the way to Jhaubari to buy chicken. There was no chicken available in Tumling that day. My good friend and Nepali guide Sanjay suggested that I taste a drink called Roxy on our way back. It's a specialty of this area, he mentioned. This local drink is prepared from some flowering plants known as Guras that grow quite abundantly in this part of the mountains. Well I won't forget that experience in my life. 
In Jhaubari 
He took me to a hut in Jhaubari. It was a residence of a local family. An old lady poured a colorless drink in a cup and offered it to me. Few sips and soon my whole body got warmed up in that freezing cold night. I soon felt like some hot steam coming out of my ears and my body felt real light :) While I don't advise that you should try such intoxicating drink, but just in case you do, take in small quantities and have it real slow. But never try it while on a trek. You can refill drinking water at Jhaubari. 
Gairibas (1km from Jhaubari), +0.5 hour trek 
From Jhaubari one has to take a right turn towards Gairibas. It is further 1km ahead and located at an altitude of 8,600 ft. From Tonglu or Tumling, up to Gairibas is a continuous descend and a relatively easy trek. 
This is where you can halt for a while. If you started early in the morning, you can complete your breakfast here or have some tea, before you proceed towards Sandakphu. The trek route passes through bamboo glades. Gairibas is essentially a valley full of bamboo grooves. GTA trekkers huts/lodges are available here and located on the grassy triangular flat land. Because of the scenic beauty of this place, many prefer to stay here for a night before proceeding for Sadakphu next morning. Magnolia Lodge is also popular. 
During the high season, it may not be easy to get accommodation at Gairibas, unless you have booked it in advance. Drinking water is available at Gairibas. 
Kalipokhri (6kms from Gairibas) +3 hours trek 
From Gairibas, you will need to trek for about three hours to reach a place called Kalipokhri (or Kalepokhri) at an altitude of 10,400 ft. Initially you will trek uphill through forests of oak, rhododendrons and bamboo and reach a place call Kaiyakatta in about 1.5 hours. Kaiyakatta is about 2kms from Gairibas. Here you can stop for a cup of tea and move on. The trail starts descending from here. In another 1.5 hours or so you will reach Kalipokhri. 
The place is so named because of a pond or a water tank filled with black water. The word Kali means black and pokhri stands for water area. However the black color is not due to pollution, it's muddy and the water never freezes. Due to all-time water availability, a small village settlement has taken place in this area. 
Kalipokhri Water Body 
You will pass through forest of rhododendron, Singalila Sanctuary and then by the pond to reach the Kalipokhri village area. This is where most of the trekkers stay for the second night. There are several private lodges here including Pandim Lodge, Chewang Lodge, and Himchuli Lodge. There is no GTA lodge here, but the private ones also offer similar accommodations at reasonable rates. Drinking water is available at both Kaikatta and Kalipokhri villages. 
Day-3: Kalipokhri to Sandakphu (6kms), 3 Hours Trek 
If you are staying overnight at Kalipokhri, start very early in the morning next day. You will not like to miss out on the panoramic view of the snow peaks from Sandakphu, which is best seen early in the morning. An early start from here will give you a chance to view the snow peaks twice, once as soon as you reach Sandakphu and again next morning before you start your return or onward trek. 
Bikheybhanjang (2kms from Kalipokhri), +40 minutes trek 
From Kalipokhri, the trekking route gradually descends up to Bikheybhanjang which is located 2kms away. On the way you will cross a place called Bhagsa where you can take a break for couple of minutes. Then walk towards Bikheybhanjang. This is another small hamlet. The name means "Valley of Poison" because of the poisonous Aconite plants that grow in abundance around this place. Don't worry, unless you eat the leaves of the plant, it is harmless. Basic lodgings are available at Bikheybhanjang. Villagers also offer their huts as home stays. 
Sandakphu (further 4kms from Bikheybhanjang) 
And now the final destination and the climax. You could actually see the Sandakphu Peak from Kalipokhri itself. But like all great things in life, this won't come easy. From Bikhheybhanjang the climb up to Sandakphu is the steepest. The 4kms route can easily take about 2.5 hours. There are stretches where the gradient is so steep that you will think your nose is about to touch the ground. Actually there are two trek routes from Bikheybhanjang, one through Nepal and the other through India. One through India is shorter and more popular although the two routes do merge at places. 
As always, the final rewards are awesome. All your strains will simply disappear as you see the board saying "Welcome to Sandakphu". You are at an altitude of 11,929ft, on the summit of Singalila range and at the paradise of trekking... Wow, you made it !!! 
Sandakphu is the place from where you get a 180 degree panoramic vista of some of the highest and most beautiful peaks of the world, right from Nepal all the way up to Arunachal. Some of the greatest peaks include the Mt Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Chomolhari, Pandim, Three Sisters, Kumbhakarna etc. Visit  Sandakphu to know about all my experience there and what you can expect. 
There is a GTA lodge in Sandakphu and also several other private accommodations including Hotel Sherpa Chalet, Hotel Sunrise, Namo Buddha Hotel etc.  
Day 4 - 6: Onward & Return treks from Sandakphu 
From Sandakphu, you have two options. You can either continue up to Phalut and then return via a Gorkhey, Srikhola, Rimbik. Or take a return route from Sandakphu itself. 
Go through the link below to know about the onward trek to Phalut which is further 21kms from Sandakphu. It offers breathtaking views of the snow peaks and requires an additional day of trek. Most trekkers prefer this. 
If you however want to return from Sandakphu, then go through the following link: 
Alternative Route for Sandakphu Trek 
There is another route which several trekkers prefer for Sandakphu. The route however merges with the common one I described above at Tonglu. From Siliguri you can take a car and drive all the way up to a place called Dhotrey (via Manebhanjan). It takes about 4.5 hours drive. After a night stay at Dhotrey, take the trek route (6 kms) that leads to Tonglu. It's an uphill trek route and takes about 3.5 hours to reach Tonglu. Note that the route remains closed during Monsoon (mid June to mid September). From Tonglu onwards, the route is the same as above. So If you are planning to take this route, a popular itinerary is: 
Day 1: NJP/Siliguri to Dhotrey by car, stay overnight at Dhotrey 
Day 2: Dhotrey - Gairibas Trek, stay overnight at Gairibas 
Day 3: Gairibas - Sandakphu Trek, stay overnight at Sandakphu 
Day 4: Sandakphu - Phalut Trek, stay overnight at Phalut 
Day 5: Phalut - Gorkhey Trek, stay overnight at Gorkhey 
Day 6: Gorkhey - Srikhola Trek, stay overnight at Srikhoila 
Day 7: Srikhola - Rimbik Trek,  then to NJP via Manebhanjan by jeep/car 
Accommodations along Sandakphu/Phalut Route 
Accommodations along Sandakphu/Phalut trek route are mostly basic lodges and trekkers' huts. Most offer dorm beds and few also offer private rooms. Do not expect luxury like TV etc. For most part of the route there is no electricity although some lodges make limited use of solar power. Almost all provide basic food like rice, daal, noodles, vegetables and some times eggs, and if you are lucky, chicken. 
In order to book any GTA (formerly DGHC) lodge or trekkers hut, visit a GTA tourism office. Check out Tourist Info for location & contacts of GTA offices. Beds (in dorms) and in some lodges private rooms are available for booking. 
Information about lodges/huts on Sandakphu/Phalut route: 
(NOTE: Contact information is subject to change) 
Hotel Exotica
(03542) 264387
GTA Lodge
Indira Lodge
Pandim lodge
Chewang Lodge
GTA Lodge
GTA Lodge
Hotel Sherpa Chalet
GTA Lodge
GTA Lodge
Shanti Lodge 
Eden Lodge
No need to book 
No need to book.
Lakpa Dorjee Sherpa's home
GTA Lodge
Goparma Lodge
Sherpa Lodge
Hotel Green Hill
9593720817, 9733069143 9593828400
Kanchenjunga Hotel
GTA Trekkers Hut
It is also possible to camp on a trek to Sandakphu or Phalut. However you must know some of the restrictions. Some areas on the way are suitable for camping and some are not. Trek operators or proper guides can best guide you through the camping sites. Check out Camping on Sandakphu route to get information about camping. 
Useful Information for Sandakphu & Phalut Trek 
1) These days it is made mandatory that you take a guide and optionally porters for treks to Sandakphu and Phalut. You can take them from Highlander Guides and Porters Welfare Association in Manebhanjan located near the check post. Another good option is to go through a Trek Operator who will have their own knowledgeable guide and can take care of all logistics including accommodations, food, permits, porters, transfers etc. They offer complete packages. A good trek operator will provide guides who can converse in English and Hindi, would be dressed appropriately, carry First Aid Kit, Tool Kit, Torches, birding field guide & voice recordings of birds (if asked for) etc. Trek operator cost would be more because of their value offerings. The top trek operators however offer good discounts on Darjeeling Tourism Card
2) You will need to pay a permit fee (Singalilla National Park Entry fee) for the trek which is Rs. 100/- per person for Indians and Rs. 200/- for foreign nationals. You can pay this fee at Manebhanjan or Singalila Park check post after Tumling. Without paying this fee, entry through Singalia National Park will not be allowed. Carry Photo Id cards (like driving license/ Voter's ID Card etc) in original and photo copy. If you are going through a trek operator, they will take care of this. Foreigners must carry passport. 
3) Other indicative costs for Sandakphu- Phalut trek (Updated January 2016): 
  • Cost of food along the trek route would be Rs. 350-400 per person per day. Rate of dormitory bed in trekkers huts  = Rs. 250-350 per person per day. 
  • NJP/Bagdogra to Manebhanjan: Rs. 3,000/- for reserved small car. 
  • Darjeeling to Manebhanjan shared Jeep fare: Rs. 50/- per person and reserved small car fare: Rs. 1,200/- 
  • Rimbik to Darjeeling shared Jeep fare: Rs. 200 per person and reserved vehicle fare: Rs. 2,500. 
  • Rimbik to NJP/Bagdogra reserved vehicle fare: Rs. 5000/-. 
  • Rate for Guide or Porter (if taken from Manebhanjan) is Rs. 600/- or Rs. 500/- per day respectively. Rate for foreigners is Rs. 900/- per day. Guide & porter rate includes their stay and food except for 1 dinner each at Sandakphu and Phalut which must be paid separately by trekkers. One porter will carry up to 25kg of load in summer and 20kg in winter. 
  • Still Digital Camera: Rs. 100/-; Video Camera: Rs. 400/- 
    4) Mobile Phone: Indian mobile networks do not work for most part of Sandakphu/Phalut trek. You can get mobile signals once you reach Srikhola and then Rimbik. Most locals on the trek route use Nepal mobile service. Several lodges along the way use solar power or generators and allow you to charge your mobile phone & camera battery. 
    5) What is the best time to trek to Sandakphu & Singalila? 
    There are two great seasons: one during April to May when it's quite comfortable (temperature ranges between 6 - 12°C) and the flowers like rhododendrons, orchid, primula are in full bloom. Sky mostly remains clear and you get lovely mountain views. In May however there are chances of occasional showers and the sky remaining cloudy at times. The second season is between October to November when the temperature ranges between 1 - 6°C, visibility is excellent and there may be occasional snowfall. You can also trek in December but it gets really cold around that time. 
    These days Sandakphu trekking takes place in winter as well (between December - February). You will however need heavy woolens and equipment like snow boots, sleeping bags etc. Identifying trails may be difficult due to heavy snow covers, so take an experienced guide. If you plan to trek in winter, ideally use a Trek Operator
    Singalila National Park remains closed between mid June to mid September (for 3 months). This is the monsoon and animal breeding season. So Sandakphu trekking can not be done during this period. However you can trek up to Tumling during this time. The entry to Singalila National Park starts 1km after Tumling. 
    6) Clothing & Accessories: In summer carry light woolens & jackets. In winter take heavy woolens & jackets. Additionally, take a rain coat, use good trekking shoes, carry extra pair of socks, first aid kits, a wind-cheater, gloves in winter, cap etc. Weather can be unpredictable, so always be prepared for drizzles, showers and fog. 
    7) There is no electricity or power for most part of the trek route. The locals use solar panels and some use generators. Lights are put on for some time at night (until about 9:30pm) after which you are required to use candles. 
    8) Food will be basic like rice, daal, vegetables, noodles, khichri etc. Eggs are usually available and chicken rarely. There is no other meet available. Do not expect fancy hotel food. 
    Related Resources & Articles 
    1) Sandakphu Trek Itinerary & Day-wise Plan: This article is a collection of questions and answers to what should be the day wise trek and night stay plans for trekking to Sandakphu and Phalut. 
    2) Sandakphu trek for beginners: If you have not trekked before or have little experience in trekking, but considering a trek to Sandakphu, then read this article for useful information. 
    3) Sandakphu & Singalila Route Map: See the trek route diagram and the distances 
    4) Sandakphu - Drive & Trek: Is it possible to take a jeep from Siliguri or Darjeeling, drive some part of the route to Sandakphu, then trek to the summit and get the same jeep back to Siliguri? This can help one to save lot of time while getting a good flavor of the trek. 
    6) Darjeeling Trekking: Know all about trekking in Darjeeling area. 
    Visitors' Reviews/Comments 
    Peter Dcosta (January 2016) 
    Hi Raj, My name is Peter. I am from Barrackpore and currently working in Delhi with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Most of the time I am a solo traveller. I am very impressed with your research and posts about Sandakphu. Being a solo traveller, I need to know about the journey and destination transparently. I need your huge favour to help me in my travel from Bagdogra Airport. How can I reach my starting point, do I need accommodation there and the expenses. Waiting for your response. 
    Raj (  January 2016 
    Hi, you need to start your trek from Manebhanjan. From Bagdogra, it takes about 4 hours to reach Manebhanjan by car (via Mirik). You will get pre-paid taxis at the airport. You can't start the trek on the same day. So either you can stay at Manebhanjan (very basic accommodations) or at Mirik (there are some decent hotels like Hotel Jagjit). From Mirik it takes about 2 hours to reach Manebhanjan by car, so start early (book a car in advance). There are shared jeeps also available from Mirik via Sukhia (where you may need to change to another Jeep). All other information are already available in my page. 
    Gabriel Davies (January 2016) 
    Hi Raj, Your website is great, thank you! I have the impression that it would be cheaper to book a guide and accommodation/permits etc on arrival in Darjeeling rather than through a tour operator in advance. I wanted to ask how easy it is to do this and how much we would be paying per person per day this way? Many thanks. 
    Raj (  January 2016 
    Hi, yes it'll be cheaper if you arrange logistics on your own including booking of guide, lodging etc. Guide is easy to get at Manebhanjan (quality questionable though). Lodging/permits too are easy and you can get them along the way. However in high season, all good/decent accommodations get full well in advance. You will be left with few low class (and sometimes quite unhygienic) private huts. I have already discussed indicative costs in the above sections. You can easily calculate your daily budget from there. 
    Murtaza Khilonawala (January 2016) 
    Had a great trek to Sundakphu this year. Make sure u carry proper winter wear when travelling in winters or you have to suffer.  We started from Dhotery via Tonglu to Tumling on Day 1. Then to Kalipokhri via Garibas on Day 2. Then finally to Sundakphu on Day 3 and Gurdam and Rimbick on Day 4 and 5 respectively. Way to Phalut and Gorkhey is risky so take proper measures while leaving for that place as it is surrounded by dense forest. I had traveled in the month of January 2016 and that time the temperature was around 2 - 5 degree celsius. It was literally chilling weather for us. Take proper winter wear while travelling in winters. 
    Malcolm Roxby (December 2015) 
    HI Raj, Thank you so much for providing so much information, a really excellent resource. I plan to do the Sandakpu Trek in around mid March, in your opinion is this a good time? I am a very keen birder and wonder if any 
    dedicated bird guides are available locally? Again many thanks for all your help. Regards 
    Raj ( December 2015 
    Hi, Mid March is okay, there is fair possibility of snow. April would be better. There are few guides who have knowledge on birds. You can ask the tour operator to get you one, or if you are going directly, then ask Highlander's Welfare Association of Guides & Porters at Manebhanjan for a birding guide. Contact them in advance. They also have birding field guide book and voice recordings of birds. 
    Amardeep (December 2015) 
    Dear Raj, Nice to read about the details you have mentioned on Sandakphu trek. I normaly trek solo or in group of two and planning to trek Sandakphu in last week of Dec. Few question: 
    1. Are the trekker hut available in this season, if yes, how to book them in advance? 
    2. We have our own tent & sleeping bags, can we use our own tent? 
    3. Can we expect snow? If yes, do we need spikes or grip? 
    4. Will food available on trek, or shall we carry our own? 
    5. Is guide mandatory? I understant that we have to support local economy as you mentioned, and that is +ve side of it, but we normally take challenge of doing our own without guide all the time. Requesting your reply. 
    Raj ( December 2015 
    These days trekking takes place in winter, and private huts are mostly available. I have given phone nos. in my site to contact them in advance. You can also walk in. GTA huts can be booked through GTA tourism offices. For camping, go through this article. You can expect lots of snow. Carry snow boots with good grips. Basic food like noodles, rice, daal, khichri are available along the way. Guide or porter is mandatory. 
    Rakesh (November 2015) 
    Planning to trek Sandakphu-Phalut this December, probably 15/Dec onwards. As snow can be expected during the trek, my query is whether crampons and sleeping bag is available on rent from Maneybhanjan or Darjeeling ? I am not in a position to spend money on these right now... Already the guide charge is an add-on to the already tight budget. I travel solo, so these charges cannot e shared. Waiting for your suggestions. 
    Raj ( November 2015 
    No, you won't get  them on rent. Some tour operators include such trek gears if you take their package. 
    Amol Joshi (November 2015) 
    Hi ! I am planning to go for the trek to Sandakphu during the last week of December 2015. I have a few questions regarding this, as below: 1. I am a beginner level / mid level trekker. I have done some treks before [in Maharashtra state]. I want to know what kind of physical fitness level is required / recommended for a trek to Sandakphu ? Especially during the winter season ? 2. What sort of specific shoes have to be worn ? Do normal good quality sports shoes suffice or special trekking grade shoes are needed ? What kind of specific warm winter clothes need to be worn suitable for this region and the season ? 3. How much cash money do you recommend to carry during the trek ? [considering un-anticipated circumstances] 4. Are the climbs during this trek too steep / dangerous ? I would totally appreciate your response to my queries , and it would be a world full of help to me ! 
    Raj ( November 2015 
    If you are used to long walks, not over weight and physically fit, you can take this trek. If this is your first time in high altitude trekking, suggest you stay back overnight and acclimatize yourself in Manebhanjan. In December end, it can be biting cold and there is every possibility of heavy snow. So you should take all winter gears and protections including sleeping bag, snow boots, trek stick etc. You should carry extra pairs of socks and shoes (sturdy sneakers are otherwise good enough during summer). During December - Feb end, you should ideally go through a trek operator who can help you with all winter gears. You can carry around INR 10-12K (per person for lodging, food and safety money assuming you will stay at trekkers huts and not take rooms at lodges where available. Guide and porter charges to be provisioned extra). You will get ATMs at Sukhia (7kms before Manebhanjan). Some parts of the trail are quite steep, for example up to Chitrey, and near Sandakphu (from Bikheybhanjan onwards). One must go very slow, lack of adequate oxygen at such altitude can otherwise cause major problems. 
    Jayashree KS (September 2015) 
    Hi, Thanks for detailed information that was provided in your website about the sandakphu trek. It was very informative in terms of what to expect. We would like to know if there would be lot of snow usually during last couple of weeks of December. This information would help us get prepared on our logistics accordingly. Thanks 
    Raj ( September 2015 
    While it usually snows heavily in Sandakphu during Jan-end/Feb, it can also snow during December. So you should go prepared. It will be extremely cold anyway. 
    Anup Ghosh (August 2015) 
    Hi, I have decided to go for sandakphu trek in end of october 2015 alongwith my wife & 2 daughters. The children are nine years old now. my question is, a)is the trek is possible for the children, b)safe & secure is which one, trekkers hut or lodge, c) can i get any help, if we faced high altitude sickness, because my one child has breathing problems . 
    Raj ( August 2015 
    Many school children go for Sandakphu treks. Try to stay in GTA lodge. Expect no help in crisis unless you go through a group tour organized by a trekking operator. Take all precautions. 
    Dipon Pushilal (June 2015) 
    Hi Mr. Raj, we are a group of 5 members planning for this Sandakphu-Phalut trek on late october . We have some past experience in trekking. Our itinerary looks like: 
    Day 1: Manebhanjan-Garibas 
    Day 2: Garibas-Sandakphu 
    Day 3: Sandakphu-Phalut 
    Day 4: Phalut-Rammam 
    Day 5: Rammam-Rimbik 
    Day 6: Buffer day, can be used anywhere during the trek 
    1) Now, is the itinerary looks good or does it need some modifications? 
    2) If we take the buffer day at Phalut will it be possible to trek upto Singalila pass and return on the same day? 
    3) Please suggest me the transport from Rimbik to NJP/Siliguri and also the duration of journey. Your respone will be highly useful.... 
    Raj ( June 2015 
    Hi, your trek itinerary is fine. A trek to Singalila Pass from Phalut and return on the same day is not recommended unless all of you are trek veterans. It will take about 3.5 hours from Phalut up to Toriphuley and another two hours  of steep climb to the pass. So it would be a long tiring hike of 10-11 hours in total plus some time at the pass. Weather can get quite bad on your return a it's common to get bad weathers in the afternoons in this part of the range. 
    From Rimbik shared jeeps are available (up to mid day), but mostly going to Darjeeling while some may go to Siliguri. Take whichever you get and get off at Sukhiapokhri or Ghum, and then change to another one for Siliguri/NJP. Rimbik to Siliguri will take about 7.5 hours by shared jeep. 
    Sayantan Chakraborty (June 2015) 
    Hi, I understand that my query here can be related to many others but those queries are not accurately my point of view or query. So my queries are: 
    1) do the gta huts provide blankets or we need to carry sleeping bags? 
    2) how is the costing done?? Can we pre book the huts on basis of bed from Kolkata office? If so, per bed what will be the cost?? 
    3) last but most importantly, we are 6 students, very tight on budget, all we could arrange is 6k per person NJP to NJP.. Will it be enough?? Thanks 
    Raj ( June 2015 
    Blankets are provided at the huts. But during winter, it may not be enough. You can book beds from GTA office at Kolkata. 6K is more than enough if you are trekking Sandakphu and Phalut. Bed cost is Rs. 250 to 300 per night. 
    Soumyajit B (April 2015) 
    Hi Raj, You have been doing a great job, providing all such information. It's a great site! Please allow me to ask something: Am I allowed to take only porter (without guide) during Sandakphu trek? I have done this trek many times and I know, Guide is absolutely not necessary for this trek. 
    Raj ( April 2015 
    The Highlanders association will push for a guide but you can ask only for a porter. They will finally agree. 
    R. Roy (January 2015) 
    Sir, I would want to know if it will be difficult to do Sandakphu trek without having a guide. Can we trek without having porter or guide by asking the local people about the road towards Sandakphu? 
    Raj ( January 2015 
    Trekkers are required to contribute towards local economy rather than just caring for their own interest. That's why guide or a porter has been made mandatory. The route is otherwise quite simple and requires no guide if you plan it out well. Guide/porter has been mandated by their association at Maneybhanjan in recent years. 
    Sanjay Dabholkar (January 2015) 
    Hello Raj, Need your advice on something. We have been to Sandakphu trek 3 years ago and had liked it very much. That time we had planned to go to Sandakphu again but without any fixed itinerary so we can stay longer in places we like and go really slow and enjoy rather than rush. So we don't want to book any lodges etc. My question is - in 1st week of April, is this advisable? Second question is - no tour operator wants to just arrange guides and permit. They want to do the whole package. Could you suggest someone who can help us just with a guide and the permit? Thanks a lot. 
    Raj ( January 2015 
    Although you may not get the GTA or the other best lodges in each place in April unless you book in advance, you will get some accommodation (private trekkers huts etc). If you don't want an operator to arrange your trek, take a guide or a porter from Highlanders Guides & Porters Welfare Association at Manebhanjan. They can arrange for the permit as well. You need to pay for the daily charges for the guide (Rs. 600/-) and/or porter (Rs. 500/-) 
    Mark Munsey (January 2015) 
    Raj, Due to my childrens' school schedule, the earliest we can begin a trek to Sandukphu is the second week of June, 2015. I understand this is right as the weather begins to change to monsoon. What is your best guess regarding visibility and temperature at this time? And, would you generally advise for or against it at this time? Kindest regards, 
    Raj ( January 2015 
    Your time is a kind of 50/50 from weather and visibility perspective. There will be likely some short spurts of showers along the way. Visibility can change any time from clear sky to cloudy and get clear again. If you have no other choice of time, suggest you go and try your luck. 
    Himadri Das (November 2014) 
    Hi Raj, We are going to trek Sandakphu - Phalut in the 1st week of April 2015. 4-6 persons in this trek. Should I book all the trekkers Hut on the spot of night stay? And other question is should we find the rhododendron and aconite in this time. Your suggestion is valuable for me. 
    Raj ( November 2014 
    If you are looking to stay in specific lodges along the way, you should ideally book in advance because April is a high trekking season. You will otherwise get some private huts along the way. You will see rhododendrons in bloom. Aconite is a plant and not flower which you can see anytime. 
    Sumit Palit (October 2014) 
    Hi Raj! I have checked the website and forums in much detail and gathered a lot of valuable information. But I need some more clarity on few issues. I am planning to undertake the Sandakphu trek during Christmas week (from 20th Dec till 25th Dec) in 2014. Could you please give me the following information?- 
    1. Is there much chance for snowfall and rain during that period? 
    2. Should I carry raincoat and windcheater too along with woolens and jacket? 
    2. What are the equipments that I should carry? Is there any need for trekking poles during that period? 
    3. Do I need to wear climb boots for this trek that time? Or will normal sports shoes suffice. Thanks in advance! 
    Raj ( October 2014 
    There is good possibility of snowing around that time. Carry enough warm clothes (jackets, gloves, cap, windcheater etc). Carry extra pairs of socks and shoes. Shoes should be good enough to walk on snow and not ordinary sneakers. It should properly cover your ankle & few inches of your feet and not get wet from inside. You must take a good guide (ideally go through a trek operator) as during heavy snow, you will need route guidance. Trekking poles will be required. 
    Ranjan Kumar Dey (October 2014) 
    Hi, I am planing (alone) to trek Sandakphu on 20-27 December,2014. My itinerary (same as the alternative route you provided): 
    Day 1: NJP/Siliguri to Dhotrey by car, stay overnight at Dhotrey 
    Day 2: Dhotrey - Gairibas Trek, stay overnight at Gairibas 
    Day 3: Gairibas - Sandakphu Trek, stay overnight at Sandakphu 
    Day 4: Sandakphu - Phalut Trek, stay overnight at Phalut 
    Day 5: Phalut - Gorkhey Trek, stay overnight at Gorkhey 
    Day 6: Gorkhey - Srikhola Trek, stay overnight at Srikhoila 
    Day 7: Srikhola - Rimbik Trek, then to NJP via Manebhanjan by jeep/car 
    My queries are : 1) From Dhotrey can I get suitable Guide / Porter? 2) Should Guide/Porter charge included fooding and lodging? And one person can act for both the role? 3) If I start trek from Dhotrey instead Manebhanjang, will I miss Tumling / Tonglu Route? 4) Pre-booking of trekkers hut is mandatory on that time (December End) for 1 person? Or should I book in advance? 5) As I have one extra day in my hand where I can spent the day? I mean which place is worthy? Please I know you have mentioned all in your earlier various post but I want latest from you. Thanking you in advance. 
    Raj ( October 2014 
    You can check with Highlander Association in Manebhanjan on your way to Dhotrey and they can arrange for porter/guide. Guide and porters are different, however if you take an experienced porter and don't want a guide, you can talk to them and it's often allowed. Guide/porter rates include their lodging and food, but it's a general courtesy to invite them when you are having a meal while on trek during the day time. These days 1 dinner each at Sandakphu and Phalut are not included in the rates of guide/porters and therefore should be paid separately by the trekkers. Route from Dhotrey goes via Tonglu (5kms, takes 3-4 hours) and Tumling (further 2kms). Advance booking of huts is not necessary in December. You can spend the last day in Darjeeling to unwind yourself. 
    Samrat Dutta (September 2014) 
    Hello, I will be going to Sandakphu on Oct 20th. I wanted to know the current cost of a guide. Will I have to provide food plus stay extra to him? Plus, my plan is till Rimbik. I will reach Srikhola on the 25th October night. And take a jeep from Rimbik next morning. So, will the Guide charge for 26th October? Or does the trek end at Srikhola itself? And how do I arrange for a guide from Mane? Is the rate uniform or do I have to bargain? Thank You. 
    Raj ( September 2014 
    Hi, if you take a guide from Manebhanjan the rate will be around Rs. 600/- per day, porter will cost Rs. 500/- per day. Rates include their stay and food. But it's a common courtesy to include them and pay for their bills when you have tea, snacks or lunch along the way as you trek. Guides and porters usually do not charge for extra day if they can come back quickly from the place you leave them. Rimbik is close to Manebhanjan, so they may charge only for the jeep fare. Rates are fixed if you take the guide or porter from their association (Highlanders). 
    Pranav Shreyas (September 2014) 
    Hello Sir, We are trekking to sandakphu in second week of October. Our trek planner has given a schedule of trekking from Tumling to Sandakphu in one day (leave early morning and reach sandakphu by evening). Wanted to know if this is a feasible plan...? Also , what would be the approximate temperature during October? Thank you. 
    Raj ( September 2014 
    It's possible and usually done by the seasoned trekkers. The beginners should halt at Kalipokhri for a night. While the day time temperature in October will be pleasant, at night it can be quite cold. 
    Swagata Dey (July 2014) 
    Hi Raj, I have mailed you earlier regarding this trek. Initially, we had planned for the trek in end of June. But we have postponed this as you informed that it won't be a suitable time due to monsoon. Now, we are planning for the trek in Sept or Nov. Can you please suggest us which one of these 2 will be better timing. Thanks, 
    Raj ( July 2014 
    November would be better ... early November is even better. 
    Koushik Dutta (July 2014) 
    Hi, I am planning to have the sandakphu trekking in mid August. You may say why, when your best time skip August! It is just that I feel like, and I have some time :) Would it be that bad? I will appreciate your suggestions and comments .. Your page is filled with useful tips and details .. Thanks .. Best, 
    Raj ( July 2014 
    You can't trek in rains unless you plan to trek wearing raincoats and be ready to slip & slide along the way... you will probably be the first one doing that :) There are however shorter treks in monsoon that are organized by the operators these days. 
    Swagata Dey (May 2014) 
    Hi Raj, Read your replies in this forum. Those are extremely helpful & informative. I am planning to go for the Sandakphu-Phalut Trekking by end of June along with my friends. The dates are 25th June to 2nd July. We are extremely enthusiastic about the trek. But the only & biggest concern is the weather. If monsson starts by that time, we will face a lot of problem to walk through the trekking route. Also, even if we are enthusiastic enough to take that pain, all the effort will go futile if we do not get to see the sunrise on Kanchenjunga & Mt. Everest from Sandakphu & Phalut. Can you please inform us regarding the possibility of rain during that time and typically what is the trend of rainfall at the beginning of monsoon, i.e, whether it rains through out the day or in phases? Waiting for hear from you. Thanks, 
    Raj ( May 2014 
    End June/July is monsoon time and you can't usually trek to Sandakphu during this time due to rains. Possibility of viewing Kanchenjunga and Everest is remote. Either change your plans or plan for a shorter trek through an operator.  
    Ronojoy Ghosh (March 2014) 
    Hey Raj, I was engrossed in your experience, many many thanks for that. Coming to the point, i am planning for a trek to Sandakphu and mid-June seems to be the only time we would all be available. So, will it be ok to do trekking at this time of the year, if so, how much chance is there to be able to see the highest peaks from Sandakphu (what about the weather)? and what are the precautions that we should be taking for this trek? we all are college students aged 22 approx. will the resting huts and private lodges be available then, or do we need to book them from before? Please inform me as soon as possible, coz we will be starting the planning and bookings shortly. 
    Raj ( March 2014 
    Hi, you can trek to Sandakphu in June. There are chances of showers, but possibility is less. During day time the temperature will be mild, however at night it can be very cold after Tumling. It's a high time, so try to book GTA lodges in advance, wherever available. You will get private huts though. 
    Chandra (February 2014) 
    Hi Raj, We are planning to trek sandakphu from 28th March to 5th April. My 9yrs old son who is a juvenile diabetic, he is also going with us. He needs to take insulin injection and food at right time. We will have to take much precaution for that.I know that it is tough but not impossible. We need your help with some information regarding this.  
    1. We have booked dghc Trekkers hut, will they provide some hot water for my son to drink? Will they cook for us some raw food carried by us from kolkata like noodles or something else? 
    2. How much luggage a porter can carry for a family and how they carry them? 
    3. Is a cotton track pant enough while trekking? 
    4. What type of weather will be at that time,snowy/rainy? 
    Raj ( February 2014 
    Hi, Trekkers huts are very basic, so you should not go with expectation of out of the way service. But they can provide depending on what kind of personal rapport you are able to build up with the care taker. Trekkers Huts do not have fleet of service boys like in hotels. So it's better you carry your own arrangements. But if you stay in private huts/lodges, they can provide such services. However it's better to communicate such requirements in advance, if absolutely essential. 
    A porter can carry up to 25kg of load. They carry on their back and also hand carry. Cotton track pants are okay for the trek. However March end can be cold at times. The actual trek season begins in April. So use comfortable jeans instead. Chances of snow and rain in March end is less, but possible. 
    Aurojyoti Kundu (January 2014) 
    Some questions on Sandakphu trek in late January-2014 
    1)what's the weather condition... is trekking possible? 
    2)what food should we carry? 
    3)what should be the clothing? 
    Raj ( January 2014 
    Hi, The first thing you should note that January-end is not a good trek time in Sandakphu, although possible with gears like snow boots, sleeping bags etc. You can expect lots of snow and it would be biting cold out there. You should be an experienced trekker and must have a good guide. Some routes get totally snow covered up to knee deep. Some private huts and lodges along the way would be available, but no electricity or heating system to fight the cold. You will get basic veggie food like rice, daal, noodles etc. If you are novices in treks, don't try it. 


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