Sandakphu Trek


What to expect

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 north west of Darjeeling hill town. This is the summit or the highest point in Singalila range as well as in the state of West Bengal, India. The trek route to Sandakphu goes all along the Singalila range and therefore this is also known as Singalila trek. 
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 Three Sisters and 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 the grounds 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. So your trek journey is further complemented with a national park that has some of the most fascinating rare animals like Red Pandas and Pangolins. However, rare animals are rarely seen. The national park is also rich with varieties of birds. 

How to reach the base

In Darjeeling district, the trek route to Sandakphu starts from a place called Manebhanjan, a small township located at an altitude of 7,054 ft (2,150 m). This is virtually the gateway to Singalila and Sandakphu. Manebhanjan is about 4 hours by taxi from NJP (the nearest major railway station) and also from Bagdogra (the nearest airport). The route is via Mirik, and if a direct taxi is not available, you need to come up to Mirik and then take another taxi. 
From NJP or Siliguri you can also get shared taxi up to Mirik and then take another one. However, shared taxis are not available at Bagdogra airport. Manebhanjan is only 26kms from Darjeeling and takes about 1 hour 15 minutes by taxi. Trekkers usually reach Manbhanjan on the previous day, stay at a hotel or homestay, and proceed early next morning. 

Preparing for the trek

Before you start the trek for Sandakphu, you need to ensure that you have a registered guide or a porter/ guide (which is now mandatory). If you are going through a Tour Operator, then they will arrange for the guide/porter. Otherwise you can get them from the Highlander Guides & Porters Welfare Association at Manebhanjan. 
There is an office of Forest Department by the roadside just before the steep uphill route starts from Manebhanjan. You need to get a permit here (tour operators also take care of this). This permit is not a trek permit, it is an entry permit to the Singalila National Park. Note that if you go only up to Tumling, you don't need this permit or even a guide. Because the entry to Singalila National Park is about 1km from Tumling, and the permits are meant for the national park entry. 
All along, the trails are well marked with signage and one can easily make it without any assistance. You may in fact wonder why a guide needed at all? Well, rule is a rule and you got to follow that. Actually this is a way of providing livelihood to the locals. 
From Manebhanjan the distance up to Sandakphu is 32kms which is usually covered in two or three days of trek. If you can trek for 8-9 hours a day, you can complete the one way trek in 2 days, 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, but it still is a long arduous trek. 
From Sandakphu, you can either return by the same route (seldom done) or take an alternative route. A popular return route is via Gurdum, Srikhola and then finally to Rimbik where one takes a transport (usually a shared or a private taxi) for a return transfer. Many move onward from Sandakphu to Phalut which is further 21kms away and then take a return route from there. 
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. But don't take it too easy if you are a novice... it's going to be a long hard work anyway. 
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 several places is part of Nepal. 
At places there are more than one routes, one going through Indian territory while the other through Nepal's. But there is no need for Nepal visa along this route. It's a free zone for all including foreigners, but there are several check posts along the way guarded by SSB (Sashastra Seema Bal or Armed Border Force). All trekkers and tourists on this route are subject to identity checks (carry valid Photo IDs, foreigners must carry passport and visa for India). 
1) You should be ready with all your trek logistics before you start, and that includes transport to Manebhanjan, state government registered guide/porter with his own identity badge (which is mandatory now), permit for Singalila National Park (required for all as the route passes through the park), lodgings along the route (dormitory beds or rooms), food & water along the way, gears in case you are trekking in the winter which sees lots of snow & harsh weather conditions (a trekking pole is always recommended), camping equipment (if you plan to camp instead of staying at the huts), and transports for transfers to railway station or airport. 
Carry a bottle of drinking water which you can keep refilling with spring water (quite safe) along the way. Unless you want to arrange everything on your own, consider using a good Trek Operator who can arrange all such logistics and make your life much easier. 
2) Having gone through the complete trek descriptions below, you should carefully go through the sections that follow about Accommodations and Useful Information. You can get vital information there such as lodging, contact info, guides, porters, permits, food, weather conditions, various costs involved & estimates, and lot more. And finally the last section is where I have commented on numerous questions from trekkers that reveal a lot of inside stories. 

Day-1: Manebhanjan to Tonglu (11kms), 6-7 Hours Trek

(also known as Mane Bhanjyang), Altitude: 7,054ft 
Many trekkers come to Manebhanjan a day before the trekking starts. This is to acclimatize themselves with the conditions before starting the trek early next morning. Manebhanjan is a small settlement. There is no ATM here. To get cash, the nearest ATM is at Sukhia which is about 15-20 minutes by car (it would be on your way when you arrive at Manebhanjan). 
There are small hotels and homestays here for overnight stays. Many small grocery and stationery shops are available at the market area to pick up your provisions like packaged water, biscuits, peanuts, dry food, medicines etc. Visit Manebhanjan: Gateway to Singalila to know about this small hill town, how to reach the place, accommodations, facilities and more. 
Manebhanjan. Route to Sandakphu 
As you walk from Manebhanjan market area towards the trail for Sandakphu, in about 10-12 minutes, you will reach the office of the Singalila Wildlife Division. This is where you get the permit for Singalila National Park. 
Earlier, the trekking route up to Sandakphu was same as the gravel (boulder) road on which 4-wheel drive vehicles take tourists to Sandakphu. By 2001, Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (now GTA) and the park authorities created a separate trekking trail that mostly goes through the lovely forests and flowering trees, although merges with the gravel road at several places. 
This trekking trail takes various forms along the way. In some parts it's a muddy trail through forests or open meadows, in other parts it's a steep stony stairway cutting through the mountains and again meeting the gravel road, and in other sections it's a narrow gravel pathway. At any section, you can choose to take either the gravel road or the trekking trail, however in several parts both are the same. 
(3kms from Manebhanjan, Altitude: 8,340ft), 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 very steep and really warms you up. It takes about 1.5 hours to trek up to Chitre. You will get drinking water here as well as food in a local restaurant. Many not-so-seasoned trekkers actually take a vehicle up to this point and then start the trek. This is to avoid the steep gradient. But there are steeper sections ahead which you can't avoid, particularly the last 2kms of the trail to Sandakphu. So better start getting your cuff muscles ready now. 
The sharp hairpin turn at Chitre (now it's a concrete road) 
There is an old Buddhist Monastery at Chitrey, a make shift lodging for trekkers, a local restaurant and few village huts. You will pass by the monastery. If you want to take it easy, visit the monastery. Then walk a few minutes and you will see a local restaurant on an open field. You can get food and water here, as well as toilet facilities. Halt for a while, freshen up and start the next leg of the trek. 
Update April 2016: The gravel road between Manebhanjan and Chitre is now a paved (concrete) road. They actually wanted to make it a concrete road all the way to Sandakphu to make it easy for vehicles. But it could not be completed because the wildlife division had raised an objection stating that such pitched road would be harmful for wildlife due to heavy traffic. Another section of the road (between Tumling and Garibas) has also been concretized but lying unfinished thereafter. 
Update May 2018: The road from Manebhanjan and all the way to Gairibas has been converted to a concrete road (Tumling to Gairibas section was done earlier). 
(further 3kms, Altitude: 8,792ft), +1.5 hours trek 
Lamaydhura is a hamlet inhabited only by five odd 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 as well as snack-type food like noodles, eggs etc as well as tea/coffee, cold drinks, packaged snacks etc from roadside stalls. 
There are beds available for trekkers as well (low budget though and with makeshift toilets). From here, one side of the road is part of Nepal, while the other side is in India. The stalls at Lamaydhura have display boards showing they are in Nepal. More info about Lamaydhura here. 
The trail ahead of Lamaydhura ascends gradually. So this part of the trek is relatively easy. As you walk further up towards Meghma, you will pass though forests full of Chimal and Magnolia trees. 
Route ahead of Lamaydhura. Do you see a trekker? 
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 me, looking at me eye to eye. 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 below). 
Red Panda climbing the tree 
(further 3kms, Altitude 9,514ft), +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. 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. There is a monastery at the entrance of Meghma. 
Armed border forces have a large camping site at Meghma. There is also a restaurant here serving tea, coffee, snacks, meals etc. A separate toilet facility is operated by the restaurant owner. There are limited beds available as well. More information about Meghma here
Meghma, the monastery on the left 
From Meghma the gravel road bifurcates. The one on the right goes towards Tonglu (2kms) which is part of India. The trekkers usually take this route if they plan to stay at Tonglu. There is a GTA lodge here as well as DM's bungalow. If you do not want to stay at Tonglu but still like to take this route, then shortly before the GTA lodge a trekking trail bifurcates from the main route towards left and leads down to Tumling. Ask your guide and he will show you the way. This trail to Tumling is shorter. 
Route from Meghma towards Tonglu 
The route on the left from Meghma goes to another settlement known as Tumling (2kms) which is part of Nepal. There are several private hotels and lodges in Tumling offering both rooms and dormitory beds. You can take any of the two routes you like. If you take the route to Tonglu, you will need to trek for additional 2kms and the route finally merges at Tumling. Both Tonglu and Tumling offer spectacular views of Kanchenjunga on clear days. 
Route from Meghma towards Tumling 
During winter time, it can get very cold from Meghma onwards and it would be wise to carry heavy woolens, jacket, cap and hand gloves and keep them handy. You will start seeing accumulated snow on both sides of the street soon after Meghma. Once during winter I took the route from Meghma towards Tumling. You get to see open meadows, valleys, gorge and barren landscapes. And in winter they remain frozen in snow. The picture below was taken between Meghma and Tumling. 
Meghma to Tumling, landscape in snow 
There are only handful of village huts along the way, hardly any vegetation and practically no facility for the trekkers on this route. However, you can remain immersed with nature's unabated beauty. And the terrain is relatively easy to let you enjoy that. 
Meghma to Tumling, landscape in snow 
But for now, we will take the route from Meghma towards Tonglu which is a more popular route for trekkers, because you get to see one more beautiful place - Tonglu. 
(2kms from Meghma, Altitude: 10,130ft), +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 lodge here. The lodge is about 2kms from Meghma and takes about 1 hour to reach. The last section is a steep climb. 
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 wonderful view of Kanchenjunga snow peaks. More information about Tonglu here
Tonglu, GTA Trekkers Hut 

Day-2: Tonglu to Kalipokhri (15kms), 6-7 Hours Trek

From Tonglu, you should start your trek early next morning. From Tonglu your next destination is Tumling which is about 2kms away. 
(2kms from Tonglu, Altitude: 9,600ft), +1 hour trek 
2kms trek from Tonglu will take you to another small Village called Tumling located at an altitude of 9,600 ft. Tonglu to Tumling is a steep descend, but thereafter it's a gradual descend till Gairibas. 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. This is the last point up to which electricity is available. However solar powered lights are available all through the trek. 
More information about Tumling here  - accommodation, amenities, attractions etc. 
Tumling Village 
About 1km from Tumling you will reach the arched 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. If you haven't taken the permit yet, this is where you must take it, or otherwise you won't be allowed to go any further. 
Singalila National Park Entry after Tumling 
Singalila National Park Entry 
Few yards inside the arched entrance of Singalila National Park, the road splits into three routes. The one on the left is a dirt road and goes through Nepal to a place called Jaubari and onward to Gairibas. You can see nice rolling meadows of Nepal on this route. 
The other road straight ahead goes through a forested area all the way up to Gairibas. This road belongs to Indian territory and has now been concretized up to Gairibas. This route is used mostly by vehicles and also by many trekkers. There is a narrow third route too (which is part of the actual trekking trail) that goes through the forest all the way up to Gairibas. 
You can take any of the three routes. While the trek up to Jaubari is almost on a level terrain and is easy, after Jaubari the road becomes downhill and steep, and could get slippery if it rains. If you want to avoid the steep downhill walk, then take the concrete road, or alternatively you can take the trekking trail if it is dry (because forest paths get muddy during rains). 
(6kms from Tumling, Altitude: 9,186ft), +3 hours trek 
Jaubari is 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 (in fact as I mentioned above, it lies on an alternative route between Singalila park entrance and Gairibas, and passes through Nepal). But I usually combine trekking with exploration of local 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. 
Jaubari, Nepal 
On one occasion I had stayed back in Tumling for a night and came all the way to Jaubari to buy chicken. There was no chicken available in Tumling that day (in fact non-veg is a luxury here). My good friend and Nepali guide Sanjay suggested that I try out a drink called Roxy on our way back. It's a specialty of this area, he mentioned. This local drink is prepared from flowering plants locally known as Guras that grow quite abundantly in this part of the mountains. 
He took me to a hut in Jaubari. It was a residence of a local family. An old lady poured a colorless pungent drink into a cup and offered it to me. Few sips and soon my whole body got warmed up in that freezing 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 Jaubari. 
(3kms from Jaubari, Altitude: 8,600ft), +1 hour trek 
The route from Jaubari goes through forest of bamboo and rhododendrons and turns right towards Gairibas. It is further 3km ahead and located at an altitude of 8,600 ft. From Tumling up to Jaubari is a gradual descend and a relatively easy trek. But after Jaubari it is a steep descend up to Gairibas. 
Gairibas Village 
Gairibas Village 
Halt at Gairibas for a while. There is a tea stall here (which also has dormitory beds for trekkers). Piping hot vegetarian momos are great (no non-veg items). If you started early in the morning, you can complete your breakfast here or have some tea, before you proceed towards Sandakphu. The stall also offers noodles, toast and other snack items, and even meals. You can get packaged snacks, biscuits, soft drinks and bottled water here as well. Opposite to the stall is a check post of Armed Border Force. 
The three routes that originate shortly after entry to Singalila National Park (a concrete road through forest, a dirt road through Jaubari of Nepal, and a trekking trail) all come and meet here at Gairibas. 
Three routes meet at Gairibas. The main concrete road is on front. 
From upper right comes the route from Jaubari, 
and at upper left is the trekking trail. 
There is a nice GTA lodge at Gairibas (about 100 yards before you reach the check post and located at a lower level on a grassy flat land). The landscape around is picturesque with pine trees and lot other plantations. This is the best accommodation here. 
During high season, it may not be easy to get accommodation at Gairibas, unless you have booked it in advance. 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. 
GTA Lodge, Gairibas 
GTA Lodge, Gairibas 
The trek route passes through bamboo glades. Gairibas is essentially a valley full of bamboo grooves. If you are here during spring (April), you can see colorful red Rhododendrons in full blossom. 
Rhododendrons, shortly after Gairibas 
Rhododendrons near Gairibas 
From Gairibas, the route is a steep climb for about 2kms till you reach a tiny settlement known as Kaiyakatta. There are only couple of stalls here where you can get refreshment and water. The place gets its name from a strange story. A Marwari man used to run a business here. Marwaris are locally known as Kaiya. However this man deprived the locals to keep most profits for himself. One day a furious local person beheaded him (an act known as katta). The place is since known as Kaiyakatta. 
From Kaiyakatta, there are two routes. The trail at the upper level goes through Nepal. However most take the other route that goes through India. Both routes finally meet at Kalipokhri where the lake is located. From Kaiyakatta, it's a gradual climb till you reach Kalipokhri. 
(6kms from Gairibas, Altitude: 10,400ft) +3 hours trek 
From Gairibas, the trek up to Kalipokhri takes about three hours. It's at an altitude of 10,400 ft. Initially you will trek uphill through forests of oak, rhododendrons and bamboo to reach Kaiyakatta in about 1.5 hours which is about 2kms from Gairibas. The trail is up & down from here. In another 1.5 hours or so you will reach Kalipokhri. 
Kalipokhri 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. The small lake is considered sacred by the local villagers. Due to all-time water availability, a small village settlement has taken place in this area (about 100 yards ahead at a higher level). This is where all private trekkers huts are also located. 
Kalipokhri Water Body 
Kalipokhri Water Body 
See the trail on upper right which comes from 
Kaiyakatta through Nepal and meets here 
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. As you are entering the village, look up 45 degrees towards left, and you can get the first real glimpse of your targeted destination far away on a clear day... Sandakphu. 
Kalipokhri Village 
Kalipokhri Village 

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. 
Bikey Bhanjan 
(2kms from Kalipokhri), +40 minutes trek 
From Kalipokhri, the trekking route gradually ascends up to Bikey bhanjang which is located 2kms away. On the way you will cross a place called Chowri Chowk (there is no signboard though) where you can take a break for couple of minutes. There is a hut here where mostly drivers leaving tourists at Sandakphu come back for night stays. The lady there will make a cup of tea for you. 
Chowri Chowk 
Chowri Chowk 
Then walk towards Bikey Bhanjang. 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, The plant by itself is harmless unless you eat the leaves. 
There is nothing much at Bikey Bhanjan. Once you come to the small tinned hut like structure on the right (which is supposed to be a Check Post), you can see three routes ahead. The gravel road steers along the right. A steep stairway right ahead (the trekking trail) climbs up to a Stupa on top and then continues and meets the gravel road. And a route on the left passes through lovely meadows (this is also a motorable route, but very steep and narrow). You can take any route, all finally merge. 
Bikey Bhanjan, see the 3 routes 
Bikey Bhanjan 
(further 4kms from Bikey Bhanjan, Altitude: 11,929ft) 2.5 hours trek 
And now the final destination and the climax. You could 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. 
But the final rewards are awesome. All your strains will 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, view of Kanchenjunga and 'Sleeping Buddha' 
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  Information about Sandakphu to know about all my experience there and what you can expect once you reach. 
There is a GTA lodge in Sandakphu and also several other private accommodations including Hotel Sherpa Chalet, Hotel Sunrise, Namo Buddha Hotel etc. Sherpa Chalet is arguably the best hotel here and great for viewing the snow peaks from the rooms. 

Day 4 - 6: Onward and Return treks from Sandakphu

From Sandakphu, you have two options. You can either continue your trek up to Phalut (another trekking destination) and then return via Gorkhey, Rammam, Srikhola, Rimbik where shared jeeps are available for Darjeeling or getting back to Siliguri. 
Phalut offers breathtaking views of the snow peaks... they look even closer. You get one of the best possible views of the 'Sleeping Buddha'... the range formed by Mt. Kumbhakarna, Kabru, Kanchenjunga and Pandim that looks like as if Buddha is sleeping. Go through the link below to know about the onward trek to Phalut which is further 21kms from Sandakphu. It requires an additional day of trek. 
If you do not want to go out any further from Sandakphu and want to return, you can always trek back to Manebhanjan following the same route as your forward trek. However, many trekkers prefer to take a different trail that comes down via Gurdum, Timburey, Srikhola, and Rimbik back to Manebhanjan. 
Go through Returning from Sandakphu for details of the route. 

Offbeat trails to Sandakphu, Phalut

Since the time the road has been concretized up to Gairibas, the vehicular traffic along this route has considerably increased. Since the trekking trail overlaps with the motorable road at several sections, the trekking experience along this route has also been impacted. 
Although trekking along this old route remains popular, many discerning trekkers these days look for alternative routes to Sandakphu and Phalut. And fortunately, there are few other excellent trekking trails available where there is no vehicular traffic, but only serene nature. 
ROUTE-1 (An Offbeat Trail): 
One such great trekking route starts from Srikhola. You can reach Srikhola from Manebhanjan in 2.5 hours by car and stay there overnight. Srikhola is a picturesque village surrounded by mountains. A stream also known as Srikhola flows through this village. From Srikhola you can trek up to Sandakphu in only one day. From there trek to Phalut (1 day), Phalut to Gorkhey (1 day) and then exit via Ribdi in Sikkim (last day). You will get transports at Ribdi to get back to Siliguri/NJP. 
Go through Srikhola to Sandakphu and onward to Phalut for details of this trek. 
ROUTE-2: (Partly Offbeat) 
There is another route which several trekkers prefer for trekking to Sandakphu. The route however merges with the original one 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 to 5 hours drive. After a night stay at Dhotrey, take the lovely scenic trek route (6 kms) that leads to Tonglu. 
The first 2kms is through a forested trail. And then the landscape opens up and you can sea wonderful meadows. It's an uphill trek route and takes about 3 - 3.5 hours to reach Tonglu from Dhotrey. Note that the route remains closed during Monsoon (mid June to mid September). 
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 
There is a Guide and Porters Association at Dhotrey where you can hire a guide and porter. You can get the necessary Singalila National Park entry permits from the Forest Check Post at Dhotrey or alternatively you can get it at the park's entry gate soon after Tumling. 

Accommodations along Sandakphu/Phalut Route

Accommodations along Sandakphu/Phalut trek route are mostly basic lodges and trekkers' huts. Most offer dorm beds and few lodges also offer private rooms. Do not expect luxury like TV, geyser etc. For most part of the route there is no electricity although some lodges offer limited use of solar powered lights (usually 6pm to 9pm). Almost all provide basic food like rice, daal, noodles (locally known as wai wai), vegetables and some times eggs, and if you are lucky, chicken. 
How to book lodges/trekkers' huts along Sandakphu route? 
If you do not want to take any chances (particularly in summer), book lodges/huts in advance. There is no internet there and none have online booking provisions. I have given the contact nos. of the lodges below (hard to get some of them as phone lines do not work consistently). Call them up to check availability. They will ask you to transfer money to their bank account to confirm the booking. 
This can be a big hassle for foreigners because most lodge owners won't know Swift Codes for international bank transfers. Foreigners are better off to go through a Trek Operator to take care of all logistics including accommodations. One can however try the lodges on the go, and most often than not, you will get some accommodation on the spot. But the best and cleanest ones are the first to go full. 
You can optionally try through an operator in Darjeeling who could be your single point of contact for such bookings. They will of course push lodges where they get commissions. But such lodges are usually okay because the operators use them for organized treks and they can't afford to offend trekkers. 
Also note that the GTA lodges can only be booked by physically visiting one of their offices (there is one in Darjeeling on Mall Road, called Silver Fir building). To book a GTA lodge or trekkers hut, go through GTA Tourist Info for location & contacts of GTA offices in India. Beds (in dorms) and private rooms in some lodges are available for booking. 
Contacts of Lodges/huts along Sandakphu/Phalut route 
(NOTE: Visit the links in the table below for more info. Contact information is subject to change) 
(03542) 264387
GTA Lodge
Indira Lodge
Pandim lodge
(+91) 9333964774 
(+977) 9735916541 
(+977) 9742666243 
(+977) 9734043453
Chewang Lodge
GTA Lodge
(+91) 9332599261 
(+91) 9933488159 
(+91) 7407276989 
(+977) 9742621760 
(+977) 27691127
GTA Lodge
GTA Lodge
Shanti Lodge 
Eden Lodge
Lakpa Dorjee Sherpa's home
GTA Lodge
Goparma Lodge
Sherpa Lodge
Hotel Green Hill
9593720817, 9733069143 9593828400
Kanchenjunga Hotel
GTA Trekkers Hut
Effective 2022, foreign nationals embarking on Sandakphu trek from the Indian side can not stay in a lodge/hotel on Sandakphu route that falls into Nepal's territory. There is an open Indo-Nepal border for a long part of this trek route and most hotels & lodges are located on the Nepal's side including in Tumling, Kalipokhari and Sandakphu. At Sandakphu, only the GTA Trekkers Hut and a couple private huts run by villagers that are located in the Indian side can be availed by the foreigners. The Indians, however, do not have this limitation. 
It is 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. Go through Camping on Sandakphu route for details. 

Essential Information

1) Guides & Porters 
These days it is mandatory that you take a guide and optionally porters for treks to Sandakphu and Phalut. There are state government registered guides who have their own identity cards. If you are approaching through Manebhanjan, you can get a guide from Highlander Guides and Porters Welfare Association (Phone: +91 89720 34550) located by the roadside as soon as you enter Manebhanjan. 
You can also negotiate and settle for a porter who can double up as a guide. If you want, you can call them up and book a guide/porter in advance, you need to WhatsApp them a photo of your ID (such as Aadhar card) and make an advance payment of Rs. 500 to get a booking confirmation. 
Guides are also available at Dhotrey and Rimbik. At Dhotrey (when you take the alternative route described above), you can get a guide from 'Guide & Porters Association (Dhotrey)'.... they are open daily during the day time (8am to 5pm). And in Rimbik (in case you take the reverse of the normal trek route), guides are available at 'Rimbik Guide Association'. 
Another good option is to go through a Trek Operator who has registered & knowledgeable guides 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. 
2) Mobile Phone 
Indian mobile networks do not work for most part of Sandakphu/Phalut trek. Vodafone and BSNL are the only mobile networks that work in patches along the way (but are inconsistent). You can get proper mobile towers once you reach Srikhola and then at Rimbik. Most locals on the trek route use Nepal mobile service. At some places your mobile tower will switch to Nepal international roaming, so be careful about the rates charged per call. 
3) 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 15th June to 15th 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. 
4) Clothing & Accessories 
Sandakphu can be very cold even in summer. So carry adequate woolens & jackets. In winter take heavy woolens, gloves, caps, and of course wear woolen inners. Additionally, take a rain coat (a must in all seasons ), use good trekking shoes, carry extra pair of socks, a wind-cheater, gloves in winter, cap etc. Weather can be unpredictable, so always be prepared for drizzles, showers and fog. Carry an empty plastic bottle which you can keep filling up with spring water along the way and use as drinking water. It's safe. 
5) There is no electricity or power for most part of the trek route. Electricity is available up to Tumling. The locals use solar panels and some use generators. Lights are put on for some time at nights after which you are required to use candles. Hot water is a precious item along the route and made using wood burners. Hot water is supplied in buckets for freshening up. 
6) Food will be basic like rice, daal, bread, vegetables, noodles, khichri etc. Eggs are usually available and chicken only occasionally. There is no other meet available. Do not expect fancy hotel food. Packaged snacks, bottled drinking water, tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages are available all along the route and even in Sandakphu. It is not advisable to take alcoholic drinks on such a trek. 
7) Carry all essential medication as well as a first-aid kit... you won't get any medical service along the way. Use a trekking stick for an extra support to tiring legs. 
8) If you are a novice, remember you must go slow and keep the spirits high... that's the key. Take a break every 15 minutes if you need and relax before you start again. Ask your guide not to move ahead and set the speed, rather be with you all the time. There will still be times when you would be on the verge of giving up... but don't give up. Ask your guide to tell you stories from his experience, you will limp along and cross the hump. Listen to suggestions from the guide. They can often predict fowl weather ahead and suggest an alternative plan. Abide by that. 
Go through Sandakphu trek for beginners for more information if you are a first-time trekker. 
9) Some have the notion that trekking downhill on the way back would be easier than trekking uphill. It's a myth. The return trail at various places (particularly from Sandakphu to Srikhola via Gurdum) have steep downhill gradient. The dry leaves on the forested trail and sometimes thin ice cover (like in March) can make it very slippery. It can also take a high toll on your knees and ankles. So use a knee guard if required and take easy but cautious steps. 
10) Indian security forces have introduced stringent checks related to identity proof at the various check posts. Also, foreign nationals with only Indian visa are no longer allowed to stay at an accommodation which falls in Nepal's territory such as in Tumling and even parts of Sandakphu. It is advisable for foreigners to organize such treks through Darjeeling Trek Operators in order to avoid logistics issues. 
11) Last but not by any means the least... I have noticed some trekkers (and mostly first and last timers) consume alcohol on reaching Sandakphu, perhaps as a mark of celebration for reaching the summit. This is probably the worst mistake one can make in this trek. 
Remember you are at an altitude of around 12,000ft. You can imagine how thin the oxygen is in the air. And alcohol can compound your problem next day with dehydration and headache when you need to get set for one of the longest days in the trek. 
If you have a question why alcoholic beverages of all types are showcased freely everywhere? The answer is, there are many tourists who come by 4-wheel-drive vehicles to enjoy and get the views. The bottles are mostly meant for them and their drivers, who can quickly get back to protected comfort next day, but you can't. And there is no medical emergency service available along the way. 

Costs for Trek

(Fare Updated: March 2022) 
  • You need to pay Singalilla National Park Entry fee of Rs. 120/- per person per day of stay inside the park for Indians (Rs. 500/- per day for foreign nationals). You can pay this fee at Manebhanjan or Singalila Park check post located shortly after Tumling. Without paying this fee, entry through Singalia National Park (near Tumling) will not be allowed. Carry Photo Id cards (like driving license / Voter's ID Card etc) which may be checked at several intermediate check posts along the route like Tumling, Gairibas, Batasi etc). If you are going through a trek operator, they will take care of the permits. Foreigners must carry passport. 
  • Rs. 50/- per person to be paid as Nepal entry fee at Kalipokhri. 
  • Still Digital Camera: Rs. 100/-; Video Camera: Rs. 400/- 
  • Cost of food along the trek route would be around Rs. 700 per person per day. 
  • Rate of dormitory bed in GTA Lodges/Trekkers Huts = Rs. 600 per person per day. Bed at private homestays/huts  = Rs. 400-500 per person per day. 
  • Double/triple bedded room in a good private hotel or lodge can cost between Rs. 2,500 to 3,500 per day. Cheaper ones are available too. 
  • NJP/Bagdogra to Manebhanjan: Rs. 4,500/- for reserved small car. 
  • Darjeeling to Manebhanjan shared Jeep fare: Rs. 80/- per person and reserved small car fare: Rs. 2,000/- 
  • Rimbik to Darjeeling shared Jeep fare: Rs. 200 per person and reserved vehicle fare: Rs. 3,000. 
  • Rimbik to NJP/Bagdogra reserved vehicle fare: Rs. 5,500/-. 
  • Rate for a Guide (if taken from Manebhanjan) is Rs. 1000 per day for Indians for up to 7 persons in the group, thereafter Rs. 150 per additional person. Guide rate for foreigners is Rs. 1200 per day for a group of up to 7 persons, thereafter Rs. 300 per additional person. 
  • Rate for a Porter is Rs. 800 per day + Rs. 200 for food at Sandakphu and Phalut each.  
  • Guide & Porter rates are all inclusive. One porter will carry up to 20kg of load. 
  • Several lodges along the way use solar power or generators and allow you to charge your mobile phone, camera battery etc at a small nominal charge per hour (indicative Rs. 20-25 per hour). 

    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: When you are short of time to trek the entire circuit, you can take a jeep, drive as well as trek for some parts of the route to Sandakphu. This can help save time while getting a good flavor of the trek. 
    5) Sandkaphu Trek Experiences Shared: Trekkers sharing their experience. 
    6) Darjeeling Trekking: Know all about trekking in Darjeeling area. 

    Visitors' Reviews/Comments

    Mike Baker (February 2023) 
    Hi Raj. Keshav tells me that foreigners visting from the Indian side are not allowed to visit/stay in Nepal (and therefore can't stay at Shikhar Lodge) post-pandemic, but Darjeeling tour operators are offering 2D/1N hikes staying at Tumling. Do you know how this is possible? 
    Raj ( February 2023 
    Hi Mike, Keshav is right. Foreign nationals visiting with an India visa are no longer allowed to stay in a hotel/lodge that is located in Nepal's territory. I have already explained this at several places on my website. 
    Some tour operators may be ignorant of this. But as a foreigner, you might land up in deep trouble if you stay in such a hotel/lodge including in Tumling. There have been several cases where foreign nationals have been driven out of such accommodations by the border security forces and were forced to return immediately. You can however stay overnight in Tonglu instead of Tumling... Tonglu is 2 kms from Tumling and located on the Indian side, there is a GTA lodge there. 
    For more details on the subject, you may like to visit Visiting Sandakphu by Car, scroll down to the comments section, and check out my communications with Jeff Clark in November 2022. 
    For foreign nationals to trek in Singalila Range from the Indian side, one should ideally approach Sandakphu from Manebhanjan via Srikhola... I have described this route on my article Offbeat Trek route to Sandakphu & Phalut. For a night stay in Sandakphu, a foreigner needs to stay at a lodge on the Indian side (such as the GTA trekkers hut). Most other hotels and lodges in Sandakphu are located on Nepal's side... there is an open border between India and Nepal that runs all through from Meghma/Tumling up to Sandakphu. 
    Subbu Andra (November 2022) 
    Hi Raj, Thank you for the detailed information and all the links for accomadation and food. I am planning to Trek Sandakphu next week along with my close friend. We are a novice. Please take a look at my route and suggest the best possible route to reach NJP. 
    Day 1 - Dhotrey - Tonglu - Tumling - Gairibas (Gairibas Night Stay) 
    Day 2 - Gairibas - Kalipokhri - Sandakphu - (Sandakphu Night Stay) 
    Day 3 - Sandakphu - Phalut - (Night Stay in Phalut) 
    Because of some time constraint we have to reach NJP by end of Day 5. So could you please suggest some feasible route from Phalut to NJP. 
    As we are trekking in November 3rd week, do we need to prebook the accomodations or we should be able to get them once we reach there, please suggest. 
    Raj ( November 2022 
    Hi, from Phalut, you can trek to Gorkhey on day-4 and stay there overnight. On day-5 morning, you can walk down to Ribdi in Sikkim via Samanden (takes a little over 2 hours). From there you can get taxis/ shared cabs to NJP via Jorethang. For details of this route, go through Phalut Trek Article and read the section under 'Route-2'. You should be able to get walk-in accommodations on your trek route. 
    Avishek Gayen (June 2022) 
    We will start our trek upto Sandakphu from Dhotrey on October 23rd 2022. I need to book one guide and one porter (for carrying sacks of my didi and wife sometimes in very steep conditions, and for carrying my 5years old daughter in tough situations) from now, as this is clear that good number of trekkers will hike this route in coming october causing non-availability of guides instantly. Please provide me guide and porters association's phone number or any guide's phone number and oblige. I can have their current charges also when I will call them for october 2022. 
    Raj ( June 2022 
    You can call up Highlander Guides and Porters Welfare Association at Maneybhanjan (Phone: +91 89720 34550) and make an advance booking of a guide and porter... you need to send your Aadhar card photo through WhatsApp and make an advance payment of Rs. 500. Call them up during the daytime. 
    Aloke Mondal (April 2022) 
    Hi, I have planned to go for a trek to Sandakfu, Falut, Gorkhey, Srikhola. We are mainly me, my wife and my daughter. Planning like... 
    1) 20 th Sept'2022 stay at Manebhanjan 
    2) 21.9.22 trek to tumling and night stay 
    3) 22.9.22 trek to Kalipokhri and night stay 
    4) 23.9.22 trek to Sandakphu and night stay 
    5) 24.9.22 trek to Falut and night stay 
    6) 25.9.22 trek to Gorkhey and night stay 
    7) 26.9.22 trek to Srikhola and night stay 
    8) 27.9.22 Srikhola to NJP via Rimbik 
    If we don't go through any booking and for my family will it be safe? Please give your suggestion. If possible please give some contact no that I can contact. Thanks 
    Raj ( April 2022 
    Hi, there is only one GTA lodge at Phalut which is the only accommodation there... if you don't book in advance and it's full, you won't have any place to stay there. At other places, you might get some private huts or lodges, most of which are substandard accommodations except a few. It's always better to book in advance since you are with your family. Although it might cost a little more, it is a good idea to go through a good trek operator to avoid such hassles of booking lodges in such remote places, booking guide/porter, etc... booking GTA lodges won't be easy. You will get contact details and links to trek/tour operators' list on this page itself. 
    Dipanjan Paul (February 2022) 
    Hello, I need your suggestion for our itinerary that we are going to follow during our Sandakphu trek. 
    Day 1: Start from Dhotrey and trek till Tumling (1 night stay) 
    Day 2: Tumling to Kalipokhri (Stay) 
    Day 3: Kalipokhri to Sandakphu and then move to Aahl (stay overnight in Aahl) 
    Day 4: Descend from Aahl to Srikhola (stay) 
    Then next day back to NJP from srikhola. 
    Can you please suggest whether this is fine? Also please tell whether we will get tents to stay in Aahl? 
    Raj ( February 2022 
    Hello, your trek plan is okay. However, for camping at Aahl, you need to either go through a trek operator or carry your own camping equipment. There is a homestay in a village near Aahl where you can stay if you want. 
    Ayan (October 2021) 
    Hello Sir, I am planning to do the trek solo, please look into the itinerary if it is okay or needs to be updated. 
    23/10/2021 Day 1 From NJP to Manebhanjan ( Stay and book guide and other details) 
    24/10/2021 Day 2 Manebhanjan to Tonglu ( Stay, technically first day of trek) 
    25/10/2021 Day 3 Tonglu to Kalipokhri (Stay) 
    26/10/2021 Day 4 Kalipokhri to Sandankphu (Stay) 
    27/10/2021 Day 5 Sandankphu to Sabarkum/Molley/Phalut ( Stay depending upon the availability of room thinking of discussing with the guide) 
    28/10/2021 Day 6 Sabarkum/Molley/Phalut to Gorkey (Stay) 
    29/10/2021 Day 7 Gorkey to Srkhola/Rimbik (Stay) 
    30/10/2021 Day 8 Srikhola/Rimbik to NJP via Manebhanjan 
    Is it possible to return to NJP from Srikhola on same day, my return ticket is on 31/10/2021 late at night. Please do give suggestions. Thanks 
    P.S I am not pre-booking any of the hotels hope it is not that necessary 
    Raj ( October 2021 
    Hello, your trek itinerary is fine. Yes, it's quite possible to get back to NJP from Srikhola/Rimbick on the same day (start early). However, you are planning to trek during the high season and getting any decent accommodation on the fly during such time can be very difficult... be prepared to sleep at very low-class huts/lodges. 
    Mani (August 2021) 
    Hi, Do you know the contact number for 'Nature Guides Association' at Dhotrey? Also are you aware about their office timing? 
    Raj ( August 2021 
    Hi, it's now known as 'Guide & Porters Association (Dhotrey)'. They are usually open daily during the daytime from 8am to 5pm. They don't have any published phone numbers. You can call up Padma Lodge (+918768873121) which is located nearby (about 100 meters away from the association), they might be able to help with further information. 
    Sucheta Ghosh (June 2021) 
    Hi! If you could tell me if it is possible to trek to Tonglu from Dhotrey on the same day I am reaching Siliguri? The train is supposed to reach around 8.15 am. After reading your blog it seems like we will need around 5-6 hours to reach Dhotrey... So after that will it be possible to trek to Tonglu on the same day? On a bit of a time crunch so that's the issue... 
    Also planning to trek from Tonglu to Sandakphu on the next day. Is that doable? I am fit. Not going everyday to gym fit but can walk 10kms without any issues fit. 
    Raj ( June 2021 
    Hi, it's likely to be dark by the time you trek up to Tonglu. Also, you may not be able to get a guide at Dhotrey that late in the day, and if you don't get one, you can not proceed to Sandakphu from Tonglu the next day. Seasoned trekkers can make it to Sandakphu directly from Tonglu, otherwise, it can be a daunting task... remember, walking in city parks for a few kms is not the same as high altitude walks on steep trails... but having said that, it's doable. 
    Subhasri Das (June 2021) 
    Good Day, I am planning a Sandakphu Phalut trek in september or November. Can you please advise if trekking boots and sleeping bags are necessary for this time of the year? Regards 
    Raj ( June 2021 
    Hello, You need sturdy boots for the last section of the trail (Bikeybhanjang all the way up to Phalut through Sandakphu) which is still a gravel road. You can not visit Sandakphu/Phalut between June 15 - September 15 because Singalila National Park remains closed during the official monsoon season. Sleeping bags will be useful from mid-November onwards during the winter season, particularly if you are camping. 
    Pratap (March 2021) 
    Hi Raj, Thank you so much for such a detailed info. I am planning the following route next week, is this feasible, I am  taking a guide. I would appreciate any suggestion from you. 
    Srikhola to Gurdum 
    Gurdum to Sandakfu 
    Sandakfu to Phalut (2 nights) 
    Phalut to Singalila pass - Chiabhajan 
    Chiabhajan  - Uttarey 
    Raj ( March 2021 
    Hi, yes quite doable. Make an advance booking at Phalut GTA lodge... accommodation is limited. Also, carry enough drinking water from Sandakphu to Phalut... there are no water sources on this stretch. 
    Swarnavo (December 2020) 
    Hi... Gone through your blog... It's so helpful... I have some queries.. 
    1. Can I start trekking from Tumling instead of Maneybhanjan? 
    2. Can I get Rover from Maneybhanjan to Tumling? 
    3. If I can start from Tumling, where should we make our first night stay? 
    **We are novice in treking.. have done only trek to Taksung Tiger reserve monastery (Bhutan) 
    Raj ( December 2020 
    Hi, yes you can start from Tumling. You will get a Rover from Manebhanjan to drop you at Tumling. You should arrange for a guide from Manebhanjan itself because you may not get one at Tumling and without a guide, they will not let you enter the Singalila National Park whose entry gate is located 1km from Tumling. You can make your first overnight stay at Kalipokhri... there are several lodges there including Pandim lodge. 
    Akshat Kumar (November 2020) 
    Hi, My friends and I are planning the trip from 5-12 December. I wanted to ask if accomodation in lodges and food etc. is available during these Covid times. Thank you so much :) 
    Raj ( November 2020 
    Hi, yes, you can go ahead. Most lodges have resumed operation. However, trekking in December can be difficult... there are chances of heavy snow and routes can get closed. But trekking is possible with the help of a guide and if you have proper gears. 
    Luka (September 2020) 
    Raj ji, is it possible to start the trek from Srikhola and go up to Sandakphu? I don't mind paying the park entrance fee but I want to be on my own, no guide. So I thought if I would take this route then I could do it without a guide. I would either stay in Sandakphu for few days to enjoy the views or continue to Phalut and finish the track that way, but on my own. What do you think, is it doable that way without anyone asking where's my guide? Thank you, 
    Raj ( September 2020 
    Hello, I won't recommend this because this is not allowed, likely you will be questioned at some points such as at one of the check posts along the way. Foreigners need to show their passport and visa at these points and all trekkers need to conform to the trekking norms. 
    There is a Guide & Porters Association at Dhotrey (about 26kms before Srikhola) who provide the guides and porters to trekkers who wish to take this route instead of the regular route through Chitrey and Meghma. Also, any porter or guide that you meet along the way, will likely inform the Association that you are without a guide and they will then track you out. 
    If your objective is not to be interfered with while trekking, then I suggest you talk to the Guide & Porters Association, agree to pay for a guide/porter for your entire trekking schedule and work out a way so that you can mostly trek independently. If you are a foreign national, you will need the help of the guide at the check posts. 
    Suvayu  Chatterjee (January 2020) 
    Sandakphu is the best place for viewing the Beautiful Sleeping Buddha range as well as the Mt. Everest, Mt.Makalu, Mt. Lotshe as well as the Three Sisters. We stayed at the Hotel Sunrise which was one of the most beautiful and best hotels in Sandakphu. And the view from the hotel is the best. We were a trekking group and trekked from Chitrey to Sandakphu. Our Trekking route was: 
    Day 1: NJP to Chitrey by car - 90 Km - 4/5 hours 
    Day 2: Trek to Tumling - 9 Km - 6 hours 
    Day 3: Trek to Kalapokhari - 12 Km - 6/7 hours 
    Day 4: Trek to Sandakphu - 6 Km - 3/4 hours 
    Day 5:  Trek from Sandakphu to Timburey via Gurdum village - 15 Km - 7/8 hours 
    Day 6: Walk 1 and half hour to the Srikhola road, drive to NJP - 150 Km - 6/7 hours or Darjeeling town (90 Km, 4 hours) 
    The route we took to trek towards Sandakphu was through Nepal. After 2 minutes of trek we were to buy passes from local authority for entry till Bikeybhanjan. The road till Bikeybhanjan was mixed with gradual and steep slopes. It took 40 minutes for us to reach Bikeybhanjan and we stopped for a few minutes to refresh ourselves. The tough and extremely steep road starts from this region, there is a tower here from which you can get a mesmerizing view of the Mighty Kanchenjhunga as well as the villages of Nepal on the other side. 
    Here there are two options: 1) you can avail shortcut stairs from here or 2) you can take the road which is full of pebbles and large stones. If you avail the road then you have to have patience as the road is much longer in compared to the stairs. If you take the stairs you will be able to cut short few kms as well as have to take lesser turns and bends but you have to be physically and mentally strong as the path is real scary with narrow passage in some places but you will enjoy it. 
    We reached around 1300 hrs after starting our Trek at 0830hrs. The Kanchenjungha and partly Sleeping Buddha was becoming visible and the Sunset was a treat to watch. It was so soothing for the eyes that we even forgot that we were at such a height with such extreme climatic conditions. 
    I am a big fan of the Mt. Kanchenjungha and have been attracted to it a lot and have seen it in lot of phases and transitions but this beauty was something new to my eyes and I was just enjoying. The cold and the tremor was all gone by the excitement of what I was seeing and what more was to come.  Everything from Kumabhakarna, Kabru North, Kabru South, Mt. Kanchenjhunga Peak, Goecha Peak, Forked Peak, etc. were clearly visible. Slowly as the time elapsed the Everest range was also becoming Visible and Chamlang, Chamlang East, Lotshe, Nuptse, Everest and Makalu was becoming visible too. In naked eyes it seemed that Makalu was taller than Everest but that's not the case. The sky was so clear that even the Three Sister was clearly visible. And we could get a picturesque image of the Himalayan Range 
    Biranchi (November 2019) 
    Hello Raj, Four of our friends have planned to trek to Sandakphu - Phalut during November second week (9th - 17th). I have few queries. It would be of great help if you can answer them: 
    1- We are reaching Bagdogra Airport on 9th November afternoon  - around 5 PM. Is there any vehicle available from the Airport for going to Maneybahnjan (Shared or reserve) or do we need to pre book? and what would be cost of pre-booking? 
    2- We will be starting the trek from Maneybahnjan on 10th which is a Sunday. So, would it be problematic in getting the permission, as it is Sunday and hence, office would be closed? 
    3- I read somewhere that there are shared vehicles from Maneybahnjan  to Tumling which are easily available? Is this correct? if yes, what would be the cost of hiring such vehicle?? 
    4- Do we need to pre book the stays at all places or during this time, we can easily get the hotels/homestays without prebooking? 
    5- What is the chances of snowfall during this period? Many thanks in advance. 
    Raj ( November 2019 
    Hi, you won't get any vehicle from Bagdogra airport all the way up to Manebhanjan. You can get a reserved taxi up to Mirik, and then take another one to Manebhanjan. From Mirik you can also get shared taxi up to Sukhiapokhri and from there another one to Manebhanjan. You can also ask your hotel at Manebhanjan to send you a car for pick up... a small reserved car should cost around Rs. 4,000/-. Starting the trek on Sunday should not be a problem. You can get shared Land Rover from Manebhanjan to Tumling or beyond to Sandakphu, but that will depend on whether seats are filled up (they usually take up to 10 persons and locals often commute)... otherwise you may need to wait indefinitely. You can find lodge accommodations along the way and need not pre-book around this time. There are some chances of snowing in the higher reaches, December is a better time to experience snowing. 
    Joydip Dasgupta (October 2019) 
    Planning to travel to Sandakphu in January 2020 with family. Is it wise and/or possible 
    Raj ( October 2019 
    No, it's not a wise idea unless you all want to trek on snow in freezing cold weather. Motor routes often remain inaccessible in the upper reaches and most lodges/huts will be locked and without a soul. 
    Frank (October 2019) 
    Hi Raj, I am Frank, husband of Michele, thank you for all the good info. I have been trying to get in contact with GTA to book the phalut accommodation but I can not find the right contact details. Could you help us with the right email address? Thanks in advance, 
    Raj ( October 2019 
    Hello, GTA operation is still quite primitive and they do not have online booking system neither they take bookings over emails or phone. In order to book a GTA lodge, one needs to physically visit one of their tourism offices and make a manual reservation through their staff (there is a GTA tourism office in Darjeeling as well as one in Salt Lake, Kolkata). In your case, you need to go through an operator in Darjeeling and take their services to book, however I'm quite doubtful that an operator will agree to make only a GTA lodge booking, instead would push for a trek package. Talk it out and see if you can get to an acceptable solution. You can however call up a GTA tourism office for any information regarding the lodges, availability etc. You can find the contact no.s in this webpage
    Michele (September 2019) 
    Good day! First of all, thank you so much for all the effort you put into this website and questions from all of us, Raj! I feel very grateful, since now we can come prepared. We plan to do the Singalila trek starting December 27th, till December 31st 2019. We are with a group of 4 and hope to do all this without a guide and porter. Our plan is: 1. Manebhanjang to Jaubari (sleep there in a guest house). 2. Jaubari to Sandakphu (again, look for a guest house on the Nepalese side). 3. Sandakphu to Phalut (only place to stay is trekkers hut apparently? Do we need to book?) 4. Phalut to Ramam (we hope to stay in Sherpa Hotel) 5.  Ramam to Rimbik and then by jeep to Darjeeling (this must be possible, right?). We plan to buy permits as we go, pick up more food and water along the way. Do we still need a guide? Then we rather have him carry a backpack from one of our children, so its better to know in advance so we can prepare this. Will this be doable, without any arrangements beforehand? Thank you so very much! 
    Raj ( September 2019 
    Hi, in December you do not need to pre-arrange the trek or book the lodges in advance. However be wary of the fact that there is high possibility of heavy snowing during that time and you can encounter almost knee deep snow at several stretches beyond Jhaubhari. It may not be easy to figure out the right way to get along the trail. I would recommend that you take a guide in December (this is mandated anyway by the guide s & porters association), at the minimum you need to take a porter. I would also recommend that you try to book the Phalut accommodation in advance because if there are no other bookings, you may not find the caretaker/staff around and you may be stranded in that biting cold. I have observed them disappearing keeping the lodge locked overnight. You can get a Jeep from Rimbik to Darjeeling or at least to Manebhanjan, however you might need to wait. Getting permits along the way won't be a problem, but do not rely on buying food beyond Tumling. Good luck! 
    Jayit Banerjee (August 2019) 
    Hi Raj, Thanks for the wonderful information. I just have a specific question, can we use snickers instead of trekking shoes around 24th Nov for Sandakphu trek ? Do we at all expect snow or rain during that time? 
    Raj ( August 2019 
    There is good possibility of snowing around that time and then snickers will not work... you don't want wet shoes while trekking at that altitude. You should carry trekking boots in case you need it. 
    Tapas Bhattacharjee (August 2019) 
    Sir, We, a group of two senior citizens, planning to trek to Sandakphu on the 1st of November 2019. Is it necessary to book accomodation in advance or spot booking will be available. In spot booking we have the freedom of resting at a place and time of our choice and need. Also inform the same about Phalut. Can we get shared jeep for Chitre from Manebhanjan. Waiting your valued suggestions. Thanking you. 
    Raj ( August 2019 
    GTA lodges may be difficult to get if you do not book in advance, but there are many private huts along the way, so getting an accommodation around that time should not be a problem. In Phalut the only accommodation is a GTA hut and you should book that in advance... do not attempt to go there unless you get that. There is no shared jeep here as such, you can join another group or family if there is space and pay an agreed fare, otherwise you need to take a full jeep/land rover for the drop at Chitre. 
    Ipsita Paul (April 2019) 
    Hi. First of all, you did an amazing job. Much appreciated. Can I take a guide from Tumling? We do not want to spend extra money. So, is it possible to take the guide not from Manebhanjan and from Tumling? Your opinion will be much appreciated. Thank you. 
    Raj ( April 2019 
    Hi, you are unlikely to find a guide at Tumling and then you will be stuck. Even if you find a local guide, you can not save on cost unless you are returning by the same route via Tumling, otherwise you need to pay for an extra day for the guide to get back to his home location. 
    Rajan Daryani (February 2019) 
    Hi, We are planning a trek to sandakphu in April. We are a group of 6-7.... Just 3 quick questions: 1. Are porters/guides readily available at manebhanjan? Or need to be booked in advance? 2. The permit required are also across the counter? Or have to be arranged in advance thru an agency? 3. How long would the drive be from sandakphu to Bagdogra airport? Can we book the return vehicle in advance? Thanks so much in anticipation. 
    Raj ( February 2019 
    Guides are readily available at Manebhanjan, no need to book in advance. You can get permits on the spot at Manebhanjan. Sandakphu to Manebhanjan drive would take about 2.5 hours. You need to then take another car to Bagdogra (about 4 hours). Sandakphu to Manebhanjan vehicle (old British Land Rover) can be booked in advance at Manebhanjan by paying the full return fare. No need to book a car from Manebhanjan to Bagdogra. 
    Ashutosh Shrikant Joshi (December 2018) 
    Hi Raj, I and 3 of my friends are planning a trek to Sandakphu-Phalut in the last week of December 2018. Though all of us have been on at least 3 treks prior to this one, we haven't done trekking in the snow. We are not going with any organizers. I have read through most of your posts and they are really helpful!!! Really glad someone is constantly responding to queries asked by thousands of people worldwide!!! Following is our itinerary. Arrive at Bagdora Airport on 28th December (around 6:30 pm) . Same day travel to Manebhanjang and stay overnight. 
    29th Dec _Day 1: Manebhanjang to Tamling 
    30th Dec_Day 2: Tamling to Kalapokhri 
    31st Dec_Day 3: Kalapokhri to Sandakphu 
    1st Jan_Day 4: Sandakphu to Phalut 
    2nd Jan_Day 5: Phalut to Rammam 
    3rd Jan_ Day 6: Rammam to Rimbik/Srikhola 
    4th Jan_ Day 7: Rimbik to Bagdora Airport 
    We fly back on 5th of Jan as we have kept one spare day for any unforeseen circumstances during the trek. Following are my queries: 
    1. We will be carrying heavy insulation, sleeping bags, snow boots and sticks. Also, we will be travelling with a guide no doubt. Is there any other essentials required for the trek? 
    2. Is the itinerary too tight for December as we have no experience of trekking in the snow? 
    3. I read in one of your threads that the dorms will be shut in case of heavy snow. In such a case, do we need to carry tents & sleeping mattresses as well? 
    4. If most places are shut in this season, will finding places that serve food be difficult? Should we also plan to bring our own food? 
    5. Any other additional tips regarding trekking in snow?? 
    Raj ( December 2018 
    Hi, you should try to book the GTA trekkers huts in advance. That would ensure that the caretakers (who also usually double up as cooks) would be there when you reach. But always time it in a way to reach every place well within day time. Many private hut owners come down to lower plains during winter. The guide can help you find something if anything goes wrong. You should not have problems up to Tumling (or even up to Gairibas unless it snows heavily). Note that Phalut has only one lodging (the GTA hut), so book that in advance. If it has been snowing continuously for few days, then jeeps that carry food up to Sandakphu or Phalut can not ply to those places, and there can be shortage of food. So you should carry enough dry food with you. You can also stock up some food from Tumling. Heavy snow can slow down the pace of trek considerably, so start early everyday. Carry extra pairs of socks. 
    Jase (November 2018) 
    Hi, Thanks so much for keeping such a wonderful forum. I along with a friend of mine are planning to do this trek to Sandakphu in the fag end of February'2019. Should we be carrying sleeping bags and snow boots? Can we get reserved car from Bagdogra to Maneybhanjan? If affirmative, what would be the cost? 
    Raj ( November 2018 
    Yes, you should carry sleeping bags and snow boots... you are likely to encounter knee-deep snow at the upper reaches. Take a guide along. You won't likely get a car from Bagdogra all the way up to Manebhanjan. It is better to ask your hotel at Manebhanjan to send a car for pick up (a small car should be within Rs. 3,500). 
    Madhavi Purohit (November 2018) 
    Dear Mr. Raj, Thanks for the very detailed description of what to expect on the trek and planning it. It was a great read and has made me really look forward to my visit. I will be doing the Sandakphu Phalut trek in the 3rd week of November. All logistics have been taken care of. While I have visited places at altitudes of about 10000 ft and I am generally fit, I haven't trekked at this altitude. Hence I just want to be cautious. Do I need to carry any medication for altitude sickness? Thanks, 
    Raj ( November 2018 
    Trekkers rarely get altitude sickness on this route because acclimatization happens naturally along the way when you go at an easy pace. However if you still anticipate any such problems, taking Diamox tablets daily can help retain oxygen... however do consult a doctor before you do so. 
    Shamba Dhara (November 2018) 
    Dear Mr. Raj, I have made a plan to trek to sandakphu. Please correct me on my plan if there is something wrong or missing.  
    26.01.19 - NJP to Dhotrey by car (stay) 
    27.01.19 - Trek from Dhotrey to Gairibas (stay) 
    28.01.19 - Trek from Gairibas to Sandakphu (stay) 
    29.01.19 - Trek from Sandakphu to Falut (stay) 
    30.01.19 - Falut to NJP by car 
    Please mention the availability option of car and guide at Dhotrey as we would be starting our trek from that place. and one more thing to know that would it be possible to catch the train on 30.01.19 from NJP at 8pm? your comment will help me a lot, thanks in advance. 
    Raj ( November 2018 
    You can get a guide at Dhotrey. There is no motorable route from Dhotrey to Sandakphu/Phalut, you need to arrange for your vehicle at Manebhanjan. I hope you are aware how much of snow there could be around that time of the year. It's possible to get the train on the same day... It will take about 9 hours with some breaks in between. Keep some additional time for vehicle change over at Manebhanjan. 
    Raghunath (September 2018) 
    Dear sir, thank you for a wonderful site. I thought I would trek to Tumling on my own starting October 10th or so. I thought I would get the permit at Maneybhanjan but can I get a guide only at Tumling onwards until Sandakphu? Will he charge me from Tumling per day or from Maneybhanjan? I'm a slow rambler sir and worried about guide hurrying me. I'd like to stay a lot enroute too. Any of your suggestions would be greatly appreciated! 
    Raj ( September 2018 
    Guides may not be available at Tumling as they are scheduled by the guides & porters association at Manebhanjan. However your lodge at Tumling may be able to help. I would suggest you book a guide at Manebhanjan (through the association) and ask him to join you next morning at Tumling (you need to pay for his fare on a shared jeep). But do meet the guide at the time of booking and take his phone number. Before you start your trek, tell him to be behind you all the time so that you can set the pace and not him. Alternatively, you can ask him to go ahead and wait for you at the next check post or milestone.  
    Chittaranjan Bera (July 2018) 
    Hi Mr. Bhattacharya, I, my wife and my 12 years son are going to trek Sandakphu and Falut  in the last week of October.  We have a little experience of trekking to Kedarnath.  I have booked trekkers hut and hotels at manebhanjan, gairibus, kalipokhri, sandakphu and Falut. But I am not sure about two matters. 1) Is there any chance to get  a Land Rover from sandakphu-falut- manebhanjan for 2 days? 2) Are raincoats needed on that time?  Please help me with your valuable suggestions. 
    Raj ( May 2018 
    Hi, getting a vehicle after reaching Sandakphu is difficult (particularly in such high season). You can talk to your hotel and see if they can arrange one or with another group having similar plans. Chances of rains in October end is low, but there can be occasional showers. You should at least carry wind cheaters and of course proper woollens. 
    Bappaditya Das (May 2018) 
    I want to trek Sandakfu with my wife(age 34) along with my daughter(age 11+). This may be(if possible) their 1st time trekking but I have some experience (Sandakfu-Falut 2 times, Gangotri, Mawali Pass, Pindari-> Devikund-> Mikotoli, Amarnath, Kedarnath etc). Is mid June (09th June to 17th June 2018) okay to trek to Sandakfu? 
    Raj ( May 2018 
    Sandakphu route (beyond Tumling where Singalila National Park entry is located) is closed between June 15 to September 15 due to monsoon. In fact June is not a good time for trekking on this route due to possibility of heavy showers. 
    Rima HD (April 2018) 
    Hi Raj, I have German friends, a man and his girlfriend, who wish to go trekking in the area around Darjeeling. They are planning to do it alone...not with a group or a guide. First of all, is that something doable, and second, is it safe? One hears about attacks on tourists, especially women even in the company of a man, so safety is a prime concern. Appreciate your feedback. 
    Raj ( April 2018 
    Sandakphu/ Phalut trek requires a guide or a porter ... this is the main trek route in Darjeeling area. Trek without a registered guide or a porter is not allowed on this trail beyond a place called Tumling where the entry gate of Singalila National Park is located. Plenty of women trek on this route and attacks are unheard of. 
    Arif Koushik (April 2018) 
    Hi Raj, sincere appreciation for your wonderfully detailed portal. It is massively helpful. I have a question: We have planned to trek Sandakphu-Phalut via the usual route from 29 April to 4th May. However, we are finding the GTA huts are unavailable on our dates. So we are planning to just hit the road, and find our accommodation along the way. How sensible will that be? Or is there any other way to ensure it? 
    Raj ( April 2018 
    Hi, once you take a guide from Manebhanjan, he can put you up in some huts along the way. So it's doable, but the huts may be sub-standard. I have given phone numbers of several lodges/huts on my Sandakphu trek page. You can try to call them up for advance booking.