Sandakphu: A Complete Guide
Sandakphu is famous for its sweeping views of the Himalayan peaks including the Kanchenjunga range as well as several others. In fact, you can see four of the five highest peaks of the world from here including Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotsey and Makalu.
Kanchenjunga view from Sandakphu
Sandakphu is the highest point (or summit) of the Singalila mountain range. It's located in Darjeeling district in the state of West Bengal, India, at an altitude of 11,929ft (i.e. 3,636m) and in a north west direction of Darjeeling town.
Sandakphu is a small village settlement with a few local huts, GTA (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration) trekkers hut and a few other private lodges & hotels. A part of Sandakphu belongs to Nepal while the other part is in India. It's an open border.
The name Sandakphu means "Height of the poison plants". This is because of the poisonous aconite plants growing in abundance here and Sandakphu being the highest point or the summit of Darjeeling hills where such plants grow.
Don't worry, they won't reach any harm to you unless you try to eat the attractive purple blue colored flowers or the leaves of these handsome looking plants. These plants when fully grown, are usually 1-meter in height.
Sandakphu is also home to lovely flowering plants like primula and rhododendrons that bloom in plenty during spring (March to April). This stretch and the slopes of Sandakphu area are full of silver firs, rhododendron trees and magnolias.
View of Mountain Peaks from Sandakphu
From Sandakphu, you get a 180-degree view of the Eastern Himalayan range, including mountains in Nepal on the west, Sikkim and Bhutan in the middle and Arunachal Pradesh in the east. And all this in one stretch of snow from one end to the other.
View of Mt. Everest from Sandakphu
The entire range from Nepal to Arunachal is about 320 kms long. But the most dominant in the range are the Everest and Kanchenjunga family of peaks. The best time to of the day view the snow peaks is the early morning wee hours.
As the first sunlight strikes, you will see the dazzling peaks of the Everest family in Nepal at the far west including the gorgeous Mt. Everest (29,029 ft., the highest peak in the world). It is about 160kms away from Sandakphu.
You will find it along with other peaks like Lhotse (27940 ft., the fourth highest peak) and Mt. Makalu (27,825 ft, the fifth highest peak). If you look further west, you will see the Chamlang (24,006 ft) that stands like a square wall of snow.
Everest view from Sandakphu
If you now start looking towards east at Sikkim, you will see the striking and prominent peaks of Kanchenjunga family (summit 28,156 ft., the third highest peak in the world).
The name Kanchenjunga means "Five treasures of the snow" and it has five peaks in its family. It is characterized by a massive mass of snow.
Buddhists call this range 'Sleeping Buddha' because the snow range looks like a sleeping figure of Buddha with Mt. Kumbhakarna forming the head, Kabru the face, Kanchenjunga the belly and Mt. Pandim the feet.
And therefore Kachenjunga massif is considered a holy deity in Sikkim. It is because of this sacred belief, mountaineers are not permitted to climb the peak of Kanchenjunga.
The peaks close to Kanchenjunga include Kabru (24,026 ft), Kumbhakarna (25,294 ft.) and Pandim (22,010 ft). Between Everest and Kanchenjunga you will see the peaks of Three Sisters.
If you look further east of Kanchenjunga, you will see the great Tibetan peaks of Narsing, Dongkya and Chola. And then you can spot Mt. Chamolhari in Bhutan.
Although you can see four of the five highest peaks of the worldon a clear day, the second highest peak K2 is not visible from Sandakphu.
Best time to visit Sandakphu
There are two best seasons to visit Sandakphu. The first is between April to May (summer) and the second from October to November (autumn). During both these seasons, the sky usually remains clear and you get stunning views of the peaks.
Kanchenjunga Range (Sleeping Buddha)
Although the nights can be very cold even during summer and autumn, the day time is usually pleasantly cool during these two seasons.
You can also visit Sandakphu in March (beginning of spring), but it can be very cold around that time although sky usually remains clear in March as well. Spring (March and April) is a great time to see rhododendrons and orchids in full bloom.
Rhododendrons on the way to Sandakphu
Many tourists these days visit Sandakphu in December to celebrate Christmas and New-Year. But, the temperature drops to sub-zero and there is high possibility of snowing starting from December till end of February.
It can get uncomfortably cold around during the winter (December to February). The road routes often get blocked with heavy snow and the tourists sometimes get stranded.
The route to Sandakphu passes through Singalila National Park
which has some of the most exotic and high-altitude Himalayan wildlife such as Himalan Black Bear, Barking Dear, Clouded Leopards, Wild Boars, and even rare animals like Ren Panda and Pangolins.
Red Panda on the way to Sandakphu
You should avoid visiting Sandakphu during the monsoon time (Mid-June to Mid-September). The Singalila National Park remains closed between 15th June to 15th September... monsoon time is the mating season for the animals. Tourists are not allowed to enter the national park and visit Sandakphu during this time.
How to visit Sandakphu
There are two ways you can get to Sandakphu... trek or reach by a vehicle.
Whichever way you choose, you need to first reach Manebhanjan, a small rural township
located at an altitude of 7,054 ft. This is from where both the trekking trail and the road route to Sandakphu originate.
From NJP station or Bagdogra airport, it takes about 3 and half hours to get to Manebhanjan by taxi. You can reach Manebhanjan via Mirik or Ghum.
From NJP or Siliguri, you can also get shared taxis, but you will need to change the shared taxi at Mirik or Ghum depending on the route you take, because you won't get a direct shared taxi all the way up to Manebhanjan.
From Darjeeling town, Manebhanjan is only 26kms away and takes only 1 hour 15 minutes by taxi. Shared taxis are also available from Darjeeling Chowk Bazaar stand.
(Fare updated: March 2023)
A small reserved taxi fare from NJP/Bagdogra to Manebhanjan is about Rs. 3,500 - Rs. 4,000. From Darjeeling, a small reserved taxi takes Rs. 2,000 - 2,500. Shared taxi from NJP/Siliguri up to Ghum is Rs. 350 and from Ghum to Manebhanjan is Rs. 80.
The distance from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu is about 32 kilometers.
Note that you will need to get entry permits for Singalila National Park
because Most part of the route is part of this national park. The entry permits are issued at Manebhanjan Forest Office and also at the entry gate of the Singalila National Park soon after Tumling.
Getting to Sandakphu by car
It takes about 2.5 hours to reach Sandakphu from Manebhanjan by a vehicle. However, you can not take a standard city taxi to get there.
You will need to take a 4-wheel drive Land Rover from the Land Rover's Association in Manebhanjan. These days designated Bolero vehicles are also used.
Earlier the road to Sandakphu was entirely a gravel road full of large boulders, but now most part of the route (from Manebhanjan up to Gairibas) has been converted into a concrete road.
The last stretch from Gairibas is still a boulder road and is extremely bumpy. The final stretch of the route from Bikheybhanjang up to Sandakphu (4kms) is really steep.
While you can arrange all logistics yourself for visiting Sandakphu, you can also get a complete tour package from a Darjeeling based tour operator which includes pick up and drop, all transports, permits, lodgings etc.
Trekking To Sandakphu
It usually takes 3 days to trek the steep uphill trail from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu. There is a separate trekking trail which passes through forested land and meadows. However, the trail merges with the motorable road at several places.
You will need to take a guide or a porter from Manebhanjan. There are private and GTA operated lodges and trekkers huts along the way where you can stay overnight.
While returning, there are several routes to get back... an option is to proceed onward to Phalut and return via Gorkhey, Rammam Rimbick, while another option is to return from Sandakphu itself via Gurdum, Timburey and Srikhola.
There are several other return trails as well. Overall, it can take 5 to 6 days to complete the entire trek circuit from Manebhanjan.
Check out Sandakphu Trek Information
for complete details including trekking trail, route map, guidelines, trekking costs, tips and more.
Hotels in Sandakphu
There are several private hotels and lodges and even homestays in Sandakphu that are mostly run by the local Nepalis. Most such private hotels are located on the Nepal's territory. Sandakphu actually spreads across the border of Nepal and India.
Note that foreign nationals visiting Sandakphu from the Indian side are no longer allowed to stay in an accommodation located in the Nepal's territory. Indians do not have this restriction though.
There is also a GTA Lodge in Sandkphu on the Indian side which is quite popular with tourists and trekkers. It is administered by Gorkhaland Terrirorial Administration (GTA) which is a government body. Both Indians and foreigners can stay at the GTA lodge.
Sandakphu Lodges. GTA Lodge is the nearest one.
Accommodation is quite basic... there are rooms as well as dormitory beds. And the service is very average (often only a caretaker manages everything including the kitchen).
It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. You need to visit a GTA Tourism Office and book a room/bed in the GTA lodge (there is no online booking system). You will find address and contact info of GTA tourism offices here: Darjeeling Tourist Information Centers
There are also several private hotels here. One of the popular ones is Hotel Sherpa Chalet. It's on a hill top and has rooms in lower and upper floors with great views of Kanchenjunga. In fact, the location of this hotel is by far the best in Sandakphu.
Sherpa Chalet, Sandakphu
Go through Hotel Sherpa Chalet
for complete details about this accommodation including, food, amenities, service and contact information.
However, when it comes to the quality of accommodation, Sunrise Hotel stands out from the rest. It's located at a short distance away from Sherpa Chalet. This is the largest hotel in Sandakphu with several rooms and a restaurant.
Sunrise Hotel, Sandakphu
Although the hotel does not have a direct view of the peaks from the ground level, it offers excellent views of the peaks from its roof terrace.
They provide breakfast, lunch and dinner which are included in the rates. You will get both Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes here. The food is quite okay.
Dining Room of Sunrise Hotel
Note that at present, Sunrise Hotel is the only one which supplies 24x7 running water in the washrooms. No other lodge/hotel in Sandakphu does so. All others provide water in buckets and that is also heavily rationed for each room.
Contact Information: Sunrise Hotel (Phone: +977 974-1450002)
Another private accommodation is Namo Buddha Lodge (Phone: 070768 24423). It's located at a lower level. It doesn't have direct views of the peaks. Most guests of this hotel and others come to the ground in front of Sherpa Chalet to get the views.
Namo Buddha Lodge, Sandakphu
For booking a private accommodation in Sandakphu, you need to call them up, transfer a part of the booking amount to their bank account and get a confirmation on booking. However, during low seasons, you can walk in and get a room.
Sriram (April 2023)
Hi Sir, We are planning for Sandakphu trip on April 6th. Is it an apt time now. Will the view be disrupted by clouds/rain at this time.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) April 2023
While April is usually a good time to visit, you need to be lucky to get a clear view of the peaks from Sandakphu. It can get cloudy anytime during the day.
Subrata Bhattacharyya (October 2021)
I like to go to Sandakphu on holi (March 2021) and would return via Gurdum/ Srikhola. My keen interest is to see Rhododendron in full blossom. Whether time spell chosen is proper or not ? Please suggest.
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) October 2021
April - May is the best time when rhododendrons are in full bloom, however, in the later half of March too you can expect to see the flowers blossoming.
Tirtharenu Sanyal (August 2021)
We are planning a visit on around 20th of November21 to Sandakphu. What is the expected weather, especially likely cloud cover. Is it a good time to get clear sky for sunrise viewing?
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) August 2021
November is usually a good time for the views of the peaks although the weather in Sandakphu can be unpredictable at times. The overall probability of a clear sky in the early morning is about 70-75%.
Doyel (November 2020)
I am travelling with husband, 3 year old and in-laws and we all want to see sunrise from Sandakphu. I am not willing to tag the little one along with us and want him to be with in-laws at homestay.
But if they are interested, we have to do the trip separately. In the both the cases, we have to be back the same day and before lunch time. My son is a fussy eater and we have limited options here.
So is it feasible we start very early from Darjeeling and see sunrise and be back to our stay? Is the weather always clear to view a sunrise from Sandakphu?
Say, if we drop the sunrise plan, what is the probability for getting a clear view from Sandakphu during day and how will be weather conditions during day time? Can we take the little one with us?
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2020
You should not take a 3-month old infant to Sandakphu (located at an altitude of around 12,000ft). The low oxygen level can cause breathing problems.
Secondly, when one makes a day trip by a vehicle, there is hardly any opportunity for acclimatization along the way. In Sikkim, children below 5 years are not allowed to visit such high altitude places.
It is practically not feasible to visit Sandakphu from Darjeeling and see the sunrise on the same day. It can take around 3.5 hours one way plus the time to change vehicle at Manebhanjan. The Land Rovers start operating only in the morning hours.
Chances of good views are much better early in the mornings, but that's not feasible on a day trip. During the day time, the visibility at Sandakphu is unpredictable and you need some luck to get clear views.
However, over the past few months, the pollution level has dropped considerably due to low tourist footfall, and Kanchenjunga is clearly visible from various places in Darjeeling hills almost 24 hours a day including at nights. So, hopefully, you should have a good time.
Saurav Roychoudhury (November 2019)
Dear Raj, Good morning! I am a solo traveler and looking at a low cost travel experience. Would greatly appreciate your advice on shared transport options for traveling to Sandakhpu, and home stay options, quiet and quaint places away from any hustle & bustle.
I wish to just spend some days in quiet looking at the mountains and greenery. Thanks and regards,
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2019
Hello, you won't get any direct shared taxi from Bagdogra or NJP all the way to Manebhanjan. You can book a luxury shared taxi online on Wizzride.com up to Ghum (on the way to Darjeeling) and take a shared Jeep to Sukhia/Manebhanjan.
Alternatively, walk up to the car park outside Bagdogra airport building... there are usually drivers offering shared rides to Darjeeling (this they do unofficially, so I can not recommend this)... get off at Ghum and follow the same modes as above.
Once you reach Manebhanjan you can inquire at the Land Rover ticket counter for shared Jeep... you can join locals or other groups and pay a lower one-way fare. At Sandakphu, there are few hotels and lodges that I have discussed on this page above.
Arun Chatterjee (November 2018)
I too went to Singalila in October 2016 for which I came into contact with Mr. Keshav Gurung and he gave me the contact number of hotel Namo Buddha at Sandakphu and Hotel Pradhan at Manebhanjan.
Mr. Gurung is a nice person. As per his advice I deposited the required amount to stay at Shikhar Lodge. After reaching Tumling I got a warm reception from Nila Gurung (owner of Shikar Lodge).
At Sandakphu I was fully satisfied by Mr. Samten Sherpa of Hotel Namo Buddha. When I was coming back from Manebhanjan, I met Mr. Gurung along with my daughter. Overall it was an amazing experience... courtesy of Mr. Gurung.
Rajib chowdhury (February 2017)
Hi Raj, I really appreciate your effort here. I'll be visiting Sandakphu on mid February. Is it a good time to plan my visit & Will there be snowfall during this time ? Again THANKS A TON for such an informative site
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) February 2017
Hi, in Feb routes are likely to be closed to vehicles due to heavy snow.
Callie Chee, Australia (January 2016)
Thank you for your wonderful post. Now, I am planning to visit Sandakphu from Darjeeling to take some photos. I am planning to take only a day safari tour from Darjeeling.
Is the sunset of the mountains eg Kanchenjunga equally as nice as the sunrise? By the time the jeep gets there, I think the sunrise is over. Are the roads safe to travel at night if I were to travel at night to catch the sunrise? And how long is it from Darjeeling? Many thanks!
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) January 2016
Yes, both sunrise and sunset views from Sandakphu are excellent and offer the spectacle of changing colors on the snow peaks. There are sunrise and sunset points in Sandakphu to get the best views.
But day safari from Darjeeling wont serve the purpose. It can easily take over 5 hours one-way from Darjeeling. I shall not recommend night driving at all on this route because the gravel road is steep at many places and full of sharp turns.
There is also a possibility of fog blocking the views. You should plan an overnight stay at Sandakphu to view sunrise or sunset.
A S M Faizullah (January 2015)
Dear Raj, Greetings of new year. I, along with my wife & 3.5 yr old son, have planned to have snowfall experience and thus thinking to visit Sandakphu on 3-Feb-15. Shall we be able to make 1 day round-trip Darjeeling-Sandakphu? Please give your expert advice with cost idea. Thanks & regards
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) January 2015
Routes will likely be closed beyond Tumling. But you can still see lots of snow around Tumling.