Sandakphu trek for beginners

I have created this section after requests from several enthusiasts who would like to begin their trekking experience with Sandakphu. While many of them are used to long leisure walks, none have had experience to trek on the hills over several days. 
Sandakphu is the summit of Singalila range with an altitude of 11,929ft. A trek to Sandakphu is actually considered a soft or a light trek in trekkers world. However the altitude, weather conditions and various other factors do require that you take adequate preparations, particularly if you haven't trekked before. 
In fact many trekkers, even seasoned ones come and stay overnight at Manebhanjan, spend a day here to get acclimatized with the conditions. Manebhanjan is located at an altitude of 7,054 ft (2,150 m). This is the place from where the trek starts. Some trek operators take the group up to Chitrey on the first day and then back to Manebhanjan for acclimatization. However this will require that you come here with enough time in hand. 
As a beginner, it is essential to note that you should not try to compete with the seasoned trekkers and must plan this trek with enough time in hand (at least five days for the entire return circuit). 
Remember, one of the fundamental guidelines of a trek is that you must take it easy, enjoy the hike and the nature. It is not about trying to somehow reach a target point like the summit at Sandakphu to get a great view of the snow peaks, it is about experiencing the whole journey and soaking in every moment. Take easy & slow steps, and enough breaks so that exhaustion doesn't spoil the party. 
First, thoroughly read the Article Sandakphu & Singalila Trek to understand what this trek means, the routes, the places to stay along the routes and other important details. 
Now go through the following questions, answers and comments that can guide the novice trekkers appropriately who are planning a trek to Sandakphu. 
Puja (November 2021) 
We are 7 members in a team, all of us 29 years of age, this is our first trek. Our journey details... 9th Dec 2021 Manebhanjan to Tonglu, 10th Dec Tonglu to Kalipokhri, 11th Dec Kalipokhri to Sandakphu ,12th Dec Sandakphu to Phalut. 13th Dec Phalut to Gorkhey, 14th Dec Gorkhey to NJP. I am 4'10" & weight 61 kg. Is this total trek possible by me ?? Does any breathing problem occur ?? What precautions are necessary ?? Please reply. 
Raj ( November 2021 
You seem to be quite overweight at your age. This trek schedule without any rest days in between is usually followed by regular trekkers. If you never trekked before and are not used to long walks daily (minimum 5-6kms), then this trek can become a real struggle for you... I would advise you to first work on your fitness and get used to long walks before taking up such treks. 
At high altitudes, the low level of oxygen does cause gasping as you trek, but since one gradually gets acclimatized along the way, breathing problem usually doesn't arise. December anyway is not a good time to trek to Sandakphu and will be freezing cold up there. If it snows, there can be knee-deep snow at the higher reaches and the route can be unsafe and you will need a proper experienced guide... additionally, you will need snow gears including snow boots, trek sticks etc other than several extra pairs of socks, a sleeping bag, gloves and heavy woollens. 
Soma Majumder (September 2021) 
Hi Sir, This is Soma Majumder. I have thoroughly follow your blog. I and my husband are planning to go Sandakphu trek on 15 October. As this is our first trek so I have few queries. Will you please help me out.. 
1. Is this right time to go to Sandakphu trek? 
2. As we just two are going along with a guide. Is it ok? 
3. We have just one month left. If we prepare ourselves by walking everyday for one hour. Can it be ok to prepare ourselves for Sandakphu trek? 
Raj ( September 2021 
Hi, October is a good time for the Sandakphu trek. A guide is mandatory on this trek, so you should take a guide from Manebhanjan. Do one hour of brisk walking... try to cover 6-7 km. However, during the actual trek, you must move as slow as possible and take short breaks whenever you feel so. Remember, when you get to the upper reaches, a high-altitude walk along a steep trail is a completely different ball game from walks around your neighbourhood. Ask your guide to follow you rather than to lead you and set the pace. 
Indrashis (February 2021) 
Hi Raj da! Amazing blog. I had a question. We are beginner trekkers, a group of 6. How much time will it take for us to trek from Maneybhnajan to Meghma? I am asking this because our train reaches NJP @ 9:10. So we are supposed to reach Maneybhanjan around 12:40. So will it be possible for us to trek from Manyebhanjan to Meghma or Tonglu that day itself? 
Raj ( February 2021 
Hi, relying on Indian train timings to the minute won't be a wise thing to do, plus NJP to Manebhanjan can easily take 4-hours+ if you take into account the time to get to the taxi stand, finding a cab and finally getting set to go. When you reach Manebhanjan, you need to go through the logistics of fixing a guide/porter and getting your permits if you want to go beyond Tumling... that can take quite some time because at that hour a guide is unlikely to be sitting there ready to get going as soon as a trekker arrives. So trekking to Meghma or Tonglu on the same day is impractical unless you want to walk in darkness, which is not advisable. Instead, on reaching Manebhanjan, you should fix your guide and get your permits for next day, stay overnight at Manebhanjan or a nearby place like Lepchajagat, and start your trek next morning. 
Bikash Roy (May 2017) 
Hi Raj Sir. I am planing a Trek to Sandakphu with my 4 friends from 29th October. As I am a Beginner trekker.  Your article about this trek helps me a lot. My Itineraries and Day-wise plans is as follows: 
29 Oct.: Arrival at NJP by Darjeeling Mail at 8:00 a.m., Transfer to Maneyvanjang by 1:00 p.m by private car. Then after Lunch Travel to Tonglu by Car; Night stay 
30 Oct.: Trek to Kalipokhri. Night Stay 
31 Oct.: Trek to Sandakphu. Night stay 
01 Nov.: Trek to Srikhola. Night Stay 
02 Nov.: From Srikhola taking a jeep and travel upto Darjeeling, in the afternoon visit to Mahakal Mandir. Night stay. 
03 Nov.: Mixed Points Tour of Darjeeling. Night stay 
04 Nov.: Morning 3 Point tour. After Lunch Transfer to NJP 
My queries are: 
1. Is it possible to reach Tonglu on 1st day before sunset? 
2. How can I book a Land Rover for Tonglu from Manebhanjang in advance? 
3. As I am from Kolkata so I plan to book GTA Trekkers Hut from there office for Tonglu, Kalipokhri, Sandakphu & Srikhola Night stays in Advanced. Is it ok? 
4. What extra activity can I do at Darjeeling between 2nd to 4th Nov? 
Please sir help me with your valuable suggestion. If you think any modification is required in my plan then please tell me. 
Raj ( May 2017 
You can reach Tonglu before sunset provided you get a Land Rover which can not be booked in advance. If Land Rovers are available and ready to go, then you can avail one (usually they do not go up in the afternoon because it gets late by the time they return). If you don't get one, you need to stay overnight at Manebhanjan. So better plan a night stay at Manebhanjan. Alternatively you can move to Dhotrey from Manebhanjan (there are ample cars) and start the trek next morning for Tonglu. 
In Darjeeling during your free time roam around in the mall area, walk and complete a full circuit of the mall road around observatory hill, walk up to Mahakal temple etc. You can even go for Paragliding... great experience. 
Subha Ranjan Ghoshal (January 2017) 
Hi, My wife and me are planning to have a trek to Sandakphu-Phalut in last week of September this year. Our condition is as under. Please tell me if we are fit for this plan. We have almost 6 months in our hands and can prepare as you suggest. My wife is 5ft, 66 kgs and aged 33 years while I'm 5ft 9in, 73 kgs and aged 40 years. None of us has no previous trekking experience but both of us are very very enthusiastic and flexible about traveling. Please enlighten us with your valuable and thoughtful opinion. Thanks a lot. 
Raj ( January 2017 
Hi, your wife appears to be a little overweight, you are fine. Suggest both of you take long brisk walks for the next 6 months ... at least 1 hour (5-6 days a week). Also enroll yourself to a gym to practice walking on treadmills with inclines (gradient). You should do that 2-3 days a week for 30 minutes. In mountain treks, one of the problems is calf muscle cramps due to continuous gradient. 
Your wife needs to shred weight (about 7-8 kgs and it's possible)... consult a nutrition specialist for a low carb/high protein diet. I have seen overweight yet very fit persons taking on the trek and making it... but it won't be easy by any means. 
Once you reach Manebhanjan, stay there for the night to acclimatize. Take the trek as a leisure slow walk with plenty of breaks. You should be fine. Being your first time, go only up to Sandakphu and not Phalut. Two more extra days can take heavy toll on untrained bodies. 
Subhasish Karmakar (January 2017) 
Hi Raj, First of all I wanted to thank you for putting together such an informative website.It's great. 
I wanted your help and suggestion to plan out a trek to Sandakhphu & Phalut in May 2017 : We will be a team of 10-14 people ( 3-4 kids ange between 7-12 years). Some of them are first time trekkers. Few questions : Is there a motorable road from Phalut to Gorkey? As we will be trekking with kids we were thinking of having a car as a back up in case kids refuse to walk we can fall back on the car. But after some research I found out that car goes only till Phalut. Is that correct? If we go with a tour operator what could be the approximate cost per person for the entire trip? 
Raj ( January 2017 
There is no motorable route beyond Phalut. Suggest not to try Phalut with first time trekkers. Trek rates vary depending on season and demand. It can be roughly Rs. 3,500 to 4,000 per day per person including transport, food, accommodation, permit, porter, guide etc. Check with a few operators. 
Rudra Sen (October 2016) 
Hi Raj, We are planning to trek sandakphu on 26th December 2016, I just want to know that is there any chance of snowfall at that time. We are planing to camp during the trek instead of trekker's hut is it possible to do so. However will be our preferred itinerary as all of us are novice. 
Eagerly waiting for your response. Thank you, 
Raj ( October 2016 
There are high chances of snow fall around that time. You can camp along the route. Being novices, go through a proper trek operator. 
Tarit Sarkar (April 2016) 
Raj, I want to know i) Can I trek the route from dhotrey. Is Guide available from there ? ii) If I can not trek at the age of 59 years (my first trek), may I get jeep on any point like Tunglu, gairibas, kalipokhri to sandhakphu. iii) Can I trek in the end of November? iv) Safety point of view can I take my daughter aged 24 years? v) Before starting what exercise I have to do. 
Raj ( April 2016 
Yes, guides are available at Dhotrey. There is a trekking guides association there. Age is not a factor as long as you are young at heart and physically fit :) I have met a 70-year old man on his ritual annual trek only a few days back and telling me about his next trek plan to Sandakphu. He was half way up and I was half way down. Land Rovers ply along the route taking tourists and ration. But hopping in is possible only if there are free seats and passengers in the vehicle agree to take you. There is no shared jeep service, all vehicles are reserved by passengers. Some however like to share costs. But at places like Tumling, Sandakphu etc, you can ask the hotel owner and they can arrange for a vehicle or get one from Manebhanjan. But the very thought of such option is almost certainly going to play in your mind and make the trek virtually impossible. It's better in such case to plan for a shorter trek... come to Tumling by Land Rover, stay overnight, next morning trek via Tonglu down to Dhotrey. You can take your daughter, no problems at all. Many do that. Since this is your first trek, walk daily for about 5-6kms for a month and do free hand exercise to keep yourself fit. Acclimatize yourself in Manebhanjan at least for a day, take long walks uphill and downhill before you start your trek next day. Trekking in November end is possible, but it'll be biting cold. October or early November is a good time. 
Adityarup Sarkar (February 2016) 
Hello Sir, I will be trekking to Sandakphu From Manebhanjan with my friends in May. All of us are first-time trekkers. So I wanted to ask if it is advisable to halt the first night at Tonglu or Tumling. I read on your blog that Tumling has better accommodations, but since we are all first-time trekkers, will we be able to make it from Maneybhanjan to Tumling in one day? Also, I wanted to ask at what time each day we should start the trekking, Thanks a lot for your help. 
Raj ( February 2016 
Halt the first night at Tonglu, it'll be 2kms shorter trek on day1. Start by 6am. 
Sayantan Mukherjee (September 2015) 
Hello Sir, I went through your travelogue of sandakphu and phalut which kept me spell bounded. This is my first trek so need your guidance and I will be going alone from Kolkata. My route chart is here as follows(Please specify changes where you deem fit): 
Oct 18 - NJP to Manebhanjan - stay 
Oct 19 - Manebhanjan to Tonglu/Tumling - stay 
Oct 20 - Tonglu/Tumling to Kalipokhri - stay 
Oct 21 - Kalipokhri to Sandakphu - stay 
Oct 22 - Sandakphu to Phalut - stay 
Oct 23 - Phalut to Rammam - stay 
Oct 24 - Rammam to Srikhola - stay 
Oct 25 - Srikhola to Rimbick to NJP via Manebhanjan 
1) Will I be able to get guide and porter after reaching manebhanjan or do I need to book them from here? 
2) Will the guide/porters be able to arrange for accommodation and food or do I have to book the accomodations from here? 
3) Is it safe to go alone without any prior trekking experience? 
4) Can you provide contacts of a trek operator who can manage all the hassles of the trek so that I can enjoy the trek without having any headache of fooding/lodging? 
5) What can be the approximate cost for this trek if I go by myself and if I go through a trek operator? 
Thank & regards 
Raj ( September 2015 
You will get guide and porter in Maneybhanjan - ask for Highlanders Association for porters and guides. You can also contact them over phone and book guide/porter in advance. Trek operator cost for a single person will be much higher, it works out well with at least 2 to 3 persons in a group. In high season you should book accommodations in advance. Guides will take you to private trekkers huts which are often less than average in quality. 
Trisha Nath (January 2015) 
Dear Raj, We are a group of 8 novices for trekking. Our itinerary is: 
12th april: start from NJP. Reach Meghma by JEEP and take the permits. Stay at Meghma. 
13th april: Trek upto Gairibas(via tonglu and tumling) and stay there. 
14th april: Trek upto kalipokhri and stay there. 
15th april: Trek upto sandakphu and stay there. 
16th april: Trek upto Srikhola and stay there. 
17th april: Start by 5am. Trek upto Rimbik. Take JEEP from Rimbik for NJP. 
Return to Sealdah by Padatik Express. 
My queries are: 
1.Will getting a permit take long time? Upto what time we can get a permit from Meghma/ Manebhanjang? 
2.Is there any place to stay at Meghma? 
3.Will it be too hectic to start from Srikhola and reach NJP same day? Can we get JEEP from Rimbik upto NJP? 
4.Is there any way to cover Phalut within this time limit? 
Raj ( January 2015 
There are couple of trekkers' huts in Meghma, better stay at Tumling or Tonglu. Get the permit at Manebhanjan (they open by early morning and close before it's dark). Since you are novices, skip Phalut. It will take two extra days. You can get shared jeep directly from Srikhola. No need to trek down to Rimbik. The Jeep leaves at around 6am and then 11:30am. Get off at Manebhanjan and take another one for Siliguri/NJP. 
Gourisankar Samanta (October 2014) 
I am a Sr citizen of 63yrs and my cousin is of 61yrs.We started on 10/10/14 from Dhotrey to Tumling-Kalipokhri-Sandakphu. We stayed in Sandakphu for two days and returned via Gurdum-Srikhola-Rimbik, as suggested by you for first time trekkers. Thanks to you, it is for you only we completed the trek. 
Subho Das (October 2014) 
Hello Raj: I have a 3 questions about sandakphu - phalut trek: 
1)is it possible to do Sandakphu -phalut trek in end of february-2015? 
1)what's the weather condition... at that time there? 
2)what food should we carry and also equipment? 
3)if at that time trek is possible then how much risk for us (novice) ? 
Raj ( October 2014 
It is possible to trek to Sandakphu and Phalut in February with proper trek gears and experienced guide, but it's possibly the worst time for such trek. It'll be all frozen and snow covered. Routes will be hard to assess. As a novice you should avoid that time. Go in April instead. 
Anjan Kundu (December 2013) 
Hi Raj sir, we are planning to trek sandakphu -phalut. Our route- njp to dhortrey, then tonglu, garibas, sandakphu, falut, rammam, rimbik. It is our first time to trekking, we are planning to go in late December. My queries are- 
1) is it safe to trek at that time?? 
2) fooding (what will be available at that time?) 
3) is it possible to do spot booking at those places ?? 
4) give me idea about dry food & medicine to carry 
5) give me idea about temperature in late December 
6) may I get car from njp/siliguri to dhortrey ?? 
Raj (, December 2013) 
There can be lots of snow in late December. So you will need gears like snow boots, walking stick, sleeping bags (huts have no heating arrangements and it can be freezing cold out there). So it's better to go through a trek operator. You will need a 4-wheel drive from Manebhanjan up to Dhotrey. There are private huts in several places and you can get beds on the spot. You will get simple and mostly veg food at the huts (most common are khichri, maggi noodles etc). So carry some dry fruits, biscuits etc. 
Sourav Karmakar (July 2013) 
We are planning to go for Sandakphu trek on 28-12-13 to 04-01-14 is it safe for first time trekkers we are 6 member in the group.Is there heavy snowfall in this time causing road block.plz suggest as soon as possible. Thanks & Regards 
Raj (, July 2013) 
Hi, It's a bit late for trekking to Sandakphu. You will likely find plenty of snow and it'll be freezing cold. As it is, there are no medical facilities/amenities along the route. During late December or early January, you will hardly find fellow trekkers or even locals along the way. So if you are beginners, avoid that time. Chances of road blocks is unlikely though. Regards, 
Joydeb Pandey (Feb 2013) 
Hi Raj, For the last 15 days I have been going through each and every corner of this site and have gathered a lot of useful information and guidelines. Thanks a lot for spending your valuable time for helping people like us. Now I should come to my question. Actually I don't have any trekking experience. But I am a die hard lover of the hills and particularly of Darjeeling.  
I have been to this Queen six times till date. I just love walking aimlessly and so I never hire a car. I think the beauty of the hills can be enjoyed only by walking. After going through your narratives on this site, I have started dreaming of walking along the trek route of Singalila ridge. 
But as I have mentioned I don't have any previous experience and have never been to such altitude. So I need your guidance regarding the following: 
Q1: whether it would be right for me to go to that altitude? I have read a little about High Altitude Sickness on the net and found some frightening information. Is there any fatal threat for first timers like me? 
Raj: The first thing that you need to eliminate is the fear in your mind. These days there are regular guided treks that take place taking school children to Tumling and Sandakphu. I have seen several foreigners trekking to Sandakphu and accompanied by their young children. 
Although technically high altitude sickness may take place above an altitude of 8,000 ft, it is extremely rare that one is affected severely at an altitude below 12,000 ft. In only few cases, mountain sickness (known as AMS - acute mountain sickness) is observed with mild to moderate symptoms below 12,000ft. The peak of Sandakphu has an altitude of little less than 12,000 ft. I haven't seen or heard of any fatal cases here arising out of mountain sickness. 
Q2: How should I prepare for such altitude and how to cope if any such situation arises? 
Raj: As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, as a beginner try to acclimatize yourself ... spend a day at Manebhanjan and hike along the route up to Chitrey and get back. And then start next day early in the morning. 
Your preparation should actually begin several weeks (may be 3 months) in advance. Take regular long walks in the morning & evening... preferably on a treadmill machine with 20 - 30° gradient. This is to ensure that you don't get muscle cramps as you walk up the hill. 
During the trek if for some reason you feel mountain sickness (symptoms may be Nausea, headache, fatigue etc, and in more severe cases vomiting, disorientation etc), use symptomatic treatment, for example use medicine like abomin for nausea, asprin for headache and so on.  
But prevention is always better than cure. Drink a lot of water along the way and urinate more often than normal. Take at least a litre every two hours as you trek. Even after reaching the places for night stay, keep drinking enough water. This will help getting rid of the excess lactic acid forming in your body. 
Remember, always take short, easy and slow steps, pause, take breaks, enjoy and walk. Do take rest when you get tired. Do not try to keep pace with fast seasoned trekkers. Since oxygen level comes down with higher altitude, you should try to reduce the need for it, and that is by walking slow and not getting exhausted easily. 
At any stage, if you feel very sick (which is unlikely if you have taken the measures I discussed above), come down immediately to lower altitude level with someone else, and abort the trek. 
NOTE: You should consult a medical practitioner for final advises. 
Q3: If you suggest me to go ahead with the venture then how should I go about it? I mean, should I go through some trek operator? I have talked to Ashmita Tours and they charge 2000 INR per person per day. But as I have read here, it would be almost half if I do it myself. What would you suggest? 
Raj: On your first trek to Sandakphu, you should ideally have some one in the group who has enough trekking experience, is knowledgeable about the basics of a trek and able to properly guide you. Do not try this trek alone all by yourself or just with friends who are equally novices in this field. You will need a guide. If you are unable to find such a company, then go through a trek operator although it might turn out to be a little costly. Tell them that you are a first timer and therefore need guidance accordingly. 
An advantage with a trek operator is they will arrange everything for you including permit, porters, lodge booking, etc. Otherwise you will need to do everything yourself. It is not an easy terrain as it looks in the pictures. If anything goes wrong, as a novice you may struggle to get things back on track. 
Q4: I have thought of 2nd week of April this year. Would it be right for me?  
Raj: Yes. April and May are great months for trekking to Sandakphu, and is also a good time for beginners. The snow would have mostly gone and the rhododendrons would be in full bloom. There may be a few showers in short spurts (mostly at night), but the sky generally remains quite clear. 
Q5: What should be my itinerary and how to make all the bookings in advance?  
Raj: Plan your first night stay at Tonglu or Tumling, second Night stay at Gairibas or Kalipokhri, third night at Sandakphu. If you take the same route back, then plan the fourth night stay at Tumling. Alternatively, take the return route via Gurudum & Srikhola. If you are seeking a route variation, then this is a great short route to try. In that case take the fourth night halt at Gurudum or Srikhola. In the morning come to Rimbik and take a shared jeep back to Manebhanjan. On your first trek, do not try any other routes. 
DGHC Trekkers Hut can be booked through the DGHC (now GTA) offices in Kolkata and elsewhere. Check out Darjeeling Tourist Information Centers and you will get DGHC office addresses and contact information. Most of the private accommodations need to be booked on spot based on availability. For Shikhar Lodge at Tumling and accommodation in Manebhanjan, you may Write To Me and I can help with the contact information of the owners family. They too can arrange all other logistics for this trek. 

Related Articles

1) Sandakphu & Singalila Trek: Full details of the trek. 
2) Sandakphu Routes: A complete route map with locations & distances 
3) Return Routes from Sandakphu: Great routes to return from Sandakphu