Sandakphu - Combining Jeep Drive & Trek

 
 
Not everybody has the luxury of sparing 5 to 6 days time for completing the entire trek circuit of Sandakphu. But there are many who still would love to get a flavor of this unparalleled trek in a short span of time and get the opportunity to view the magnificent snow peaks from the summit and colorful rhododendrons &áorchids along the way. 
 
So is it possible to take a 4-weel drive vehicle, drive up to a suitable point between Manebhanjan and Sandakphu along the trek route and then trek to the summit? And then ask the driver to meet at Sandakphu next morning to take you back down to the plains? 
 
 
 
Yes of course possible. Please go through the questions from viewers who really want to do so to get a piece out of this trek paradise and my suggestions on how to do it: 
 

Ordered by older to recent posts

 
 
I am 56 years old but have walked a lot in my life. I will be reaching Siliguri/Bagdogra on the 15th of May. I need to be back at Siliguri by the evening of the 18th. Is it possible do you think to take a four-wheel drive from Siliguri itself, spend a night somewhere between Maneybhanjung and Sandakphu on the 16th, do the remainder of the walk on the 17th and return by jeep all the way back to Siliguri by the jeep (which would have meanwhile left me at the halfway point and continued to the summit on the earlier day.) Is this workable at all do you think? 
 
Kedarnath Awati (May 2013) 
 
This is quite doable. All you need to do is contact a tour operator in Siliguri who can organize a 4-wheel drive jeep for you for Sandakphu and also help in booking the lodges. Depending on how much you want to trek, you can either stay at Tumling (19kms to Sandakphu), Gairibas (12kms to Sandakphu) or Kalipokhri (6kms to Sandakphu). 
 
If you stay overnight at Tumling, you will need to walk the whole day to reach Sandakphu. Note that the last 4kms stretch is quite steep. You will only get one chance (early next morning) to get a glimpse of Kanchenjunga peaks from Sandakphu. Morning time is the best time for the view. If you decide on Tumling, you can stay at Shikhar Lodge. 
 
If you decide on Gairibas (a scenic place), you can stay at the GTA (Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, erstwhile DGHC) lodge or a private lodge. At Kalipokhri, there are several private lodges. If you stay overnight at Kalipokhri, start the trek early next morning, and you will be able to see the snow peaks from Sandakphu in the morning provided the sky remains clear. 
 
This option also gives you a full day in Sandakphu. Ask the driver to reach around the same time and you can then take the jeep to make a return trip to Phalut on the same day. In Sandakphu, stay at Sherpa Chalet (best views). Next morning start early (you get a second chance to see the peaks). It takes 4.5 hours to reach Manebhanjan by jeep and another 4.5 hours to Siliguri. So time it accordingly and keep at least two hours of buffer time. You should be fine.. 
 
Note that these days it is mandatory to take a guide for the trek. So you will need to either pick up an authorized guide from Manebhanjan or ask the tour operator to arrange for one. If you stay at Tumling, you will not be permitted to enter the Singalila National Park without a guide as you trek next morning. The National Park starts shortly after Tumling and the trek route passes through it. 
 
However if you stay at Gairibas or Kalipokhri, nobody will perhaps notice if you have a guide or not. You can pass through the check post at the entrance of the park with a vehicle. But that will be like unfairly beating the system. You will of course need to pay for the entry permit which all must do. But still a question haunts... for such a short trek, is it worth paying for a guide for two full days? Your call.  
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) May 2013 
 
Note to Readers (by Raj): If you plan to combine such a partial trek to Sandakphu following a visit to Darjeeling, you can easily follow a plan similar to above. It only takes about 1.5 hours to reach Manebhanjan from Darjeeling. There are ample Tour Operators in Darjeeling who can arrange the logistics for you. This can give a great new dimension to your vacation plan. If you do not want to trek, but visit the Singalila National Park and Sandakphu by jeep and get back, then check out Jeep Safari to Singalila National Park 
 
 
 
Dear Raj, Just to let you know that I did manage to get up to Sandakphu (with a night at Tumling). There were no views of the Greater Himalayas. Lots of wind, rain and hail, but fortunately not while I was walking. I took a Landrover at Maneybhanjyang and a guide that was suggested by an organization called Nature Beyond. The experience was wonderful (I walked roughly 20km of the total route, the rest by Land Rover) and I would not have been able to do it but for your very encouraging email. Thanks and all the very best! 
 
Kedarnath Awati (28th May 2013) 
 
 
Hi Raj: 
 
I have a company called Trek Mate that I am in contact with - they have suggested the 
following options. Pl note that because Pronit (my son) is in India for only 2 weeks and needs to visit grandparents and relatives in Kolkata and Chennai, we are trying to squeeze in a 3-4 days trek. 
 
Options are - two day trek from Maneybhanjan to Sandakphu or drive up to Kalipokhari and then a one day trek to Sandakphu. Overnight at Sandakphu - either on day 1 or day 2 depending on when we arrive. Day 2 (or 3): Trek to Gurdum - overnight there. Distance 11km. Day 3 (or 4): Trek from Gurdum through the forest to Rimbick. Alt. 2286mt. Distance: 12 km. Trek ends here. Drive back to Darjeeling from here. 
 
What is your thought and advise on this possible itinerary? Thank you. 
 
Kushal Dutta (September 2013) 
 
 
Hi, 
 
It's a good suggestion considering the time constraints. I'll suggest a few minor changes: 
 
He should start early from Manebhanjan if he plans to start his trek from Kalipokhri on the same day. It'll take over 3 hours to reach Kalipokhri from Manebjanjan by jeep. From Kalip[okhri, although the distance to Sandakphu is only 6kms, the gradient is very steep. 
 
Gurdum is 10 kms from Sandakphu and an easy trek of 3.5 hours. He should proceed further to Srikhola on the same day (another 6kms, takes 1.5 hours from Gurdum). This is a scenic place and he should stay overnight here. Next day morning he can trek down to Rimbik (7kms) and take a transport back to Darjeeling. This way he can balance his trek better (distances over each day), he can take it easy on the last day &áwind down, and also reach Darjeeling earlier to enjoy the day. Good luck! 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) September 2013 
 
 
 
Hello Raj, 
 
I am a 34 years old man, with no known breathing illness, neither there is any problem in my family. I have never trekked within India and occasionally trekked outside. I would like to do the trekking alone and in December, 2014. Also, I plan to do the trek on my own, without any guide and my route is as follows: 
 
Day 1 : 25.12.2014 : Arrive at NJP station, take a transport to Maneybhanjan; From Maneybhanjan, take a shared jeep or other transport to Phalut. Stay overnight at Phalut; 
Day 2 : 26.12.2014 : Start from Phalut and trek to Sandakphu; Stay overnight at Sandakphu; 
Day 3 : 27.12.2014 : Start from Sandakphu and trek to Tumling via Gairibas; Stay overnight at Tumling; 
Day 4 : 28.12.2014 : Start from Tumling and trek to Maneybhanjan; 
 
It will be of immense help and assistance if you let me know whether such a trek is possible as per the dates. Also, can you recommend any places to stay in Phalut, Sandakphu and Tomling? Regards 
 
Souvik Mukherjee (November 2014) 
 
 
The trek itinerary is fine but in December there is likely to be heavy snow and snow gears will be required. You are required to take a guide or a porter. If you travel one way by jeep and come down trekking, you may get around the checks of taking a guide. If somebody from the guide/porter association notices along the way, you may have problems. 
 
I have discussed accommodations in my Sandakphu trek page
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2014 
 
 
 
I have to admit much of my courage and resilience to plan a trip to this awe-inspiring region has to be credited to this website. You have got an unique nach of being crisp and contented in your articles. 
 
We are reaching NJP around 10 AM (if the train does not delay). We are looking to book an exclusive vehicle to Manebhanjan from NJP. After reaching there we want to proceed the same day to Tumling in a Land Rover( 
just drop at Tumling). And the next day we will begin the trek. My questions are, 
1. Is this doable if there are no major delays on the road to reach Manebhanjan ? 
2. Till what time can we get a Land Rover for a Tumling drop? 
3.Will it be necessary to book Shikhar Lodge in second week of October? 
4.From Srikhola how much does an exclusive vehicle cost upto Darjeeling ? Are they available at all? Who to Contact for the Same? 
 
I would be obliged if you find time to answer my Queries. Many Thanks and Regards, 
 
Sunrit Kumar Polley (July 2015) 
 
 
You can reach Tumling on the same day. From Maneybhanjan, you will get a Jeep or a Land Rover (reserved) up to about 4pm. You should book some accommodation in Tumling in advance during that time, although it may be available on the spot. You won't generally get reserved vehicle from Srikhola unless you book through a lodge (like Sovraj) in advance. Sovraj and other lodges are covered in my site. Talk to them for rates. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) July 2015 
 
 
Hi Raj, 
 
I really appreciate what you are doing. I completed my memorable Sandakphu trek last December , thanks to you for your useful suggestion. 
 
I am visiting Sandakphu this December as well and I need your help to plan my visit. I'll be reaching NJP on 28'th morning and will be catching return train on 1'st of Jan Night. This will be a lazy trek this time. I want to start on 29'th of Morning from Maneybhanjang and wanted to reach Sandakphu on or before 31'st. I think this is Possible , right? 
 
What I wanted to know is that if I can get any Public transport from Sandakphu or any nearest point to get down so that I can catch my train. Also, from Maneybhanjang is there any public transport available to reach any higher point. 
 
I will be grateful to you if you can help me on this. 
 
Mukesh Barnwal (December 2016) 
 
 
Hi, 
 
There is usually no public transport from Sandakphu. The vehicles that come up with provisions for the hotels, take passengers on their way back on a per-person rate. Sometimes vehicles also come up to Sandakphu to drop tourists or locals, and pick up passengers on their way back. From Manebhanjan you can get shared jeep. If there is none going all the way up to NJP station, then go down to Ghum and take another one or a bus coming from Darjeeling. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) December 2016 
 
 
Hi Raj!  
 
Thanks for all provided information, your blog is a goldmine of information to prepare our Trip to Darjeeling.  
 
We will be 4 adults trekking the Singalila Ridge starting from Tonglu on March á07th to reach Sandakphu on March 10th and we thought of doing the way down áfrom Sandakphu or Phalut in a Jeep to go back to Srikhola and from there back to Darjeeling. I have some questions : 
 
Is this possible to rent the Jeep from either Sandakphu or Phalut to do only the way down ?  
Do we have to arrange this in advance to have the jeep pick us up or will there be some there already during this time of the year? 
Do you think weather conditions ( snow?) will be ok for the jeep to reach us? 
 
Thank you in advance for your advice !  
 
Best  
Lea (February 2017) 
 
 
Hi, firstly Phalut is not the right place to look for a jeep on your way back, Sandakphu would be better. But availability of Jeep depends on tourists or locals bringing one up from Manebhanjan for a drop. During high season this is usually not a problem, but in early March it may need a longer wait. You can alternatively work through your hotel to get a vehicle (very few have their own vehicles, but can get you one from lower town if you give them enough time). 
 
But if it happens to snow heavily blocking the route (there are such chances in early March), vehicles may not be able to reach up to Sandakphu. BTW, you can not go directly to Srikhola from Sandakphu/Phalut by a Jeep, you need to go down to the base at Manebhanjan and then take another route up the hill to Srikhola. The direct route from Sandakphu/Phalut is a trekking trail and is not motorable. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) February 2017 
 
 
Hi Raj 
 
I/we really appreciate what you are doing. I need some help. we(7 member) are planing a Sandakphu &áPhalut trek on 1st may to 5th may. we have decided that we will reach Sandakphu by Land Rover on 1st may, and from sandakphu we will trek towards phalut and then return to njp via Rimbik. My question is that does we need a guide on the trek rout(sandakphu to rimbik via phalut)..??? if needed/mandatory , how much it will cost..?? thanks. 
 
Pradyut Garai (February 2017) 
 
 
Ideally you need a guide or porter as per the current norm, but if you start the trek from Sandakphu towards Rimbik enroute Phalut, there will be no one from the porters association to check along the way. So you can be on your own :) 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) February 2017 
 
 
We (including 2children 7/8yrs) are planning to trek to sundakfu from Manebhanjan on 25th Dec 17. We All are 1st time trekkers . My question is  
1)Is it possible that we go to Tumling by landrover and start trekking on the same Day?  
2)Instead of guide can we book Porters from Tumling?  
3)Is the trek easier if we start from Dhotrey? 
 
Dipayan Roy (November 2017) 
 
 
Yes you can take a land rover to Tumling and start trek on the same day. You should take a guide and/or porter from Manebhanjan. He can travel with you on the land rover. You may not get a registered guide/porter at Tumling and then you will be denied entry at the singalila national park check post (about one km from Tuming). Dhotrey to Tumling route is shorter and less steep than Manebhanjan to Tumling route... so that way easier. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) November 2017 
 
 
Raj, Many many thanks for in-depth info for Sandakphu-Phalut trek. I am planning for partly trek/ partly car ride with my family in 3rd week of March 2018. As it is first time for My son's and wife for any type of mountain trek, so preferred to taste them prolonged, short distance trek. My initial planning is something like this, 
 
Day 1. Manebhanjan to Tumling by car 
Day 2. Tumling to Gairibas - Trek 
Day 3. Gairibas to Kalipokhri - Trek 
Day 4. Kalipokhri to Sandakphu - Trek &ácar 
Day 5. Sandakphu to Phalut - Trek &ácar 
Day 6. Back to Sandakphu by car  
Day 7. Back to Manebhanjan. 
 
I see current rate up to Phalut and back is Rs.7500, is it possible to keep car for full trek? If yes, how much to pay for extra days? If I go up to Manebhanjan from NJP; of my own, is it possible to arrange car, guide &áentry permit etc. on same day from Manebhanjan and reach Tumling? 
 
Prosendu Bikash Das (December 2017) 
 
 
Hi, you can keep the Land Rover for the entire circuit and pay additional Rs. 1000 per night on top of Rs. 7,500. If you reach Manebhanjan in the 1st half, you can make all arrangements in Manebhanjan and proceed to Tumling on the same day. Better contact the Highlanders Association for porters &águides and get a confirmation based on your time of arrival in Manebhanjan. You can find their contacts on my Sandakphu trek web page. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) December 2017 
 
 
Dear Sir, 
 
I have gathered almost all information from your blogs, Still there are some questions remain in mind hence writing and seeking your valuable inputs (1st time trekking). 
 
1. We are couple not in group wish to travel to Sandakphu. We will Reach NJP 12th May 2018. Can we book a guide &áCar direct on spot at Manebhanjan as May is the season or advance booking will be better.  
 
I have planned as below please check if need any change 
 
1. 12th May NJP to Darjeeling. 
 
2. 13th May early morning Darjeeling to Tumling. (Can we get a registered guide at Tumling) or do I need to go to Manebhanjan 1st from Darjeeling to book the car &áGuide? Is there any option to get car from Darjeeling which will drop us at Tumling? 
 
3. 14th May Early morning will start from Tumling by trekking planning to trek at least 7 hours. Reach Kalipokhari &árest. 
 
4. 15th May Early morning start for Sandakphu at around 5 am if possible.  
 
5. 16th May We would like to take a car again from Sandakphu to come back , Can we get it on spot ?Or any possibility to book in advance which will pick up us from there.  
 
As we do not want to trek all the way from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu and also do not want to miss the chance to see the beauty of Sanglila park, that's why we want to do both, But getting a guide + Car for entire journey will be a cost as guide / day it is 1000 + food + car with night halt 4800 as you have mentioned. 
 
Joyita Banerjee (February 2018) 
 
 
Hello, for your plan to work properly you need get a guide at Manebhanjan. You may not get a guide at Tumling, although possible at times. You can check with Highlanders Guides and Porters Welfare Association at Manebhanjan if they can provide a guide from Tumling onwards. Otherwise don't take a chance. From Darjeeling commercial vehicles are allowed up to Manebhanjan and here you need to take another vehicle for the onward journey. On your way up you can spot book a vehicle at Manebhanjan if you start early. On your way back it would be uncertain (depends on empty vehicles returning). You can also try through your hotel. But being a high season, it may be difficult. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) February 2018 
 
 
Dear Raj, We, my husband and 6 year old son, are planning a trip to India in October. We are experienced hikers and also our son is quite used to hiking. We are considering if the Singalila ridge trek would be ok with a younger kid. What are your reflections on this? 
 
We have thought of an option where we combine trekking maybe 3-4 days (3-5hour hiking/day would be ideal) with jeep transport for the remaining parts. If doing so, which parts are possible to do in jeep? If we want to trek the most beautiful parts of the trek which sections should we then consider Jeep Transportation for? 
 
From the various treads I have been reading it is not clear if the jeep and trekkers share the same trail/road? I could imagine if so this could take away some of the Charm from the trekking, if jeeps drive by every now and again. Please share your reflections. I hope you will have time to reply, it will be very much appreciated. Best wishes. 
 
Jannie (August 2018) 
 
 
Hello, many families with kids trek the Singalila trail... so trekking for your 6-year old son should not be a problem particularly if he is already used to hiking. The trekking trail is separate from the jeep route for many parts but do overlap at several sections along the way. If you want to combine trek and drive, you need to book and keep the jeep with you... it would wait for you at intermediate points based on your plans. 
 
You can decide along the way the sections you want to trek (both trek &ádrive routes are close to each other). Drivers are usually knowledgeable and can guide you on this. You can start your trek from Chitre instead of Manebhanjan. Soon after entering through the gate of Singalila National park (about 1km ahead of Tumling), you can take the Jhaubari route through Nepal instead of hiking along the usual concrete Jeep route through the forest (both routes meet at Gairibas). 
 
At Kaikatta the route bifurcates. You can take the upper route through Nepal which meets with the usual route at Kalipokhri lake. If you want to avoid a steep trek, then drive the last section from Bikeybhanjan up to Sandakphu. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) August 2018 
 
 
Hello Raj , I have read almost all of your blog regarding Sandakphu tour and planning to go there this October... I have three questions. 
1. Is it possible to go up to Sandakphu ( night halt for sunrise ) on Land Rover and then trek to Srikhola via Gurdum? This is our first trek , so we want a short trek. 
2. How to arrange guide at Sandakphu for that ? I guess this trek would last for 1 day.  
3. Is it possible to book Land Rover for one way from Manebhanjang to Sandakphu as I saw only round trip fare on your blog. 
 
Koustav Biswas (May 2019) 
 
 
You can trek from Sandakphu, however you need to pay round trip fare for the Landrover (without night charges). You won't get a guide at Sandakphu, you need to take him from Manebhanjan and pay for his daily rates including the additional day he requires to get back to Manebhanjan from Srikhola. 
 
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) May 2019 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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