About Sandakphu Phalut Trek
Welcome to a trek that treats you to the dazzling panorama of the four tallest mountains of the world! Sandakphu means the height of the poison plant, true indeed for Sandakphu peak. This is because there are infinite poisonous Aconite trees growing in the vicinity of this glorious mountain. The Sandakphu mountain lies 58 km from Darjeeling at an elevation of 11,930 feet. It is the highest point of the Singalila Ridge in the district of Ilam, Nepal.
The Sandakphu peak is the endpoint of numerous trekking routes in the Darjeeling-Sikkim region. The trekkers traverse through the forest trails peppered with green canopy and infused with red & white rhododendron, primula, grand magnolias, and silver fir trees. There are almost 600 varieties of orchids in the region that enamour you with their kaleidoscopic elegance. Undertaking this trek in the spring season is a truly heavenly experience.
The mystic trails of this trekking route are believed to be discovered by English Lords in the 19th century.
The trek is also known as Singalila trek because the trekking trail to Sandakphu goes all along with the Singalila range. The trek takes you to Singalila National Park. You spot rare fauna of the region such as the Red Panda, Pangolins, and exotic species of birds. It is one of the rare treks that offers comfortable Tea House stay all throughout the trekking route.
Note: If you want to cover Phalut then one additional day is required. Phalut is at a distance of 21 km from Sandakphu. You can even drive to Phalut from Sandakphu by car. It takes 2 hours to reach by car.
Phalut’s barren and secluded landscape is in stark contrast with the green vegetation of Sandakphu.
About Sandakphu Phalut Trek
Also called the "Trekkers Wonderland", Sandakphu Phalut trek is one of the highest treks in West Bengal. The trek is a bag of mixed terrain and offers a very balanced altitude gain throughout.
You explore the territories and culture of Sikkim and Nepal and capture the snowline of the 4 tallest mountains of the world.
You are treated to the surreal vista of Mount Everest, Mount Makalu, Mount Lhotse and Mount Kanchenjunga in a single unobstructed shot. All these plus sightings of Three Sisters along with some snowy peaks of Sikkim, Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. It is the eureka moment that the Sandakphu trek is so popular!
The Black Lake or Kalapokhri, nestled amidst the colossal mountain ranges is one of the most beautiful offerings of this trek.A quick peek into Sandakphu Phalut Trek
- Region- Darjeeling, West Bengal Himalayas
- Altitude- 11,929 feet
- Trek Level- Moderate to difficult
- Distance- 47 km
- Duration- 6 days
- Start and end point- New Jalpaiguri (NJG)
- Base Camp- Kopidana
- Best Season- April to May and from October to November
- ATM- There are no ATM facilities at Kopidana and beyond. It is better to keep cash handy.
- Water availability- Carry a water bottle which can be refilled along the way from natural springs
- Mobile connectivity- There are sporadic connections of Vodafone and BSNL at some stretches of the trekking route. Most of the time Indian networks do not work along the trek. At times, your phone may automatically get connected to Nepalese roaming networks, so one has to be cautious.
How to Reach Sandakphu Phalut
- By Rail:
- By Road:
- By Air:
New Jalpaiguri is the nearest railway station. From New Jalpaiguri you can take a taxi and reach Kopidana in 5 hours. Your trek starts from Kopidana and takes 3 days to reach Sandakphu.
There are 2 ways to reach Sandakphu by road. You can either take a cab from NJG to reach Sandakphu directly, it takes 4 hours 40 minutes.
Or, if you want to experience the thrill of trekking, take a taxi from New Jalpaiguri and reach Kopidana in 5 hours. Your trek starts from Kopidana and takes 3 days to reach Sandakphu.
Bagdogra (Siliguri) is the nearest airport. From here, you take a cab and reach NJG in ½ an hour. Take a cab from NJG to Kopidana. It takes around 5 hours. Your trek starts from Kopidana and takes 3 days to reach Sandakphu.
Weather and temperature at Sandakphu Phalut
Summer months of April to mid-June- Temperature ranges from 12 to 24 degrees. The skies are clear and the weather pleasant.
Monsoon months of mid-June to mid-September- Temperature ranges from 10 to 20 degrees. The skies are cloudy and the weather wet.
Fall months of mid-September to November- Temperature ranges from 6 to 18 degrees. The skies are clear and the weather fresh and pleasant.
Winter months of December to March- Temperature ranges from minus 4 to 10 degrees. The skies are clear and the weather bitter cold. The trails are covered in snow.
Best Time to visit Sandakphu Phalut
The months of April to May, and October to November are the most ideal time to soak in the beauty of this marvellous trek.
Between April and May, the temperature varies between 12 to 20 degrees. The region blossoms with the amazing beauty of blooming rhododendrons, orchids, and primula. The skies are clear and air fragrates with a crisp freshness. There is some chance of sporadic showers in May.
The months of October and November are beautiful when the panorama of the region blazes with beautiful fall colors. There is a slight nip in the air with temperatures fluctuating between 6 to 12 degrees. The skies are clear and this time of the year is best for taking picture-perfect shots.
Lately, trekkers have started embarking on this trek even in the winter months of December to March. The trekking is adventurous as you have to brave the bitter cold and tread through snow-layered trails with caution. You might need an experienced guide to help you navigate through trails that lie hidden under thick blankets of snow.
What to watch for during the Sandakphu Phalut trek
A heady cocktail of the world's tallest mountains- Can you beat it, you get stunning glimpses of 4 tallest mountains of the world! If you look west, Everest's family from the Nepal side enamours you with striking beauty. Stalwarts like Mount Everest (highest peak in the world at 29,029 feet), Mount Lhotse (fourth highest peak at 27,940 feet), and Mount Makalu (fifth-highest peak at 27,825 feet) look commanding. You are also flattered with Mount Chamlang (24,006 ft) that stands like a square wall of snow.
On the east side towards Sikkim, Mount Kanchenjunga (second highest peak in the world at 28,156 feet) displays a magnetic panorama. Also called “Sleeping Buddha” or “ Sleeping Shiva”, it is considered a sacred deity in Sikkim. The name literally translates to “Five Treasures of Snow”.
Looking further down East, one can spot the Great Tibetan peaks and Chomolhari peak in Bhutan.
Astounding view of Mount Kanchenjunga- Capturing majestic Kanchenjunga in its myriad glories is the most prized highlight of this trek. From Tumling to Kalapokhri to Sankadphu and Srikhola, each frame of this imposing mountain is exquisite and different from the previous.
Mount Kanchenjunga’s snowy summit shimmering in the magical hues of golden, red, and orange, at dawn and dusk is simply stunning. This celestial scene knocks you out of your senses and remains etched in your memory forever.
Singalila National Park- Visiting the highest national park in West Bengal is very welcoming. The park is the natural habitat of the Red Panda. You can spot many more rare animal species living in the most natural surroundings.
The trails of this trek are dotted with an expanse of red-pink rhododendrons, white magnolias, and numerous other exotic wildflowers.
Note: The Singalila National park remains closed from mid-May to mid-September.
Kalapokhri Lake- The sacred lake of Kalapokhri cradled amidst the colossal mountains is very inviting. It is flanked by colorful prayer flags all around. The lake lies within the Nepal border. There is a Buddhist settlement near the lake and you get a sneak peek into their culture.
Culture bag of India and Nepal- All along the trekking route you get glimpses of the unique Sikkim, Nepalese and Buddhist culture. At the end of this trekking bonanza you emerge enriched with the customs and traditions of not one but two regions.
Difficulty level of Sandakphu Phalut trek
While the trek might be easy for seasoned trekkers, the long and arduous route may not be so light for novice trekkers. One has to observe caution at high altitude as the oxygen level is thin and weather very unpredictable.
Fitness level of Sandakphu Phalut trek
One does require very good fitness and great endurance to embark on this trek. The trekking route entails long walking hours. One needs to prepare adequately by walking, jogging, running, and building cardiovascular stamina. You should start with this routine a fortnight before undertaking the trek.
- Sandakphu Phalut Trek
Day 1: Arrive at New Jalpaiguri (NJG) and drive to Kopidana
- Altitude: 6,400 feet
- Distance: 84 km
- Duration: 5-hour drive
- Highlights: You reach New Jalpaiguri and then drive to Kopidana
- Stay: You stay overnight in Homestay or Tea House at Kopidana
Today you cover an uphill road of 84 km from NJG to Kopidana. Kopidana is your base camp at 6,400 ft.
Kopidana is a small village that serves as a basecamp to many treks of West Bengal. The drive from NJG to Kopidana journeys along with beautiful tea gardens and quaint village settlements along the India-Nepal border.
Day 2: Trek from Kopidana to Tumling
- Altitude: 6,400 to 9,600 feet
- Distance: 11 km
- Duration: 5 to 6 hours
- Highlights: Exploring the scenic hamlet of Tumling, catching the first glimpse of the magnificent Kanchenjunga family
- Stay: Overnight stay in Tea House or a lodge at Tumling
After gorging on a heavy breakfast, you trek for 11 km on diverse trails of steep ascents, downward slopes, gradual climbs, and level paths to reach Tumling. Here you get the first glimpse of the Kanchenjunga group of mountains. Today, you also witness the first sunset of the trek. It is one of the glorious beginnings of the oh-so-beautiful sunrises and sunsets that you are bound to witness in the coming days.
Tumling is also accessible by a motorable road but most people prefer trekking to this beautiful village. It is the place where you suddenly enter the territory of another country (Nepal). There are hardly any restrictions except that you are required to show your ID.
There are 10 to 12 Nepalese families living in Tumbling who welcome you with their warm hospitality. Tumling is the last place of the trek where you get electric lights. There are solar lights on the rest of the trekking route.
A trek of 1 km from Tumling brings you to Singalila National park, the highest national park in West Bengal. It is home to rare Himalayan fauna in the form of Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear, Barking Deer, Monals, Pangolins, and much more.
Note: You require a permit, in case you do want to enter the park. You can get this permit either at the Forest Department office at Manebhanjan or at the entrance of the park.
Day 3: Trek from Tumling to Kalapokhri
- Altitude: 9,600 feet to 10,400 feet
- Distance: 14 km
- Duration: 6 to 7 hours
- Highlights: Walking through the forests of the national park, witnessing the exotic flora and fauna, visiting Kalapokhri lake, watching the beautiful sunset.
- Stay: Overnight stay in Tea House at Kalapokhri
You wake up in the most sublime surroundings of nature and witness Kanchenjunga at dawn. The snowy peaks bathed in the first rays of sun display such beauty that you want to freeze the moment forever. It is indeed one of the most divine moments which sets your mood for the long trek ahead.
After feasting on a sumptuous breakfast, you start early from Tumling. You walk in the charming territory of Singalila National Park. From here a mixed terrain of downhill trails, steep ascents and a paved path leads you to Kalapokhri village. Enroute you come across tiny Nepalese settlements where you can stop for lunch and snack breaks. At one of these settlements you pay an entry fee to continue your trek.
Black lake or Kalapokhri, is the sacred water body nestled near the village. Flanked by colored prayer flags, the calm ambiance of the place fills you with a serene spirituality. You are not allowed to take a dip in this sacred lake. There is a small Buddhist temple in the vicinity.
Watching the beautiful sunset at Kalapokhri is the highlight of the day.
Day 4: Trek from Kalapokhri to Sandakphu Summit
- Altitude: 10,400 feet to 11,929 feet
- Distance: 7 km
- Duration: 4 to 5 hours
- Highlights: Trekking through the rhododendron and silver fir forests, soaking in the beauty of amazing Himalayan snowline, watching the stunningly beautiful sunset and sunrise from Sandakphu summit, river rafting in river Teesta
- Stay: Overnight camping in Tea House or trekkers hut at Sandakphu
Even though there is not a lot of ground to cover today, the expedition is tough but truly rewarding. After a strenuous trek of gradual and steep ascents you are treated to an expansive bounty of nature.
From Sandakphu, a 180-degree sweeping vista of Eastern Himalayas truly mesmerizes you. The glittering Himalayan peaks of Arunachal Pradesh smile in the east and Nepalese giants beckon you from the west. In the middle, the mountains of Sikkim and Bhutan strike you with their charm. This illustrious mountain range that stretches between Nepal to Arunachal Pradesh is 320 km long. Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga are the most celebrated peaks that sparkle like Kohinoor Jewels.
This is it! The Godsent moment of the expedition! It is the most overwhelming yet humbling experience to witness God’s offering in its purest form. Make the most of it before calling it a day! After spending a fulfilling time at the summit, retire to your tea house which lies a little down below.
River Teesta flows at a thundering pace at Sandakphu. You can also participate in adventure sports such as river rafting here.
Day 5: Descent from Sandakphu to Sepi
- Altitude: 11,929 feet to 6,230 feet
- Distance: 15 km
- Duration: 6 to 7 hours
- Highlights: Quiet walk through the most beautiful forests, enjoying sweet chirpings of mountain birds
- Stay: Overnight stay in a Tea House
You wake up to a stunning sunrise over the glitterati of the most distinguished peaks. You feast on a hearty breakfast to fuel yourself for the longest trek of the whole expedition.
The return journey, though long, is not so exhausting as it mainly goes through descents. It is a steep gradient on the downhill journey, you have to be very cautious while descending. The route goes through bamboo forests, which are the natural habitats to Red Panda and bears. It is the most refreshing walk amidst the green canopy interspersed with colorful magnolias, birches, and rhododendrons. The chirpings of birds and sightings of some rare wildlife are the focal points of this forest trek.
You cross 2-3 human settlements where you enjoy hot lunch served with the refreshing rhododendron juice.
The beautiful and sleepy villages at the foothills of Singalila National Park take you back in time. Enjoy a quiet reprieve by the hanging wooden bridge on Srikhola river. Cross this bridge to reach Sepi village. Visit the nearby monastery and temple before retiring for the day.
Day 6: Drive from Sepi to New Jalpaiguri/Bagdogra
- Distance: 140 km
- Duration: 5 hours
- Highlights: A drive through the winding roads tucked between the amazing natural surroundings of West Bengal.
Today is the last day of this trek. You wake up rejuvenated after a long sleep in the idyllic village of Sepi. You drive back to NJG/Bagdogra revelling in the memories of the past 5 days.