Singalila Ridge Trek (or Sandakphu trek, as is often called) is one of the best treks around Sikkim and West Bengal. You literally walk through a beautiful land, covered with green grass and wild rhododendrons, for a few days, as sometimes – flying clouds interrupt your walk, and sometimes – periodic lakes. As you reach Sandakphu you enter into a zone whose entry signs reads “Pollution free zone”. And I wonder, how many of those are still left in this world.
Sandakphu trek offers fantastic views of the Himalaya. The valley beautifies itself, with clear panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, as you journey towards Sandakphu.
You start the trek from the town of Mane Bhanjhang, and as you walk towards Sandakphu, you enter/exit into India, and likewise into Nepal, at least a few dozen times. How? Because the Sandakphu trek is more or less a borderline between India and Nepal. And the towns that come on the way, including Tumling and Sandakphu are owned by both countries.
Sandakphu, as a town, is popular because it is the highest peak in the state of Ilam, Nepal; and West Bengal, India. What makes it more awesome is its summit, from where you can see four of the five highest peaks in the world — Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu, in a panoramic view. From Tumling you can see three peaks.
Jounrey from Mane Bhanjhang to Sandakphu
From wherever you’re coming – Darjeeling, Gangtok, or even Kolkata – your taxi will drop you off at Mane Bhanjhang. Now, there are two ways to reach Sandakphu, one – you walk! And trust me, that’s the best way. The trek is well marked, and goes right parallel to the motor able road, which makes it an easy deal, even if you’re alone and are unfamiliar with the trek. The other way to reach Sandakphu is by renting a Classic Land Rover.
Sandakphu, for some reason, is owned by a group of Land Rover owners, because you won’t find other paid taxis on these roads. Perhaps they’re not good enough. You can rent one of those Land Rovers for 3000 Rupees, for a round trip.
I, however, hitchhiked. And the best part was, the lift that I got was even coming back after spending a night in Sandakphu. I met two friendly guys who ran a medium-duty 4*6 truck, on this route. They run a trip to Sandakphu once every month, delivering food items in the village. And in one of their scheduled trips, I accompanied them.
What If You’re Walking
Day 1: You start from Mane Bhanjhang. Follow the trek, by passing a few villages on the way, and you will reach Tumling in 5-6 hours. Stay in Tumling for the night, which has a few lodging options (my recommendation: Mountain Lodge. Find the lady with the name “Keshari” she runs and owns the lodge). Distance from Mane Bhanjhang to Tumling is 11 kms.
Day 2: Start early from Tumling and reach the town of Kalipokhri. Right after Tumling, you enter into Singalila national park, with is home to some of the nastiest and deadliest plants in Himalayan region. So don’t try to eat the berries. Tumling to Kalipokhri is a 9 km steep walk. Stay overnight in a trekker’s hut in Kalipokhri.
Day 3: Kalipokhri to Sandakphu is 8 kms, and can be done in under 5 hours. Enjoy the panoramic views of the Mt Khanchendzonga and Everest and the scenic forests underneath, as you reach Sandakphu. Also be ready for a cold and harsh night.
Day 4: Walk downhill, from Sandakphu to Tumling.
Day 5: Tumling to Mane Bhanjhang, and the journey back home.
Permits And Guides
You don’t need any permit to do this trek, but having a personal guide (who take about ₹800 per day) is mandatory within the Singalila National Park, which starts right after you cross Tumling, towards Sandaphu. Hire one from GTA Tourist Reception Centre, or from Mane Bhanjhang. To save money, hire one from the village Tumling, or perhaps hitchhike like me and escape it.
If you found this post useful, you can…