Sandakphu Tour

by - January 10, 2020

Sleeping Buddha from Sandakphu
             Sandakphu, West Bengal, India (nearly 11,940 ft high) is Singalila Range's highest peak and Phalut is the second highest peak with an altitude of about 11,800 ft. For the spectacular views of the snowy peaks the main reasons why most people visit the two places and live there are. The amazing scenario gets to see four of the world's top five peaks including Mt. Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga, and Lhotse. Also see so many other spectacular peaks of (including) Sikkim, Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. 
           And if you can make the right time you'll see a range of flowers and flowering plants such as the Rhododendrons, giant magnolias, and orchids. In this area itself, about 600 varieties of orchids can be found. 
      Sandakphu (West Bengal, India) is about 29 km from Manebhanjan. On the way, Chitrey, Meghma, Tonglu, Tumling,  Gairibas, Kalipokhri - such beautiful places to enjoy and can stay anywhere. Again, Landrover is going to Sandakfu-Phalut from Manebhanjan directly but not possible directly from NGP or Bagdogra. 
Best time to visit Sandakphu & Phalut 
               Visiting Sandakphu and Phalut are two great seasons. The first one is April until May, temperature ranges from 6-12°C and full blooming flowers including rhododendrons and orchids. And the second one after the monsoon i.e. temperature ranges from 1-6°C between October and early December and the snowy peaks appear in a clear blue sky with their sparkling glory.
How to Go
Manebhanjan Village
            Reach Sukhiapokhri or Manebhanjan by a reserved Car, Share jeep from New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri or first reach at Darjeeling and from there directly to Sukhiapokhri or Manebhanjan by a reserved Car or Share jeep. First get off at Manebhanjan [1.30 hr by car or jeep from Darjeeling (40km), about 4 hours from Bagdogra / NJP (105km)]. This is the place where the Sandakphu-Phalut journey actually starts. Only NJP (Siliguri) and Bagdogra can get a reserved car. Nevertheless, sometimes they may not agree to go all the way up to Manebhanjan directly in which case may take one up to Mirik and then another up to Manebhanjan.
     The route is from Manebhanjan through Chitre, Lamay Dhura, Meghma, Tumling, Singalila National Park, Gairibas, Kalipokhri, Bikhebhanjan and then Sandakphu & finally further onward to Phalut.
Trekking Route
First Day (Manebhanjan to Tonglu)
Distance : 11 km, Time : 5-6 hours  
          Get to Manebhanjan (2150 m) in the early morning to start your trek in time. It is a tiny hamlet about 40 km from Darjeeling, roughly an hour and a half drive away. The village is primarily populated by the Tribe of Buddhist Sherpa. Be sure to grab some breakfast before beginning the trek. Your first-day destination is Tonglu (3,070 m), located 11 km from the village and will take about 5-6 hours of trekking to get there. The trail, at first, is a beautiful one, consisting of glides of fir, birch, pine and bamboo leading to another Buddhist settlement namely Chitre (2450 m). A steep climb then reaches a small Meghma village (2900m). 
Meghma Village
          Rest here for a while, have lunch, connect with the villagers and resume trekking. From here you can either take a road to Tonglu or to Tumling (2980m) and finally, both routes meet again at Tumling. A 2 km walk will take you to Tonglu, which provides a magnificent view of the Himalayan Mountains, while a stop at Tumling will give you the opportunity to see the clear sky twinkling with stars and gleaming lights of Darjeeling, Pashupati, and Siliguri. You will have both lodging options: tents and a stay at home.
Tumling during Winter

Second Day (Tonglu to Kalipokhri)
Distance : 9km, Time : 2.30-3 hrs
         Early wake up to the amazing the first rays of sun peeking from behind the Himalayan range offering a magical view. After breakfast, descend the hill towards Garibas (2625m), a tiny hamlet located 9-10 km from Tonglu that will take you around 3-3.5 hours to reach. After passing a few quaint hamlets while on the road, seeing their simple lifestyle, modest farmland and several bamboo glades. Take a break at Garibas for lunch and continue to climb up the hill to Kalipokhari (3178 m). It will take you 3.5 hours to reach the place. The way is magnificent during springtime when the forest is blooming with rhododendrons. It will experience a small dark-colored pong or Black Pond as it is named in the middle of pine trees and colored flags of prayer when arriving at the site Kalipokhri.
Third day (Kalipokhri to Sandakphu)
Distance : 4km, Time : 2-3 hours
               Enjoy the morning hues, and get ready for another wonderful day of trekking. It'll be going to Sandakphu today, the best part of this Singalila Trekking path often referred to as a trekkers' paradise. Start early in the morning, and go down the ridge to Bikhebhanjan or Poison Valley. A steep 4 km climb from here will take you to Sandakphu. The climb is far too steep, indeed one of the steepest of all the Singalila treks, to hurt the knee joints but in the end, it is equally rewarding. The trail leads you through a thick cover of forest magnolia and rhododendron that will take about 2-3 hours to cross and arrive at Sandakphu (Height of Poison Plant ). When you reach the summit, a panoramic view of the entire Himalayan belt will leave you in utter disbelief.
Land Rover
Route By Land Rover
          The road from Manebhanjan all the way up to Gairibas has been converted into a concrete road (Manebhanjan to Chitre, and earlier Tumling to Gairibas). So this is a smooth ride up to Gairibas (i.e. about 18kms). The road to Sandakphu and to Phalut beyond is still a bouldering path. It now takes just about 2.5 hours for Manebhanjan to reach Sandakphu. 
            Most tourists stay for a night or two in Sandakphu and then proceed to Phalut, which is about 25kms away from Sandakphu and takes about 2 hours. The terrain between Phalut and Sandakphu is rather flat. But the vehicle still needs to move fairly slowly due to the narrow and rough lane.
Vehicles & Transport Fare
(According to the year of 2019)
      After reaching Manebhanjan, a small booth in the main market area where you will be booking the Land Rover. In default, the vehicles are reserved, and you need to pay and jump into one (there is no advance booking system). Now at Manebhanjan (called the Singalila Land Rover Association), a Land Rover Association has been formed and the rates are fixed by the association. So you don't need to think about haggling with the drivers or negotiating.
The fares and rates below are indicative. 
•  NJP/Bagdogra to Manebhanjan: Rs. 2,500-3,000/- for a reserved small car. 
•  Darjeeling to Manebhanjan: Shared Jeep fare- Rs. 50-60/- per person; Reserved small car fare - Rs. 1,500/- 
•  Land Rover Fare Manebhanjan to Tumling (round trip): Rs. 2,500-3000/- + Night stay Cost 
•  Land Rover Fare Manebhanjan to Sandakphu (up-down): Rs. 5,500-6000/- + Night stay Cost 
•  Land Rover Fare Manebhanjan to Phalut (round trip): Rs. 8,000-9,000 + Night stay Cost 
•  Night Halt Charge for Land Rover: Rs. 1,200-1,400 per night 

•  Park entry fee: Rs. 100/- per person entry fee for the park (Rs.200/day for foreigners) 

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