Sandakphu for a panoramic view of the most beautiful peaks

Sandakphu for a panoramic view of the most beautiful peaks

Travel tales

People in the mountaineering and trekking circle have surely heard about the Sandakphu trek along with Singalila range. As a trekker I never miss any chance to explore nature’s charm and bounties.

Back in June 2013, after completing college, we planned out a trek to Sandakphu, along with friends and chill out during the sweltering summer, away from noise and pollution in the lap of nature.

Located at the edge of the Singalila National Park at an altitude of 11,929ft (3,636 metres) in Darjeeling district, Sandakphu is the highest peak in the state of West Bengal. The ideal trekking begins from Maneybhanjang, a small village located about 26 kilometres from Darjeeling and 92 kilometres from Siliguri, the nearest railhead.

Sandakphu can be reached either by car or by trekking. From Maneybhanjang, the 4x4 1950s Land Rovers are available for hire. These vehicles are ideally suited to climb the steep gravel road that leads up to Sandakphu. Only a handful of such Land Rovers are still remaining in this area and are the prized possessions of their owners. However, the journey on Land Rover is not quite smooth on the rough mountain roads.

On a bright sunny morning, accompanied by a local guide we took the conventional 32 kilometres trekking route from Maneybhanjang (2,134m), packing bare essentials in our rucksacks. The first 2.5 km, quite steep, was a test of everything — ability, agility, resolve, fitness and spirit of adventure.

The trek route passes through the Singalila National Park all the way to the summit. Altitude sickness can start at this point before you reach Chitrey, the nearest village on the Indo-Nepal border, where a mug of coffee and steaming noodle soup are a must to refresh the tired limbs and nerves.

The trek is rewarded by the Singalila National Park, on the way,  with its rich bounty of some of the most fascinating rare animals like Red Pandas and Pangolins. We enjoyed the full blooms of rhododendron, magnolia and camellia dotting the lush green of the hills with red and white. The best season to take a trek to Sandakphu is certainly during October-November, but we chose this time of the year just to enjoy nature at its best.

 Rhododendron, locally known as Guras, is one of the rarest species of flowers found in the area. Refreshing drinks and wine are made from guras which also serves as a medication for patients of diabetes.

For avid birdwatchers, the dense forest from Tumbling (2,900m) to Gairibas (2,621m) is the place to look for in the Himalayan foothills. From Yellow-billed blue Magpie to different species of Kingfisher, Verditer Flycatcher to Eurasian Blackbird — birds of bright plumage and various shapes can be spotted in abundance in this avian paradise.

Sandakphu is the place from where you get a 180 degree panoramic view of some of the highest and most beautiful peaks of the world, right from Nepal all the way up to Arunachal. Some of the greatest peaks include the Mt Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Chomolhari, Pandim, Three Sisters, Kumbhakarna and many others.

There is a Gorkhaland Yerritorial Administration (GTA) lodge in Sandakphu and also several other private accommodations including Hotel Sherpa Chalet, Hotel Sunrise, Namo Buddha Hotel and others.

As always, the final rewards are awesome. All your strain and stress will simply disappear as you see the board saying ‘Welcome to Sandakphu. You are at an altitude of 11,929ft, on the summit of Singalila range and at the paradise of trekking... Wow, you made it!!!’

As told by Govind Sharma, a trekker from Siliguri, to Mayank Verma

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