The Sandakphu trek is considered as one of the most scenic treks in the Eastern Himalayas due to its gorgeous trail that cuts through the dense forests of rhododendrons and magnolias along with the pristine view of some of the tallest mountains of the Himalayas like Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Mt. Lhotse and Mt. Makalu.
Apart from these, the trek also offers splendid views of various other mountains blanketed with lush alpine trees, monasteries, gorgeous valleys dotted with patches of wildflowers, and much more. This is what makes Sandakphu trek one of the best treks in Sikkim.
The Sandakphu trek takes you to the highest peak in the Ilam district of Nepal and West Bengal. Located at an altitude of 11,930 feet, Sandakphu is also the highest peak of the Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling. The peak is located on the edge of the Singalila National Park, amidst sub-alpine forests, in West Bengal, on the Indo-Nepal border.
The word ‘Sandakphu’ literally translates to ‘the peak of poison plants.’ The peak derives its name from the bloom of the poisonous genus of plants like Aconitum and Himalayan Cobra Lilies that grow on the top.
Sandakphu Trek: The View
The Sandakphu trek is most known for its pristine view of the Himalayas. While on top, not only do you get superb views of four of the five highest mountains in the world, but also many other famous and iconic mountain peaks. Standing on top, you enjoy the 180-degree view of the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim, Bhutan and if you’re lucky, Arunachal Pradesh in the distance too.
Starting from the west, the first mountain you see is Chamlang, a mammoth wall of snow that peaks at an altitude of 24,000 feet. As you move eastward, you are greeted with the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest. Further, you see the mountain peaks of Lhotse and Makalu standing close to each other.
At the center stage is the massive Mount Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain. The mountain stands proudly with her sister peaks, giving it the revered name of Sleeping Buddha by the locals. Next to the Sleeping Buddha, you see the prominent peaks of Sikkim like Kabru, Khumbhakarna, Simvo, Goechala, and Pandim.
These are followed by the two massifs of Tibet - Joguno and Narsing. And farther to the east is Mount Chomolhari of Bhutan that completes the panorama. And if you are lucky, if the weather is clear, then you will also spot the elusive peak of Kangte of Arunachal Pradesh too.
Sandakphu trekking route:
You’ll start your Sandakphu trek from the NJP railway station in West Bengal. It’s a 5-hour drive from here to the start point. From day 2 of the Sandakphu trek, you’ll start trekking through pine forests with snow-capped mountains in the distance. You’ll cross the India-Nepal border, camp at Tumling.
From here, you can expect to see the peak of Mt. Kanchenjunga, if the weather is clear. Later in the day, you’ll also be able to see Mt. Everest too. By day 5 or 6, you’ll attempt Sandakphu peak. This takes you to an elevation of 11,929 feet. After that, you’ll begin your descent which will take at least two days. You’ll end the Sandakphu trek at Darjeeling, or back at the NJP railway station.
Best time to go
The Sandakphu trekking trail is located in the Singalila National Park which is closed during the monsoon season, from mid-June to mid-September due to heavy rainfall. So the Sandakphu trek does not happen during this time. Apart from the monsoon, the trek is on throughout the year.
During the summer months, the trek is gorgeous with warm days and cool nights. This season is perfect for those who want to escape the heat of the city and into the cool summers of the Eastern Himalayas.
The next season, spring is the best time to go if you want to see the forests in full bloom. During this season, the rhododendron trees flourish, covering the landscape in a multitude of colours. This gorgeous scenery is only made better with the many wildflowers that grace the trail in various colours.
Then there is the winter season for those who want to experience the Himalayan winters and trek over a trail covered in snow. During this season, the landscape is covered in snow and the sky is clear, offering magnificent views of the Himalayan peaks. The best snow months are January and February if you want to experience a snow-trek in Sikkim in its full force.
Utilities and connectivity
There are no ATMs on the Sandakphu trekking route, not even at Manebhanjan. However, the closest atm is at Sukhiapokhri run by SBI. But it is best not to rely on the sole ATM, so remember to withdraw all the cash you need for the trek at Siliguri itself.
As for the mobile network, Vodafone, Airtel and BSNL work well in these areas but the coverage is usually sporadic. And if you want to charge your devices, then you can charge them at the many teahouses for an additional cost of INR 10 to 50 per device.
Check-out other adventure activities in Sikkim that you can pair your Sandakphu trek with.
Sandakphu Trek Summary
- State: Sikkim
- Nearest city: Siliguri
- Total days: 6 days
- Grade: Moderate
- Max altitude: 11,930 feet
- Total trekking distance: 46 km
- Season: Summer, spring and winter
- Avg temperature: 0 to 25 degree Celsius