Sandakphu Phalut trek is one of the most beautiful treks to be done in the Himalayas. It offers panoramic views of over 26 beautiful peaks of the Himalayas including the likes of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu, which are the top 5 highest peaks in the World ( excluding K2 which is in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). Not just that ! The Kanchenjunga family of mountains forms the surreal Sleeping Buddha, which is formed by about 16 peaks aligning themselves in such a way that appears like Lord Buddha sleeping over the clouds..
Being a borderline trek, on this trek you swing along between India and Nepal. This trek boasts of the rich culture of the indigenous people of the area - The Lepchas, Limboos and the Sherpas. On our trek, we mix homestay accommodation with camping, which helps us stay with the local families and experience their warm and welcoming hospitality, tasty food, and understand their cultural beliefs. On the other hand, it gives us te ultimate experience of camping in the open meadow.
While we talk about this trek, we surely need to mention about the diverse flora and fauna of the Singalila National Park. This trek offers the rarest opportunity to get a glance of the Red Panda. It is also home to the Himalayan Black Bear, Clouded Leopard, Takin, Leopard, Leopard Cat, Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Pangolin amongst many other species. Its a paradise for birding photographers as its home to the sacarlet minivet, Khalij peasant, Satyr Tragopan, etc. The dense forest is rich in its flora, namely Bamboo, Oak, Magnolia, Rhododendron, Primula, Geranium, Saxifraga, Bistort, Senecio, Cotoneaster etc.
On this trek, we come across few villages which takes away our heart straight away with its beauty and simplicity. Villages like Gorkhey and Samanden are picture perfect hamlets right in the middle of the Himalayan jungle.
In This Blog:
There are many versions of this trek as there are multiple entry points and exit points. You may start this trek from Maneybhanjyang, Gurdum, Rimbik and Dhotrey. On the other hand, you may exit this trek and return to Maneybhanjyang, Dhotrey, Rimbik, or Sepi.
However, the most popular and reasonable entry point is Maneybhanjyang - a small village adjacent to Nepal Border, in West Bengal. You must also note that Sandakphu and Phalut can also be reached by a bumpy ride in the legacy vehicle of the British time - The Landrover. However, trekking route is different and is much more beautiful, silent, and charming. Many people choose to visit Sandakphu only and return, either by a landrover or by trekking. Some do the shorter version because of the limited time they have, others do so because they are given incomplete information and comparatively cheaper price by travel agents.
Below I will elaborate why you should be doing the complete version of the Sandakphu Phalut Trek and not just visit Sandakphu and get back. It will help you understand the difference better and hence plan accordingly. Let me start with the itinerary for both these treks first.
Itinerary of Sandakphu Trek:
Day 1: Arrive In Maneybhanjyang (2040m ), Via - Mirik (1500m ), Sukhiapokhari (2194m ). 4 Hrs. 92 Kms
Day 2: From Maneybhanjyang (2040m ) To Tonglu / Tumling (3000m ), Via - Chitre (2365m ), Meghma (2804m ). 4 - 5 Hrs. 11 Kms
Day 3: From Tonglu / Tumling (3000m ) To Kalapokhari (3180m ), Via - Gairibas (2832m ), Kaiyakatta (2842m ). 4 - 5 Hrs. 13 Kms
Day 4: From Kalapokhari (3180m ) To Sandakphu (3636m ), Via - Bikheybhanjyang (3313m ) . 3 Hrs. 6 Kms
Day 5: From Sandakphu (3636m ) To Sepi (1850m ), Via - Gurdum (2450m ), Srikhola (1900m ). 6 Hrs. 16 Kms
Day 6: Drive From Sepi (1800m ) To Bagdogra (126m ) . 6 Hrs. 130 Kms
Here, we have to note that Sepi is a very remote place and is at equal altitude as Maneybhanjyang. However, vehicles aren't available on the go from this place and since the trek from Sandakphu to Sepi (Day 5) us long and tiring, you have no other way but to spend a night in Sepi before you can move out to Bagdogra airport or NJP railway station
Itinerary of Sandakphu Phalut Trek:
Day 1: Arrive In Maneybhanjyang (2040m ), Via - Mirik (1500m ), Sukhiapokhari (2194m ). 4 Hrs. 92 Kms
Day 2: Trek From Maneybhanjyang (2040m ) To Tonglu / Tumling (3000m ), Via - Chitre (2365m ), Meghma (2804m ). 4 - 5 Hrs. 11 Kms
Day 3: Trek From Tonglu / Tumling (3000m ) To Kalapokhari (3180m ), Via - Gairibas (2832m ), Kaiyakatta (2842m ). 4 - 5 Hrs. 13 Kms
Day 4: Trek From Kalapokhari (3180m ) To Sandakphu (3636m ), Via - Bikheybhanjyang (3313m ) . 3 Hrs. 6 Kms
Day 5: Trek From Sandakphu (3636m ) To Molley (3350m ) . 6 - 7 Hrs. 18 Kms
Day 6: Trek From Molley (3350m ) To Gorkhey (2286m ), Via - Phalut Sunrise View Point (3700m ) . 4 - 5 Hrs. 18 Kms
Day 7: Trek From Gorkhey (2286m ) To Sepi (1850m ), Via - Samanden (2350m ), Srikhola (1900m ). 6 Hrs. 14 Kms. Drive to NJP / Bagdogra (126m )
We need to note that both these treks start at the same point (Maneybhanjyang), and goes together halting overnight at the same points ( Tumling, Kalapokhari and Sandakphu) before they diverge. However, they end at the same point, i.e Sepi, near Srikhola.
The Sandakphu Phalut Trek walks towards the beautiful valley of Sabargram, Phalut, Gorkhey, Samanden, Ramam and exits via Srikhola in 2 more days, whereas the Sandakphu only trek descends down steeply to Srikhola directly from Sandakphu in a single day ending the trek in just 4 days.
As we analyse both the itineraries, we understand that the difference between the 2 are as follows.
- Sandakphu Trek (5 night halts ) is about 1 and a half day shorter as compared to the Sandakphu Phalut trek ( 6 Night Halts)
- Sandakphu Trek involves a long and sharp descend on Day 5 to drop the altitude from 3636 meters to 1800 meters in a single day
- Sandakphu Trek is cheaper than the Sandakphu Phalut Trek, as it is 2 trek days shorter than the later.
Let us now understand what we miss when we are doing the shorter trek to save either Time or Money. Also, to our notice, many trek operators on the internet take advantage of the lesser knowledge of the trekkers to sell just the Sandakphu Trek at a cheaper price compared to that of Sandakphu Phalut Trek. So you need to be careful, be knowledgeable as well and choose wisely.
1) Holding on to the altitude that you have climbed hard for and not losing it all in a single day. It took you 3 days to climb to Sandakphu. Rather than capitalizing on it, with the Sandakphu Only trek, you would be losing it all in just a single day, that too by walking longer and on steep descends. All these to save just a single day. You should rather complete the full trek as it is after Sandakphu only that this trek starts to get much more beautiful, serene, and wild!
2) Phalut is the best part of this trek and should not be missed. If you have worked so hard to climb till Sandakphu, it will be a silly mistake to lose your altitude in a single day and skip Phalut. Its remote, its beautiful and offers the best and closest views of the great Himalayan Panorama of some 26 odd peaks. Many of our trekkers who visited Phalut and Gorkhey always wanted to spend extra leisure days in this places..
3) The Real Himalayan Solitude begins after Sandakphu only. This trek route till Sandakphu is otherwise very touristic. You will not feel like a trekking adventure. But since the crowd stops at Sandakphu, the walk towards Phalut is an ideal trek path with views of Mount Everest, Makalu, Lhotse, Chamlang soaring high on the left side, mesmerizing you throughout. The dense forest of white and red Rhododendrons and Magnolias will keep your soul jumping with excitement wit their blooms and pleasant smell. The open meadows with grazing wild yaks and chirping birds makes a picture-perfect frames anyone would wish for on a Himalayan trek. The route is long but very easy, almost a flatish trail with little ascends and descends keeping it easy on your legs. This is perhaps the best day of this trek.
4) The Views from Sabargram and Phalut open up wider, clearer and closest to the giant mountains. These are no lesser mountains. These are World's highest Mountains - Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu are 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th highest mountains of the World! As we move towards Phalut from Sandakphu, we get ourselves closer to the mountains. Also, since the terrain is an alpine meadow, the views open up offering unforgetful views.
5) The Best view of the Sleeping Buddha. Sleeping buddha formation is all about the angle from which you look at the mountain group. The same mountains are clearly visible from Tuger Hill in Darjeeling, from Pelling in Sikkim, etc. However, they don't appear like the Sleeping Buddha. Sabargram top and Phalut top offers the best angle to view the Sleeping Buddha.
6) The fascinating and picture perfect twin villages of Gorkhey and Samanden. In our schools, all of us must have drawn a village hut with sun in the background, mountains behind with blue sky and small white clouds scattered over it, birds flying in the sky and chirping around in the garden, stream flowing by the side, colourful flowers, kids playing and their moms working... Yes - when you reach Gorkhey, you will notice your childhood ideal village coming true. Its a lovely village to just relax and enjoy. You will be happy from inside. samanden is an equally beautiful village with vast agricultural field and scattered homes.. Oh man, I miss this villages as I write it down..
The Himalayas are vast and you probably wont be spending money and time to repeat a trek. Hence it is advisable to do the complete version of the Sandakphu Phalut Trek and see everything it has to offer. Else, I am sure you will regret it later when you hear stories from your friends or other trekkers, on some other treks. Hence, Sandakphu Phalut Trek is my recommendation over the Sandakphu Trek. Do the Sandakphu Only trek, only if you really really do not have any extra days. I am sure the cost difference isn't too much to even mention not doing the fuller version for money.
We conduct both these treks. Read more about them by following the website link.
Sandakphu Phalut Trek