Sandakphu Trek – The Complete Guide

Sandakphu, or Sandakpur, is a mountain peak in the Singalila Ridge on the border between India and Nepal. The Sandakphu Trek is one of the very few treks in the world that offers a spectacular view of the world's highest snowline, stretching from the snow-capped peaks of Nepal, Bhutan, and east to Tibet, and you can see 8000m+ mountain ranges – four of the five highest peaks in the world - from up there.

It is a simple to moderate trek and if you’re looking to undertake it, this comprehensive guide will help you understand it better before you actually make a decision.

Introduction

The Sandakphu Trek is enthralling. The peaks are mesmerising, and the view of rhododendrons blooming is incomparable. When you’re standing at an altitude of almost 12,000 feet, you can see the Everest cluster, the Kanchenjunga family along with Lhotse and Makalu (4th and the 5th highest peak in the world).
Quite literally, Sandakphu means “peak of the poison plants”. This is so because the poisonous aconite plants grow in abundance here the Singalila range and medicines are extracted from the roots these plants.
The sunset and sunrise here are enchanting; you can see the red-yellow hues of the sun falling on the snow-laded mountains as though they are glowing. Plus, the entire trail is inside Singalila National park which is rich in biodiversity so you can see numerous species of flora and fauna and if you’re really lucky, maybe even the Red Panda!
No wonder Sandakphu is known as the “Trekkers’ Wonderland”.

The Trek Details

1. Difficulty Level

The trek to Sandakphu is actually a medium-level trek and can be achieved in 6 days. It demands long walking hours each day with steep sections every now and then, so it does require some serious fitness. However, if you’re planning to trek in the winter season, the difficulty predominantly lies in your ability to tackle the external weather conditions that fluctuate often here. The temperature dips to -8°C in the evenings and it can be really windy.

2. Height and Distance

The Sandakphu peak is at an elevation of 11,930 feet {3,636m} which is almost twice the elevation of Mt Everest, and the walk is around 46 kilometres in length. The trail will take you through forests of pine, oak, deodar as you go higher, and the scenic view of the mountains appears like sleeping Buddha.

3. Weather Conditions

There are three different seasons to do the Sandakphu trek and the temperature varies in each season. The weather is believed to be fairly chilly, with temperatures varying between 8 and 15°C from May to April, and 5 to -8°C from October to December. Although subjective to each trekker, the ideal time to perform this trek would be in autumn since the weather conditions are not too harsh, but you can still see immaculate, fresh snow.

4. Expenses

Approximately, the Sandakphu trek costs INR 10,000 per person which will take you on a tour of 5 nights and 6 days and includes your food, accommodation, and internal commute costs.

Itinerary

Day 1
- The base camp is at Manebhanjan which is only accessible by road. You would have to drive down from New Jalpaiguri {NJP} Railway Station, which takes about 3-4 hours. Or, if you’re coming via flight, then the nearest airport to the base camp is Bagdogra, which is about 40km from there, but the journey is enriching; you get to see tea estates on the way and the serene beauty of this village in West Bengal.

Day 2
– This is when your actual trek begins. You will trek to Tumling from Manebhanjan, a distance of about 11km and an elevation of almost 9,800 feet, which will take you around 6 hours to complete. Thankfully, the steep climb lasts only 1.5 hours, apart from which you are generally treading on a relatively flat trail.

Day 3
- On this day, you will trek from Tumling to Kalipokhri, which will be a 14 km trek and at 10,400 feet. It usually takes 6-7 hours to complete. As you go up, you can see the beautiful Sleeping Buddha drenched in the first rays of the sun. The journey towards Kalipokhri takes you through the rich forests of Singalila National Park.

Day 4
– The final ascent is from Kalipokhri to Sandakphu - this trek is a 6.5km stretch and usually takes 3-4 hours to complete and it considered to be comparatively easy. The climb isn’t too steep and you can quench your thirst at Bhagsa and Bikheybhanjang. You can enjoy a hot cuppa chai here amidst the breath-taking peaks, the towering evergreen conifers where the air is so pure and the skies are vivid blue.

Your Packing Checklist

Before you start packing your bags, consider the weather conditions. If you’re going during the winter, you may need at least 3-4 layers since the temperature are intense then.
However, here are some basic essentials that you should carry without no matter what -
• A high capacity rucksack & rain cover
• A walking stick/trekking pole
• A headlight torch
• A water bottle and a thermal flask
• Snacks – energy bars, dry fruits and glucose
• Personal medical kit
• Toiletries
• A hat, woollen cap, and UV-protective sunglasses

As for your clothing, these are some layers you definitely need –
• Full-sleeves T-shirts or sweatshirt, depending on the weather, as the base layer
• A fleece jacket or woollen sweater as the insulation layer
• A windcheater or a windbreaker
• Thermal wear set – Full sleeves vest and full-length pant
• A down jacket or technical/mountain jacket
• Trekking pants – Avoid shorts, denims or capris
• A poncho, rain jacket, or rain coat

How To Prepare For The Trek – Fitness

Is it important to train yourself before the trek? Yes.
To answer this technically, a higher altitude has thinner air and this means you have to be prepared to cope with the decreasing levels of oxygen, for which you need to develop aerobic fitness. Also, to carry a rucksack with all your essentials and gear 6 hours a day requires strength and endurance.
Now, you are truly #ReadyForAnything.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Is Sandakphu trek for beginners?

The Sandakpu Trek is a moderate level trek of altitude of 12,000 feet and can be achieved in 6 days.

 

What is the best time to visit Sandakphu?

The ideal time to visit Sandakpu is March to May when the temperature ranges from 8 to 15°C and is comfortable for trekking.

 

Is Sandakphu trek difficult?

Although the terrain isn’t as challenging, the long-distance might seem tiring. You would be covering around 8-9km per day, for 6 days.

 

How long is the Sandakphu Trek?  

The entire trek is approximately 48km and it will take you 6-7 days to cover the distance.