I checked my watch and sure enough, the time was 5:30 AM, meaning that I had to get up. It was cold enough to make your bones rattle. The sun had started to rise slowly and the darkness was gradually vanquished with its light. The glorious mountain ranges that lay before me had started bathing in golden rays. The ever-imposing Mt. Everest and ever so youthful Mt. Kanchenjunga, with their entire families stood before me in all their glory. I was standing atop Sandakphu.
Do you want to witness four of the five highest mountain peaks of the world, from a single point?
Then Sandakphu should be a ‘go-to place’ on your travel list. On a clear sunny day, you can clearly see mountain peaks like Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Makalu and the queen Mt. Kanchenjunga from here.
The highest point of West Bengal, Sandakphu (3630 m) is situated within the Singalilla National Park. The park is famous for the forests of Oak, Bamboo, Magnolia, and the Himalayan beauty, Rhododendron. The period between April to May is the blooming period of the Rhododendron, which is when the entire trail will look ‘bloody’ beautiful. The park is also the home of the Red Pandas; a small cute cat-bear. However, you have to be extremely lucky to spot a Red Panda while trekking.
Sandakphu is a popular trekking destination of West Bengal. Though trekking is the best way to visit the place, an alternate travel option could be hiring a Land Rover. Yes dear enthusiast, you read it correctly. Plenty of old Land Rovers are still available in Manebhanjan (or Mane Bhanjyang) for the Jeep Safari to Sandakphu and Phalut.
Trek to Sandakphu
The usual trek or jeep safari starts from Manebhanjan (alternatively the trek can be started from Dhotre); a border town of Bengal. From there a sharp trek will take you towards Chitre, a hamlet of few Tibetan families.
Walking on, it will take few more hours to reach Meghma, another border village of India and Nepal, from there the road divides into paths to Tumling or Tonglu. Tonglu is slightly elevated from Tumling and offers a great view of Kanchenjunga family.
The road via Tumling goes to Gairibus. Some cross border migration also comes into play, as Jaubari, an intermediate place, is a part of Nepal.
From Tumling, the trail towards Gairibus is slightly downward. Again, elevation starts from Gairibus to Kalpokhri. Kalpokhri (Hindi: a black lake) is a beautiful hamlet that has a sacred lake for Buddhists.
When one heads from Kalpokhri to Vikevanjan, the road is almost flat and offers beautiful views of mountains and flowers, especially in the summer the trail will be full of Rhododendron. From Vikevanjan, the ultimate trek starts for Sandakphu, which is the hardest part of the entire trail. Though a 6 km trek, the reward of being at the summit of Sandakphu and gazing upon nature’s beauty is what kept me going. A constant prayer kept going up, that the weather stays clear, and I get to see the Himalayan string of pearls in all their beauty.
After enjoying Sandakphu, many tourists return back. But if you want to enjoy the essence of true nature, then you should continue your trek to Phalut. Phalut is the 2nd highest point of West Bengal. The queen Mt. Kanchenjunga looks slightly bigger than Sandakphu top. From Phalut you could return back via Gorkhey a beautiful ‘green’ village. Otherwise from Sandakphu one can returns via Gurdum – Rammam.
You may visit Sandakphu by trekking or via Jeep. It is sure to leave an everlasting impression on your mind.