Why Sandakphu Is One Of The Most Underrated Treks In India

When I first went on the Sandakphu trek back in December 2012, it was with a certain fear – a certain apprehension of what was in store. Until then, I had worked extremely hard to simply be able to walk comfortably. So when I actually completed the high altitude trek and realised that my future had just opened up before me, the prospect of it was huge!

So, last year, in December 2016, I was on my 25th high altitude trek. By a fortunate twist of events, I found myself on the Sandakphu trek celebrating this small silver jubilee. It made me think about what I had on my mind when I first came on this trek. What had I expected out of it? What did it give me?

Now, after doing several other treks in the Indian Himalayas, I think what is it about Sandakphu that made me hold it so close to my heart?

Then it hit me that the Sandakphu trek is such an underrated trek! It does not get the attention it deserves. As I did the trek after so many years, I saw several highlights of this trek that no one talks about.

Let me illustrate this with anecdotes from my own experiences. I hope you will be convinced by the end of my arguments.

1. The constant flirting with Nepal’s borders

Trekking in the Himalayas- Sandakphu trek-Indiahikes
A milestone on the Sandakphu trail that reads Nepal. Picture by our Trek leader Geet Tyrambake

Sandakphu, the highest point, lies on the borders of two different countries – India and Nepal. An interesting point is that Sandakphu is the highest point in the two states in which it lies – West Bengal in India and Mechi in Nepal.

Chittrey, on the first day of trekking, is the first spot where you’ll see pillars marking the India-Nepal border. The Sandakphu trek offers the unique experience of walking in India and having your dinner in Nepal. In fact, on the Sandakphu trek, you have to be careful about any call you would make! It may be charged for international roaming.

2. Our base camp at Jaubhari

Trekking in the Himalayas- Sandakphu trek- Indiahikes
The Jaubhari basecamp is one of our prettiest basecamps.

Most trekkers start the Sandakphu trek from Maneybhanjan. That has been the trek’s traditional starting point. But two kilometres away is Jaubhari – a tiny village with just 10 houses. I am not exaggerating that it is one of the prettiest base camps we have. Sandhya ma’am puts it just after Aru, our base for Tarsar Marsar. I think Indiahikes trekkers are lucky to stay at Jaubhari whereas most other people stay at Maneybhanjan. You can spot major parts of Darjeeling, Sikkim and Maneybhanjan from there.

3. The dense forests and glimpses of the Sleeping Buddha on day one

Trekking in the Himalayas- Sandakphu trek- Indiahikes
Magnolias bloom all along the trail from Chittrey to Meghma

I find it surprising that people don’t talk about Day 1 more often. The forest sections are so dense that light barely hits the floors. This forest can fool you into thinking that it is evening time. As the forest hits an open meadow, you get your first glimpse of the Sleeping Buddha. For the next 3 hours, the Sleeping Buddha plays hide and seek with you. As soon as you arrive at Tumling, you will be greeted with an unobstructed view of Sleeping Buddha.

4. The tea-house experience

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A teahouse at Meghma on the Sandakphu trek. Picture by Geet Tryambake

The Sandakphu trek gives you a feel of what trekking in Nepal is like. You don’t need to pitch tents or to find campsites here. There is proper accommodation. A wooden hut or basic lodge with a dining area, cozy bed with warm blankets. On a trek, this feels like a luxury! In Tumling, the windows of the lodge we stay in points directly towards the mighty Sleeping Buddha!

Having said that, Indiahikes camps at two places on this trail: Sandakphu and Sabargram. So you get an experience of camping as well.

5. The Sleeping Buddha

Trekking in the Himalayas- Sandakphu trek- Indiahikes
The Sleeping Buddha. PC: Dhiraj Kamble

The cluster of Mt. Kangchenjunga, Kumbhakarna, Pandim, Kabru (North, South, Dome) forms a shape of Lord Buddha sleeping. This view stays with you not just for one day. It stays for good 4 days in the trek! From Phalut, the cluster is so close, you feel like those mountains are just a jump away.

6. The beautiful rhododendron forests of Singalila National Park

Trekking in the Himalayas- Sandakphu trek-Indiahikes
The rhododendron trail on Sandakphu.

On day 3, you will walk through Singalila National Park. If you’re trekking in March or April, this trail will astonish you with fiery red Rhododendron trees. The Red Panda calls these trees their home. They have been classified as endangered, with estimated wild population less than 10,000. If you are lucky and quiet, then you can spot them on this stretch of the trek.

7. The Everest and its sisters

Trekking in the Himalayas- Sandakphu trek- Indiahikes
In view: Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. Picture by Our trek leader Sushant Ale

There are few trekkable places on earth where you can spot 8,000 metre peaks. Sandakphu is one of them — along with Everest Base Camp! Not only do you see Everest, Lhotse and Makalu on the horizon, you also see the next four days of your trek stretched out before you. Such are Sandakphu’s long distance views.

8. Sunset view from Sandakphu

The sunset from Sandakphu is absolutely sensational. There aren’t many treks wherein clouds speckle the ground, not the sky. The sun sets below you.

9. The mountain views from Sabargram

Trekking in the Himalayas- Sandakphu trek- Indiahikes
The tabletop of Sabargram camp. Picture by Our Trek leader Sushant Ale

Sabargram is the perfect vantage point for all mountain lovers. It is one of the only campsite where you will be staying in tents. Imagine unzipping your tent to find the world’s tallest peaks staring back at you!

10. The enchanting forests on descent

Trekking in the Himalayas- Sandakphu trek- Indiahikes
The mixed forest on descent. PC: Saptarshi Datta

The descent to Gorkhey is through one of the most enchanting forests I have ever walked. The trail passes through dense rhododendron, bamboo, and brown oak forest. The forest floor has oak nuts, which is a rich source of food for red pandas. Even though the days are long, the forest walk takes away all your exhaustion.

11. Gorkhey and Samanden: The villages you want to settle down in

Trekking in the Himalayas- Sandakphu trek- Indiahikes
The village of Samanden. PC: Sandhya Uc

Gorkhey village is in a small clearing surrounded by thick pine forest all over. There is a beautiful river passing through it. This makes for a mesmerizing view from the last stretch of descent before reaching the village.

One hour out of Gorkhey is Samanden — an absolutely stunning village! There are wooden huts, vegetable farms, beautiful gardens, small patches of pine trees — all of it embellishments to its beauty. If I could, I would build a home here. After Samanden is Ramam.

With a heavy heart, you end the trek at Sepi.

Every time I do Sandakphu, I wonder — why is this trek so underrated? There are so many things that make it an experience of a lifetime! I hope in the coming days, Sandakphu will get the appreciation it deserves.

I can proudly say that my hometown Kolkata is in a state where there is also a place called Sandakphu – undoubtedly one of most beautiful places on earth.

If you think there are some other underrated treks as well, let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below.

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35 thoughts on “Why Sandakphu Is One Of The Most Underrated Treks In India

  1. I completely agree about the superbness of Sandakohu!! I also had my first Himalayan adventure on Sandakphu and believe me it was damn mesmerising experience !! All other treks on one side and the Sandakphu trek will always be on the other side! One has to go there and experience the feeling ….

  2. Amazing description Jeet! I was not planning to go for this trek for a long while. But after reading your article, I think I’ll go this year only. Hope to see you again as TL

    1. Hi Rashmi, March and April is great for rhododendron bloom in Singalila National Park, October- November is a fantastic time for mountain views. The weather is clear and stable then. 🙂

  3. Sir I appreciate and thank to you because of your writing.. I am trek and adventure lover.I went on the Sandakphu trek in October 2016. It was my first trek in Sandakphu. I experienced lot’s of things. I also captured a mesmerizing beauty of sunset at top of the Sandakphu that was my one of the life time experience. I love to share those beauty I had captured in my trek.

    Right now I am planning to my next trek so I just take information through net suddenly I saw your article about Sandakphu. I think and share my journey to trek lover.

  4. Rightly so, this is a gorgeous trek with wonderful people throughout the settlements. The views are absolute top notch, especially from Sabargram and Phalut. From Phalut you feel the gargantuan size of the Himalayas.

  5. I completely agree…went on this trek in jan 17…still the memory of this trek are fresh as ever…going to north east for trek is special than any other trek…
    Wonderful experience be it jaubari base camp, living in tea house in Nepal, view to mount everest n kanjanjunga peaks makes it a best in lot…
    Many trekkers avoid goING to north east as it time taking…but feels it is best experience as ever than it will always be same…

  6. Wow…Thank you for this magical and really informative article. I am considering of doing this trek at the beginning of February. What is the weather like at that time of year and are the skies clear to see Everest, Kenchunjunga and other mountains?

  7. How about doing this trek in Feb . As I want to be trekking in snow . This trek great some great memories for me to cherish

    1. Hello Aristo
      There will be snowfall on the trek but you won’t be trekking on knee deep snow like on the Brahmatal trek. There will be snow but not too much. The snow here melts quickly. But it sure looks beautiful 🙂

  8. Hi gorgeous article, is this trek good to go in december around 15th to 20th.
    Waiting for your valuable suggestions. Thanks in advance.

    1. It’s absolutely gorgeous in December. There will be no snow on any part of the trail in December. Although it might snow towards the end of the month. This is a good time to trek if you wish to avoid the peak season rush. However, the higher altitude camps become very cold. The Sabargram campsite is going down to as low -10 degree Celsius at night. We are providing our trekkers with double sleeping bags on this trek for the winter season.

  9. Hi Karishma, I want to trek in may’18. I would like to know weather conditions during month may (after 12th may)at sandakphu. Also, are the campsite crowded with local crowd or with so many other groups, during may? I have bad experience due to so much crowd during my previous treks.

    1. Hi Pallavi,
      May is not a great time to do the Sandakphu-Phalut trek. It starts raining in this region in May. Also, the clouds completely block out the views of the big mountains that this trek is known for.

  10. Hello. I am planning to do Sandakphu in late December. I have been to Bhramhatal and Roopkund so only thing I wish from this trek is clear views of mountains. What are the chances of getting good views or if you can suggest any alternative trek. Thank you.

    1. Hi Sarvesh,
      The views on this trek are very clear from November onwards. Late December is a good time to go to Sandakphu.

  11. Hello,
    I am planning to do this trek in Early November. Can we expect to see some greenery at that time especially in the villages of Gorkhey, Samanden and Ramam ?

    1. Phew that’s a tough one! But if you have the fitness levels and the budget, then Annapurna Base Camp. The feeling of being right there with the big mountains is unparalleled!

  12. Is March-April a good time to do the trek? Are the mountains visible during that time? What is the latest time by which one should ideally trek to clear views of the mountains?

    1. Hi Arun, March and April are fantastic, more so because there are rhododendrons on the trail. But the view does get hazy in April. I would recommend going as early in the year as possible. Perhaps the last week of Feb or the first week of MArch.

  13. How is the difficulty level of trek if one goes there during 2nd-3rd week of January. My friend adviced me to not to go to phalut but only till Sandakphu. Should I take that advice or should I go up to Phalut ?

    1. Dear Harsh

      Sandakphu is a moderate trek with long walks daily.
      You trek for an average of 10 km everyday; this requires endurance and strength.
      You need to be fit enough to go to Phalut as that makes your trek longer.
      However, if you are fit enough, then you can definitely go to Phalut even in January!
      There will be snow on the trail in January but trekking to Phalut will not be an issue.

    1. Hello Ramana,

      The treks are going well! We are currently experiencing snow on the campsites and the trekkers are enjoying that a lot.

      The mountain views have been clear.

    1. Try and go earlier in the year. That’s when you get better views. The views start getting hazy by mid-April because rain clouds start gathering. So any time between October and March will be great for views.

  14. My first trek and first love… Spectacular view…and an amazing journey from day one to the end…i really wish to do this trek one more time…..

    1. Hey Tarek
      You’re absolutely right…sandakphu can be ones first love ! I’ve done sandakphu last December and I’m going again this December! Just loved it !!!!

  15. Hi, Am Planning to join the upcoming Trek Sandakpu January 2020. I am a solo traveller to this trek and also my first one . May I know how can I reach the Starting point of the trek. Am form Tamilnadu.

    1. Hi Dhivya it’s wonderful that you’re trekking on your own. We love that spirit! 🙂 Here is how you can get to Jaubhari base camp on your own.

      If you’re coming from TN, the best thing to do is to fly directly to Bagdogra. (The other option is to take a train to NJP).

      From Bagdogra International Airport / NJP station, take a shared auto to Bihar More which will cost you Rs 100. From Bihar More take a shared cab(Tata Sumo/Bolero, last cab at 7 pm) to Sukhia Pokhri, it will cost you around Rs. 350-400 and will take 5-6 hours. Take shared cab (Omni) from Sukhia Pokhri to Maney Bhanjang which will cost you 30 bucks and will take 45 minutes to 1 hour because the road is really bad. From Maney Bhanjang the upper road leads to Sandakphu and the lower, to Jaubhari. Jaubhari is around 2Km from Maney Bhanjang.

  16. Hello! This is a beautiful article. I’m actually planning go there in 13th December 2019, How is its climate gonna be? Will there be greenery? This is actually my first trek.

    1. Hi Liyana, Sandakphu is actually a lovely trek to do in December. It’s winter at the time, so it’s going to be cold, and windy at the Sabargram and Sandakphu campsites. Expect temperatures to dip just below zero. There won’t be much greenery, but you’ll see very clear skies, with stunning views! It’s a good trek for first timers no doubt. But the days are long. Just make sure you train for at least a month and carry enough warm layers. You’ll have a comfortable trek.