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  • Experts Opinion

Sandakphu: West Bengal Gem

Published On 09 May 2021 by Mohit Goswami

Cinema has definitely been successful in stereotyping most things in our lives and even the state of West Bengal has been under its radar for quite a long time now. Often when we think of the state, all we can imagine are the festivals, the exotic cuisines and of course the rich literature but interestingly adventure, thrill and drama have been residing in its ambit for longer than history. At the northernmost corner of the state is the Singalila Ridge on the border between India and Nepal that safeguards in its compound, the highest mountain peak and gem of West Bengal called the Sandakphu peak. Situated at an elevation of 11,930 ft, the Sandakphu peak stands tall and mighty on the Singalila Ridge and offers a crazy and happening hike into the mountains. The key highlights of the trek to the Sandakphu trek summit are the stunning panoramic views of the Himalayas of Nepal, the view of four of the world?s tallest mountains; Mt. Everest, Mt Lhotse, Mt. Makalu and Mt. Chomo Lonjo and the views of the Ranges of Kanchenjunga, Jannu (Kumbhakarna), Chamlang, Baruntse etc that are easily accessed from the summit top and remain much treasured and adored by trekking enthusiasts all over the world. Sandakphu is also a home to as much as 600 varieties of orchids, which is one of the vastest variety of orchids anywhere in the world. A close observation, keen interest and a knack for discovery can easily lead you to find many of these species on your journey upwards. Even the terrains encountered during the climb to the summit are diverse in nature and add richness to the overall experience making it thrilling and exhilarating altogether. All in all, the Sandakphu trek is a cost-effective, budget-friendly package that offers a surreal experience and is also suitable for solo travelers who wish to hike without a guide and embark on the journey alone. The best time to visit Sandakphu is during peak winters; December, January and February, when the weather is freezing cold, cozy and the landscapes are most enchanting and alluring. Although, Sandakphu remains accessible for a good duration of 8 months throughout the year, however, it remains closed throughout the monsoon season that is between the months from May to August.

The excursion to the Sandakphu summit begins from the village of Kopidana which can be easily accessed from the NJP railway station or the Bagdogra airport of West Bengal. Kopidana is usually reached within 4-5 hours of a pleasing drive through surreal and majestic landscapes and it serves as an ideal base camp for the thrilling trek to the Sandakphu peak. Delve deep into the beautiful hamlet of Tumling, the next day and watch beautiful and enchanting views of the Mt Kanchenjunga and its sister peaks unfold before you. The trek from Kopidana to Tumling spans across 5-6 hours and takes ou from a height of 6,400 ft to 9,700 ft approximately. Sleep here tonight and wake up with enthusiasm to trek towards Tumling. This day you will begin your trek towards the exotic forests of Singalila National Park which rests on the route that leads to the village of Kalipokhri. The trail from Tumling to Kalipokhri is vibrant and rich in terrains, flora as well as fauna, which make the entire ride nail-biting and thrilling. From Rhododendrons and Magnolias that paint the landscape into beautiful hues of red and orange to the unbelievably captivating views of the peaks of Kanchenjunga, Kumbhakarna, Shimbho, Goecha, Kabru, Rathong, Koktang and Frey that lie at a distance, the trail is full of surprising and interesting aspects which will leave you gasping at its beauty. Retire at Kalipokhri and wake up energized to trek towards Sandakphu, today. The Trek from Kalipokhri is short yet challenging and adventurous. Be sure to clench your teeth and pull up your socks before you get ahead on this trial and be prepared to witness waves of adrenaline rushes that you will encounter during your ascend. It is during this trek that views of the Mt Makalu, Lhotse, Everest, Nuptse, Baruntse, Chamling, Chomolonzo etc become clearly visible and accompany you on your journey upwards. The trek elevates you from an altitude of 10,400 ft at Kalipokhri to the Sandakphu summit situated at an altitude of 11,929 ft. The fifth day will mark the beginning of your descend from Sandakphu to the beautiful village of Sepi which lies approximately at a distance of 15 km from the summit and is covered within 6-7 hrs of steady trekking. You will descend through the bamboo forests which are also a habitat where the Red Pandas are often found. You will also trek past the hamlet of Gurdum, the village of Timburay and the pleasant Sri River also known as river Khola. Wash off the exhaustion with a comfortable sleep at Sepi. Pack your belongings and hop onto your vehicles to drive back to the railway station/airport to bring an end to your excursion.


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