Sandakphu - Phalut Trek

Sandakphu means the land of poisonous flowers. Though we now see some of these flowers around, the main attraction of this trek however is the Kanchenjunga Mountain range that appears like a sleeping Buddha. This 65km trail that crisscrosses between India and Nepal has some of the best views to offer. Sandakphu-Phalut trek is considered an introduction to the Himalayas for beginners but is a treat to the eyes for even the seasoned trekkers. So, let's plan your trek. 

Basic Information

Sandakphu-Phalut Trek

Highest Altitude: 3636 m (11930 ft)

Location: Singalila National Park

State/Country: West Bengal, India and Koshi Province, Nepal

Base Village: Sepi, India 

Total Distance: 65km

Number of Days: 6 Days

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Best Time to Trek

Sandakphu-Phalut trek is year round. Every season has its own charm. I think the best time to trek here would be post monsoon and winter. The rainy season can be a bit messy with slippery trail and leeches. September to December would be therefore the best time to trek here. Since it snows in the region, peak winter treks would be great if you want to see snowfall. January to March would be an interesting time to  do this trek if you want to experience snowfall. 

Plan you trek


You cannot do Sandakphu-Phalut trek without a guide. The villages around Sepi have formed a union of guides. They allocate guides on a queue basis. You can contact Lippohochha homestay at Sepi for arranging a guide for you. The owner of the homestay heads one of the unions for the surrounding villages. Since there are shelters and home stays along the route, you can do this trek with one guide from the village. 

If you want to join an organized group, then I would strongly recommend Trek the Himalayas. I did Sandakphu-Phalut trek with them and I liked the route and stay options they have. You can also explore – Himalayan trekkers and MoxtainMake sure to compare the prices and pick the best option. Service is mostly the same in all groups. Make sure to pick the organiser who limits group size to 15  (or max 20) and allows twin sharing in tent (Not 3). 

Buy or rent the necessary gears

You definitely are not going to the Himalayas without your trekking gears, are you? Here is my list of the things to be carried. Many trekking gears are available at Lippohochha  home stay for rent. Therefore, if you do not wish to buy a lot of things, then you can choose to rent out the trekking poles and ponchos at Sepi. 

How to reach Siliguri?

Siliguri is the gateway to the North-East of India. To reach Siliguri, you can take a flight to Bagdogra airport (12km) or take a train to NJP railway station (9KM). Make sure to book your flight tickets at least 2 months in advance to get good deals. 

Stay in Siliguri

I often stay at Hotel Saluja on Hill cart road. They have hostel rooms for Rs560. This place is neat and clean. It is also centrally located. You can also choose to stay in their private rooms. For added luxury, you can stay at Saluja residency next door.  The hotels around NJP railway station are not that good. It is easy to get around the town using the shared taxi service. 


How to Reach Sepi?

Sepi is around 120km from the Siliguri. If you have planned the trek through a trekking group then they will arrange for your travel from Siliguri or NJP. 

If you plan to reach there on your own, then you have to take a taxi. If you book a taxi from Siliguri, it might cost you around Rs 4000-5000. But there are several shared taxis from Siliguri. You may have to break your journey if you do not find direct taxis. In that case, you can first reach Mirik, then take another taxi to Mane Bhanjang and from there, one more to Sepi. You will have to begin early in the morning as you may not find vehicles in the evening. The trip might cost you less than Rs1000. 

The Trail

Sandakphu-Phalut trek is 65km long. The trek is not difficult when it comes to elevation but it can be challenging due to the long distances involved. You will have to walk 12-15 km on most of the days. Here is the day-wise breakup of the trek. 

Day01: Sepi (1899m/6230ft) to Samanden (2300m / 7545ft) 

Distance/Time: 12km / 6.5H

The trek begins at the village of Sepi. The first stretch of this trail is not very interesting as you will walk on a paved road till Rammam village. You will most probably have your lunch at Rammam village. The village is beautiful and offers some amazing views of the mountains. From here we continue the trek on a narrow trail and head up through a dense bamboo and pine forest. Post-lunch steep climb can be a bit tiring. At the end of the trail is the village of Samanden, perched on top of a mountain plateau. Samanden is a beautiful place. Rest here in the home stays run by the villagers. Play football with the local kids and enjoy the peaceful village life. 

Day02: Samanden (2300m/7545ft) to Phalut (3596m/11800ft)

Distance/Time: 15km / 8H

We continue our trek and head towards Phalut. We cross rivers and forests to reach Alubari campsite. Here, you will probably stop for some hot lunch prepared by the caretakers. Post lunch, we continue the trek to Phalut. On the way there I is a possibility of spotting Red pandas. You will also have to stop at SSB (Sashastra Seema Bal– Armed border force) camp and register yourself before continuing. Phalut campsite has a few shelters and camping area. Depending on your organisers, you might take a slightly different route and may end up staying in a village close-by. Enjoy the view of the clear night skies from here. 

Picture Credit: Rushikesh Javalgekar

Day03: Phalut (359m/11800ft) to Thakom (3444m/11300ft)

Distance/Time: 13km / 7H

Next morning, if you are staying around Phalut campsite, you have to climb a small hill behind the campsite to watch the sunrise. On a clear day, you will get a spectacular view of the sleeping buddha formation and the Everest. 

After breakfast, you will begin your walk on a jeep track to reach Thakom. You can stop at yak cheese farms on the way run by few local Nepali villagers. 

Before crossing the border to Thakom, register at the SSB camp. Some organisers might stay at Yak lodge in Thakom and others might choose a different location. The sunset from Thakom is brilliant and you can see all the mountains up close. 

Day04: Thakom (3444m/11300ft) to Aahl (3535m/11600ft)

Distance/Time: 7km/ 3H

Do not miss the sunrise from Thakom as the first rays of sun fall on the Kanchenjunga range, Everest, Makalu and Lhotse. 

On this day, you will cover a short distance till Aahl. Almost all organisers will stop at Aahl. There are a few guesthouses here. You will cover most of this trail on an off-road jeep track. 

The sunset from Aahl is amazing. Enjoy the cold weather with some hot momos and Tongba served in the guest houses. 

Day05: Aahl(3535m/11600ft) to Timbure (2000m/6560ft) via Sandakphu

Distance/Time: 15km / 7H

Picture Credit: Rushikesh Javalgekar

Wake up early to watch the sunrise. From Aahl viewpoint you will get the best view of Sleeping Buddha and Mt. Everest.

After having your breakfast, you shall begin the descent. On the way stop at Sandakphu view point. 

The descent to Gurdum is easy but steep and the trail is covered with rocks. Be careful and try not to hurt your knee, ankle or toes. Some organisers prefer to stay overnight at Gurdum, others stop for lunch there and continue till Timbure. Both these villages are beautiful and have several guest houses run by the locals. Spend the evening exploring these beautiful villages. 

Day06: Timbure (2000m/6560ft) to Srikhola/Sepi (1899m/6230ft)

Distance/Time: 3km/1H

This very short trek of around an hour is the final descent up to Shrikola bridge. You can choose to walk back till Sepi on a paved road or have a jeep arranged to take you there.

My Experience

I did Sandakphu-Phalut trek in October. The weather was amazing and the views were spectacular. We had a great trek lead and guides from Trek the Himalayas. Apart from me there were 6 other trekkers. The team bonded very well during this journey which I think is crucial. 

We got excellent views of the Sleeping Buddha from Thakom and Aahl. Though we missed the view from Phalut, we witnessed a beautiful sunrise from there. 

One of the most interesting parts of the trek was staying in different villages and speaking to the locals. The mountain villages we stayed in were peaceful and I long to return back to them. I particularly liked Samanden and Timbure. 

My Film on Sandakphu-Phalut Trek