Trekking the Sandakphu-Phalut (Singalilia) Trek
Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
The Sandakphu-Phalut (Singalila Ridge) trek was an absolutely amazing experience and exceeded our expectations. The weather and views could not have been more perfect and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to see Mt. Everest at least once in their lifetime?!
So if you want to trek in India, consider Sandakphu-Phalut! You can read about our itinerary and review below:
Trekking Company: Trek Mate
Trekking Guide: Amar
This trek offers views of four of the five highest peaks in the world. You can see Mt. Everest, Kanchendzonga, Lhotse and Makalu, not to mention the numerous other peaks associated with both these ranges.
I would personally rate this trek as moderate overall, with a few moderate-difficult sections as you ascend the ridge to Sandakphu, but nothing someone with a moderate physical fitness level couldn’t handle. We decided to complete the trek in 6 days, because we wanted to spend as much time on the trail and in the mountains as possible, however many people also complete it in 4 or 5 days as well. I believe the most popular option is 5 days, but each length is generally a different route, but all culminate in Rimbik, the terminus of the trek. Although we do recommend the longer option, we also recommend choosing whichever length fits your timeline and budget best.
Since this trek passes through the Singalila National Park and also crosses back and forth along the Indo-Nepali border with multiple checkpoints, we were required to have a guide. Usually if we have the choice, we would opt to trek on our own, without a guide.
We were both pleasantly surprised however with our guide, Amar. He was never overbearing, yet very attentive, making sure our needs were always met. He was knowledgeable about the trek, extremely friendly and had the most pleasant smile and laugh.
To book our guide, we went thru Trek Mate, a local company in Darjeeling. They were willing to work with us and we were able to negotiate a fair price that worked within our budget. Some of the other companies we inquired with quoted us 2-3 times higher! With our package, we had transportation to the start of the trek from Darjeeling and back after completion. It also included all of our lodging and three meals per day. I would not consider this a luxury trek by any means, as the lodging and meals were simple, never extravagant, and for us it was perfect.
With this said, there is the option of finding your own transportation to the start and hiring a guide on the spot from Manebhajang. Many of the guides, including ours, belong to the Highland Guides & Porter’s Association (?), a union of sorts, that ensures you receive a government trained guide and/or porter and that they are paid a fair wage for their services. Although we did not go this route, I believe they offer a fair price as you deal more directly with the guides, cutting our the middle-man, the trekking agencies. If you would prefer to go through a trekking agency however, we do highly recommend Trek Mate. You can also find numerous others just by walking around Darjeeling, looking in Lonely Planet or doing a simple Google or Trip Advisor search. Choose your own adventure…
There are companies out there that will provide more luxury if you’re willing to pay for it, we were not. In addition to your guide, you can also higher a porter to carry your bag if you wish. This was not an option we chose, as we both feel that if you’re going to trek, it is your responsibility to carry what you bring. With that said, I still do feel that hiring a porter is a great option for some people and by no means takes away from the overall experience.
In conclusion, we would highly recommend the Sandakphu-Phalut trek to anyone traveling to Darjeeling with a few days to spare and looking for a little adventure. There are numerous options for hiring a guide and everyone we talked with on the trek was quite happy with their decision.
The sunrises and views are breathtaking, and the experience is one that will last you a lifetime. We had a truly fantastic experience and hope you do as well!