Travel Thursday: As Milind Soman goes trekking on Sandakphu, here are 3 attractions of West Bengal’s highest peak
Kicking our travel bug and fitness enthusiasm simultaneously, Indian supermodel Milind Soman grabbed his backpack and headed out to explore Sandakphu during his stay in Darjeeling after a Police Marathon that he recently took part in. Not the one to slow down, the 55-year-old aced 21 kms in the marathon and was seen losing no time in the picturesque city as he went trekking to Sandakphu.
While Sandakphu might not be a famous tourist destination, it is the highest peak in the Indian state of West Bengal and the highest point of the Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling. As Milind shared a few glimpses of the “most beautiful skies, the most beautiful mountains, the most beautiful people” from his trek, we got curious came across these 3 attractions to check out on our next trip to the West Bengal-Nepal border, future planners that we are.
This is a one-day trek via Sabarkum, covering 21 km route and offering a beautiful view of the Himalayan snow peaks and also of four highest peaks in the world including the majestic Mount Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu. Those trekking on this route around April and May will be lucky enough to see the rhododendrons bloom while November offers the maximum chance of clear sky days as Milind pointed out in his latest social media post.
21 kms away from Sandakphu is Phalut at 11,811 feet, the trail of which is relatively more difficult. It descends to Srikhola on the return via Rammam.
Remember to get the Forest Entry Permit from the Forest Office as it is required to pass through the Singalila National Park. Advance booking is recommended for trekker’s huts available at Sandakphu and Phalut.
Since the route is a mix of ups and downs, travellers in reasonable good health are suggested to trek in the area as they have to start from Manebhanjan, pass through Chitray, Meghma, Tonglu, Gairibas, Kalipokhari and Bikeybhanjan to reach Sandakphu. One can also choose to begin the trek at Chitrey since the steep slopes of Manebhanjan are challenging for amateurs.
From an old Buddhist monastery bringing spiritual refreshment to towering oaks, pines and fir trees adorning the sceneic scene, Chitrey is a small mountain village where trekkers usually halt. A Land Rover from Manebhanjan would not take you more than 20 minutes to reach Chitrey while regular hikers can reach it after trekking for 1.5 hours as it is 3 kms away.
Inhabited only by five odd Tibetan families, Lamaydhura is a hamlet located 3 kms further from Chitrey where one side of the road and their food stalls are a part of Nepal while the other side is in India. The trek from here to Meghma is relatively easier and lined with Chimal and giant Magnolia trees.
If you are lucky, you can even spot a Red Panda crossing the trek route or even Pangolins as this is their natural habitat. However, these fascinating animals are rarely seen.
With this promise of spotting a rich abundance of birds and animals, over 600 varieties of orchids and a glimpse of the highest peaks of Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan along with the Three Sisters all in a single stretch, we add Sandakphu to our travel bucket list on priority basis.
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