The highest peak of West Bengal located right along the border of India and Nepal takes us on a walk through the clouds, quite literally. Thick, green forests of Singalila National Park, miles and miles of rhododendron trees and bushes and the mist in the thick of these enchanting forests, Sandakphu offers up a different platter of beauty every single day of the trek.
While some treks are about challenge, difficulty and exploring your limits, Sandakhpu is all about awe inspiring beauty – it lays its entire focus on providing you with the best views possible. It is a visual trek best witnessed firsthand but images are a not-so-efficient yet close substitute to get you started.
1) Settlements Along the Border
The stay on this trek is in guesthouses which means we stay within small villages and remote settlements along the border, instead of tents at campsites isolated from habitation. Each of these villages is rich with details of culture, food, religious beliefs and style of living on either side of the border. It is a fascinating study in the geographic evolution and coexistence of cultural philosophies.
2) The Sleeping Buddha
The Sleeping Buddha is a cluster of mountains that bear an uncanny resemblance to the perfectly proportioned form of Buddha lying in an eternal sleep. It is the Kangchenjunga range of peaks which give it the shape from which it gets its name. This magnificence makes itself seen numerous times along the length of the trek and it is so vivid that you cannot miss it even if you tried! The morning rays of the sun colour the peaks all shades of gold making the entire scene worth losing some sleep over.
3) The Big Four
Sandakphu goes to great lengths to keep its title ‘Trekker’s Wonderland’. Forming alliances with some of the most looked-up-to peaks (because you literally have to strain your neck to look up at them!), this 3,627M peak brings some of the tallest mountains and places them right in front of you. Bound by the Big Four – Mount Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu, Sandakphu remains one of the very few moderate level treks which offer such splendid views and puts you bang in the middle of 8,000M peaks.
4) The Enchanting Forest
The tall trees with bushy heads, a narrow, muddy path cutting right through them and the mist in the air concealing parts of this land crowded by all forms and shapes of the greens – all contribute to making these parts of the trek both eerie and enchanting in equal parts. Noises of the forest absorbed by the thick fog in the air makes the entire setting seem like either the absolute climax of a scary movie or the start of something magical from a fantastical fictional world – it could go both ways too!
5) Kalapokhri: Who Said Black is Not a Holy Colour
Kalapokhri in Nepali literally translates to Black Lake. We meet this beauty on Day 3 and it is, as the name suggests, a lake with water that looks as black as the night. The only things adding colour to it are the hundreds of prayer flags along its borders, the bright blue sky and the green of the land. Stupas stand close by, keeping watch as a row of prayer wheels line up right at the end of the lake to mark the start of a new village. No points for guessing which side of the border you are on here!
6) For the Love of Rhododendrons
For anyone who’s witnessed these beauties would know that their presence on a trek demands a special mention. Sandakphu is not subtle in its invitation at all – it will flood you with rhododendrons on its paths – expansive forests filled with trees and bushes of rhododendrons in as many colours as you can name, warm and cool. We may have seen a lot, but we’ve never seen anything like this before. Sandakphu truly is a walk through heaven.
For all that this 7 day trekking experience offers, ‘You demand, we deliver’ might as well be Sandakphu’s motto!