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Singalila Ridge Trek

Ashish Kaul is a travel writer, a landscape and outdoor portrait photographer, a trekker and mountaineer. He has traversed many trails in the Himalayas as well as in the Nilgiris and is Editor, Indian Himalayas at suite101.com. Other than that, he lives in the corporate world.

As you read this and more about this trek, you should get a good fix on planning your trip. Though it would be prudent on my part to confess that about some points you will be none the wiser, till you actually experience the full blown debate and then verify it for yourself. One such dilemma is about whether the views from Sandakphu are better than those from Phalut or vice versa ? To my mind, this is much like the Coke-Pepsi debate and my response too, is similar. Which is to say - Try both ! But if time doesn't permit and you are unable to continue on further to Phalut, then where is the debate ? The trek in any case, minus Phalut is still well worth it.

So we begin with the assumption that you have reached New Delhi in India, from where you have taken a train to Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal (North Eastern India) or a flight to Bagdogra near Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri.

Bagdogra, Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri are pretty close to each other at the foothills of the Darjeeling/Sikkim hills and almost equidistant from Darjeeling where you are headed.

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Darjeeling will take you about three to four hours by road and taxis and jeeps are available for the journey. Having reached Darjeeling, after some rest and sightseeing and acclimatization for a couple of days, it will be time to take a jeep to the trekking off point.

The traditional Singalila Ridge trek begins from a trekking off point called Mana Bhanjang on the Darjeeling - Rimbik road. However, I went on the recommendation of Mr Dorje Lhatoo of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling. We continued a little beyond Mana Bhanjang to Dhotre along the same road and began trekking from there. This helps one avoid an unnecessarily steep climb on a very dry mountain side.

The trail is confusing so a guide can be hired at Darjeeling. No tents are necessary on this trek as there are well maintained trekkers huts that provide good boarding and lodging. Book at the Hill Council Tourist office, below Loretto College at Darjeeling.


The traditional Singalila Ridge trek begins from a trekking off point called Mana Bhanjang on the Darjeeling - Rimbik road. We continued a little beyond Mana Bhanjang to Dhotre along the same road and began trekking from there avoiding an unnecessarily steep climb on a very dry mountain side.
Average Walking Time : 5 to 6 hours From about 2,200 m at Dhotre, the trail climbs gradually through forests to Gairibas in Nepal. It is a clean forest trail with rich flora that gradually moves up towards the Singalila Ridge. Tonglu (3,020 m) in Nepal is the first small settlement after which one continues on over the Ridge to Jaubari in Nepal (2,750 m). Thereafter it is a gradual descent to Gairibas at 2,620 m. The trekkers huts here, are picturesquely located and food is prepared and served by a friendly and efficient Nepali family, residing here for many years. Be sure to wake up early enough to capture the sunrise from a gap in the mountains to the west of the hut, over the Sikkim Himalayas.

Average Walking Time - 6 to 7 hours The trail climbs gradually from Gairibas and enters India again at Kal Pokhari (2,950 m), a tiny settlement. From Kal Pokhari, the trail climbs up for a couple of hours to Bhikay Bhanjang (3,350 m). A couple of hours more and a rather steep climb, takes one up to the Ridge with occasional uninterrupted views of mighty peaks.

The trail then reaches the high point of the trek - Sandakphu (3,636 m), a breath-taking vantage point with a charming setting of trekkers huts. It is almost a 200 degree panorama of open skies, punctuated by snow clad peaks. To the west, you see Lhotse (8,501 m), Everest (8,848 m), Makalu (8,475 m), Jannu (7,710 m). Along the Ridge, facing North, are very clear views of Kokthang (6,147 m), Rathong (6,679 m), Kabru South (7,317 m), Talung (7,349 m) and the gigantic Kangchenjunga (8,586 m). To the east, is a breathtaking sight of the beautiful Pandim (6,691 m), presiding over the forested ridges of Sikkim. A rest day to enjoy Sandakphu, is highly recommended.

Now this is a very steep descent that takes its toll on leg muscles and knees. Care should be taken while descending and those not used to steep walking would do well to carry a stick or an umbrella for support. Gurdung is a pretty little set up of trekkers huts on the way to the Raman river valley.

A gradual descent and the trail then crosses the Siri river through a sturdy rope bridge. After a few ups and downs, you arrive at Siri Khola, a set up that includes a dhaba or tea shop and trekkers huts. Located right by the roaring and foamy river, surrounded by forests, this is a really tempting stop-over for the night. However, with Rimbik just about two to three hours away, one could resist the temptation.

Rimbik (2,280 m), is a rather large settlement by trekking standards. From here one one takes a bus or jeep to Darjeeling, which is about six hours away.


This would be a long stage along the Singalila Ridge taking up most of the day, with views of the same peaks, but different views! Remember Coke - Pepsi?.

From Phalut, one could trek down to Rimbik, halting at the charming village of Gorkhey or Raman. The following day, continue on to Rimbik. The best season for the Singalila Ridge trek is either April and May when the flora is at its finest or October and November, though it will be bitterly cold at that time.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.