Epic mountain views for a relatively easy trek along the top of a ridge!
This is an underrated trek due it being in India, and not in Nepal. Although it starts near Darjeeling, many opt to take a Jeep along Singalila Ridge instead of trekking it.
This trek starts about 1 hour from Darjeeling in a mountain village called Manebhanjang, accessible from Darjeeling bus stand. Guides are mandatory for this trek. The office for the Highlanders Guides and Porters Association in this village offers guides, who are ready right away, and we got one on the spot.
The trek lasts 4-5 days and goes entirely along Singalila Ridge, which skirts the India-Nepal border. We did it in 4 days. There are border checks at most villages so bring your passport.
The mountain views are breathless during sunrise and the first half of the day, before the clouds take over. Starting morning of day 3 in Sandakhpur, the sunrise provides sweeping panoramas dominated by Kanchenjunga, the third tallest mountain in the world. In the distance Everest, Lhotse and Makalu can be seen, the first, fourth and fifth tallest mountains, respectively. Also in the distance, Tibet’s mountains can be seen, and Chomolheri Mountain in Bhutan can be seen; that’s four countries at one time!
The walk during day 3 from Sandakhpur to Phalut provides the same views, occasionally blocked by hills, but by afternoon the clouds cover it all up. Day 4 sunrise in Phalut provides even closer panoramas!
We did the trek in early November, and the evenings and mornings were very cold and windy, especially in Sandakhpur and Phalut, which are both around 3600 m elevation. Lodges don’t always provide enough blankets, plus the standard Nepali blankets are really short! It may help to bring your own sleeping bag to supplement. The other time of year to do it is late March and April before the monsoons.
Day 3 (Sandakhpur to Phalut) and day 4 (Phalut to Rammam) hikes each have only one lunch stop on the way, after 15 km, so make sure to eat a hearty breakfast or pack snacks and water.
Overall the trek is fairly easy, though the hiking days are long (we averaged around 20 km per day) if you do it in 4 days, but the trail winds mostly along dirt roads, with occasional steep hills. Vehicles primarily serve local villages and are a rare sight and do not detract from the hike.
Guides are mandatory to trek in Singalila Ridge National Park. The fee for the guide was 1000 rupees per day all in (or 700 rupees per day plus food and lodging). Entrance to the National Park is 200 rupees per person, and 100 rupees for the entire group if it intends to take photos.
Lodges averaged between 500 and 1000 per room. Government lodges can be cheaper but the quality and atmosphere sometimes leaves something to be desired. Throw in meals (limited items – lots of rice, potatoes and lentils!) between 70 and 150 rupees per day, and the trek averaged out to $15-20 CAD per day for 3 people.
- Backpack, Headlamp, Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bag was worth it because they don't always provide and have enough blankets for the cold nights.
Guide is necessary for 1000 rupees per day. Food gets more expensive in the more remote villages.
Jeep before and after trek, to and from Darjeeling is 130-200 rupees per person each way.