Darjeeling internationally acclaimed as one of the best hill resorts is also a veritable paradise for trekkers and adventure seekers. Trekking in Darjeeling is an experience which no lover of nature should miss. It takes one to places where nature is yet in her premival majesty. It brings one face to face with the sublime grandeur of the Himalayas.
The region abounds in rhododendrons,magnolias,primulas,orchids and ferns of numerous varities. About six hundred different species of birds inhabit the emerald green forests on the slopes of the mountains. The following is a brief description of some of the most popular and most rewarding treks in the region.
(a) Darjeeling-Maneybhanjyang-Tonglu-Sandakphu and return by the same route-118 km (4 days)
This trek is perhaps one of the best and certainly the most popular of all the treks in Darjeeling for those having a limited time at their disposal. It offers the travellers an excellent view of the Kanchenjunga and the Everest group of mountain peaks in Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan.
It is advisable to start the trek early in the day and to cover ther distance from Darjeeling to Maneybhanjyang about 26 km. by jeep/buses. One can also go upto Sukhiapokhri, halfway from Darjeeling since transport to this point is easily available and from here to Maneybhanjyang either by jeep/buses or one can even trek from here to Maneybhanjyang(4 km). The drive from Darjeeling to Sukhiapokhri is about one hour and from there to Maneybhanjyang another half an hour.
Maneybhanjyang to Tonglu is a steep climb up to Meghma 7 km or 3.5 hrs. walk. There is a small tea house where tea and snacks are available at reasonable price(if necessary, accomodation is also available at Meghma Tea House). Meghma is a small hamlet with few houses & small Monastery & impressive Chorten(stupa). Meghma to Tonglu is anothere 2 kms.
Tonglu or the local name Tumling is 3070 mt. high and is one of peaks of Singalila range, falls on the West of Darjeeling town. On a clear day one can get a fine view of the Nepalese valleys and of the plains of North Bengal with the snow fed Teesta on the east, the Koshi on the West and a number of smaller rivers between them. There is a Trekkers Hut at Tonglu.
The next day's march from Tonglu to Gairibas 2621 mt. is downhill. The distance is 9 km and it is 2 hrs. walk. The route passes through the bamboo glades. Gairibas to Kalipokhri 3170 mt. is continuous climb through the rhododendron forest. Distance is 6 km and it takes 3 hrs. walk from Gairibas. Trekkers may stop here for a while for a tea break. There is a small pond at Kalipokhri which means 'Blackpond'. The colour of the water is black and muddy and it never freezes. From Kalipokhri the road descends to Bikhaybhanjyang-valley of poison-(Aconites grow in abundance at this place). Bikhaybhanjyang to Sandakphu is a steep climb of 4 kms. and takes more than an hour to cover this trek. Accomodation is also available at Bikhaybhanjyang and Gairibas. There is a trekkers hut at Gairibas.
Sandakphu 3636 mtr. is 58 km. from Darjeeling and commands one of the most spectacular views. In the foreground is a great basin set in the midst of the hills, the slopes covered with rhododendrons and silver fir trees. In the background is continuous barrier of snowy mountains, the most prominent of which is Kanchenjunga-28156 ft. 8598 mts. towering up in gigantic height and breadth with its attendant peaks Kabru 7338 mts. 24,026 ft, Jano (Kumbhakarna) 7710 mts. 25,294 ft. and Pandim 6691 mts. 22,010 ft. clustering closely round it. Kabru is foreshortened and does not present the same graceful outline above the spectacle with its lofty peak standing up like a great icy horn. Far off to the west at a distance of 160 km. among a group of other snowy mountain rising from graceful peaks of Everest group can be seen,behind the crest of Mt. Makalu, which looks like a great armed chair of snow; and further to the west towards Nepal, there is a wonderful square mass of mountain looking like a wal of snow Chamlang 7317m-24006 ft. The contrast between Everest and Kanchenjunga is very marked. Kanchenjunga is remarkable for its imposing bulk and massive proportions while Everest soaring above a series of valleys and its ridges, is more graceful and majestic. The space between the two is occupied by snowy ranges. Three Sisters which cluster together if you look towards east beyond Kanchenjunga you will see Narsing and then the Dongkya and Chola ranges of the Tibetan frontier with Chumalhari lifting up to its heads in the rear. The whole snowy ranges of Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal about 320 kms in length; is visible, but the panoroma is completely dominated by the Kanchenjunga and Everest group.
Kanchenjunga-correctly spelt is Khangchendzonga is the third highest mountain in the world means "Five Treasures of the Great Snow" and is a guardian deity of the Sikkimese.
From the middle of April til 1st week of June this region blushes with rhododendron bloom and spread with carpet of lovely primula and other alpine flowers. Trekkers can stay at the Trekkers Hut in Sandakphu.
The return march to Maneybhanjyang may be accomplished either in a day or two breaking journey either at Gairibas or Tonglu, depending on the physical condition of the Trekkers and the time at his disposal. If the first alternative is chosen, the journey must commence latest by 7 a.m. It takes about 8 hours of continous march to Maneybhanjyang
Upto Sandakphu is in route 1 (a)
If the trekkers have sufficient time next day they can march further towards Phalut 3600 mts. It is one of the loftiest peak in the Singalila Range is situated 80 km. North West of Darjeeling town. The name Phalut is a corruption of the Lepcha word Fak-Lut or the peeled summit and appellation derived from the bare treeless slopes, which offer a great contrast to the forest clad ranges below. The peak is also called Phalilung by the local people.
The stretch from Sandakphu to Phalut is the most spectacular of the trek. The burned silver-fir forest makes most beautiful sight one will ever left come across. After walking for a little while the trekker will be followed by the Everest group on the left and Kanchenjunga range right ahead. A walk of about 4.5 hrs. from Sandakphu the trekker will come across a stone house with blown of roof on the top of a small ridge. The place is known as Sabarkum and is 14 km. from Sandakphu. An alternative place of stay is MOLLEY Trekkers Hut about 2 k.m. from Sabarkum, for those who do not want to walk to Phalut the same day. Keeping the ridge on the left follow the trail north ward. After about an hour the trail begins to climb through a series of zigzag till one reaches Trekkers' Hut. From here Phalut summit is about 20 minutes walk.
A magnificient view of snowy range is obtained from the summit which is also trijunction of Sikkim, West Bengal and Nepal. The general panorama is same as seen from Sandakphu except that KanchenJunga ranges looks much larger and closer. It is only 48 km. away as the crow flies. The trekkers will also notice on the foreground Singalila range jutting out of Kanchenjunga peak. There is a Trekkers Hut at Phalut. Trekkers can camp at Molley 1,811 mts. Phalut is 1.5 hours walk from this point
Darjeeling-Maneybhanjyang-Gairibas-Sandakphu-Phalut-Rammam-Rimbick 130 km(6 days) upto Phalut as in route no 1(a). From Phalut to Rammam therw are two routes i) via Sabarkam ii) via Gorkhey-Samandin.
To take in this route, retrace back to Sabarkum and turn left of ther roofless houses. This trail passes through the virgin forest which is steep down-hill to Rammam. This takes about 5 hrs. walk and 16 k.m. in distance. From Phalut, the right hand trail lead to Srikhola and climbs up to Daragaon and again descends to Rimbick. It takes about 8 hrs. walk and 25 k.m. in distance from Phalut.
Note : Do not venture this trail during winter i.e. November and March as it gets dark by 4 p.m. and will be difficult to find the way.
From Phalut the trail descends the ridge through the virgin forests of chestnut, pines, hemlock etc. till the trail reaches the meeting of two streams called Gorkhey Khola which is a tributary of Rammam river. It ia a beautiful place. Trekkers can enjoy the bath in the river after the hectic trek begins to climb upto Samandian-a lovely plateau and it is a small forest village. From Samandin the road descends to a small stream and again climbs up for another 1.5 hrs. to Rammam Trekkers hut. This is about 5 hours walk or 15 km. in distance from Phalut.
From Rammam the road is almost level walk for about first 9 km. and again it descends to Srikhola. The road rises steep, for about 1 k.m. where it levels out again till it reaches Rimbick. There is a small bazar at Rimbick. Incase the Trekkers desire to return to Darjeeling by bus next day, it is advisable to stay at Rimbick bazar.
Darjeeling-Rimbick-Sandakphu and back 123 kms. Four days.
From Darjeeling to Rimbick regular buses are available around 12.30 p.m. It is about 5 hrs. drive and 54 km. from Darjeeling.
Darjeeling to Rimbick regular buses and jeeps are available around 7 and 12 noon-12.30 p.m. It is about 5 hrs. drive and 54 K.M. from Darjeeling.
Next day's march, is continuous climb through the forest of firs, chestnut, hemlock as well as rhododendron. During April, May the whole slops blazes with different color of rhododendron. You will observe different types of birds in this area. The trail is continuous steep climb of 6 hrs. till you hit the main road to Sandakphu i.e. one kilometer ahead of Kalipokhari and then to Bikhaybhanjang to Sandakphu. Return trip can be accomplished via Gairibas, Maneybhanjyang or same route back to Rimbick and to Darjeeling.
Darjeeling-Tonglu or Gairibas-Sandakphu-Srikhola via Gurdum to Rimbick.
Sandakphu-Gurdum is about 3.5 hrs. walk and Gurdum to Srikhola is about 1 hr. walk. At Gurdum, which is worth spending a day, there is a private accommodation and at Srikhola there is Trekkers Hut. Srikhola to Rimbick is 2 hrs. walk whereas Gurdum to Rimbick is about 4 hrs. walk.
Darjeeling-Tiger Hill and back 26 k.m. one day trek.
There are two walking routes from the town.
(i) Tenzing Norgay Road starts from Chowrasta and passes through Toong-Soong and Aloo-Bari villages. The road is almost level and there is no vehicular traffic on this road. It meets the Hill Cart Road at Jorebungalow. From Jorebungalow the road ascendend to Tiger-Hill is 5 km.
(ii) Gandhi Road starts from Planters Club Motor stand. This road goes almost parallel to Hill Cart Road and meets the Hill Cart Road near Ghoom Railway Station.
Both the routes offer the Travellers excellent view of forests and mountains.
The Trekkers Hut under the management of DGHC Tourism, are available at Sandakphu region. Advance booking can be made through DDT,DGHC Tourism, Silver Fir, Bhanu Sarani, Darjeeling.
During these treks travellers will encounter extremes of weather. The routes pass through depths of valleys as low as 762 mts. and tops of mountains as high as 3640 mts. He will, therefore, have to arrange his clothing accordingly. For treks at lower altitudes it is sufficient to have a light sweater, shirt and trousers. At higher altitude a heavy pullover toppes by a wind-cheater is advisable. Adown jacket is very useful in high altitude. In case the trek is undertaken in winter-woollen cap and gloves are a must. A muffler may be an added advantage. A good plan is to start the trek in comfortable outfit and carry the excess clothing in ruck sack, taking them out as and when necessary.
It has been found that the most common item of complaint are shoes. In long treks the necessity of a good, durable, comfortable pair of shoes can hardly be over emphasised. Such boots as 'Hunter' of Bata may be used. It is advisable to wear the shoes for some days prior to the trek. Remember to carry a few extra pairs of thick socks.
No matter what time the trek is undertaken a light raincoat must from an essential part of the outfit. This may be folded and put into the ruck sack when not in use. Weather may be unpredictable, particularly in higher altitudes.
Although caretakers of some of the Trekkers' Hut provide simple rice and dal at nominal rates, travellers must carry their own provisions. It is difficult to give extra advice on this subject as tastes vary, but broadly speaking the food should be such as can be easily carried and will keep in warmer climate. Tinned food, such as skinless sausages, packet or tin packed soup, cheese, peanut, butter, baked beans etc. will be helpful. Hard boiled eggs and bread may be taken as an advantage, rice and dal are excellent items. These may be cooked with ease at any place. it is essential to carry to packet of salt as this is a rare commodity at the higher altitude. For hot drinks tea or instant coffee, condensed milk and sugar may also be carried. It is suggested to carry a packet of Glucose powder which help to give energy while on trek. Rice, dal, eggs, chicken, onions and potatoes can be purchased enroute at most places through they are likely to be expensive. There are small tea shops enroute to Sandakphu, at places like Meghma, Gairibas, Kalpokhri, Gorkhey, Rammam,Srikhola and Rimbick.
It is safe to drink spring water in the high altitudes. However it is advisable to carry water purifying tablets. Some brand names such as PINATAB and ZEOLIN 200 are easily available at the Chemist Shops at Darjeeling. Do carry a water bottle.
Trekking equipments such as sleeping bag rucksack are available on hire from Adventure Sports Office, Lowis Jubilee Complex, Dr. S.K. Paul Road, Darjeeling.
The best months to trek in this region are April, May and October-November. During April-May there may be occasional showers. But this disadvantage would be fully compensated by the beauty of flowers, especially rhododendrons. Sometimes due to prolonged monsoons, there may be occasional rains during the first half of the month of October. But November is generally dry and visibility is excellent. First half of December is also good, though rather cold; besides that there are occasional snow falls.