Tonglu, Sandakphu and Falut are one of the best places chosen by trekkers not only in West Bengal and India but from the world. The stupendous picturesque beauty of the Himalayan landscape, the local lives of the villagers and the view of the amazing flora and fauna are the true attraction of the trekkers heading to these destinations belonging to the Darjeeling sub-division of the state of West Bengal.
Nowadays, according to various travel magazines and travelogues, Tonglu is a budget trekking spot. It can be accomplished within 3-4 days. A weekend is enough to cover this trek as estimated by experienced sources.
Tonglu, located at 3,016 m is one of the higher peaks of the Singalila Ridge and is traced inside the Singalila National Park very close to the Nepal border. It’s a small village in between Sandakphu and Manebhanjan. The breathtaking backdrop of the Kanchenjunga and the hearty hospitality can really be a wonderful experience for the trekkers. Particularly the full moon nights flooded with the newly born moon on the Kanchenjunga creates a heavenly aura. The no moon dark nights are also perfect to enjoy the starry nights. Besides the sunrise and sunsets are worth mentioning here.
Trekking through the Eastern Himalayan forests can be an experience of the lifetime. The best time to trek here is from mid-September and December and again between March and April to witness the rhododendrons and magnolias blooming across the road. The trekking can also be a great experience for bird and animal lovers. The lucky ones get a chance to see the glimpses of rare species of birds and animals while they are walking up towards Tonglu. Scarlet Minivet, Kalij, Pheasant, satyr tragopan, blood pheasant, parrotbills, fire tailed myzornis etc are the rare bird species that are often found there. Trekkers can also enjoy the amazing orchids that bloom across the forest. Mammals like red panda, barking deer, pangolin, wild boars, wild-cats and leopards are also there in the dense forest. The amazing aroma of around 600 types of orchids mesmerizes the journey of the long walkers.
Practically, Tonglu village is the night stop for trekkers to the Sandakphu. The best way to reach Tonglu is via Dhotre, which is said to be the starting point towards Sandakphu. The 5 Km trek route through the forests of Tonglu can be adventurous and thrilling as well. Trekking across the Mount Kanchenjunga, Mount Makalu and Mount Pandim will ease the tough journey with the soothing climate and amazing scenic beauty that trekkers will enshrine in their heart.
The route is closed from June to September for climatic reasons. Again in December, March and April the travelers are recommended to trek here.
Sandakphu, the highest point of the Singalila Ridges is famous for the heavenly beauty and the view of the Eastern Himalayan ranges crossing the borders of Nepal and Bhutan. At an altitude of 3,636 m, this point is 58 Kms from Darjeeling.
Journey through Sandakphu is no less than passing through the Garden of Eden. The slopes are covered with rhododendrons, silver firs, pines and oaks. At the background, the towering white cliff of Kanchenjunga at 28156 ft. 8598 mts creates a panoramic view. Mount Kabru 7,338 m, mount Kumbhakarna 7,710 m and mount Pandim 6,691 m are some of the worth mentioning peaks of this range that trekkers watch. Kabru is well-known for creating the icy horn. From Sandakphu, trekkers can witness the Everest ranges clearly. After a long walk starting from Manbhanjan, travelers finally reaches the destiny of the trekking when they reach Sandakphu.
At Sandakphu trekkers have to stop at the Trekker’s Hut or at the forest bungalows and different hotels out there. It will be better to pre-book during rush hours.
Phalut is the highest peak of West Bengal (3,600 m). After 6 hours of walking i.e 21 kms trekkers reach this spot and this is much closer to the mount Kanchenjunga. This is the right place to hold one’s thoughts. Trekking from Sandakphu to Phalut is the most incredible journey. Crossing through the thick oak, pine and rhododendron forests can be a mesmerizing moment of the lifetime. The roaming around of the yak heard and their roofless homes on the small hill in Sabarkum should not be missed.
The local tribes are called as Falutians and they have a history of 300 years of worshipping the mountain range. They have a strong believe that Phalut is the invincible God and they call the peak “Omna Re Ay".
Altogether it can be a great experience, far from the bustling city life and enjoying the perfect time trekking with best friends, or with family.
There should be sufficient winter garments such as jackets, woolens and blankets to fight the cold, if someone is planning for a December trekking. Besides, some medicines, sunglasses, sunscreen lotions, anti-mosquito ointments, medicines, sugar-salt pouches, glucose, biscuits, dry fruits, bottle, spoon, glass and torch.
Train from Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri. From there take a taxi to Manbhanjan and the distance is around 94 kilometers. From there the actual trek starts.
The Trekker’s hut and lodges are available to rest at nights.
Trekkers have to take proper permission from the Singalila National Park Visitor’s Center and they will have to pay INR Rs. 100 per head plus INR 100 for still photography and INR Rs. 400 for videography. Till Sandakphu/Rimbik it is a 7 day tour for which the guides will charge INR Rs. 2,800 approx.