A HIMALAYAN ODYSSEY

Discover India|March - April 2020

A HIMALAYAN ODYSSEY
A trek to the highest peak in West Bengal, Sandakphu, rewards you with incredible views of Mount Everest and oodles of adventure.
BINDU GOPAL RAO

WHERE CAN YOU see Mount Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, and Makalu mountains in one sweeping perspective? The answer is Sandakphu in West Bengal. Bordering Nepal in the Eastern Himalayas, this is the place where you can see four of the highest mountains in the world at close quarters and in all their pristine beauty, while embarking on a trek amid natural vistas. A popular joke that runs among the locals here is that this is the place where you can have breakfast in India, lunch in Nepal, and dinner in China. Needless to say, Sandakphu promises a Himalayan adventure like no other.

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE

“Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other… again, and again, and again. And if you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.” This anonymous quote is probably the best way to describe Sandakphu. Located in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, it is the highest point of the Singalila Ridge on the West Bengal-Nepal Border. If you are a nature lover, there is little doubt that the Sandakphu trek, which takes about three days and is considered one of the easier treks to do, will appeal to you. The trek begins at an altitude of 2,286 metres and ascends to a staggering 3,636 metres at Sandakphu, taking you through several beautiful landscapes along the way. The word Sandakphu translates to ‘height of the poison plants’, after the poisonous aconite plants that grow here. You can recognise the plant from its small purple-blue flowers; its roots however, are used in medicine.

NUANCES OF NATURE

Sandakphu has something unique to offer in every season. For instance, during spring, the fiery rhododendrons are in full bloom and the whole place is bathed in hues of red, pink, and white. Giant magnolias and primula bloom alongside. This place has the highest concentration of orchids in a single geographical area in the world—a staggering 600 varieties! If you can bear the intense cold, winter will reward you with undulating snowscapes, frozen rivers, and waterfalls. Autumn is the best time to see the panoramic Himalayan ranges, courtesy of perfectly clear skies.

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March - April 2020