Sandakphu -Not far from the renowned hills of Darjeeling, in the sublime northern mountains of West-Bengal, precariously close and sometimes interspersing the borders with Nepal, exists a pristine region of eastern Himalayas.
Harmoniously spread majorly in West Bengal, Sikkim and partly far-western Nepal, the Singalila Ridge, stretching north to south, separates the ranges of Bengal from the other east-Himalayan ranges west henceforth. Enveloping this rolling mountainous ridge with untouched perennial greenery and sheltering some immaculate wildlife within, prevails the Singalila National Park. The pinnacle of this forested ridge is Sandakphu.
Sandakphu, literally means ‘Peak of the poison plants’. The nomenclature can be accredited to the bloom of some poisonous genus of plants nearby. One is the ‘Aconitus’, a perennial shrub, the roots of which have been used as medicine since time immemorial while its bright purplish-blue flowers and leaves can be lethally toxic if consumed imprudently. Another is the ‘Himalayan Cobra Lilies’ which also abound the area.
Sandakphu is a prominent name in the trekker’s world as a light-moderate trek. It is the summit of the Singalila Ridge and the National Park, at an elevation of 11,930 ft. Which also makes it the highest point in the state of West Bengal. It’s so special?
What is so special?
What makes this small hamlet on top of a ridge a place not to miss in the eastern Himalayas is the fact that from here on a clear morning, especially at the wee hours when dawn breaks, 4 out of the 5 highest peaks of the world can be seen as part of an unworldly 180° panorama.
Apart from all five lofts of the Sleeping Buddha (Mt. Kanchenjunga, 28,169 feet, third highest), Mt. Everest (29,029 feet, highest), Lhotse (27,940 feet, fourth highest) and Makalu (27,838 feet, fifth highest) are visible sparkling spectacularly in the golden hue at sunrise.
Incredibly the view stretching from west to east, consists peaks from Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim, Bhutan and as far as Arunachal. It is a humbling experience to witness the sunrise from here when the dazzle of bright red-pink-golden hues screech apart the darkness reflecting on the gigantic snowy mountains over waving clouds engulfing the valley below.
Sunsets are equally enchanting but generally, the views in the morning are clearer. There are separate sunrise and sunset points in Sandakphu for that matter.