Sleeping Budhdha

Sandakphu by Car: Riding the Vintage Land Rovers

Sandakphu is regarded as the most famous trekking route of West Bengal. The stellar, panoramic view of some of the highest peaks of the Himalayas, the pristine beauty of the verdant mountain valleys, and a beautiful road have turned Sandakphu into one of the most sought after trekking trails of India. However, do you know it is also possible to visit Sandakphu by car? Continue reading this post to find out!

Sandakphu Sleeping Buddha
The Sleeping Buddha from Sandakphu.

Sandakphu is located on the Indo-Nepal border. It is the highest peak of the Singalila range of the Eastern Himalayas. For a detailed itinerary of Sandakphu, visit our blog

The most popular way of traveling to and fro Sandakphu is trekking. The trekking route starts from Manebhanjang, which is about 25 kms away from Darjeeling. The 31 kms of trekking route passes through the Singalila National Park. However, trekking is not the only option as the road is motorable too.

Road to Sandakphu
The precarious road leading to Sandakphu.

Road conditions in Sandakphu:

The paved road exists till Gairibas. It gets trickier and bumpier from hereon, nearing dangerous at times. Steep accents and precarious bends characterize the road. Furthermore, boulders and loose gravels make the road trickier. The journey is jumpy, dizzying, and back-breaking. It can only be completed by sturdy SUVs.

Road to Sandakphu
Paved road is available till Gairibas.

What kind of vehicles are available in Sandakphu:

Land Rovers are the regular means of transportation here. They hail from the colonial period and are aged about 70-80 years. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Sandakphu trail is the Land Rovers. These vehicles are sturdy and perfect for perilous roads.

Recently, a few Boleros are also plying. More the thrillseekers, driving on your own will be an experience to cherish forever. However, before planning a road trip, do check with the local authorities about whether private vehicles are permitted as the rules keep changing.

Posing with the iconic Land Rover is a must!

About the Land Rovers:

The British tea planters originally brought the Land Rovers. They used them to visit various tea gardens through the rugged roads. After India’s independence, the British left the country, leaving behind the Land Rovers. At present, about 40 Land Rovers ply on the Sandakphu trail.

Land Rover interior
Vintage Classic!

How to book Land Rovers:

The vintage Land Rovers of Sandakphu are iconic. No wonder, Sandakphu is aptly described as the “Land of Land Rovers”.

Maneybhanjang is where Land Rovers need to be booked. The stand is located just at the end of the bustling market. A board displays the tariff and registration numbers of the vehicles that ply on this route.

Land Rover booking centre
The Land Rover booking counter at Maneybhanjang.

What are the charges for booking Land Rovers:

Charges are fixed. However, they vary in accordance with the number of night halts. We had booked Land Rover for two nights and we paid INR 7,000. We paid an extra INR 300 for dropping us off at Gurdum.

Land Rover
The sturdy Land Rover and our daring driver.

Pros and cons of travelling by car to Sandakphu:

The most important advantage is obviously saving time on the road. The distance between Maneybhanjang and Sandakphu is 31 kms. Cars help to cover this road quickly. If you are running short on leaves (just like us), Land Rovers (or Boleros) will be the real saver in Sandakphu. Also, for those who have trouble trekking, the availability of vehicles on the Sandakphu trail is a real blessing.

However, it comes with its own limitations. First, traveling in the car means major missing out on the fun of trekking. Trekking on this route helps to understand and enjoy the place and its nature more closely. Secondly, since the road is dicey in Sandakphu, the journey by car is taxing on the body. It will be an understatement to describe the journey as uncomfortable. It’s excruciating. At times, we felt like ditching the Land Rover and walk towards our destination.

Road in Sandakphu
The road leading to Tonglu’s Trekker’s Hut.

The Floating Pebbles