For an independent traveler or trekker who wants to visit Phawngpui, the highest peak in Mizoram, there’s very little information available online. The very few available written by visitors from other states and foreign tourists left many questions unanswered or are outdated. How to get to the base camp? What about permission, guide?
I therefore decided to go Phawngpui myself and find out.
For the man in a hurry, here is a quick guide. There are three routes to the peak. From Sangau, Vawmbuk and Lungpher or Siachangkawn. The path from Lungpher and Siachangkawn meets at some point and it is the shortest route to the peak. It is a long 20km trek to the peak from Sangau. If you drive, there’s a jeep road from Sangau to Farpâk from where it is 7km trek to the peak one way. From the peak it took us 2 hours to descend to Vawmbuk village.
You can stay at the Government Tourist at Sangau and Vawmbuk. There is a Sumo(Maxi Cab) service to Sangau from Aizawl and Saiha. Lungpher, Siachangkawn and Vawmbuk are also connected by Sumo service from Saiha and Sangau. It is advisable you take a guide from Sangau. The tourist lodge staff can arrange it.
Phawngpui National Park
Phawngpui or Blue Mountain as the British named it is the highest peak in Mizoram. It stands 2157 meters tall only above the sea level. Rather low but as Micah said “The mountains or hills of Mizoaram make up for what they lack in height with shear quantity making it the state with the fewest acres of flat land in India“. I can’t backup the “the state with the fewest acres of flat land in India” for a fact but he is in general quite right.
Phawngpui became a protected area in 1997 and hence called Phawngpui National Park or PNP for short. It lies close to the Burma border in South Mizoram in Lawngtlai District which is also an autonomous dictrict council. It covers an area of 50 sqr. kms according to the map I see at the rest house at Farpâk. Actually more after the park boundary was redrawn, according to my guide. Till now it is under the care of the Environment and Forest Department of Mizoram but there are talks of the Lai Autonomous District Council Forest taking over.
The word Phawngpui is derived from the Lai word Phongpi meaning Phulpui in Mizo which means grassland in English. There are a couple of almost level grasslands in Phawngpui area, one of them being Farpâk, a wide open space with an area of 253 sqr. meters. It is pronounced like “far park” without the r in park. Farpâk in Lai langauge means single pine tree. There is a story behind it and I am going to have Roshni tell you.
I have another post entirely dedicated to Farpâk with lots of photos.
Sangau is the most used basecamp by Phawngpui visitors. It is connected by sumo(maxi cab) service from Aizawl, Lunglei and Saiha. I stayed at the Tourist Lodge in Sangau which is the default accommodation for most Phawngpui visitors. The other option is the Forest Rest House.
There is a 14km dirt road from Sangau to Farpâk. The road passes through Sentetfiang and Thaltlang villages. Beyond Thaltlang the road is even narrower.
From Sangau you may visit Tuipui river via Pangkhua. Tiau Chhuah where two rivers Tiau and Tuipui meets to form the mighty Kaladan aka Kolodyne aka Chhumtuipui is a nice spot for a picnic. The locals say the wave created by two strong currents in monsoon at Tiau Chhuah is quite a sight. You can also do a short trek along the river banks. If you don’t have a vehicle the options are to trek or hitch a ride in a sand lorry. It took us 4 hours to trek down to Tuipui.
Trekking to Farpâk and the Peak
Most people I know who went to Phawngpui haven’t been to the peak. They have been to Farpâk only and they don’t trek but go by vehicle. Beyond Farpâk, to the peak, the only option is trekking.
I chose to trek since I didn’t have a vehicle and I like trekking. I made two trips. The first time till Farpâk and back to Sangau. The second time all the way to the peak and down to Vawmbuk.
It took me and the guide 4 hours to reach Farpâk strictly following the jeep road. You may stick to the jeep road or take a few short cuts. The peak is further 2 hours trek or 7km from Farpâk.
Beyond Farpâk, it’s a footpath to the peak passing through thick forests. At times I had to crawl with my 50 litre backpack to escape the obstruction from above. Unlike trekking in the Western Ghats, I couldn’t see the peak for most part of the way. We walked and walked and finally came out to a clearing at the edge of a cliff with a great view. There’s a broken concrete tower. That’s the peak.
From the peak, we trekked for another 2 hours to reach Vawmbuk village. Though there’s a lodge my guide took me to his relative’s house. The next morning we boarded a sumo and I proceeded to Saiha. My guide got off at Siachangkawn and returned to Sangau.
If you are hell bent on making it to the peak from Sangau and back, it is doable but be warned it is a 20km trek one way and you won’t have sufficient time to explore Farpâk. The cliff at Farpâk namely Thlazuang Kham is something you should not miss on your trip to Phawngpui.
Therefore my advice is to descend to Vawmbuk, Siachangkawn or Lungpher from the peak. Otherwise drive upto Farpâk.
You could also hike to the peak from Vawmbuk, Siachangkawn or Lungpher. There are daily trips by sumo to these places from Sangau and Saiha.
Guide and Permission
You have too pay a small entrance fees at the check post in each route.
On paper you are required to trek with a guide but it doesn’t look like this is strictly enforced. Though I do recommend you avail one. The fee is 200 rupees for Indians and 400 for foreigners per day only. Pu Khara at Tourist Lodge can arrange a guide for you.
Most likely it would be Pu Chhanuka, a Forest staff himself and President of Phawngpui Tourist Guide Association. Contact: +919436970923. He is a very hard man to reach on the phone due to very bad signal at Sangau.
Sangau, base camp for Phawngpui is a 1000 house village.
The tourist lodge at Sangau is manned by a single staff Pu Khara assisted by his family. Contact: +919402590418. Prior reservation is not necessary but I recommend you give him a call if you are travelling in group because food is provided on demand only.
Throughout my stay it was candlelit dinner at Sangau. Power cut was the order of the day and early night.
Pu Khara cutting veggies in the dark.
On Roopkund trek in Uttarakhand, our guide Lokesh said “In the mountain the successful people are the early starters”.
Trekking starts at daybreak.
Sentetfiang, the first village on the way to Phawngpui is less than 30 minutes walk from Sangau. The village was formerly located inside the park and shifted to the current location when Phawngpui was declared a national park.
About half and hour walk after Sentetfiang, there is a footpath to the entrance gate of the park bypassing Thaltlang. Pu Chhanuka pointing the shortcut route.
The road to Thaltlang.
A sign welcomes us in Lai langauge.
It was here at Thaltlang that the religious group known as “Vanawia Pawl” stayed before they migrated to Mizoram west and further to Bangladesh.
You pay the fees here. Forest check post, Thaltlang. It’s an uphill trek from here.
You are entering Phawngpui National Park. Do make noise. Don’t shout. Don’t cut and plug anything. Do not throw garbage. Leave your footprint and only your footprint alone.
A break in the shade.
A cup of tea.
Out in the open on the ridge and in the cover of trees, we walked.
What is the best time to visit Phawngpui?
Those who had been there done that will tell you February to March when rhododendrons (chhawkhlei) bloom is the best time. I would say whenever you have the time. Do keep it mind the park is closed in the monsoon from May on wards but if you talk to the Forest staff I think they will still allow you. No strict policing unlike the Bandipur and Nagarhole of Karnataka.
As I am not much of a flower fan, I careless if rhododendrons bloom. However, at the time of my visit in late january they were already blooming. So unless your purpose is to see rhododendrons bloom, don’t listen to these people.
What is the least possible time needed to visit Phawngpui from Aizawl?
During the Christmas holiday of 2012, with two friends we drove towards Lunglei with a plan to visit Phawngpui. We dropped the plan due to lack of time. Also because we assumed it would take one whole day to go Phawngpui. This isn’t true. The real reason is because our friend Ela has too many ex-girlfriends at Lunglei and he wanted to meet them all.
Sangau is a day’s journey from Aizawl via Thenzawl, Serchhip, Hnahthial, Darzo. You could drive to Farpâk in the morning and be back to Sangau before noon. Return to Aizawl after lunch. If you wish to make it to the peak as well, plan your journey such that you arrive before 3 at Sangau and drive straight to Farpâk. The next morning drive to Lungpher and climb. You could climb to the peak and be back in 4-5 hours from here. Almost it is going to be a long drive back to Aizawl into the night. If you drive to Farpâk early enough, maybe you will have the time to trek to the peak.
I will share more photos and stories of Phawngpui in a series of upcoming blog posts.