Travel Blog India
Gangotri is synonymous with old age, with Godly affair, with Char Dham Yatra, being a place to get rid of all your sins. No doubt, Gangotri is all of this but there is something more to Gangotri aswell. Something, that brave hearts do, something that people with in-built adrenaline do, something that people with a loose nut do or maybe crazy is the word to use. Whatever, you call them or in this case us, I will still go ahead and give 5 reasons for Gangotri travel in winters. Winters is a total off-season with no one in sight, with even the villagers retreating to lower altitude towns. But then maybe that’s the fun, the push required to climb the altitude when the rest of the inhabitants are invisible and the intelligent people (pun intended) are planning their vacations to coastal regions or warmer continents. Read along and find out why we did what we did.
Here are 5 reasons to visit Harsil-Dharali-Gangotri in winters and they are totally out of my personal experience.
1. No chaos, No one in sight.
We visited Gangotri on the 26th Jan weekend and the world was zooming in Nainital, Mussorie and Shimla. After the Rishikesh razzmatazz, the roads became empty and enjoyable. The route to Uttarkashi, which is chaotic during the Yatra time is a clean swipe during off-season. The only attraction on this route is Gangotri and Uttarkashi is not a tourist hub. It becomes a pleasure to drive in the hills and the roads are well- maintained barring some patches. The mountains are comparatively stable at this side and even a non- mountain driver like me drove for good 10 kms.
2. The Snow Blizzard.
You have to be lucky to experience this. We Delhi-ites see the worst of all seasons- evaporating hot in summers and icy cold in winters. But there is no snow. The first sight of snow is like finding some treasure in a lost lane. You just want to jump out of the car but wait, there is more to come. All the movie snowy scenes start ringing in your sub-conscious and I can bet every girl will feel like Kajol in DDLJ or Geet in Jab We Met. And I was on an all time high this time with non-stop singing- Itna mazaa kyo aa raha hai and feeling each word by heart. You may or may not witness the snow fall. We were lucky enough to be through a snow blizzard but irrespective, enjoying the snow, playing in the snow is the most cherished experience. Forget your worries, forget everything back home, forget your age, forget your boss and even forget your mom-in-law (Haha, every girl would agree). Just enjoy jumping and playing in the snow and be yourself.
3. Go rustic, back to the roots.
Off-beat holidays are all that. With minimum luxury and maximum survival instincts, make the most of what is available. A hot cup of tea is a luxury, finding a packet of lays is a luxury and feeling yourself is a luxury. Don’t panic, make some faces, it’s ok but enjoy the available basics. With most of the dhabas closed, eat at the limited open ones on the way. For vegetarians, maggie and paranthas are available on the way. Non- vegetarians have omelette option throughout. And yes, garam chai ki piali is everywhere.
4. Feel the silence.
When was the last time you felt it? Soak it here! With no horns, no full blast music, no shoutings, the only sound you hear is that of the breeze. Talk to yourself, talk to your friends along and talk your heart out. These are rare chances of a heart to heart talk.
5. Just for kicks.
Sometimes somethings have to be done for a kick. This is certainly one of them. And my guarantee, you will never come back the same.
Word of Caution:
- Be prepared: mentally and physically before you go.
- Carry all your medicines along. Proper medical help is only at Uttarkashi.
- Carry some basic food along.
- Be properly clothed in layers and carry gloves, thermals, scarves, caps.
- Snow driving is not easy. Preferable mode of transport is a 4X4. The driver has to be a pro in mountain driving. We had to take a U turn 8 kms before Gangotri because of hard ice, the day was an exception otherwise travellers go all the way up on bikes and cars. Carry a basic car repair, tyre puncture kit too.
- Travel with an expert. We travelled with Mr Tilak Soni from Where Eagles Dare. Mr Soni conducts frequent winter trips and treks to Gangotri. Based in Uttarkashi, he conducts customized hiking/trekking/exploration trips to the high and remote Himalayas, rafting/kayaking in those tumultuous mountain rivers, exploring the back-roads of the Himalayan hills on motorcycles, wellness camps for the corporate or institutions or even holy pilgrimages on ancient traditional routes. WHERE EAGLES DARE is available and capable of making it all happen just as you’ve imagined or wished.
Our trip in brief:
Day 1: The 4 of us started from Delhi by road to reach Uttarkashi in the evening. Welcome by Mr Tilak Soni with awesome food including chai and pakodas at his den in Uttarkashi. Night stay at Hotel Shivlinga.
Day 2: Easy start at 10 am to Harsil Valley and Dharali. Harsil is a village on the way to Gangotri, 73 km from Uttarkashi. At a height of 7860 ft from sea level, Harsil is a cantonment area on the banks of Bhagirathi river. Dharali is a hamlet situated along the river and known for its apple orchards. Dharali is ahead of Harsil and has a beautiful river line. The Shiva Temple is a must see and one can climb down to the river from there.
The 4 of us and Mr Soni started from Uttarkashi for Dharali. The phone signals went away in 20 minutes from Uttarkashi. Away from the world, we were making our own world. And with the first sign of snow, we knew the fun coming ahead. We put on brakes at Dharali and got on the enormous snow patch to play, to fight like kids, to run in the snow, to hit each other with snow balls. The 5 kids and their eyes of the tigers.
Night stay: We stayed at Dharali, thanks to Mr Soni. The village has many hotels but all were closed due to off- season. Mr Soni arranged for a hotel and ensured a fabulous night with bonfire and star gazing. Other option to stay is GMVN Harsil which is opened throughout the year. The night was called at 6’o clock with sun setting. The next 4 hours went away along the fire side in- between endless chatter and laughter. With no phone signals and no one else in the village but the 5 of us, we made a night to remember.
Day 3: We woke up to a heavy snow fall. O Boy! what a feel! Totally out of paradise. With morning tea and full vigour and a Big Thank to the Almighty for such a spectacular morning, we started for Gangotri. About 8 kms from Gangotri, we had to take a U turn because of hard ice on the road. A 4X4 would have managed. We did feel bad but weather and road conditions can always alter the plans in mountains. We head back for Uttarkashi at ease with frequent stops for playing in the snow. By evening we reached back and Mr Soni again treated us to sumptuous food and hospitality at his den. Night stay at Hotel Shivlinga.
Day 4: Non-stop journey from Uttarkashi to Delhi with one halt at Rishikesh for food.
How to reach Gangotri?
By road: Delhi- Modinagar- Muzaffarnagar- Roorkee-Haridwar- Rishikesh- New Tehri- Uttarkashi- Gangotri.
By Train: Last railway station at Rishikesh. Ahead on road.
Airport: Nearest at Dehradun. Ahead by cab on road.
Distance: 450 kms between Delhi and Uttarkashi. Time taken: 10-12 hours depending upon the traffic, weather, breaks taken on the way.
Uttarkashi to Gangotri: 98 kms. 2-2.5 hours.
Where to stay in Gangotri in winters?
Hotel Shivlinga at Uttarkashi. Nice & clean hotel with all the basic facilities.
GMVN Tourist Rest House at Harsil. Basic facilities available. GMVN is the only option for tourists that is opened throughout the year.
Else, connect with Mr Tilak Soni for a customised trip.
- Gangotri is a very famous Yatra Dham for devotees.
- Season time: April end/May beginning to Diwali in Oct/Nov. The idol of the Hindu River Goddess Ganga (Ganges) is brought down from the shrine at Gangotri in the upper Himalayas after Diwali and kept at ‘Mukhba’ village near Harsil. It remains there throughout the winter when Gangotri is snowbound and inaccessible.
- For winter treks and trips to Gangotri, travellers pay their respect from the outside of the temple.
- Vehicles go till Gangotri. During season time, there are many tourist lodges and home stays near the shrine.
- Gangotri during season time: One day travel from Uttarkashi- Gangotri- Uttarkashi.
The last time I visited Gangotri was in April, just before the Dham opened for Yatris. It was a memorable experience then and a memorable experience now. Gangotri photos of both the trips bring back enormous memories.