One of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in northern India, Gangotri is one of the Char Dhams. Situated in the Uttarkashi region of Uttarakhand, Gangotri is a quaint town with the temple of Goddess Ganga at its heart. Nestled amongst lofty Garhwal Himalayan peaks, dense pine forests and glaciers, Gangotri is a 12-hour drive away from Rishikesh. It is one of the highest pilgrimages in India located at a height of 3,415 metres above sea level.
Other than stunning surroundings, Gangotri offers a divine atmosphere. Gangotri, the most sacred of all rivers, descended from Vaikuntha or heaven on Prithvi Lok or Earth at Gangotri when Lord Shiva released the divine river from his hair locks. The actual origin of the river is 19 kilometres away from Gangotri at Gaumukh, which is easily accessible by trekking. After originating from the Gangotri glacier, the river is called Bhagirathi, after merging with the Alaknanda River at Devprayag, it acquires its name ‘Ganga’.
Gangotri receives a huge number of devotees during the Char Dham Yatra season between May and October and hence, it is the best time to visit.
It is believed that the Gangotri temple was built during the reign of the Gurkha leader Amar Singh Thapa. The road leading towards the temple was too steep and he got it repaired. He also repaired the Julapul or the ropeway bridge in Bhairon Valley. He, later on, donated his hard-earned sum of 400 rupees as there was no temple on the head of Bhagirathi River.
To build the temple, Katyuri architecture was used and additional 3 to 4 huts were also built for the pilgrims. The Khas Budhere of Dharali were the chief priests of the temple, and then later on the priesthood was passed on to the forefathers of the current panda family, the Kedar Dutts.
The Bhagirathi glacier is situated at 4,238 metres above sea level and begins at Chaukhamba to merge into the Gaumukh. It's been widely accepted that the water of River Ganga is extremely pure and therapeutic owing to its mineral content and the terrain of medicinal plants throughout which it flows.
This sparkling lake is located at the height of 3,204 metres above sea level and is home to the famous Himalayan trouts. Dodi Tal is peppered with little log cabins around the lake for resting and camping.
It is known for its icy cold waters and mesmerizing trek up the rolling hills spanning 18 kilometres. Kedar Tal is located at the height of 4,425 metres above sea level, so make sure that you go with a local guide and prepare well for the sojourn.
Located in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, Gangotri Temple is one of the holiest sites for Hindu devotees. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to Goddess Ganga and is the most important and the highest shrine dedicated to the deity. The temple is surrounded by breathtaking Himalayan peaks offering spectacular views.
Nestled among the pine and oak forests, at an elevation of 2,623 metres, Harsil Valley is popular for its apple orchards spread across the villages.
Gangotri is easily accessible as it is well-connected by road, air and railway networks. The nearest airbase is the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun and the nearest railhead is the Rishikesh railway station which is 250 kilometres away from Gangotri. Taxis and local buses are other options to reach Gangotri.
The nearest airbase is in Dehradun known as Jolly Grant Airport. On deboarding the flight, you can hire cabs or jump on the local buses to cover the remaining distance of 7 hours to reach Gangotri.
250 kilometres away from Gangotri, Rishikesh railway station is the nearest one from the destination. After deboarding the train, buses and taxis are easily available just outside the station.
The divine town of Gangotri is well--connected to other cities like Mussoorie and Yamunotri by local buses. It is also accessible from other major cities like Delhi, Chandigarh etc.
It is advisable that you carry warm clothes with you as it gets chilly at nights. If you are planning to trek up to Harsil, Dodi Tal or Kedar Tal then make sure you hire a guide.