Perched in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand – both Harsil and Gangotri are important and integral stops for pilgrimage and natural beauty seekers! Harsil is especially scenic and gains immense popularity due to its proximity to many stunning places in the region.
Gangotri, in itself needs no introduction. A revered Hindu pilgrimage site, Gangotri is a must visit – even if you’re not super religious. The healing powers of nature here will make you believe in the magic of the valley!
So whether you want to visit the places on a long weekend or plan an elaborate itinerary for the region – I have you covered. Keep reading below.
Harsil is fenced in its majestic location by snow-capped mountains and coniferous & deodar forests Gangotri, on the other hand, is the location of a sacred Hindu temple, worshipping the ever-important Goddess Ganga. And, it is one of the four temples in the Chota Char Dham circuit.
Gangotri temple is open for six months every year, due to the intense climate in the winter season! When visiting Gangotri or Harsil – there’s a lot to cover nearby and let me describe most prominent places for you in detail. As an important note, the idol of Goddess Ganga shifted from Gangotri to Mukhba village during winters.
Best time to visit
Harsil is accessible throughout the year. However, Gangotri is closed in the winter season. Keeping this in mind, April, May, and September are the best time to visit Harsil and Gangotri. November is overall a bad month because the scenery at this time is turning colours and doesn’t provide the best of the region. It will be terribly cold, but, unfortunately, there won’t even be any snow around. If you’re planning a motorcycle trip – June and September are the best months. If you have on your mind then May, June, October makes for a good bet. Remember it is important to avoid the region in the monsoon season as the hills tend to be frail with landslides abound.
How to reach Harsil
Harsil is well-connected by road and there are airport and railway station options within 200 KMs. Particularly, Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun is situated 230 Kms from Harsil. And, the nearest railway station is Rishikesh – 215 KMs away.
The best option is to drive down to Harsil. Well connected by road, Harsil lies on NH 108 and regular buses to Rishikesh/ Dehradun is easily available. Upon reaching these places, one will need to change buses to reach Harsil.
Road Conditions for Harsil and Gangotri
Following is the breakdown of road conditions for the trip:
- Delhi – Muzaffarnagar: Well maintained for most parts. Might reach bumpy corners near Modi Nagar
- Muzaffarnagar – Roorkee – Haridwar – Rishikesh: Single-lane road in most places, lot of traffic and mix of good + excellent condition road barring few patches.
- Rishikesh – Chamba – Dharasu: Most well mettle. Few patches are rough.
- Dharasu – Uttarkashi – Bhatwari: Few landslides points in between the route. However, other portions are also a mix of good and bad. Best to keep an eye out.
- Bhatwari – Sukhi Top – Harsil: 5-6 water crossings and slush stretches.
- Harsil – Dharali – Bhairon Ghati – Gangotri: Mostly bad roads. Some very bad road sections after Bhairon Ghati with a couple of water crossings.
Places of Interest on this trip
With a lot to do in and around the region – here is a breakdown for all the important places you can cover when in the region.
Harsil is perched at an elevation of 2623 meters and is populated by cultural group of Bhutiyas and some Jadhs. The village has apple orchards for as long as 70 Kms! That kind of views are not only uncommon, but damn near rare! Harsil is around 25 KMs from Gangotri temple and makes for an ideal pit stop in the region. An integral part of the Gangotri National Park, Harsil is classified is an army area. The perfect friend for the town is the Bhagirathi river, which gives this sleepy town more life, more colour and allows you the luxury of taking things at your own pace. Scanning the landscape of Harsil, you’ll be able to spot many temples in the town nestled in between the forests of Deodar, Pine and Oak trees.
A place needing no introduction, Gangotri is the reverential Dham for it is the home of Goddess Ganga. A place where the holiest river originates has to be a beautiful and peaceful spot- and it is. There is a beautiful temple at a height of 3048 Meters which is a lifetime wish of most Hindus to visit. Gangotri is located at a distance of 20 Kms from Harsil. The place is more than worth a visit as the cascading games of the Himalayas and the Bhagirathi rivers will leave you speechless.
If you haven’t had enough of the views and want to discover the region further, I highly recommend staying overnight in Gangotri and return to Harsil the next day. Although, I should inform you here that most people would cover Gangotri and return to Harsil in the same day. Also, it should be noted that you will not have the luxury to visit the region in the winter season as the place is engulfed in snow and the idol is moved to its winter abode of Mukhba.
Also known as Mukhwas and Mukhwa, this hamlet is approximately a kilometer from Harsil. When Gangotri is closed for the winter, the idols are shifted down to the Ganges temple in Mukhba for a few months. In fact, I recommend taking an evening stroll when you’re in Harsil and check out the place.
Dharali is located merely 2 KMs from the Harsil village and is adorned with beautiful apple orchards. The place is tied with many mythologies – including Bhagirath meditating here to wish for Ganga to flow from heaven to Earth.
If you plan on staying in Gangotri, I urge you to visit Gaumukh. Taking about 2 days, this trek will cover about 35 KMs and you will reach a maximum altitude of 13,200 ft. This will take you the exact place of the origin of Ganga. And, truly Gaumukh is a sight to behold. Plan accordingly. However, I must mention that you should be fairly fit to cover this journey. If you have more time to spare for this trip – I would tell you to also visit Tapovan.
Situated about 5 KMs from Dharali, Sattal is a body of 7 lakes (Sat = Seven, Tal = Lake). The trek will truly blow your mind, you will be greeted by some stunning flora and fauna. Given the short distance, you can easily cover the journey in a day’s time! The lakes are all at different altitudes, with Mridunga Tal at 9,600 ft. and Bakria Tal at 10034 Ft. The other lakes are located in between these two. The remainder two lakes are at higher altitudes and requires a longer time duration to visit them all.
Options and itinerary for Harsil – Gangotri Trip
3 Days Itinerary
Depending on the time you have available, you can cover the two places at ease or quickly. Here’s how.
Day 1 – Delhi to Harsil
Start your journey off early and reach Harsil by evening. Other places you can cover include the Wilson Cottage, or better yet – spend some time at the banks of Bhagirathi river.
Day 2 – Harsil – Gangotri – Mukhba – Harsil
Long day for you – and I suggest you start off early in the morning. Cover the 25 KMs distance to Gangotri, taking about 90 minutes. Spend the afternoon in Gangotri. On way back, go for an evening stroll and cover Mukhba. Spend a leisurely night at Harsil
Day 3 -Harsil to Delhi
Head back to Delhi. Keep in mind that this will be a very rushed trip and most of your time will get spent on the road. We have done this trip before and documented it for you
4 Days Itinerary
Adding an additional day to your itinerary will help you cover more places. However, like the 3-day trip – even this will be a bit cramped and can be tiring.
Day 1 Delhi to Harsil
Reach Harsil from Delhi with the same route as the 3 Day itinerary. Relax and rejuvenate.
Day 2 – Sightseeing in Harsil – Dharali, Mukhba, Sattal Trek
Here’s where you plan differ slightly. Instead of heading out to Gangotri, cover key places in and near Harsil such as the Dharali, Mukhba and Sattal Trek. Again, have a relaxing dinner in Harsil.
Day 3 Harsil – Gangotri – Harsil
Reach Gangotri from Harsil in the morning. Spend the afternoon here and cover nearby places to Gangotri. Explore the region more and return by evening. For a detailed description on all there is to do in Gangotri – please read our COMPLETE guide.
Day 4 – Harsil to Delhi
Return to Delhi from Harsil
6 Days Itinerary
If you can spare the time and plan properly, this is the way to go.
Day 1- Delhi to Uttarkashi
Instead of reaching Harsil directly, you may stop over at Uttarkashi and cover the remainder of the journey the next day. I like breaking long road trips in this manner as it ensures I reach my destination well rested! Also, it affords me an additional day of exploring a new place that was not on my list when planning the vacation.
Day 2 – Uttarkashi to Harsil – Sightseeing in the Village
Reach Harsil and spend a relaxing day exploring the village and understanding the culture. There are some beautiful walks from around the orchards that will definitely put you in the Uttarakhandi lifestyle!
Day 3 -Sattal Trek and move on to Gangotri
Cover the Sattal lake trek – covering at least 5 of the 7 lakes. After you’ve had your fill – move on to Gangotri and spend the night there.
Day 4 and 5 – Gangotri to Gaumukh and back to Harsil
Visit the Gangotri temple early in the morning and start your trek towards Gaumukh – the origin of Ganga. Return the next day from this trip. If you’re a novice trekker, I suggest you hire a guide.
Day 6 – Harsil to Delhi
Return to Delhi
Additional days Itinerary
If you can add another day to your trip, I suggest you may visit Nelong Valley. However, this will have required permits. I have discussed this at length in the COMPLETE Guide for Nelong.
I hope the above breakup helps you in understanding all that you can cover and the realistic timeline to do all that you may plan. If you’re confused, need more details, or just want help in how to customize your itinerary – please feel free to drop a comment below! We’ll be happy to help and guide you!