Char dham is one of the most significant yatra of India located in Uttrakhand state. Well it is actually the “Chota Char Dham” of India starts with “Yamunotri”, ” Gangotri”, “Kedarnath” & ends with ” Badrinath”.
Travelling by local transports have its own essence of adventure and i tried to put my best efforts on gathering informations for doing Char Dham on shoe string budgets.
I researched a lot before doing this trip on local cheap budget but the responses which i got mostly from the tour operators were ranging between 15K- 25K. Also i heard that there was no local transporst and all like things.
My Detail Expenditures:-
Rishikesh – Dharashu Bend = 230 bus
Dharasu Bend -(Via-Barkot – Hanumanchatti) – Jankichatti = 120 bus
Hotel = 100
Jankichatti – Barkot = 70 bus
Barkot – Dharasu Bend = 130
Dharashu Bend – Uttar Kashi = 50
Hotel = 170
Uttar Kashi -(Via-Harsil & Gangnani)- Gangotri = 200
Hotel = 100
Gangotri – Uttar Kashi = 200
Uttar Kashi Ashram = 100
Uttar Kashi – Srinagar = 250
Srinagar -(Via-Rudraprayag) – AugustyMuni = 80
AugustyMuni – Gupt Kashi = 100
Gupt Kashi Ashram = 125
Gupt Kashi – Sonprayag = 75
Sonprayag – GauriKund = 20
Kedarnath Tent = 250
GauriKund – Sonprayag = 20
Sonprayag – Gupt Kashi = 60
Guptkashi – Ukhimath = 60
Ukhimath – Chopta = 160
Chopta – (Via-Gopeshwar) – Chamoli = 50
Chamoli – (Via-Pipal Koti – Helang) – Joshimath = 90
Hotel = 150
Joshimath – Badrinath = 170
Badrinath Ashram = 150 x 2days = 300
Mana Sightseeing Cab = 100
Badrinath – Rishikesh = 420
My train was late so it took more 6hrs from the ETA to reach Haridwar. It was 20:30hrs the time i came out of the station & started asking the locals for the Char Dham Registration Office at Haridwar rly station. They told us to come tomorrow around 09:00hrs for the registration. Uttrakhand goverment strictly make mandatory registration for the yatra after 2013 heavy flood due to cloudburst. I stayed the night at one of my friends house and next day came to the station & done with the registration within a minute. One need a goverment id for it thats it. After this i went to Har-Ki-Pauri Ghat for a dip in the ganga.
Once done i took a bus for Rishikesh from the Haridwar bus stand which is 45 mins away at Rs–35.
Rishikesh is a beautiful city surrounded with mountains all over. The climate is also bit soother than Haridwar as this is the starting point for the Himalayas. I stayed there at a Ashram just near the Laxman Jhula Bridge at Rs-250.
Suggestion- To stay near the Rishikesh Bus Station prior a day of catching a bus for uphill.
So accordingly i enquired & gathered all the relative informations from the Char Dham Yatra Query point at Rishikesh bus stand.
Let me clear you the road map for Rishikesh – Yamunotri Dham first. “Rishikesh–Dharashu Bend(7hrs)-Barkot(4hrs)-Hanumanchatti(2hrs)-Jankichatti(1hr)-Yamunotri(Trek Route of 5kms)”.
Remember one important rule while travelling in mountains is to start early & to reach early.
The UK gov bus timing for Dharasu Bend is at 04:30am and their was only limited buses. So i reach the bus station around 03:30am and booked my seat from the counter for Dharasu Bend at Rs-230.
I reached Dharasu Bend at around 11:30am after a long 7hrs journey through beautiful mountains. I quickly had some alu-paratha near by the dhaba & waited for the bus to come.
Note-There are jeeps too but the only problem with the jeeps over there is once the jeep will not get full of 10-12 passengers they will not go and then they’ll start telling you to pay you for the whole jeep and lets go, which is not possible for everyone and by this you’ll be wasting your time too, but still somewhere you have to do this which i’ll share it later on.
In uphill of uttrakhand the bus service was very poor. Its not like other hill stations of India.Once you missed it you may have to wait for next 5-6 hrs or may be sometime for the whole day.
Somehow luckily i got a bus after 2hrs and this bus was going directly to the Jankichatti at Rs-120, the last point for Yamunotri which means i dnt have to worry again for transport for Jankichatti from Hanumanchatti.
It was 18:30hrs when i reached Jankichatti bus stand. It was all surrounded with Himalayas. The peak of Yamunotri can be seen from the bus stand. Lodge persons came to me asking for lodge and i managed to get a cozy lodge with a good view at Rs-200. Its on the starting trek route of Yamunotri only. I went for my dinner down the market and started conversations with the locals for gaining knowledges on how do they survive after this yatra ends at Diwali. I came to know this whole area of Jankichatti used to full of snow for the good 5-6 months and that time they used to shift to down hill. Also i assisted them in making chapatis. After dinner i came back & went for sleep.
Day 3 -Yamunotri
I woke up around 04:00am and came outside the room and it was looking stunning to watch the sky with the himalayas around. I make myself ready for the trek and started at 05:00am for the uphill. As i said from Jankichatti it is 5kms trek with well maintained treacherous hilly road. Note-There are pony,palkis & pithus too who charge as per the govt rates mentioned there for taking & bringing back one who dnt/cant want to trek.
Note- Always carry a windcheater & a raincoat/poncho as the weather keep on changing in himalayas within a seconds. Also a trekking pole/stick to support yourself for moving upward.
Around 08:00am i reached the Yamunotri Dham. This year it opens on 28th April. Before the darshan one should take a dip/bath at the hot water spring just near the temple. Its a natural hot water coming from the underground. The water is too hot to stay inside for more than 2-3 minutes. After having bath i pay my visit to the temple and stayed there for good 1hrs taking pics & feeling the beauty & charm of it. Then started to trek down & came back to downhill to my lodge at around 13:00hrs.
Its time to leave from Jankichatti for Gangotri Dham darshan. So accordingly quickly took my backpack & checkout from the lodge. I was hungry but need to grab a seat in a bus. Meanwhile the bus to Dharashu Bend already left so i boarded on to the bus which will leave me at Barkot. I saw the bus conductor was having his lunch so i too came down from the bus and aksed if i can quickly have some food as i’m empty stomach till morning and he nodded. I quickly had my lunch and the bus started for Barkot at Rs-70.
Note- Try to came back to Jankichatti bus stand early by 12:00hrs or else latest by 13:00hrs or else there will be high chance of getting no bus from there and need to stay there for one more night.
Around 16:30hrs i reached Barkot & went to the bus stand for bus to Dharasu Bend or Uttar kashi but there were no buses for the day at that time all left. So i came to the Taxi stand and saw a taxi calling for Dharashu Bend i took one seat but it was only 6 peoples at that time, and now i’m aware of the rule of taxi here that it’ll not leave till it gets full of 10-12 passengers. So i waited for more 1.30hrs and 4 other peoples came so now i’m reliefed and the driver starts the engine for Dharasu Bend at Rs-130. The taxi started rushing through some breathtaking meadows. The road from Barkot to Dharasu Bend is a hilly road so try to reach or start from Barkot early as after 19:00hrs the govt close this hilly road till morning.
The taxi reached Dharashu around 19:30hrs and the driver helped me along with some other passengers to get a sharing Taxi from there for Uttar Kashi at Rs-50. It was a 1hrs ride.
Reached Uttar Kashi around by 21:00hrs. It was a very ancient old town located on the bank of river Ganga. There were many Ashrams & hotels near by to stay. I had my dinner & stayed in a cozy lodge at Rs-150.
Day 4 – Gangotri
Woke up a little late this time & went to the ganga ghat for bath. Its Manikarnika Ghat. The town is beautifully surrounded with hills all over. The water was bit cold but somehow managed to have a bath. Around 11:00hrs i checked out from the lodge and had some breakfast. Then i went to the very famous “Kashi Vishwanath Mandir”for a visit. Its a very old mandir with a giant “Trishul” inside the Garbagriha.
After mandir i headed staright to the Taxi stand of Uttar Kashi as no buses plies for Gangotri from here, so taxi is the only option. Its not that difficult to have passengers for anywhere in the hills around this time of the morning so the taxi started for Gangotri around 13:30hrs at Rs-200. It crosses among some of the beautiful & remotest hamlets of Himalayas name “Gangnani” famous for its natural hot water spring & “Harsil” famous for its Apple orchids.
I reached around 19:00hrs and took a lodge just near the Gangotri Mandir at Rs- 200 and kept my backpack & went to have the darshan of Gangotri Dham. This year it opens on 28th April. The temparature must be around 2-3 degrees surrounded with giant mountains all around. There is a shiva mandir as well. After darshan i went down to the ganga ghat. The sound of the waves is like a turbulence here. After that had my dinner from near by went back to the lodge & slept.
Note-For Gaumukh(19kms) & Tapovan(23kms) trek this is the point to start from after having permit from the forest office. I did it.
Note- Its ok to start from Gangotri to Uttar Kashi in the late afternoon also as one can’t be able to get any mode of transportation for further destination like Srinagar for Kedarnath Dham from Uttar Kashi after morning 05:00am.
Day 5 – Uttar Kashi
I woke up around 10am & went to the ganga ghat for bath. Its like having bath from a ice chill water but anyhow dipped myself in that water. Straight from there i went to the Gangotri Dham again for the darshan but during this time of the morning the rush of devotees were so much that i could only pay my visit from the outside and came back to the lodge had some breakfast and checked out from there around 12:00hrs. Now its time to leave Gangotri and to reach Uttar Kashi again the junction point. So i took a seat in a sharing jeep at Rs-200 for Uttar Kashi and reached around 17:000hrs.
Note- One need to book the bus ticket from the goverment bus station of Uttar Kashi for Srinagar for Kedarnath Dham prior one day of the journey or else there were less chances of getting a seat for this long journey. The bus leaves from here every morning at 05:00am.
So accordingly after reaching Uttar Kashi i went to the bus station to book the seat for Srinagar but as i mentioned above the bus was full and i didn’t want to travel standing in the bus for this long journey. But if one want they can travel like this also but no chance of getting seat thats it.
So i went to the Taxi Stand again to ask for jeep but they told that only Srinagar registered jeeps plies from here so that means if today by the evening any jeep from srinagar comes then only it is sure that it will go tommorrow. And also if they get 10-12 passengers then only they’ll go and the timing was only by morning 05:00am. He suggested me to come here by morning 04:00am and try my luck.
Note-In this situation one had options like 1.to wait for a day and book the bus seat priorly, 2.travel by standing in the bus. 3.Try luck coming here at the Taxi Stand.
Let me clear you the road map for Uttar Kashi – Kedarnath Dham. Uttar Kashi–Sringar(7hrs)-Augustmuni (Via Rudraprayag)(3hrs)-Gupt Kashi (1.30hrs)-Sonprayag(1hr)-Gaurikund(15mins)-Kedarnath(19kms trek).
After that i had my dinner and took the same lodge i took here on my last visit to Uttar Kashi at Rs-150 & slept by setting my alarm by 03:30hrs.
Day 6 – Uttar Kashi
I woke up by my alarm at 03:30am and make myself ready quickly and checked out from there & headed straight to the Taxi stand and after reaching i came to know that there were 2 small families also who were waiting to go to Srinagar which means the passengers were full now but there were no cabs that came from Srinagar yesterday, so we all started requesting in the taxi union office for some miracle help for us as we were the yatris. Atlast they told us ok and shown us the jeep which will take us to Srinagar at Rs-250 (which we negotiated from Rs-300). This time i took the front seat of the jeep and the journey started for Srinagar around 05:30am. Its a long journey of 7hrs via Tehri town which is famous for its Tehri Dam–Asia‘s biggest dam.
I reached Srinagar around 12:00am and for the first time i felt so hot during this trip. Later i came to know that Srinagar is the hottest place of Uttrakhand. I decided to take a dip in the Bhagirathi river to chill for sometime so i asked the local for the near by ghat.
After a dip over there had some quick lunch and asked for bus for Gupt Kashi which will be my next stop for Kedarnath Dham. But no direct buses was available at that point of time(14:00hrs) so asked the local and they suggested to reach AugustMuni and for that i easily got the bus at Rs-80. It was via Rudraprayag and i reached Augustmuni around 17:00hrs. And suddenly it started raining heavily with small pieces of ice falling down. It got dark everywhere for good 1hrs but after that the rains stops slowly so i enquired for jeeps near the Taxi stand as i knew it will be difficult to get a bus right now. After approaching for more than 5-6 jeeps who told no due to the bad weather i got a jeep for Uttar Kashi along with other local villagers at Rs-100 and i reached within 1.30hrs at Uttar Kashi.
It was 20:00hrs so no chances of getting any transportation for Sonprayag. So i stayed in one of the Ashram there name “Bidya Dham” for my night stay. (The ashram will not ask for any money for staying & food but maximum time the rooms over there were full. Still as a donation i gave Rs-150). The food at the ashram was really superb and after dinner i went for sleep.
Note- The hotel over in Gupt Kashi are little bit expensive from all the previous places i stayed. Ranges between Rs-500-800. Also if one reach Gupt Kashi on time then they can move further to Sonprayag or Gaurikund for staying through jeep or bus.
Day 7 – Gupt Kashi
I woke up by 05:30am and quickly make my self ready and left the ashram and went straight to the Taxi stand. Easily got a jeep till Sonprayag at Rs-75 and reached within an hour.
Sonprayag is the base camp for Kedarnath and accordingly the official authorities over there asked to see my registration for the first time since i made it from Haridwar. After that they allowed me and every travelers over there to cross the foot bridge to take the jeep for Gaurikund which was 5kms away. I got a jeep at Rs-20 & reached Gaurikund around 10:00am.
Here also there is a natural hot water spring but mostly it was destroyed during the 2013 heavy flood, but still the hot water for bath was made available through a pipe. It means one can take bath by using bucket or mug but cant be able to take dip. So i just take some water from the tap and washed my hand and face and start trekking uphill.
As i mentioned above its a 19kms trek route from Gaurikund to Kedarnath and the trek route level is moderate to difficult.
The trek route for Kedarnath Dham from Gaurikund–Rambara Bridge(6kms)-Jungle Chatti(4kms)-Bheembali(3kms)-Linchauli(4kms)-Kedarnath Base Camp–Kedarnath Mandir(1km).
Note- One can night stay at Bheembali & Linchauli(10-13kms) if one cant able to trek more for the day.
The trek route was newly made after 2013 disaster by NIM (Nehru Mountaineering) with good proper road along with side fences, public temporary bathrooms & local small shops providing night shelters on charges like Rs-200-400 with blankets. The view was amazing with stunning meadows,valleys & waterfalls along with mighty Himalayas.
During my trek i saw the places while on Old Rambara bridge a new Rambara bridge was also constructed beside it. And one can see how the flood came over from the Kedarnath Mandir & destroyed the places but now its all ok and safe to trek. I had some tea & biscuits for energy & continued to trek.
Note- There was many short cut roads from the mountains which i had taken for reaching up early rather than following the trek route. But only who will be capable of this should choose short cuts. But i saw many old peoples too using this.
The weather keep changing in the mountains so better to carry less stuff but a raincoat/poncho, hand gloves, wind cheater jacket a must.
I somehow managed to reach the Kedarnath Mandir around 18:30hrs, which took me 8hrs to trek 19kms. And the temple view was amazing. But before visiting the mandir i started looking for my night shelter & i went to the GMVN(Garwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) tent and i took a bed along with a sleeping bag at Rs-250.
After that i went to the mandir for visit. This year it opens on 3rd May. There was no long queue at this point of time but normal queue which took me 1hr to enter the temple compound & did the sringar darshan. I came outside after the darshan and had some dinner to keep me warm as the temparature out there was freezing cold. Then i went back to my tent which is just near the temple & slept.
Day 8 – Kedarnath
I woke up around 05:30am and somehow managed to make myself ready as the water was bone chilling. Then i left my tent and went for the darshan again and now the queue was like 2kms long which means the people were standing from the night. I thought if i stand in this line then its not possible for me to return to Gaurikund by evening & i already had the darshan yesterday night but still i wanted to visit the main garbhagriha and to touch the jyotirlinga. So i tried my luck and somehow managed to stand in front of the mandir while noticing that no body seen me. And within a few minute i was inside the mandir compound & did my darshan in the way i wanted. Jai Bhole Ki !!
After this i took some pics & videos and starred at the nature there. I went down to the Kedar Ganga ghat and wanted to have a dip but the water was ice cold but still some of the people over there had bath, i took some water from there and just washed my hand & face and after that i started my trek for downhill.
Note-There were helicopter services as well as pithu,pony & palki for taking the person up & down as per the govt rates. One need to book helicopter in very advance or else most of the time the tickets were not available.
It took me less time to reach Gaurikund, as i started around 07:30am from Kedarnath mandir & reached at 12:00 hrs at Gaurikund. And after reaching i took a sharing jeep for Sonprayag at Rs-20 & then from took a another jeep for Gupt Kashi at Rs-60.
Note-There were direct buses too at that point of time from Gaurikund to Rudraprayag via Gupt Kashi.
After reaching around 13:00hrs i went to that Bidya Dham ashram and luckily i got the room for my night stay for free this time as i have already gave the donation last time here. After keeping my rucksack i rested a bit and then in the evening i went to the Taxi stand and enquired about the the transportation for Joshimath for Badrinath Dham. But what i came to know was that there was no direct bus plies for Joshimath,so one can reserve an entire cab or else do break trips like me☺. The local taxi drivers suggested me to reach Ukhimath from here which was easily accessible. I asked the time of that taxi & went back to the Ashram had food and slept.
Day 9 – Gupt Kashi
I woke up around 07:00am freshen up & left the Ashram for the Taxi stand. I asked for Ukhimath sharing taxi and took a front seat at Rs-60. The mountain that can be seen from Gupt Kashi taxi stand is Ukhimath. Its a small village famous for its MadMaheshwar Yatra, the second Kedar mandir among the Paanch Kedar.
It took 1hr and i reached Ukhimath taxi stand. It was 10:00am and i started asking for cab to Chopta but i got negative replies from the taxi drivers over there that there was no local villagers from the morning for Chopta. They were telling me to reserve it full for Rs-800 which i can’t be able to do. So i started walking towards the highway downhill and within 15mins walk i reached the highway. Just opposite to me there was a “Bharat Seva Shram Ashram” and i went there to ask whats the best possible way to reach Chopta from here. It is a bengali ashram of kolkata and i being a bong the guruji over there told me its really difficult from here at this point of time but he welcomed me to stay there for free and suggested me to catch a early morning bus tomorrow around 07:30-08:00am. He also suggested me to stay at this ashram in Badrinath also. I thanked him a lot but i didn’t want to waste the day so i came back to the highway again and i saw 5 more peoples there standing for taxi to Chopta. So a light of hope born in me but failed to get a taxi for more than 2hrs, atlast i got a milk van who agreed to drop us all to Chopta at Rs-150 each which is ok for everyone and started. The way to Chopta is very beautiful with view of Nandi hills and some enchanting meadows.
It took almost 3hrs to reach Chopta half an hour more due to road block.
Note-Chopta is famous for Tunganath mandir its the world highest shiva temple at a level of 3680meters above the sea level. Its also the third Kedar mandir among the Panch Kedar. So if one want they can trek 3kms from Chopta to Tunganath & can stay up for that night near the mandir at Rs-100-300. One can also trek more 1km from Tunganath to Chandrashila(4000 meters) to get a 360 degree panaromic views of himalayas. I stayed one night there at Rs-100 and also trekked to Chandrashila.
I started asking for taxi from Chopta to Gopeshwar or Chamoli but again did not got a sharing taxi so i started walking alone on the highway and it was amazing with a bonus of natural views to capture. After walking for 2-3kms i came near by a Ashram named SitaRam Ashram. I’m assured by now that i’ll get a shelter to stay if i dnt get any further transportation but it was 02:00hrs of the day so i started asking for lifts on the highway but failed for more than an hour. Suddenly a bus stopped by me & i told them the problem of not getting any transportation to reach Gopeshwar or Chamoli. They allowed me to come inside the bus. The bus was full with the tourists who were also going to Badrinath but i only told them to drop me at Chamoli (10kms ahead from Gopeshwar) & Chamoli have better connection of cabs & buses for Joshimath.
It took almost 2 and a half hour to reach Chamoli. I paid the driver Rs-50 as a gratitude which i know is very less for 60kms journey.
It was 17:30hrs and i thought it would be difficult to get any transportation for Joshimath so i went to look for lodges or guest house for my night stay but while crossing the taxi stand i saw a jeep was waiting with passengers almost full for Joshimath. I asked the driver do he have a seat for me & he replied yes. I took a seat and the cab started which cost me Rs-90. And soon i saw the board of ITBP which means this is the only road which goes last to the border area of Indo-Tibet. The road was newly made. My taxi passed through Pipalkoti & Helang and i reached Joshimath around 20:00hrs.
At this point of time i can’t be able to reach Badrinath which is another 45kms from here as its a hilly road so the police didn’t allow any cab after 19:00hrs. Joshimath is the gateway of Badrinath. I took a lodge at Rs-150,had my dinner & slept.
Day 10 – Joshimath
I woke up a little late as i slept tight. I have not took any buffer day in between for rest.
Note-One can also visit the 5th last Kedar among the Paanch Kedar which is situated at Helang 22kms back from Joshimath and from there one need to trek 3kms between the grean valley to reach Kalpeshwar. I did this trek too just like i did Tunganath and if one want they can spend a night over there also with the locals.
There was two taxi stand at Joshimath, the first one is for all over Chamoli & also to Rishikesh. One need to walk till the main signal crossing the first taxi stand & from here one will get the taxi for Badrinath.
I came back to Joshimath from Helang a little late so it was 17:00hrs and i got a taxi but it was only 4 passengers including me and i know soon the police will not allow any cab to go uphill so i asked the driver how much will u take in total from us altogether and he said 600 which is not a bad deal at that point of time so i told everyone in the car and they all agreed and soon the cab started at Rs-150 each for Badrinath. The normal fare is Rs-90. It was almost dark outside and soon i feel cold.
I reached Badrinath around 20:00hrs. It was freezing cold. The temparature must be around 2 or 3 degree. The taxi left me just near the Badrinath Taxi Stand and i asked the locals for Bharat Seva Shram which is just 2mins of walk from here. I took a bed at Rs-150 and had some dinner from outside and then slept.
Day 11 – Badrinath
I woke up early morning around 06:00am and the temparature was just like the same like yesterday night. I went to the bus stand first to ask what is the bus timing for Rishikesh from here the office person replied its only during early morning from 04:30 – 05:30am. The fare of the goverment as well as private buses were same. It costs Rs-420 to Rs-450 and took 12hrs to reach. I asked the counter person can i prebook my bus tickets he replied yes. So accordingly i pre booked my choicable seat at Rs-420 & its a private bus which will leave tomorrow early morning at 05:00am.
I came back to the Ashram and i paid another Rs-150 for tonight. Now its time to go for Badrinath Dham darshan. It was a walking distance of 5mins from the Ashram to the Mandir.
Around 09:30am i reached the Badrinath Dham and the queue over there was so long that it must be more than a 2kms. Need to hurry up as the temple close its door at 12:00hrs and then it reopens at 15:30hrs till 20:30hrs.
There was a natural hot water spring just like Yamunotri. I took a bath and dipped there for some time which relaxed my body a lot in that severe cold weather. Then i went a long back to stand in the queue. It took almost more than an hour to reach near by the mandir. This year it opens on 6th May. I paid my visit to Badrinarayan Ji.
And i felt so good that i cant explain in words after successfully completing the Char Dham Yatra.
Then i went to Mana village which is the last village of India having its border with Tibet(China). It is just 5kms from Badrinath. But i took a sharing cab at Rs-100 which also bring me back here. One can see the origin of River Saraswati and Bheempul. One can also trek for Sathopanth waterfall which was a trek of 6kms over the glaciers.
I came back to my Ashram had dinner & slept.
Day 12 – Badrinath
I woke up around 04:00am & came straight to the bus station and i saw my bus standing there. I already pre booked my ticket as i mentioned. The bus started at 05:30am and i reached Rishikesh around 17:30hrs.
Travelling donot require more money just one need to know the correct way of travelling on budget.
“JUST HIT THE ROAD AND LET THE ROAD TAKE YOU TO YOUR DESTINATION” – PRITAM PANDIT