After the snow clears at the foothills of the Himalayas in late April, Hindu pilgrims start flocking to the four ancient temples known as Char Dham. Located high up in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand
, these temples mark the spiritual source of four holy rivers: the Yamuna (at Yamunotri), the Ganges (at Gangotri), the Mandakini (at Kedarnath), and the Alaknanda (at Badrinath). Hindus consider visiting the Char Dham to be very auspicious. Not only is it believed to wash away all sins, it will also ensure release from the cycle of birth and death. There are a number of options for going on a Char Dham yatra (journey).
When Can the Char Dham be Visited?
The Char Dham are only open at certain times of the year from May-November. May-June is the peak pilgrimage period. The monsoon season (July-September) can quite dangerous as the rain makes the route slippery.
How Can the Char Dham be Reached?
A Char Dham yatra isn't easy. Pilgrims really need to earn the benefits bestowed, as only two of the temples (Badrinath and Gangotri) are accessible by vehicle. The remaining two (Yamunotri and Kedarnath) require treks. Kedarnath has the lengthiest trek.
Where are the Char Dham Located?
Are there any Char Dham Packages?
Although it's not difficult to make your own travel arrangements for a Char Dham yatra, there are plenty of Char Dham packages available as well.
- Government operated Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam organizes package tours by bus every year from May to November. There are plenty of options from seeing only one temple to all four temples. It's possible to include the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib too. Most tours depart from Rishikesh but some leave from Delhi, depending on the itinerary. The shortest tour is four nights. Tours are priced from around 10,000 rupees per person. Some have shared accommodations and bathroom.
- If you'd prefer a more upmarket option, Leisure Hotels has set up luxury Chardham Camps at each of the sites. Depending on the time of year you stay, the price ranges from 4,000 rupees to 1,800 rupees a night, per person. Packages from Haridwar are available, visiting one or up to all four temples, starting from 3,600 rupees for two nights/one temple. Nine night/four temple packages start from 12,960 rupees. Transportation is extra.
- Chardham India Pilgrimage Tours also offer a huge range of Char Dham packages in various classes of accommodations. If you're really pushed for time, you can even take a helicopter tour!
Prefer to Go Your Own Way and Want More Information?
The temples are usually visited in the following order, if you want to see them all: Yamunotri
. Haridwar or Rishikesh are the starting points for transportation.