Picture chilly nights huddled around bonfires and waking up to be greeted by snowy peaks. Picture meandering rivers and divine temples. Picture glaciers the size of cities and stories that leave you hungry for more. Now picture all of this in one place, and you have a trekker’s utopia, a place that seems too true to exist. These scenic and spiritual pleasures are exactly what Gangotri provides, the Gangotri Gomukh Tapovan trek provides. A trekker’s dream come true and an adventure that one can never forget. The Gangotri Gomukh Tapovan trek is one of the best treks in India.
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A Virtual tour of the Gangotri Gomukh Tapovan Trek
Gangotri is a little town that lies in the laps of the Greater Himalayas in the state of Uttrakhand. Home to one of the largest Himalayan glaciers, the Gangotri Glacier, it is a place frequented by trekkers and pilgrims alike. The most famous trekking route in this region is the Gangotri to Tapovan trek, one that must be on the bucket list of every trekking enthusiast in the country. Let’s take a virtual tour of the Gangotri Gomukh Tapovan trek route that is shown in the image below.
The town of Gangotri lies on the banks of the river Bhagirathi, a major tributary of the river Ganga. A Hindu pilgrimage town, Gangotri is frequented by believers from all over the country. It is easily accessible and can be reached from Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Delhi by road, and one can easily find buses to the town as well.
Lying at 3,100 metres, this is the base of the Gangotri Gomukh Tapovan trek. Trekkers must spend a night here to acclimatize. During their stay here, trekker’s get to take part in the Aarti, a Hindu ritual of worship, by the river, followed by prayers at the famous Gangotri Temple. A slab of rock called Bhagirathi Shila is situated near the temple. You can interact with the locals and your guide who will entertain you with fascinating stories. One of the many campfire tales you will hear is that of Raja Bhagirath. He left his kingdom to meditate in the Himalayas and sat for a thousand years, praying to Lord Brahma. When Brahma finally asked the king what he wished for, Bhagirath asked for river Ganges, or Ganga, to be sent to earth. He was asked to pray to Lord Shiva, and within one year of prayer, Shiva accepted his request and received Ganga in his locks. The river at this place is called Bhagirathi, after the efforts of King Bhagirath to bring it to earth.
Today, there are a lot of ashrams that lie on the banks of river Bhagirathi and caves where saints meditate year-long, despite the harsh climate. After a night stay in this holy town, the trekker’s continue the trek to Gomukh. You need to get a permit to trek to Gomukh, and only 150 permits are given a day, so make sure you start early and don’t miss your chance.
Nineteen kilometres from Gangotri lies the sacred place called Gomukh, which is at the height of almost 3,900 metres above sea level. Enroute from Gangotri to Gomukh lies Bhojbhasa, which is the last habitation before trekkers reach Gomukh. You can halt here for rest, or experienced trekkers can keep going till they reach Gomukh. Also, make sure you carry packed food, like biscuits and energy bars, as food will be hard to come by later on.
The trek to Gomukh is fairly easy with a few rocky patches. You will be met with a lot of different and mesmerizing sights throughout the trek, such as the roaring Bhagirathi River, barren landscape, and thick forests. Since you will be trekking through the Gangotri National Park, you might be lucky to spot wildlife as well, such as mountain antelopes and goats.
Gomukh is the snout of the glacier where River Bhagirathi originates. The glacier here used to look like a cow’s mouth, which is where Gomukh, or Gau Mukh, gets its name from. Trekker’s usually take a dip in the icy waters here as it is considered holy. We must warn you, though; the water is bone-chilling! With stunning views of Mount Shivling and a glacier that spreads 30km long and 2 km wide, this is truly a trekker’s heaven.
After Gomukh, trekkers usually return to Bhojbhasa and camp there for the night before heading out again the next day. Trekking across the Gangotri Glacier leads to the beautiful meadows of Tapovan. Tapovan is the base of Mount Shivling and lies at the height of 4400 metres. Gomukh to Tapovan is just a five-kilometre trek, but it is a tough one. On your way, you will need to cross the Akash Ganga, the actual origin of the Ganga. The water in Akash Ganga is the glacier that melts, therefore as the day progresses and the sun gets higher in the sky, the water level increases. Towards the end, the trek becomes a steep climb of almost a thousand feet, but the views from Tapovan are worth it.
The word Tapovan comes from two words – “tapas” which means spiritual practice and suffering, and “vana” which means forest. Keeping in line with the rich and religious history of the place, a lot of people come here to find spiritual satisfaction. If you want to reconnect with yourself and with nature, this is a perfect place for you. You can relax in the meadows full of flowers, or drink from the clear high altitude streams. The presence of ample water and breathtaking views makes Tapovan an idyllic campsite. It is also the base camp for many mountaineering expeditions to the Shivling and other surrounding peaks.
Tapovan lies on the right side of the Gangotri glacier. On the left side lie the Nandanvan meadows, the base camp for the Bhagirathi Peaks. There is also a route from Tapovan to Nandanvan, and one can decide to continue their journey forward to Badrinath. However, that is a highly arduous trek which is only pursued by professionals.
The Gangotri Gomukh Tapovan trek is considered to be one of the best treks in India and for a good reason. Nestled in the mighty mountains, one cannot help but be enchanted by the natural beauty of this beautiful trek; it puts everything into perspective by making you realize how trivial your everyday problems are.
The best time to visit Gangotri is in from May to June or August to mid-October, as it is prone to landslides during winters and rainy season. During offseason, the idol of the Gangotri temple is moved 20 km downstream, to the Mukhyamath temple. The trek is of moderate difficulty, but with proper preparation, it can be undertaken by teenagers as well. Make sure to take porters and guides from Gangotri. Sunscreen and UV protected goggles are also a must in the snow covered mountains. At night, the temperature can be freezing, therefore be sure to carry woollen clothes and sleeping bags.
If you have a love for trekking and adventure, we highly recommend that you take on the challenge of the Gangotri Gomukh Tapovan trek; it is truly the experience of a lifetime. Let us know about your favourite trekking route in India in the comments below.
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