I visited Badrinath for the first time with my family during Diwali in 2012 & ever since then, it has become a Diwali tradition for my family to visit Badrinath! This year, I got a chance to tag along with them once again. What's more? We decided to make it a road trip of our own, instead of choosing public transport as usual. And that's how my most memorable road trip began to shape up! Badrinath is a holy place, but I am writing this post to share with you how this trip was more than only a pilgrimage stint! SEE PICTURES here.
Given below are highlights of our trip, knowledge facts, tips (planning, preparing, packing & on the go) & itinerary, in this particular order. Feel free to navigate to the part of your interest.????
- 'Darshan' & 'Vishnu Sahastranaam Paath' at an intimate proximity to the Idol of Lord Badrinath due to fewer visitors & the enchanting feeling of bliss in & around the temple on the night of Diwali
- Spotted the rare cute-but-dangerous Himalayan Marten around Chamoli & a graceful Stag near Hrishikesh (both the animals were BEAUTIFUL and came too close to our car! They were too quick & I was too awestruck, hence no photograph. :p )
- Drank from the sparkling stream of Saraswati river
- Gazed at around a billion stars at night in Badrinath
- Trembled during a slight snowfall on the day we reached Badrinath
- Learnt various nitty-gritty's of a car e.g. changing a flat tyre, filling air in the step tyre with an air pump for emergency, filling air in tyres at petrol bunk, lubricating brakes & getting them tightened at regular intervals and, last but not the least, pushing the car to start!
- Short but memorable trek to Mana village. Inhabited by an Indo-Mongolian tribe, it is the last Indian village before Tibet. Had the best Maggie ever there!
- Saw ITBP (Indo - Tibetan Border Police) troops preparing to host & guard our PM Modi & felt proud to observe the soldiers who live their lives dutifully guarding ours!
- Soaked in sunsets & sunrises in some of the most breath-taking landscapes! We also got lost twice on our way back. However, for the first time I got a proof that one can discover the most magical things while being lost. At first, we deviated & reached upper Chamoli district by mistake. The narrow roads were absolutely romantic, a mix of hilly wilderness & slenderness of planes! The second time we deviated after Srinagar (Uttarakhand) & drifted towards Sumani. The roads were BEAUTIFUL. The air around both places felt exceptionally refreshing & pure. We saw several teenagers & adults just hanging around amazingly scenic places & chilling out! What a luxury disguised in simplicity!
- Meditated inside the Badrinath temple, met Saints & observed them during their meditations, personally, this experience is what I will the most.
- Badrinath is in Chamoli district in the state Uttarakhand, India. It has an average elevation of 3,100 metres (10,170 feet), guarded on either side by the two mountain ranges known as Nar & Narayan with the towering Neelkanth Peak providing a splendid backdrop. It is in the Garhwal Himalayas, on the banks of the Alaknanda River.
- Our route: Delhi - Haridwar - Hrishikesh - Srinagar - Gochar - Joshimath - Badrinath; 549 Kms; Approx. Travel Time: 18 hours (leisurely pace, including minor halts & excluding overnight stay)
- Our vehicle: Hyundai Accent (Petrol + CNG). CNG saved us when our car battery wouldn't start on petrol due to low temperature.
- We halted at Gochar for an overnight stay. We didn't want to drive up to Badrinath after dark since the trail is rocky & unpredictable due to landslides. We didn't halt anywhere on our way back.
- We were a group of 4 and we carried 3 duffel bags, 1 backpack & few smaller bags for easy access things.
- It was a 4-day trip.
- Temperature (Max/Min Degree Celsius):
- Delhi : 30/17
- Haridwar & Hrishikesh : 30/17
- Srinagar, Gochar & Joshimath : 28/13
- Badrinath & Mana village : 5/-8
1. Planning, Packing & Preparing:
- The site is open for six months yearly, between the end of April and beginning of November.
- April - June are peak months for visitors. July - October are less crowded but colder
- You can halt for an overnight stay at Haridwar, Hrishikesh, Gochar or Joshimath depending upon your ease of travelling. The overall time it takes from Delhi to reach Badrinath is around 18 hours.
- Hotels, Ashrams & Guesthouses are decent & fairly priced (slightly cheaper during off-season)
- Badrinath Temple opens during 4 am - 12:30 pm & 4:00 pm - 08:00 pm. There are various paid Arati & Puja options while the Darshan is free of cost. Behind the Temple chamber, there's an open space where you can do your regular puja, meditation or just sit for hours doing nothing.
- If you are planning to go by bus, you can take a bus from Delhi to Haridwar. From Haridwar you will get a direct bus to Badrinath. The buses from Haridwar are regular & not luxury recliner buses. So plan accordingly.
- Other options of a taxi or a mini traveller bus are always at your disposal. You can also reach Badrinath by helicopter, but that means you will miss out on the experience of the journey.
- Haridwar & Hrishikesh are major tourist attractions on their own. Srinagar is a major district and is well connected to various towns, villages & tourist spots in Uttarakhand. Joshimath has a famous temple & it also leads to Auli, which is famous for trekking & camping. 3 kms from Joshimath is Govind Ghat from where the road to famous Hemkund Saheb starts. There are many interesting places around Badrinath as well. There is Mana Village where you can see Bheem Pul, Origin of river Saraswati, Vyas Gufa, Ganesh Gufa etc. There's Charan Paduka & Hanuman Chatti at around 3 km distance from Badrinath.
If you're planning a road trip, apart from regular service of your vehicle, ensure you get the following things checked in your vehicle:
- Brakes. Can't emphasise enough on the importance of well-functioning brakes on a hilly terrain!
- Jack, Spare Tyre & Tool Kit. Our jack ditched us in the last moment & we had to borrow another one from a generous fellow-traveller.
- If you have a sedan, check if you can get it padded to give it some added height to combat rocky terrain more smoothly
- No need to pack a lot of snacks unless you need to take care of some health condition. You will find many small shops & 'dhabas' en route. However, pack few lemons & Eno.
- Carry anything which is not common everywhere but is a vital part of your routine (healthcare, clothing, food etc.) since those items may not be available in those remote areas (I carried green tea bags). Pack medicines diligently.
- Pack a bed sheet in case you are not comfortable with getting in direct contact with hotel bed sheets or blankets. You can use your sheet beneath the blanket provided by the hotel or spread it upon the bed cover.
- While choosing clothes, choose the clothes that are really warm & loose (to aid layering) over only the fancy ones
- The public toilets in India are becoming cleaner with each passing year. However, for a hygiene freak like me, it's always best to carry lots of tissue papers, paper soaps & sanitizer.
- Make hotel reservations before starting your journey to avoid discomfort & expensive rates. Most hotel rooms provide all the basic amenities. However, insist on getting a room with geyser. You will NOT feel like touching the COLD tap water at all in Badrinath. It PRICKS!
- Avoid travelling the distance between Gochar & Badrinath in the odd hours. The roads are rocky and most areas are landslide prone.
- Do not shy away from packing extra woollens. Once you reach Badrinath, you will not regret it. Also, do not forget to pack gloves, caps, woollen socks & mufflers. Even a tiny exposed area can trouble you a lot in that temperature!
- Carry an umbrella or two for combatting unpredictable snowfall (esp. during October & November). If you want to enjoy the snowfall, carry a waterproof, loose & warm jacket. Woodland is one of my favourite brands for such jackets.
- The cold wind can make your skin & lips really dry. Carry enough moisturiser so that your exposed hands & face does not get dried up & hurtful.
- Pack few shopping bags, paper bags & newspapers. You may also pack a separate bag of all the warm clothes that you plan to give away and give it to the needy people over there (since it's too cold there & many people can't afford enough warm clothes)
- Avoid packing leather products (shoes, belts, gloves, bags) since you wouldn't carry them inside the temple.
- Ladies special: None of your jewellery will be visible in Badrinath, so don't bother packing lots of it!???? However, remember sun block creams are your best friends even in cold weather! I forgot it & got tanned.????
2. On the Go:
- Stay hydrated. It's easy to ignore water while travelling, esp. to colder areas. However, water is your best friend, so don't take it for granted. J
- Drive slowly & steadily. You are there to have a good time, not to race & stress yourself. Also, the roads are narrow & too curvy.
- Keep getting your vehicle checked for brakes & tyre condition at regular intervals.
- Have Limca if you feel bloated and stop & walk for a while. It's available in every tiny shop en route.
- People on the hills are cool, so don't hesitate asking for help. You will be surprised by their humility & helpfulness.
- Tip generously. Tourism is one of the major sources of income in those areas, so losing few Rupees won't harm you but will add value to the waiter's day.
- When you are in the Temple, follow your heart & resist the temptation to do what everyone else might be doing. Take a few moments & enjoy the sweet fruit of your journey. J
- Pause to take pictures! Every time you will see those pictures, you will feel the same happiness again. However, the number of pictures you capture is totally your call.
- Interact with the saints, priests, the locals & fellow visitors. Sometimes you can get vital information through them, or you can simply get an insight into others' lives and thought processes which is fun as well as enriching.
- Started from South Delhi around 4:30 am, reached Haridwar around 8:30 am. Spent around 1.5 hours at 'Har ki Paidhi' there along the holy Ganga, had breakfast and continued our journey
- Crossed Hrishikesh (We've been there a couple of times so didn't halt there) & reached Srinagar around 2:00 pm. Had lunch at a roadside restaurant named 'Rajhans'. The food was nice & the prices were reasonable.
- We left Srinagar around 3:00 pm & reached Gochar around 5:30 pm. We spent the night at 'Mohini Lodge' which was a family run local lodge, not luxurious but enough for spending the night. We had dinner there itself. The food was very spicy & reasonably priced
- We left Gochar around 7:00 am & reached Joshimath around 10:30 am. We had tea & snacks at a roadside dhaba there & got to know that Modi will be visiting Badrinath to celebrate Diwali with ITBP soldiers. We were excited!
- We spotted a rare Himalayan marten right beside the road. It was cute, furry & quick!
- We reached Badrinath around 1:00 pm & we were surprised to see the vigilance there. Sadly, our reservation in the Govt. Circuit House was cancelled due to Modi's visit. We had to look for another hotel & luckily got 2 rooms in Sri Hansraj Ashram. The rooms were clean & well maintained, with four beds & blankets in each room. The washrooms were also clean & had a geyser attached. We paid Rs. 250 per room per night & there were no check-in & check-out time restrictions (thanks to off-season).
- We decided to have lunch before checking in, so we went to 'Sardeshwari Restaurant', famous for multi-cuisines there. The food was good but the quantity was very less & hence we ordered more & paid more.
- We checked in to the Ashram, freshened up & went for 'darshan'. We found Badrinath more crowded this year probably because of an early Diwali date (hence better temperature) & lot of army men & ministers, some with their families
- We spent a good 3-4 hours in the temple. Had dinner in 'Seva Sadan Restaurant' which is located right opposite the temple. Food there is simple & reasonably priced.
- We strolled back to our ashram after gazing at the sky for few minutes till our necks started to hurt
- We took blankets & quilts from our second room & clubbed them with the 4 quilts of the first room, layered up really well & tried to sleep. I was shivering during most of the night & didn't sleep well due to the cold weather!
Day 3 (Diwali):
- We woke up & greeted one another a happy Diwali! We freshened up & went to the temple. It was beautifully decorated! We spent some time there. There was no news of Modi's arrival, but few MPs & MLAs kept visiting the temple. It was sort of funny how people treated them like God in a temple! Power play in action. :p We took the 'khichdi bhog' Prasad & left the temple.
- We had brunch in 'Seva Sadan' & started our mini trek to Mana village.
- The village is India's last. It's tiny, warm & very scarcely populated. It has several places of mythological importance. We visited 'Bheem Pul', Origin of river Saraswati, 'Vyas Gufa' & 'Ganesh Gufa'.
- We reached back by 4:00 pm & were informed that Modi won't be visiting Badrinath due to change of plans. Majority of the troops started to recede. We went to the temple at dusk. We had bought tickets for 'Swarna Arati' & 'Vishnu Sahastranam Paath'. After the Pooja, we did the regular Diwali puja, decorated the temple with 'diyas', distributed sweets amongst our family & to the saints around us. After the temple closed, we had dinner at 'Seva Sadan' & happily slept in the ashram. (I managed to sleep better that night)
- My mom & dad were adamant on visiting the temple for 'darshan' at 4:00 am for all the 'Shringaar Ceremonies' of Lord Badri Vishal. So while they wer in the temple, my brother & I lazily got ready & started to pack everything for our departure.
- We left the Ashram around 6:30 am but our car just didn't start after several pushes & tricks. Finally, a driver asked if our car runs on CNG, we shouted 'Yes'! Then he started the car on CNG and asked us to keep it on CNG until the battery warms up & the petrol is useable.
- We started around 7:45 am & stopped before Joshimath near a hydro-plant site for tea. The backdrop there was amazing!
- We then had breakfast at a roadside dhaba (the aloo parathas were surprisingly good) in Rudraprayag. It was after this that we lost our way & reached Upper Chamoli.
- Around 12:00 pm, before Gochar, we got a flat tyre. To make things worse, our jack didn't work. So we waited for someone to stop by & lend us their tool box. Fortunately, at some distance, there was a car parked for some time. My brother & I went up to them & asked for their help & they readily helped us. We changed the tyre, started the car & got it checked & the flat tyre repaired at the next mechanic shop.
- We reached Srinagar around 3:30 pm & had lunch at the same place 'Rajhans'
- After this was when we lost our way for the second time!????
- We reached Hrishikesh around 7:30 pm & just before that a handsome Stag came near our car!
- We did not halt anywhere & with a hurry to reach home & rest, we kept on driving & reached home at 2:00 am.
Hence we successfully concluded our road trip to Badrinath, an experience that refreshed our souls & ignited our spirits!❤
This blog was originally published on 'Nivedita'