The 4 Dham Yatra package consists of a sacred Hindu pilgrimage which is one of the most revered religious journeys in India. It involves visiting the 4 highly auspicious shrines in the Hindu mythology and history - Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri - collectively known as the ‘Char Dham’ meaning the ‘Four Sacred Sites.’
The Char Dham ki Yatra - as the pilgrimage is commonly known, is believed to wash away the sins of the soul and cleanse it, earning blessings from the gods. It is believed that a journey to these revered shrines will lead to salvation or ‘Moksha.’ That is why the Char Dham Yatra witnesses thousands of devotees from India and across the world flocking to these shrines every year.
These 4 sacred sites covered in the Chardham Yatra tour package are located in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand. The Char Dham Yatra starts from the holy town of Haridwar or Rishikesh. Haridwar is popularly considered the hub for this religious journey.
The journey usually takes 10-12 days to complete. However, it also depends on the tour operator or the travel agency with whom you are booking your Chardham package as each might have their own exclusive itinerary.
The Char Dham Yatra is not just a spiritual journey but also an opportunity for the people to witness the natural beauty of the Himalayas. The devotees get to experience the rich and ancient traditions of India through the rituals performed in the shrines and along the journey.
On the other hand, the adventure-seekers trek love the treks through the rugged terrains, steep inclines, and harsh weather conditions. Thus it is not only a journey of faith but a test of physical and mental endurance - leading to a unique blend of adventure, culture, and divine experiences.
The total distance of the Char Dham Yatra usually depends on the Chardham Yatra tour package, that varies according to mode of transportation and the route taken. The approximate road distance covered on the Yatra is between 1600-1800 km, which again varies according to the starting point and the route followed.
The Char Dham Yatra package cost varies depending on multiple factors namely accommodation preferences, modes of transportation, trip duration, choice of the tour operator, and the number of people traveling.
As a rough estimate, a budget of nearly USD 300 - USD 485 (INR 25,000 - INR 40,000) is required per person per day for a 10-12 day trip, that covers transportation, accommodation, food, and other miscellaneous inclusions.
The four temples - Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath are open from Akshay Tritiya till Bhai Dooj.
The Char Dham Yatra tour will start on 3rd May 2023 and the tentative closing date is 26th November 2023. The Badrinath-Kedarnath Mandir Samiti have announced that the gates of Kedarnath will open on 25th April, 6:20 AM, while those of Badrinath will open on 27th April, 7:10 AM.
There are multiple facets that make the Char Dham Yatra a spiritually and culturally unique activity for the people who participate in it.
The Char Dham Yatra involves visiting four shrines dedicated to specific deities of the Hindu mythology and have massive significance in the Hindu religion and beliefs. These are - Yamunotri (Goddess Yamuna), Gangotri (Goddess Ganga), Kedarnath (Lord Shiva), and Badrinath (Lord Vishnu).
The Char Dham Yatra is considered as the most spiritually awakening pilgrimage tour or ‘Teertha Yatra’ of the Hindu religion, where you can wash away your sins, cleanse your soul, and earn blessings and shower of good fortune from the Gods and Goddesses.
Since the Char Dham Yatra is located amidst the lofty mountains of the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand, you get to witness the breathtaking natural beauty while embarking on this spiritual journey. The route to the shrines pass through picturesque mountain landscapes, valleys, and rivers.
The culture and traditions of various parts of Uttarakhand are reflected to you during the Char Dham Yatra. You gather valuable insights into the lifestyle of the people living in the Himalayan region through their customs, living habits, food and cuisine, etc.
The typical itinerary of the Chardham package is given below.
Day 1: The journey to the Char Dham starts at the holy city of Haridwar in Uttarakhand, literally translated as the ‘Gateway to God.’ From there, you will take a ride to Barkot - a small town in the Uttarkashi district at an altitude of nearly 1220 meters. The distance between the two towns is nearly 210 km and the ride, passing through Mussorie - the Queen of the Hills, and the Kempty Falls, takes approximately 7-8 hours. You should complete your lunch at Kempty Falls, since the availability of good restaurants or eateries becomes slim after passing this region. You will typically arrive at Barkot in the evening, from where you will get a picturesque view of the snow-capped peaks of the Bandarpoonch Massif. Finally, retire in your hotels for the grueling trek that starts the next day.
Day 2: After completing your breakfast in Barkot, set out towards Yamunotri Dham (3293 meters). First, it is a short ride, covering a distance of approximately 36 km to Janki Chatti/Phool Chatti, from where you have to hike uphill for almost 6 km to reach the shrine. You have to trek through a lush green valley filled with dense conifers, cacti, rhododendrons, and other Himalayan shrubs, and arrive at the Yamunotri. The Bandarpoonch massif is extremely prominent from this region. The backdrop of the temple contains the Yamuna river, which actually originates in the Yamunotri glacier (6387 meters) and flows near the temple, that contains a black marble statue of the Goddess Yamuna. It is believed that taking a dip in the river Yamuna gives you a peaceful death. Before entering the temple, you have to offer your prayers to the Divya Shila - a stone pillar just outside the shrine. You can also take a dip in the Surya Kund - a hot-water spring having medicinal properties, and boil rice by dipping them in a cloth in the spring and finally offering it at the Divya Shila as ‘Prasad.’ Spend time in this serene landscape and return to Barkot.
Day 3: On this day, you will drive from Barkot to Uttarkashi (1352 meters) - at a distance of 90 km, which takes approximately 4 hours. Situated on the banks of the Ganges, this town is extremely similar to Varanasi, considering the fact that both are hubs for adventure, culture, and spirituality. Uttarkashi is a popular hub for trekkers, hikers, and adventure enthusiasts, as they start several Himalayan adventures like the Dayara Bugyal trek, the Sartal trek, the Har ki Dun trek, the Kedartal trek, the Dodital trek, etc. from this town. The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) is also located in this town. The town has a significantly big market for people to withdraw cash from ATMs or do their last minute shopping before embarking on any adventure. Apart from being an adventure hub, Uttarkashi is known for emanating spirituality and is frequented by pilgrims throughout the year. According to the literature of the Skanda Purana, Uttarkashi is the home of Lord Shiva in Kalyug, and thus, the famous Vishwanath Temple in this town attracts a massive flock of tourists every year. The Shivalingam of the Vishwanath temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in the country. Other notable temples are the Shakti temple, the Markandey Rishi shrine, the Sakshi Gopal temple, Gopeshwar Mahadev and Koteshwar Mahadev temples, etc.
Day 4: It is a remarkable day in your itinerary as you will trek nearly 100 km to reach the next Dham of your Char Dham Yatra - the Gangotri Dham (3048 meters). It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Himalayas that attracts the likes of mountaineers, trekkers, adventure seekers, and pilgrims in thousands every year. At Gangnani, you can bathe in the Garam Kund and then continue through the lush green Harsil valley to reach the Gangotri temple. The river Ganga, that originates from the Gaumukh glacier in the Gangotri valley is known as Bhagirathi here - a small stream that trickles around the shrine. You can trek to the Gaumukh glacier to witness the origin of the Ganga or even trek 4 km further to reach Tapovan. The Gangotri temple was built by the Gorkha general Amar Singh Thapa in the 18th century. Legend says that King Bhagirath meditated for years to request Goddess Ganga to descend from the heaven and flow across this region, to wash away the ashes of his 60,000 dead sons who were cursed by the sage Kapila and grant them salvation. But when Goddess Ganga started to flow, her force was such that it could destroy the earth. Hence, Lord Shiva intervened and caught her in his locks and allowed her to flow in the form of three streams - one of whom is the river Bhagirathi. The Bhagirath Shila nearby bears testimony to the meditation of King Bhagirath. A major attraction is the submerged Shivling that is visible only in winters when the river level drops. About a distance of 100 yards from the Gangotri Dham lies the Kedar Ganga temple with the Kedar Ganga river flowing in its backdrop. You can also explore the Bhairon Nath temple that lies 10 km downstream and has been constructed to offer prayers to Bhairon Nath - chosen by Lord Shiva to protect Gangotri. Head back to Uttarkashi later for an overnight stay.
Day 5: Wake up early, finish your breakfast and drive from Uttarkashi towards Guptkashi (1319 meters) - the celebrated religious spot. Situated at a distance of 220 km from Uttarkashi, Guptkashi literally translates as “The Hidden Varanasi” because of its pious environment and religious semblance to Varanasi. The drive of 8-9 hours is extremely tranquil through Moolgarh and Lambgaon and the route follows the serene Mandakini river from Tilwara till Kedarnath. En route, you will come across the Tehri Dam - the highest dam in the world. The sprawling Mandakini Valley is covered with the Champak flower and lies at the backdrop of the snow-covered Chaukhamba peak. Many people believe that Guptkashi is the abode of hereditary priests who live here during the winters when the Kedarnath temple is closed. Guptkashi might also derive its name from the fact that Lord Shiva hid here in the form of Nandi the bull, when the Pandavas came to atone for their sins in the war. Finally, they caught up with Lord Shiva at Kedarnath. After reaching Guptkashi in the evening, explore the Ardh Narishwar temple in the night lights that has a unique idol of the Ardh Narishwar - a half of Lord Shiva and a half of Goddess Shakti. You can also visit Phata - 14 km from Guptkashi, that offers helipad services to Kedarnath. Alternatively, you can take rest in your hotel.
Day 6: If you are not taking a helicopter from Guptkashi/Phata to reach Kedarnath, you have to drive up to Gaurikund at a distance of 30 km from Uttarkashi. The motorable road ends here and you have to trek on foot for about 16 km uphill or take a pony or doli and reach Kedarnath. Kedarnath - one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and the most significant part of the Panch Kedar Yatra, lies at a height of 3583 meters in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. The Kedarnath temple is built as a homage to that Avatar of Lord Shiva who is both a protector and a destroyer. Behind the Kedarnath temple lies the lofty Kedarnath peak within the Kedarnath range, which adds to the overall mystic symbolism and divine aura of this place. The 16 km trek from Gaurikund takes place across the Rambada Bridge to Jungle Chatti, at a distance of 4 km. From there, you can take some refreshments and water and continue for 3 km to reach Bheembali. You can take rest at accommodations in Bheembali. From Bheembali, continue for 4 km to Linchauli, from where it is 4 km hike to the Kedarnath base camp. From the base camp itself, you will get panoramic views of the Kedarnath range.
Day 7: Visit the temple early in the morning at around 4:45 AM for the “Abhishek” of the Kedarnath Shiva. You can enter the Garbha Griha and touch the idol with your hands or head and seek blessings. Following the ‘Abhishek’, you need to have some breakfast and start your downhill journey of 16 km towards Gaurikund. Gaurikund is a divine place where it is believed that Parvati did a penance following Yogic and Karmic practices and invite Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was pleased by her devotion and accepted her marriage proposal, following which they were bound in a divine communion at the Tijuginarayan temple. You can even take a bath in the hot springs of Gauri Kund and then take a drive covering 30 km to reach Guptkashi for an overnight stay.
Day 8: Wake up early as today you will reach the final destination of your Char Dham Yatra - Badrinath (3133 meters). Badrinath is located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand and you need to take a 7 hour long ride via Joshimath to cover almost 215 km and reach the Badrinath Dham. En route, you will find the Adi Shankaracharya Math and the Narsingh Temple at Joshimath. The Badrinath Dham, named from ‘Badri Van’ or the ‘Forest of Wild Berries’, is flanked on either side by the Nar and Narayan mountains and contains several structures of religious importance. Among them are the multiple hot springs, of which the Tapt and Narad Kunds are the most popular. It is mandatory for you to bathe in the Tapt Kund on the banks of the Alakananda before you enter Badrinath Dham to offer your prayers. The Badrinath idol was discovered in the pool of Narad Kund. Enjoy a day of exploring significant religious structures in a tranquil setting like the Brahma Kapal - a platform to perform the last rites and rituals for the deceased. There are 2 boulders - Sheshnetra, located 1.5 km from Badrinath and has the impression of a snake, and Charanpaduka, located 3 km from Badrinath and has the impression of Lord Vishnu’s footprint. There is another shrine dedicated to the mother of Badrinath known as Maha Murty. 5 km from Badrinath lies the Vasundhara waterfall, whereas the Mana Village - steeped in natural beauty and having natural attractions like the Vyas Gufa and the Bhim Pul is the last village at the Indo-Tibetan border lying adjacent to Badrinath. Along with the serene setting of the shrine, the sanctity of the place is derived from the legend of Badrinath. The legend of Badrinath claims that Lord Vishnu, rebuked by the sage Narad, came here and submerged himself in utmost meditation and hence the idol is also that of a meditating Vishnu. After a day of sightseeing and exploration, head back to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Day 9: If you missed the sights of the Mana village, you can check out Bhim Pul - a natural bridge over the roaring Saraswati River that is believed to be placed by Bhim - the second Pandava. Another religious location is the Vyas Gufa, where Ved Vyas is said to have stayed while articulating Mahabharata and other Puranic scriptures. You can take a dip in the Tapt Kund before starting your return journey. The return journey covers a distance of 160 km in which you will first come across Joshimath at the confluence of the Alakananda and Dhauliganga rivers. Following this, you come to Rudraprayag - one of the Panch Prayags that is situated at the joining of the Alakananda and Mandakini. It is a tourist spot where people come to do adventure sports like white water rafting. You will stay overnight at Rudraprayag.
Day 10: Wake up early and take a drive from Rudraprayag to cover a distance of nearly 160 km in 5 hours and finally reach Haridwar. En route, you will come across Rishikesh, Ramjhula, Laxmanjhula, and Tiveni Ghat. Eventually, head to the Haridwar railway station and catch the train back home, concluding your 4 Dham Yatra.
Some of the essential considerations that you should keep in mind before embarking on the Chardham Yatra tour are as follows.