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An Ideal Guide To Char Dham Yatra: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath

It is said in Hinduism, that no act can be more righteous and religiously pious than taking your parents on a pilgrimage to Char Dham. And I ended up living that statement, earlier in the year 2017, upon my mother’s continuous request to take her across to the Char Dham — the four holy sites for Hindus: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath — in the Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.

It happened when my mother kept requesting me to a point where any repeated denial felt like a hopeless try. The deal was, however, we were not going to book any of those lame Char Dham yatra tours that cover every experience possible — from fighting for the front seat in the tour-bus everyday, to sight-seeing more tourist places (that fall on route) than something religious, to sleeping in the smelly guesthouses ever — but nothing spiritually uplifting.


So taking no risk of that sort and regretting in the end, we agreed upon following my way — of literally backpacking to all the four sites of Char Dham. For a period of nearly 10 days, we experienced uncountable rickety public buses, waited long hours for shared taxis, worked and reworked on our itinerary (though still following the agenda of starting the pilgrimage with Yumnotri and ending at Badrinath) and booked our own hotels, while on the go.

And if you’re planning something similar — of completing the Char Dham Yatra in one go, without booking a special tour, this travel guide is for you.

Following The Right Way

Not many people are privy to the fact that the Char Dham Yatra follows a pattern and end up visiting the four holy places the way they fancy. From what is believed, the pilgrims should first visit Yumnotri then Gangotri, then Kedarnath, and in the end, conclude their visit at Badrinath. Why so? Well, as my mother.

Things To Note

Please note that the temples at four Char Dham sites open only between a limited period of April to October/November, with every year having a different opening and closing date based on the Hindu tradition of parikrama or clockwise circumambulation. One can check the exact date of opening of Char Dham Yatra on the official Uttarakhand Tourism website.

Though people allowed to visit the four pilgrimage sites throughout the year (if the roads are not blocked already due to heavy snowfall in winter) the temples remain locked from outside. It is moreover quite impossible to find public bus connections once the Yatra has been officially announced as discontinued for the season!

A self-planned trip may take a few days extra, as you may end up spending a little more time in finding accommodation or waiting for public transport, but rest assured, there’s going to be much more freedom and peace of mind throughout the journey. The entire trip may also just feel a lot cheaper than booking a per-pax, all paid for the tour — particularly if you’re two or more people and hence sharing hotel rooms.

There will be enough regular buses and shared taxis moving along the route between the official opening time of the yatra. When the yatra is officially discontinued, finding transport can be a problem. So plan accordingly.

Understanding The Route

Despite the four sites of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath being located pretty close to each other, the higher mountain regions here makes it pretty impossible to have any direct road connection between them — forcing travellers to take longer detours and thus travelling longer distances. Consider a full day drive (7-14 hours) from one destination to the other.

Day 1: Rishikesh To Janki Chatti

Morning buses from Rishikesh leave at the first light (around 4 AM) and take nearly 10 or 11 hours to reach Janki Chatti. Buses can be booked in advance at the bus station in Rishikesh or right on time. Those who have missed the bus should have no problem in finding shared taxis that may charge slightly extra. The route takes you from zero to a whopping 2,800m altitude above the sea level.

Please note that the road concludes at Janki Chatti from where you need to trek 5 km (and back) to Yamunotri. And since the trek may take around 4-5 hours and then another hour to enter the temple (if it’s crowded) it’s a good idea not to trek the same day and rather do it the following morning. There are enough budget hotels to stay at Janki Chatti. A few guest houses can also be found at Yamunotri, but in peak season, it may be possible that they’re all fully booked.

Day 2: Trek To Yamunotri. And Back To Janki Chatti

Yamunotri is the source of river Yamuna, which, according to Hindu belief, is considered pure and bathing in its waters is believed to absolve people of their sins.

The trail connecting Janki Chatti and Yamunotri is pretty much a wide concrete path, with almost no chance of someone losing it. A GMVN rest house lies a kilometre from the starting point to the left. The town ends after a kilometre and a half after which the route gets slightly steeper. There are three temples along the route and the first (Ram temple) lies to your right just after the town ends. You will be treated to a hot spring at Yamunotri.

Depending on how fast you walk and how busy the temple at Yamunotri was, it can take 4 to 5 (or even) hours to get back to Janki Chatti. Relax at Janki Chatti.

Day 3: Janki Chatti to Gangotri

Janki Chatti to Gangotri can feel another long journey, though still not as brutal as the previous one. Even if you catch a bus at 6 or 7 in the morning, you should be fine reaching the town of Gangotri before it gets dark.

Now, the temple at Gangotri is located in the town of Gangotri itself, confusing many about whether or not to go all the way to Gomukh (the source of river Ganga) and only pay tribute at the temple in the town of Gangotri and leave. Trek to Gomukh, from Gangotri, takes at least two days and requires to complete an 18+18 km trail.

If you wish to skip the trek, skip Day 4 & Day 5 below.

Day 4: Gangotri To Bhojbasa

Trek to Gangotri to Gomukh takes two days, with the first destination being a flat valley named Bhojbasa. The trek to Bhojbasa — 14 km from Gangotri, starts at the front courtyard of the Gangotri temple — following a steep climb of around 100 steps which leaving you pretty much exhausted before you even start. But once you’re done with it, there’s only a gentle uphill climb throughout.

It may take 6 or 8 hours to complete the trek, depending upon the fitness level. Regular ongoing pilgrims will keep you on track. However, if you’re visiting Char Dham when the chances of finding regular pilgrims are less, it’s advised to hire a guide or walk in a group.

Bhojbasa has a GMVN government guesthouse or a much cheaper Lal Baba Ashram where you can stay for 250 Rupees a night, including your food and stay.

Day 5: Bhojbasas to Gomukh. And Back To Gangotri

Since Bhojbasa has located 4 km from Gomukh, continue your journey early next day and reach Gomukh in an hour and a half. Gomukh is the source of river Ganga (or the Ganges) that completes your pilgrim to Gangotri.

Spend some time at Gomukh and walk back to Bhojbasa. Have another cup of tea at Bhojbasa if you fancy or continue your walk back to Gangotri. Since Bhojbasa to Gangotri is pretty much a gentle downhill walk, there should be no problem in completing in nearly 4 hours. Find a place in Gangotri and stay for the night.

Day 6: Gangotri To Gauri Kund. And A Pit Stop At Sonprayag

The route to Gangotri to Gauri Kund is the longest distance between any two Char Dham locations — a whopping 310 km and can take as long as 14 hours to complete it. The buses leave around 4, with the first light, until 7 after which there are no direct buses between the two locations and one may have to break the journey (Gangotri to Uttarkashi to Gauri Kund) and reach Gauri Kund if they apparently even could.

Gauri Kund is where the road concludes itself. From here, there’s only a walkable trail.

Now, please note that for Kedarnath yatra you also have to obtain a medical fitness certificate. This certificate can be obtained from the medical centres at Sonprayag. They check your blood pressure and inquire about your medical history. If you couldn’t prove yourself as medically fit to walk, you won’t be allowed you to go to Kedarnath by trek. In this case, you will have to go to Kedarnath by helicopter. Your bus will drop you at Sonprayag, from where you’ll be required to get the medical certificate and get a shared taxi to Gauri Kund (a 10-minute journey).

Day 7: Gauri Kund To Rambara

After the June’13 flood in Uttarakhand, people think that the trekking route from Gauri Kund to Kedarnath route is very risky and unsafe. But this is untrue, the trek has become safer now, perhaps as safe as the trek to Vaishno Devi — with around 8 ft to 10 ft wide trail and an iron railing on the edges.

Some people complete the trek from Gauri Kund to Kedarnath, and back in one day. But if you don’t mind sparing an extra day, two days make for an easy and enjoyable walk to Kedarnath. Located around 11 km from Gauri Kund, Rambara has a GMVN tent accommodation, with fresh food and hot shower.

Day 8: Rambara To Kedarnath. And Back to Gauri Kund

From Rambara, the site of Kedarnath is only a 3 km or an hour’s walk away. As you reach Kedarnath, the first thing you notice is the big commercial helipad. Next, to the helipad, there are camps and cottages made by NIM for overnight stay of tourists, but since they go full during the season time, it’s always a good idea to stay at Rambara, unless you have a booking.

It may moreover take up to two or three hours to get into the temple at Kedarnath, so start early.

Once done, walk back to Gauri Kund and stay there for the night. If you’ve time, you can also consider taking the shared taxi to Sonprayag (the town where you got off earlier to obtain the medical certificate) and stay in Sonprayag. This may make it easier for you to catch the morning bus to Badrinath the next day.

Day 9: Gauri Kund/Sonprayag to Badrinath

Gauri Kund/Sonprayag to Badrinath is a 300km long stretch and can take 10-12 hours to complete the journey. Buses leave from the same point in Sonprayag where you got off earlier to obtain the medical certificate and can be booked in advance to confirm a seat.

If you’re planning to leave for Rishikesh and take the early morning bus, visit the temple in the night and book a bus ticket for the next day. Buses leave as early as 4 Am.

Practical Tips & Other Factual Mumbo-Jumbo

  • Consider paying 500-800 Rupees per person for every bus journey. A shared taxi, which is quicker, may charge 200-300 Rs extra than a bus.
  • You can find a twin sharing room for 500 or 600 Rupees at most places, except for the GMVN tent accommodation on the way to Kedarnath. They’re quite expensive for a price of 800 Rupees per person in a 6-8 mixed-dorm tent.
  • Make sure to carry at least one photo ID card with you.
  • Avoid visiting Char Dham between May and June because of the peak tourist season.
Filed under: India


After my couple of years of corporate career, I left that lifestyle behind, and with it, everything that didn't fit in a backpack. I've learned that this world is too big (and too interesting!) to spend your life working at one place, and that's what inspires me to remain footloose and fancy-free for the rest of my life!


  1. rahul says

    Such a helpful and awesome article this gonna be helpful for those who wanna visit chardham yatra…

  2. Asha Chheda says

    Very helpful and detailed naration.
    Useful for independent teavellers.
    Thanks a lot Dev.

  3. Anonymous says

    Hi thanks for the nice information, I am Planning to go alone in Chardham yatra on 12 Jun, could you please tell me the tracking details and the short route of chardham

  4. Nav says

    Very detailed and crisp information. Thankyou for this article and helping me plan my trip to char dham. Taking print out of your article with me.

  5. Chitransh Sinha says

    Hey Dev .. we are leaving for char dham from Haridwar on 24th June with a personal taxi from Haridwar to all char dham nd back..
    I just wanted to know how many days will take for us. Am sure the driver must be experience with the routes nd time to be taken but still I’ve two 50-55yrs old guardians with me.. can u tell by what date we will be back to Haridwar so that I can book my return tickets..
    And ya we planned to go only char dham temples.. nothing like your 4th nd 5th points.. it will be very helpful if you reply soon!

  6. Ankur Mahajan says


    I am planning to go to chardham from delhi from 2 June 2019 night. since I am short of days and cash crunch too I want to plan on my own with 2 more guys instead of going with groups. i am starting from 2 June 2019 night and reach dehradun early morning and take another bus to reach janki chatti or hanuman chatti. Visit Yamnotri then leave for uttarkashi then to harsil and gangotri. come back to uttarkashi to guptkashi then to kedarnath. then back to guptkashi. guptkashi to badrinath and back to dehradun/rishikesh.

    can you help me draw the number of days it will take to plan like this and approximate budget it will take such trip.

  7. Shivang says

    Hi Dev. Really good work by you. i am planning to take my parents for the Yatra in May 19. However i have not done any hotel bookings as i prefer to book on spot. However, i will prefer to use helicopter service from nearby spots due to my mothers back issues so please advise suggestions for the same

    • No idea about the helicopter service I am afraid, as I did not try it myself and neither did I enquire about. Sorry, couldn’t help.

      • sumit mehta says

        hello, firstly I would recommend you to book the hotels in advance since May is a very busy month for Chardham and since you will be traveling with your mother it will be a huge hassle to book your hotel on the spot. helicopter ride for Chardham yatra is the best option for you, keeping in mind your mother’s back problems, it will guarantee a safe and tension free yatra. you can share your contact details with us so that we can discuss this further or you can give us a call on 9911884413 and out tour manager will get back to you ASAP with all the details you need from us.

    • Anonymous says

      Have you done the helicopter booking? Plz guide me. I m not getting any link for the same.

      • sumit mehta says

        please share your contact details so that i explain you in detail or you may contact us at

  8. Ram says

    Many thanks for the information on your blog.
    I have a rather peculiar problem I suppose – I am not up to speed with Hindi Is that likely to make it more difficult for me to do the chardham by myself? I am planning to do it solo. And any other tips?

    • sumit mehta says

      hey, going for Chardham solo will be a very unique experience and a lot of people opt for the same. there won’t be any problem in communication since people from all over the world make this journey and people offering their services over there understand English and can help you out in case of need. it won’t be an issue. for any further information, you can share your contact details with us or call us on 9911884413 and our tour manager will get back to you.

  9. Mairei says

    Hi Dev,
    I am planning to go for char dham yatra from 22nd Jun, 19. Please suggest whether I would be able to get accomodations and hire bus/cabs without pre-booking.

    • hey there, June is a busy month. June and July both are. But I am sure you will still (with a little difficulty or hike in prices) be able to find accommodation while on the go. Even if you pre-book things are going to be expensive during the two months.

      • sumit mehta says

        the months of May, June till mid-july are the peak yatra months where these places experience the most number of pilgrim footfall, so to be on a safer side and to avoid any unexpected turn of events, you should do your bookings way beforehand, be it taxi or a hotel services. for bookings and other related questions, you can feel free to call us on 9911884413 or share with us your contact details so that our tour manager is able to get back to you with all the information you need.

        • VAIBHAV says

          What is the point in leaving your contact number? I called you on 22/05/19.. ad you didnt even listen to me and disconnected the call ?

          You really wana help people or rather interested in doing business or not?

    • Anil says

      Hey planning to travel by June 20 or June 22. Can u plz let me know will you be providing a service for a solo traveler or will you be wrapping me up with other solo traveler ? can you plz highlight the cost and other details like number of traveler along with me ??? So that I can book my flight tickets..

  10. Venkant Bhavsar says

    Great place to be in. Very few lucky ones get a chance to visit these.

    • sumit mehta says

      yes! it is. but if you want to go then i can help you to make proper planning. let me know if you are interested to go.
      sumit mehta

  11. Dinesh says

    The Pandavas started their journey from Badrinath and went towards the Swargarohini peak which is close to Yamunotri.
    But we people are just doing the opposite of what Pandavas did.
    I will follow the Pandavas way. Will start with the Badrinath and head towards the Heavens of Yamunotri. 😉
    Thanks for your Guide.

  12. padmaja says

    Hi Dev,
    I padmaja your blog is very informative .
    we are planning to do chardhaam yatra with my family on september month ending probably from 23 rd to 30 th .
    i did not find any information regarding how can we reach badrinath temple ( i.e do we have transport facility till the temple or do we need to go by walk .)
    if you provide this information it would be very helpful for mee to plan the travel perfectly.

    • Hi Padmaja, Badrinath temple is located right in the town of Badrinath, and buses ago all the way there. Say, from the bus station, you may have to walk a little inside the town and you will reach the Badrinath temple.

  13. KIRAN KUMAR says

    The route to Gangotri to Gauri Kund is the longest distance between any two Char Dham locations — a whopping 310 km and can take as long as 14 hours to complete it. The buses leave around 4, with the first light, until 7 after which there are no direct buses between the two locations and one may have to break the journey (Gangotri to Uttarkashi to Gauri Kund) and reach Gauri Kund if they apparently even could.
    IS THAT 7 AM OR PM????

    • Hi Kiran, sorry for the confusion. It’s all AM in Uttarakhand. No night buses. They start at 4 in the morning and reach at 7 in the evening. Even shared taxis are hard to find in Uttarakhand in the night. Hope it helps 🙂

  14. A very interesting, useful post with great pics!
    I am planning to do Kedarnath-vasuki tal and Gangotri – Gaumukh in end_Sept. There’s only one UTC bus from Haridwar to Gangotri, at 6 AM.
    I am not comfortable with taking very early morning buses. I am considering GMOU buses and shared cabs.
    Can you share your feedback about which is better – private / GMOU bus or shared cab?

  15. Dhananjay says

    I am Dhananjay from Pune.
    I am going with my Wife on Bike ( Bajaj Avenger 220) from 17th Sept to 5th Oct 18 on Chardham Yatra along with Hemkund Saheb & Vally of Flowers.
    I am travelling on Bike from Delhi to Delhi.
    Dev, I request you to guide for Max travel per day possible on Bike & stay possible locations. I hv kept 2-3 day extra.

    • Dhananjay says

      May I request you to inform requested details pl?

  16. Debjyoti Chakraborty says

    Hii guys
    I’m planning to visit char dham on 15th october, 2018.
    Doj from haridwar – 17th october, 18 & return to haridwar on 26th of October , 2018 with my parents, one is 64 & another is 60. Pl. guide me should I plan it with no worries or will there be any risk ?
    Also, what necessary precaution should I take?

    • Dhananjay says

      Pl check the Mandir Door close date of Shri Badrinathji. I hope its Dassra the last day of Navratri.. 18th Oct 18.
      U may miss this mandir..

      • umesh says

        Badrinath gate closing date will be annnoused on the dushara, so effectively it will close by 2 weeks later.

  17. Jatin Jhunjhunwala says

    Hi Dev,
    I am From Maharashtra,our plan is 11th May reach rishikesh after up to 19th May midnight our train is from Haridwar,our plan is to visit gngotri +gaumukh & badrinath,we are 2 people,kindly some suggestion for private taxi or share taxi + gaumukh darshan guide etc

  18. Arun says

    Really helpful information. I am planning to go chardham yatra in coming months.

    Would like to know bus availability and timings from

    janakichatti to gangothri and
    from gangothri to gaurikund

    Also let me know if we need proper trekking equipments to trek to goumukh

  19. Buy Contact Lenses says

    I certainly agree to some points that you have discussed on this post. I appreciate that you have shared some reliable tips on this review.

  20. Yes sonny, you take your maa on pilgrimage and Sri Hari/My Krishna will definitely take note,as it is written in our shastras that taking your parents to the Tirthas is a good deed (but when they wrote it times were different ) No pun intended, it was really a nice thing to do, every parent loves to travel with his child, I don’t know why but we somehow feel whole and contented with our children.

  21. mayuri patel says

    very useful guide and some helpful information here in the post..I am planning for May month for Do dham visit.Will I get accommodation easily or have to pre book as it will be peak season.

    • Through May, June and July are indeed the peak seasons, it’s still possible to book the hotels while on the go. Forget about prebooking. I also advise not to visit during the peak season, as all four sites can be quite crowded. Consider the beginning of May, if you can.

  22. Purvi says

    Indeed a very useful guide Dev. I followed a different route from Kedarnath to Badrinath and reduced almost 3 hours of useless journey all the way back to rudraprayag . N the beautiful hill stations on the way were the additional surprises.

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