A Hidden Gem of Unexplored Harsil Valley - Visit Harsil During Char Dham Yatra

Harsil is a serene Himalayan hamlet surrounded by snow-clad mountains, pine forests and apple orchards, a hidden jewel, yet to be explored near Gangotri Dham and sits at a height of 7,860 ft (2,620 metres) in Uttarkashi district of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The town lies at a distance of 73 km from the district headquarters of Uttarkashi. 30 km further from the valley, Gangotri National Park region begins. This covers the area of 1,553 square km. Harsil being a lesser known destination does not have many options for accommodation. A handful of guesthouses and budget hotels can be found in the village which can only offer to cater the basic needs of the travellers. One can find a decent number of places to stay in Gangotri and Uttarkashi, which are 25 km and 74 km away from Harsil respectively. Out of the two places, more accommodation options can be found in Uttarkashi.

  1. Popularly referred to as the mini Switzerland of India, time seems to have stopped in this poetic hill-station dotted with traditional houses and ancient temples.
  2. Harsil also offers many opportunities for thrill-seekers, such as trekking and hiking. The landscape is nourished by the Bhagirathi river.
  3. Harsil is located in a picturesque valley inhabited mainly by the Bhotia tribes.
  4. The temperature of Harsil remains pleasant during summers and reaches a freezing point during winters.
  5. There are numerous Deodar and Apple trees in Harsil and the region receives snowfall from December to March.
  6. The mesmerising valley of Harsil filled with oak and deodar trees makes it a trekker’s paradise. Many trekking routes pass through Harsil which takes one through cascading waterfalls.
  7. The beautiful village of Harsil encourages ecotourism where tourists can experience these calm and serene environments along with learning about the rustic way of life, customs, and beliefs of the community that lives there.
  8. Harsil is a recommended destination for Corporates, Family and Kids, Foreigners, Groups, Solo.
  9. Harsil is a popular destination for following activities/ interests - Base Camps (Trek), Cantonment Area, Char Dham Route, Emerging Destinations, Hill Station, Orchards, Romantic, Yoga and Meditation.

Harsil is known for its apple produce, which according to local lore, was introduced to the area by a British settler Fredric E Wilson. It is said Wilson fell in love with Harsil and a local girl, and made this hamlet his home. He introduced apple cultivation to Harsil and changed its economy. Today, Harsil apples are popular across the country and the annual Harsil Apple Festival is a big draw.

Harsil has a secret, which intrigues tourists. This was the place where legendary filmmaker Raj Kapoor had shot parts of his super-hit movie Ram Teri Ganga Maili. The village post office, which was featured in the film, stands here even today, just the way it was around 40 years ago! Go around the small settlement and hear the villagers proudly recall the film.

Historical Fact of Harsil

The amazingly beautiful valley became popular for the legend Pahari Wilson or Raja Wilson. Wilson deserted the British army after the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. He escaped into the Garhwal region and went to the King of Tehri to hide. But the King refused to shelter him. Then Wilson ran to the mountains to hide. But the destiny of Wilson brought him into this valley located on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. Some historians say that the timber trading in Harsil made Wilson so wealthy and powerful among locals that even the local king of Tehri-Garhwal was unable to deal with him.

However, Wilson fell in love with the Himalayas and could not set off on a journey ahead and finally settled in Harsil. It is popularly believed that Harsil started to get into the civilised mode since then. Wilson then married a ‘pahadi’ girl and settled, and introduced apple sapling here. It is said that annual income of the Tehri king increased many folds with the revenue earned from Wilson’s efforts. Eventually, the popularity of apples from this region spread far and wide and so did Harsil.

Weather at Harsil – Best time to Visit

Weather of this valley remains pleasant throughout the year. The best time to visit Harsil valley starts from April and weather remains pleasant till mid July. During this time, the sky remains clear and mountain peaks are clearly visible. This is the best time for sightseeing. Harsil receives a good amount of visitors during these months.

One can also visit Harshil during September to November months. During these months the weather remains slightly cold with cool breeze blowing and the temperature drops significantly.

Harsil in Summer (April-June)

April to June is the period of the summer season in Harsil. The weather remains moderate and pleasant during summers. The temperature ranges from 18°C to 30°C. Carrying some woollen clothes is advisable as the temperature falls down to 9°C during the night even in summers because of high altitude. The temperature during these months is favourable for trekkers. Summer is considered as the ideal season to visit Harsil. During this time the weather is moderate and the beauty of the town remains at its peak. However, the village always remains in danger of landslides during monsoon.

Harsil in Monsoon (July-September)

July marks the onset of the monsoon that lasts until August. The village experiences average rainfall during monsoon. This brings the temperature down and makes the area quite cool. But, the rain sometimes results in landslides and roads can also get blocked. Therefore, it is advised to check the weather forecast before planning a trip to Harsil in monsoon.

Harsil in Winter

The winter season in Harsil starts from the month of October and lasts till February. The village experiences snowfall during the winters and the temperature can dip below 0°C. Trekking becomes challenging during these months in Harsil. Despite the cold weather, numbers of tourists prefer this place to spend their vacation and to enjoy the mesmerising view of the hills.

Harshil receives a good amount of snowfall. Then again the month of February brings pleasant weather and snow starts to melt. If you are into snow trekking then December is the best time to visit Harsil for you. We recommend inquiring about road conditions in advance and pack your bags with woollen clothes before visiting Harshil during Winters.

How to Reach Harsil

Harsil is quite accessible from Uttarkashi and Gangotri and is connected well with roads. Therefore, reaching here is not difficult. One can also choose air and rail services to a certain extent to reach at least halfway to the place.

By Air : The nearest airport from Harsil is Jolly Grant Airport which is situated in Dehradun at a distance of 232 km. The airport offers daily flights to and fro important cities like; Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata. From the airport, there are cab services available by which one can reach Harsil without any hassle. The airport is also well-connected to Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, which is at a distance of 461 km from Harsil.

By Rail : Rishikesh and Haridwar Railway Station are the nearest railway stations from Harsil. Though trains to both the stations are available, Haridwar seems to have better connectivity and is at a distance of 262 km. One can take a taxi from here to reach Harsil.

By Road

Route 1 : Delhi – Harsil via Haridwar
Harsil is well connected by motorable roads from Delhi. There are many regular buses available for traveling to Harsil from Delhi via Haridwar. You can also drive your car to travel Harsil.

Route 2 : Delhi – Harsil via Dehradun
Harsil is well connected by motorable roads from Delhi. There are many regular buses available for traveling to Harsil from Delhi via Dehradun. You can also drive your car to travel Harsil.

Harsil does not have any railway station & its own airport. Tourists can reach Dehradun via train or air then hire taxi, cab or local bus to reach Harsil. It will take approximately 7 hours to reach Harsil.

Char Dham Distance Chart from Harsil

Many pilgrims during their Char Dham Yatra, stay at Harsil for 2 nights. Mostly they reach in the evening, after taking night halt they depart early morning to Gangotri.

Destination Distance Time Route
Harsil to Yamunotri 205 kms 8 hrs Harsil -Chinyalisaur – Dharasu BandBarkotJankichatti – Yamunotri
Harsil to Gangotri 25 kms 1 hrs Harsil – Dharali – Gangotri
Harsil to Kedarnath 345 kms 14 hrs Harsil – Srinagar –RudraprayagAugustmuniGuptkashiGaurikundKedarnath
Harsil to Badrinath 440 kms 14 hrs Harsil –Srinagar RudraprayagKarnaprayagNandprayagPipalkoti JoshimathGovindghat – Pandukeshwar – Hanuman Chatti – Badrinath

Places To Visit In & Around Harsil

Mukhwa Village : A short distance from Harsil, Mukhwa Village is the winter abode of Goddess Gangotri. Since the Gangotri region becomes remote during winters due to heavy snowfall, devotees visit Mukhwa to worship the goddess. Known as the home of the Goddess of Gangotri, the village is situated just 1 km away from Harsil. Gangotri region experiences heavy rainfall during winters.

Dodital Lake : The lake is one of the famous trekking destinations in Uttarakhand and is located at an altitude of 3024 m above the sea level. The place is situated at a distance of 25.6 km from Harsil.

Dodital Darwa Pass Trek : Blessed with elevated grassland that is bedded with snow during the winters, gurgling streams, dense alpine forest and rich variety of flowers, the Dodital Trek is one of the picturesque treks in the Garhwal Himalayan region. The trek originates from the Bhagirathi valley, which is nestled at an altitude of 1,350 metres, and passes through a mysterious forest and ascends gently to a lofty height of 4,150 metres to Darwa Top. Dodital is often dubbed Ganesh-ka-Tal and is considered as one of the sacred lakes in the Garhwal Himalayan region as it is believed that it is the birthplace of Lord Ganesha, one of the Hindu deities.

Sattal : A cluster of seven lakes, Sattal is a gorgeous destination, only 3 km from Harsil. The Vishwanath Temple here is a popular attraction. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is worshipped as Vishwanath. The temple is built with regional stones and reflects Kumaoni architecture. It’s also a hub for water sports.

Sat Tal is a cluster of seven high altitude natural lakes that are located near the town of Harsil in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. A 3 km uphill trek from Dharali village will lead you to this majestic place. The interconnected lakes are enveloped by the dense lush greenery of pine trees which offer a picturesque landscape that is a treat to the eyes. The region is one of the hidden jewels in Uttarakhand and boasts of an unspoiled natural beauty. Sat Tal is also a famous trekking destination for adventure lovers especially during the winters when the area is covered under the white sheath of snow.

Gangotri : One of the char dhams (the most sacred pilgrimage circuits in northern India with four holy destinations), Gangotri, in Uttarkashi, is a small town with the temple of Goddess Ganga at its heart. A 12-hour drive from Rishikesh, Gangotri is nestled among lofty Garhwal Himalayan peaks, glaciers and dense forests, and is one of highest pilgrimages in India (approx 3,415 m).

Dharali : Located at a distance of 3 km from Harsil, Dharali is a quaint village. It is a great place to experience the local culture and traditions. Visit the village and interact with the locals to learn more about their day-to-day lives. Don’t forget to dig into local Kumaoni cuisine. Located at a distance of 6 km from the Harsil, Dharali is known for its apple orchards. The place is situated on the bank of the River Ganga which is surrounded by pine trees. The Shiva Temple in the village is the chief attraction there.

Yamunotri : It is a part of Char Dham (along with Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath), the four most revered Hindu pilgrimages in the Himalayas. The small mountain hamlet, with the Yamunotri Temple at its centre, attracts thousands of devotees every year and is the commencing point of the Char Dham Yatra pilgrimage (May to October), which proceeds from Yamunotri to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath. Lodged in a narrow gorge, close to the source of the Yamuna, the Yamunotri Temple is dedicated to Yamuna, the second-most sacred river after the Ganges.

Gangnani : Gangnani is a small town situated 46 kms from Uttarkashi on the route to Gangotri. Gangnani is an ideal destination for the spiritually inclined and those seeking peace of mind. Being a perfect spot for meditation, Gangnani acts as an ideal retreat for the nature lovers who are exploring the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand state. Gangnani affords stunning mountain views surrounded near Gangotri.

Dayara Bugyal : If you are a trek lover, you can visit Dayara Bugyal when you visit Harsil. Both these places are at a distance of mere 51.1 km from each other. Dayara is one of the most pretty meadows in Uttarakhand and is situated at an elevation of 3048 m. In the summer season, Dayara Bugyal becomes an ideal place to camp in Garhwal Region. Trekking tours are planned in a large number during summers when weather remains pleasant and the sky is clear enough to see the far-flung snow-clad mountains adorning the silhouette of the region. Bandarpoonch, Black Peak and Bhagirathi Peaks are the prominent mountains visible distinctly from this alpine meadow. A large variety of flowering plants are responsible for the picture perfect scenery of Dayara.

Wilson Cottage : Wilson Cottage was built by Mr. Wilson in 1864. He was a deserter from the British Army after 1857 and escaped into Garhwal where he met the Raja of Tehri. Raja refused to give him shelter. After that he moved towards Harshil. Without informing Raja, he starts his business there. But later, he acquired a lease from the Raja, in which he used to give his profits. It is said that the revenue of the Raja of Tehri went up ten times at that time. He also introduced the villagers to apple cultivation. He also built a 350 ft. long suspension bridge over Gadganga for local people. That bridge is no longer, but traces of it still remain. Local people used to call him "Pahari Wilson". She bore Wilson three sons Nathaniel, Charles and Henry. The local people of Harsil and Mukhba still tell tales about them, by using their local names Nathhu, Charli Sahib and Indri. He built a double-storied house in Harsil for his wife. In this cottage you can still find some photographs of Wilson and his Garhwali wife, Gulabi.

Gangotri Glacier : Another trek for adventure lovers, Gangotri Glacier is located at a distance of 47.8 km from Harsil. One can also visit the Gangotri temple which is just 29 km from this place. The place offers 28 km long trek for trek lovers. The trek to Gangotri Glacier is a legendary one and features an exhilarating trail. The route is challenging but it opens up to some of the most fascinating views of enchanting Himalayan Peaks like Shivling, Bhagirathi, Meru and many more. Gangotri glacier is one of the most intriguing natural wonders. Characterising glacial troughs, crevasses, waterfalls, smooth rock walls and supraglacial lakes, it stands testimony to the beauty of creation. Trekkers in search of true bliss must head out for a trek to the Gangotri Glacier.

Gaumukh : Gaumukh is also known as Gangotri Glacier and called Gomukh as well. Gangotri Glacier is located in Uttarkashi District, Uttarakhand, India in a region bordering China.

Kedar Tal : Surrounded by Thalay Sagar, Bhrigupanth, Jogin 1, Jogin 2, and other Himalayan peaks, Kedar Tal is situated at an elevation of 4750 m. It is one of the highest lakes in Uttarakhand and attracts a number of tourists. Moreover, the place also offers trekking for adventure enthusiasts.

Uttarkashi : It is the headquarters of the eponymous district, is an ancient land with rich cultural heritage and a picture-postcard-like appeal with sweeping mountain views. It is famous for an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, which is visited by thousands throughout the year. As the name suggests, it’s considered to be the Kashi (another name for Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, which is home to one of the most renowned Lord Shiva temples) of the north (uttar). Uttarkashi is dotted with several temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman, Goddess Durga, Parshuram, Dattatrya, Bhairav, Annapurna, Laksheswar, Ekadashrudra, etc. It is surrounded by high Himalayan ranges, green meadows and several hot springs. In winter, it is enveloped in snow.

Barkot : It is a small town located 40 kms from Dharasu and is beautifully landscaped all around. Ranging from the apple orchards to the great Himalayan ranges and the snow peaks of Bandarpuch, this destination paints a picture irresistible for a travel enthusiast.

Dharasu : It can be visited if you going from Yamunotri (Barkot) to either Uttarkashi, Gangotri or Tehri during your Char Dham Yatra.

Vishvanath Temple : This temple is dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shiva as Vishwanath- (Lord of the Universe). The small temple situated to its left side is Ardhanarishvara.

Top 5 Places To Stay in Harsil

There are few options for accommodation in Harsil during Char Dham Yatra. Following is the list of hotels, resorts, guest houses in Harsil.

1) Prakriti The Retreat
This beautiful retreat offers its guest the beautiful and perfect view of the river from its rooms. You can explore many popular places while staying in this retreat.
Address : Gangotri National Highway, 81st KM Milestone(Near Harsil), Dharali, Distt Uttarkashi

2) Harsil Cottage
This cottage is situated on the banks of a river. It offers its guest nature in its purest form. It provides luxuriou rooms with attached bathroom and tasty food served.
Address : The Harsil Retreat, Harsil, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand.

3) Mountain Village Stay
It is situated at an apple orchard at Harsil, Uttarakhand. This hotel offer all the necessary facilities like 24 hour front desk, airport transfer, room service etc.
Address : Dharali Heights, Village Dharali Harsil, Uttarakhand.

4) The Char Dham Camp
It is a beautiful place to stay for pilgrims doing Chardham yatra. The sacred Bhagirathi river adds more beauty to this beautiful place. The camps provided comfy beds with all the basic amenities.
Address : Kalp Kedar Mandir,Village Dharali, P.O. Harsil, Gangotri , 249335.

5) Dev Darshan
It is located in Gangotri which offers 3 accommodation with private balconies. It has all the essential facilities.
Address : Gangotri National Highway 108, Uttarkashi 249194 India.

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