Shivling and the Source of the Ganges

Classic Garhwal trekking holiday - heart of the Indian Himalaya




From $1,620 Land only

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Holiday Overview


  • Spectacular views of Shivling and the Bhagirathi peaks
  • Atmospheric Gangotri and its pilgrimage temples
  • Hike from Bhujbasa to Gaumukh and the source of the Ganges
  • Rishikesh and the lamp-floating Aarti Ceremony

This exciting new two-week holiday through a rugged and visually arresting part of the Great Indian Himalaya punches well above its weight in terms of the variety of quintessential India experiences it packs into a short timeframe. Including sightseeing in Delhi, a classic Indian Railway journey, the floating lamp (Aarti) ceremony in Rishikesh, trekking with Hindu pilgrims and Sadhus to the holy River Ganges, and climbing up to the meadows of Tapovan below an array of impressive peaks dominated by the beautiful spire of Shivling, this holiday is loaded with moments and insights of culture, spirituality and great beauty. Beginning with a tour of Delhi's famous sights such as the Red Fort and the Qutab Minor, we then take the train north to Haridwar where the mountains of the Himalaya rise from the great Indian plain. We stop at Rishikesh to watch the daily Aarti ceremony where thousands of oil lamps are floated on the wide river Ganges, before following this sacred river first by road and then on foot, to its legendary source at Gamukh amid the tumbling ice of a huge glacier. We continue trekking beyond the glaciers to an unexpected and tranquil meadow surrounded by jagged peaks and spires of rock and ice. Just moments before reaching this meadow we have our first view of the Shivling, a breathtaking peak often referred to as the Matterhorn of India. Combining a short trek and a range of memorable cultural experiences, this is India trekking at its best!

Is this holiday for you?

This is a short and relatively straightforward trekking holiday in India. Our pace on the approach to Gamukh and Tapovan is governed by our need to acclimatise properly, rather than by the actual distance which we are prepared to walk each day. The distances covered each day are short, averaging about 8 or 9 kilometres and on most days we will be walking for no more than 5 hours. As we are following a popular route of pilgrimage as far as Gamukh, the paths are mostly good. The approach to Tapovan will involve more rugged terrain including glacial moraine. It should be noted that trekking at altitudes above 3000 metres makes greater demands on the body than walking at low elevations, and is of itself challenging even for fit hikers. An integral part of the holiday is getting there and we will have two full days and two half days of driving on small roads through the Indian foothills as well as two rail journeys to get to and from this remote area. The grade of the trip reflects the short duration of the trekking but you must ensure you are physically prepared and should be comfortable with walking for between 3 and 5 hours each day for several days continuously.

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Meet at the group hotel in Delhi. Transfers from Delhi Airport are provided.
  • Take the train to Haridwar then drive to Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges. Evening aarti ceremony.
  • Drive through Himalayan foothills to the pilgrimage town of Uttarkashi in the Bhagirathi Valley.
  • Drive to sacred Gangotri (3050m). An afternoon of sightseeing amongst the town’s temples.
  • Trek through oak and pine forest to Chirbasa (3600m). Options for exploration in the afternoon.
  • Trek up above the tree line to Bhujbasa (3800m). Excursion to Gaumukh and return to Bhujbasa.
  • Trek up via Nandavan to the extensive meadow at Tapovan (4500m) beneath the spectacular Shivling.
  • Rest or exploration at Tapovan, with the option to trek up to the sacred lake of Gandhava (4350m).
  • Recross the Gangotri Glacier and trek back down to Bhujbasa.
  • Trek out to the road at Gangotri, then drive to Uttarkashi.
  • Drive back through the deep valleys of the Indian Himalaya to Haridwar.
  • Morning train to Delhi and transfer to the group hotel. Afternoon at leisure.
  • Departure day. Transfers to Delhi Airport are provided.
Mon 05 Oct - Sat 17 Oct Code SSG /02/15/ Adult$1,620 Status Departed
Mon 16 May - Sat 28 May Code SSG /01/16/ Adult$1,620 Status 2 more to guarantee Book now
Mon 17 Oct - Sat 29 Oct Code SSG /02/16/ Adult$1,620 Status Available Book now
Mon 15 May - Sat 27 May Code SSG /01/17/ Adult$1,620 Status Available Book now
The LAND ONLY dates and prices are for the itinerary joining in Delhi. For clients making their own flight arrangements, Delhi Airport is the most convenient for transfers to the group hotel. Please refer to Joining Arrangements and Transfers in the trip dossier for further details.

Flights SHOULD NOT be booked until you have received your booking confirmation and the trip is shown on our website as Guaranteed or Limited Space.

BOOK WITH KE CONFIDENCE - No surcharge guarantee*

* Against Land Only services.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • point
  • peaks
  • trip direction
  • transfer
  • trek

Holiday Itinerary

  • Meet at the group hotel in Delhi. Transfers from Delhi Airport are provided.

    Meet at our central group hotel in Delhi. Delhi Airport transfers are provided for those arriving on Day 1. KE Land Only package services begin with lunch at the hotel, after which there is an optional sightseeing tour of the city. Overnight in the group hotel.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals ld

  • Take the train to Haridwar then drive to Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges. Evening aarti ceremony.

    We have an early morning transfer to the railway station to catch the express train to Haridwar. The train journey takes approximately 4 hours. Arriving at Haridwar at lunchtime, we then have a short drive to Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges, where we check in at our hotel. This is a very special place. The most holy of Indian rivers, the Ganges flows through the town and it is at Rishikesh where its nature changes from tumbling waters to a more sedate and mighty flow as it leaves the Himalaya and heads across the Indian Plain. The town has many temples, shrines and ashrams and is a major place of pilgrimage and starting point for pilgrimages to Badrinath and Gangotri. Rishikesh became a well-known name outside of India when the Beatles came here in 1968 to visit their guru’s ashram. This afternoon we can visit some of the temples of this holy town and in the evening we will witness the aarti ceremony. Shortly after sunset, the ‘puja’ is performed in all of the temples lining the river at the same time, with a cacophony of musical instruments and voices. Afterwards, offerings of lamps and flowers are made to the Ganges and it is a moving sight to watch hundreds of miniature lamps float along the river.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Drive through Himalayan foothills to the pilgrimage town of Uttarkashi in the Bhagirathi Valley.

    Today, we continue our drive up into the Indian Himalaya. Our route follows one of the major tributaries of the Ganges, the Bhagirathi River, twisting and turning through steep-sided and heavily forested valleys. After a day of spectacular scenery, including a stop off for lunch at a wayside restaurant, we arrive at the important pilgrimage town of Uttarkashi (1350m), where we check in at a simple lodge. Depending on the road conditions, the drive could take up to 6 hours. With a population of around 20,000, Uttarkashi is the regional headquarters. There is a mountaineering institute here, a number of ashrams, a river-side ‘ghat’ and a temple dedicated to Shiva in the centre of town.

    • Accommodation Lodge

    • Meals bld

  • Drive to sacred Gangotri (3050m). An afternoon of sightseeing amongst the town’s temples.

    We complete our road journey this morning, driving for around 4 hours, deeper into the steep-sided Bhagirathi Valley. The scenery rapidly becomes more dramatic and we start to see impressive rock spires and snow-capped peaks rising up above the valley sides. We reach the pilgrimage site of Gangotri (3050m) in the late morning and, after checking in at our lodge and having lunch, we spend the afternoon visiting the various temples which draw Hindu pilgrims from across the continent. The town is centred around the Temple of the Goddess Ganga, built by the Gorkha General, Amar Sing Thapa in the early 18th century. Overnight in Gangotri.

    • Accommodation Lodge

    • Meals bld

  • Trek through oak and pine forest to Chirbasa (3600m). Options for exploration in the afternoon.

    Above 3000 metres now and conscious of the need to acclimatise, we have just a short trek today. After passing a check-post for the Gangotri Conservation Project, our walk begins with a relatively easy ascent through forests of oak and pine, following the Pilgrim’s Trail on a well-defined path which climbs gradually beside the Bhagirathi River, with impressive cliffs on our left side. We will reach our camp at Chirbasa (3600m), on a level site beside the river, in time for a hot lunch. There are options for walks in the afternoon or we can use the time to rest and catch up on our diaries. From our camp, there are great views of surrounding peaks, such as Manda, Bhrigu Parbat and the very impressive Bhagirathis.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

    • Time 4 hrs trekking

  • Trek up above the tree line to Bhujbasa (3800m). Excursion to Gaumukh and return to Bhujbasa.

    Another short day today. Accompanied by hardy pilgrims, we continue our hike in this impressive valley, climbing through pine forest to the alpine plateau of Bhujbasa (3800m). Arriving in camp after just a couple of hours walking, we will take an early lunch. Then, in the early afternoon, we will make the 3-hour round trip up to Gaumukh, the legendary source of the Ganges. Gaumukh means ‘cow’s mouth’ and here you can dip your feet in the sacred water of the Ganges. The local guide may collect some water here, which he will use for a ‘puja’ on the descent. The glacier at Gaumukh is receding and the river no longer issues directly from beneath the ice, as it used to. Returning to Bhujbasa, we have time to look around. There is a basic lodge here, an ashram and usually lots of colourful sadhus or holy men to check out. We have great views of the peaks, Meru and Shivling today. Overnight at Bhujbasa.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

    • Time 5 - 6 hrs trekking

  • Trek up via Nandavan to the extensive meadow at Tapovan (4500m) beneath the spectacular Shivling.

    From Bhujbasa, we trek a little way back up towards Gaumukh, before turning onto the Gangotri Glacier. We descend the lateral moraine and follow a cairned trail that leads to the east side of the glacier. Here, we climb the opposite lateral moraine to reach the level camping place at Nandanvan (4340m). This is the basecamp for climbing the Bhagirathi group of mountains. Throughout today’s walk we can see the snow capped peaks of Bhagirathi, Shivling, Meru, and Kharchkund in close proximity. We then continue to Tapovan ( 4500m), a large meadow surrounded by the icy peaks of the Bhagirathi range and with a truly spectacular view of Shivling.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

    • Time 4 - 5 hrs trekking

  • Rest or exploration at Tapovan, with the option to trek up to the sacred lake of Gandhava (4350m).

    We have a day for rest or exploration at Tapovan. This is a very atmospheric place if rest and quiet contemplation is required. Alternatively, it is well worth the 2-hour return trek up to the sacred lake of Gandhava (4350m) for views back across the Gangotri Glacier. We spend a second night at Tapovan.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

  • Recross the Gangotri Glacier and trek back down to Bhujbasa.

    Rising early, we can enjoy the spectacular sunrise over the surrounding 6000 metre peaks, with Shivling, once again, the main event. Then, after breakfast, we break camp and set off on our return to civilisation. Recrossing the Gangotri Glacier, we descend the valley, passing the many the trailside eateries known as ‘dhabas’ below Gaumukh, and reaching the camp at Bhujbasa (our last night under canvas on this trip) in the early afternoon.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Meals bld

    • Time 5 hrs trekking

  • Trek out to the road at Gangotri, then drive to Uttarkashi.

    From our camp at Bhujbasa we descend easily through the pine forest for just a couple of hours to Gangotri. Here, we say goodbye to some of our trekking crew and board the vehicles that will take us back down the Bhagirathi Valley to Uttarkashi. Arriving in Uttarkashi on the late afternoon, we check in at our simple lodge accommodation. The name Uttarkashi means ‘Varanasi of the north’ and the town has similar ghats and temples to Varanasi itself. The town’s most important temple is dedicated to Shiva and known as Vishwanath Mandir, where we can see a huge copper trident.

    • Accommodation Lodge

    • Meals bld

    • Time 2 hrs trekking

  • Drive back through the deep valleys of the Indian Himalaya to Haridwar.

    Our return drive through the valley of the Bhagirathi is just as spectacular as it was on the inward journey. We take our time, stop for lunch and at prominent viewpoints, and reach our hotel in Haridwar after 7 hours on the road.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Morning train to Delhi and transfer to the group hotel. Afternoon at leisure.

    We make another early start today, transferring to the railway station to catch the morning express train to Delhi which, once again, takes around 4 hours. Arriving in Delhi, we transfer to a hotel close to the airport and have the rest of the day at leisure, with the chance to enjoy the hotel gardens and pool. In the evening we enjoy a celebration dinner.

    • Accommodation Hotel with swimming pool

    • Meals bld

  • Departure day. Transfers to Delhi Airport are provided.

    KE Land Only package services end after breakfast at the hotel. Airport transfers are provided for all client departing on this day. There are lots of extensions that can easily be added to your holiday in india. Why not pre-book a 1-day excursion to the fabulous Taj Mahal, or a multi-day Rajathan experience, or a beach hotel break in Goa or Kerala. Contact our office for details.

    • Meals b

Holiday Information

  • A professional English-speaking local leader
  • Delhi Airport transfers on group arrival and departure days
  • All land transport involved in the itinerary
  • All accommodation as described in the trip dossier
  • All meals throughout the trip
  • Full trekking service including food and all camping equipment (excluding personal equipment)

  • Travel insurance
  • Indian Visa
  • Tips for trek staff
  • Miscellaneous expenses - drinks and souvenirs etc.

The group will have a total of 4 nights in good standard hotels in Delhi, Rishikesh and Haridwar and 3 nights in simple lodges in Uttarkashi and Gangotri. On trek there will be a total of 5 nights camping. All accommodation is allocated on a twin-sharing basis. If you are travelling by yourself, you will be paired up with another single client of the same sex. It is possible to hire a single tent while on trek for an additional cost. Depending upon availability it may be possible to arrange single rooms for some or all of the 7 nights spent in hotels and lodges. For hotel prices and single supplement costs please refer to the dates and prices page of the trip on our website.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

All meals are included in the holiday price from dinner on Day 1 of the Land Only itinerary to breakfast on Day 13. Please note that the area beyond Gangotri is sacred and, in line with Hindu religious beliefs, we are obliged to offer only vegetarian meals from dinner on Day 4 to lunch on Day 10.

The food served during the trek is a mixture of local and Western, mostly purchased locally and cooked for us by highly trained trek cooks. The emphasis is on providing a high-carbohydrate and largely vegetarian diet, which we have found to be easily digestible at high altitude. In Delhi (and in the towns we visit en route to Gangotri) we take our meals in the group hotels or in nearby restaurants. All meals while on trek and while staying in hotels are included in the holiday price.

We will rendezvous at the group hotel in Delhi on the morning of Day 1 of the Land Only itinerary. All clients arriving in Delhi on the morning of Day 1 of the Land Only itinerary will be met at the airport by a KE representative, who will arrange the transfer to the group hotel. Clients should let us know if Delhi Airport transfers are not required. Independent Delhi Airport transfers can be arranged to meet clients arriving prior to Day 1 at additional cost.

Shortly after first light one of the cook crew will wake you with a cup of tea or coffee brought to your tent. You will have plenty of time to get up and pack your kitbag before sitting down to a hot breakfast, during which camp will be struck and the loads are sorted. Setting off in the pleasant cool of the morning, we will generally reach our lunch stop by mid-day. The cook crew, having overtaken us on the trail, will already have the lunch preparations well under way. Lunch usually takes an hour or even two and usually this is a light cooked meal. The pack-animals usually catch up with the group during lunch and are well on their way to camp which we hope to establish well before dusk. It is usual for the afternoon’s walk to be shorter than the morning session. On arrival at camp, the crew will quickly put the tents up and a hot drink will soon follow. Dinner is a 3-course meal served in the mess tent. This is a great time of day for reliving the events of the trek so far and for general socialising. After dark, the temperature quickly falls and everyone will soon be tucked up in their sleeping bags.

The group will be accompanied throughout the holiday by an experienced English-speaking tour leader. During the trek the tour leader will be assisted by a crew of local guides, cooks and camp staff, plus baggage animals and their handlers.

Approximately £150 (or equivalent in Euros, US dollars etc.) changed into local currency, should be allowed for miscellaneous expenses, including porter and trek crew tips and soft drinks, etc. There are several opportunities to buy souvenirs on this trip. It is not necessary to purchase local currency (Indian Rupees) before you travel. Sterling, US dollars and Euros are readily exchanged in Delhi. Since you will be changing the majority of your spending money into local currency on the day of arrival, we recommend taking this in cash. Credit and debit cards can be used to purchase many goods in Delhi and are particularly useful for more expensive souvenirs. It is possible to withdraw cash (rupees only) from cash machines in Delhi using credit and debit cards.

Tipping is an accepted and expected part of Indian culture, although you should only tip for services which are well done. The total amount that you can expect to pay in tips for your local guide, trek crew and drivers is approximately £60 (in rupee equivalent). It is usually best to do this as a group rather than individually with the group deciding collectively on the level of tipping. At the end of a trek many people also like to donate various items of their equipment to the porters, ponymen and trek staff who work so hard to make the trip a success. Boots, gloves, hats, scarves and even socks (clean of course) are always warmly received. Technical clothing and equipment such as head-torches and trekking poles are highly prized by the local guides and camp crews. If you wish to pass on any of your equipment or clothing at the end of the trek, your local leader will organise a fair distribution among the crew.

Your baggage on trek will be carried by pack animals. The packed weight of your trek bag whilst trekking should be no more than 15 kgs. It is possible to leave clothes or other items not required on trek at the group hotel.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

This holiday involves going to high altitude. During the course of your trip you will reach altitudes in excess of 3500 metres. This is not something that you should worry about; the human body is quite capable of adapting to a very wide range of altitudes, but it is important that we follow some simple rules in order to acclimatise successfully. Before coming on this holiday you should read the advice on trekking at high altitude. You can also talk to one of our trekking experts if you have any concerns about altitude. On this trip we carry a portable altitude chamber (PAC-bag) and/or bottled oxygen for use in emergencies.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum.

  • The packed weight of your trek bag whilst trekking should be no more than 15 kgs / 33 pounds.
  • You must bring the following items:

    • Hiking boots
    • Trainers / sneakers or sandals for river crossings and camp use
    • Socks
    • Technical walking socks (2 or 3 pairs)
    • Spare laces
    • Trekking trousers / pants
    • Waterproof overtrousers / rain-pants
    • Underwear
    • Long johns (thermal underwear)
    • Thermal baselayer shirts (2 short sleeve, 2 long sleeve)
    • Shirts or T-shirts
    • Fleece jacket or warm jumper
    • Waterproof jacket
    • Warm jacket (down)
    • Sunhat
    • Warm hat or balaclava
    • Eyewear - Sunglasses
    • Warm gloves or mittens
    • Sleeping bag rated to minus 10 degrees Celsius
    • Daypack c. 30 to 40 litres
    • Headtorch / headlamp with spare batteries
    • Sun protection (including total bloc for lips, nose etc.)
    • Water bottles 1 litre (x2)
    • Antibacterial handwash
    • Basic First Aid Kit including a broad spectrum antibiotic, antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), painkillers, plasters (band-aids) and blister treatment, and re-hydration salts (Dioralite).
    • Washbag and toiletries
    • The following items are optional
    • Thermarest (note that foam mattresses are provided)
    • Trekking poles (recommended)
    • Insect repellant
    • Scarf or buff
    • Nailbrush
    • Small towel
    • Sleeping bag liner
    • Travel clothes
    • Pocket-knife (note: always pack sharp objects in hold baggage)
    • Repair kit – (eg. needle, thread, duct tape)
    • Small padlock (to lock your KE trek bag)
    • Camera, film / memory cards, batteries

    For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

    A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

    Visa India

    All nationalities require a visa. The visa fee is $60 and you need to apply for this online prior to departure at Please download the detailed information document: Visa PDF India

    You should contact your GP or travel clinic to check whether you require any specific vaccinations or other preventive measures. You should be up to date with routine courses and boosters as recommended in the UK e.g. diphtheria-tetanus-polio and measles-mumps-rubella, along with hepatitis A and typhoid. Malarial prophylaxis is not usually required for trips in the mountains, however if you are visiting rural and remote low lying areas then they might be necessary. On holidays to more remote areas you should also have a dentist check up. A good online resource is Travel Health Pro.

    The currency of India is the Indian Rupee.

    We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:

    It makes a lot of sense to spend some time before coming on a trekking holiday getting some additional exercise. The fitter you are, after all, the more enjoyable you will find the experience. For this trip you need to be comfortable with walking for 4 – 5 hours each day with the occasional longer day of 6 or 7 hours.. We would suggest that you adopt a weekly exercise regime leading up to your trip. Regular hiking in hill country is the best training but jogging, squash and swimming are also good for developing cardio vascular fitness and stamina. Before departure, we suggest that you try to fit in a number of long walks in hilly country.

    As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: for essential travel advice and tips.

    KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

    The best time to visit this part of the Indian Himalaya is either before or after the monsoon (which occurs from mid-June to late September). The weather conditions should be broadly similar in the pre and post monsoon seasons, with daytime maximum temperatures around 25°C to 30°C at the start of the trek, becoming progressively cooler as we gain height. Night-time temperatures will generally be above freezing throughout the trip except possibly for the 2 nights we spend at our highest camp at Tapovan, where the night time temperatures can dip as low as minus 5°C. In this part of the world, most of the rainfall occurs during the monsoon months but this is a mountainous area and short-lived storms cannot be ruled out at any time of the year.

    • Garhwal & Kumaon – A Trekker’s and Visitor’s Guide K P Sharma (Cicerone)
    • Trekking in the Indian Himalaya. Lonely Planet
    • India. A Travel Survival Kit. Lonely Planet

    Leomann Indian Himalaya Maps

    Gangotri, Har-Ki-Dun & Mussoorie Area - Sheet 7. Scale. 1:200,000.

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