The Himalayan Sacred River Tour
The itinerary below is subject to change due to unforseen circumstances related to weather, road conditions, and a host of other factors that can influence our mobility in the Himalayas and on the plains. This is par for the course in India, especially in remote areas. What you see here describes the tour as it usually happens. Should something arise that is beyond our control and restricts us from part of the planned journey – e.g., lodgings, treks, and destinations – we will revise and our adventures will be no less great.
DAY 01: DEPART DULLES AIRPORT
If you choose to take advantage of the group airfare, you can meet up with us at Dulles airport to begin our memorable adventure together with our international flight to Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi. Should you be flying from a different point of departure, we will all come together in Delhi on day 2.
DAY 02: DELHI AND DEPARTURE BY RAIL FOR HARDWAR
After we drive
into New Delhi and have a chance to rest and refresh a bit. There will be time to look around, have
dinner, and rest before making our way to the New Delhi Rail Station, from
which we depart for Hardwar in sleeper cars.
DAY 03: RISHIKESH. OVERNIGHT AT HIGH BANK PEASANT’S COTTAGE
Arrive early morning into Hardwar, an ancient city situated on the banks of the Ganga, where we meet our in-country team from the Garhwal Himalayan Exploration Company and drive to the pilgrimage town of Rishikesh (about one hour). Explore the area of Rishikesh called Muni ki Reti, known internationally for its temples and ashrams, as well as many centers of yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda. We do yoga in the gardens of our guesthouse, then join hundreds of devotees for the arthi ceremony honoring the river goddess in front of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram. That evening we return to High Bank and sleep at Peasants Cottage, owned and run by long-time friend Rajiv Tiwari, who is also director of the exploration company. The Cottage is known even by American actress Kate Winslet, a friend of the Tiwari family
DAY O4: DRIVE RISHIKESH TO MUSSOORIE. OVERNIGHT GUESTHOUSE
is a hill station in the Garhwal Himalayan range. The town peppers a high ridge at an
elevation of six to eight thousand feet.
We stay above the town in an area of thick Deodar pines and beautiful
views of the foothills to the north and the Gangetic plain to the south. We explore the Mall, vist shops
and food stalls, all the time acclimatizing for our journey north.
DAY 05: TREK FROM MUSSOORIE TO THE HIMALAYAN VILLAGE OF ANIDASU. OVERNIGHT CAMP.
In the morning we trek out of Mussoorie and off-road, desending the Mussoorie ridge on its north side and then moving back up the next ridge to Anidasu. There we camp next to this village. Childre typically come out to see us and get some of the amazing gifts that we bring for them – frizbees, baloons, candy. Sometimes villagers come to se us in the evening after their work is done and we build a bonfire. In the past, drummers have played and everyone has danced around the fire.
DAY 06: TREK ANIDASU TO MUSSOORIE
The next morning we go into the village to meet some of the locals there, explore, and learn about village life and its cultural and spiritual traditions. Then in the afternoon we return on foot to Mussoorie, where we have a special and sumptuous Indian meal together in the bazaar.
DAY 07: DRIVE MUSSOORIE TO UTTARKASHI (6 -7 HOURS). OVERNIGHT AT MONAL TOURIST HOME
Depart Mussoorie early morning by SUVs for
Uttarkashi (“Varanasi of the North”). We explore the temples in Uttarkashi
town, including the holy Vishvanath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Then on to the Monal Tourist Home to
practice yoga, spend reflective time by the Ganga, and explore the trails.
DAY 08: DRIVE UTTARKASHI TO GANGOTRI (4-5 HOURS). OVERNIGHT HOTEL
We continue our journey by car along the spectacular mountain roads that wind from Uttarkashi to Gangotri (10,200 ft.) and stay in this famous pilgrimage town for the night at a hotel alongside the main bazaar road. We will visit the Gangotri temple and participate in an evening arthi ceremony. Gangotri is one of the four destinations of the ancient Char Dam pilgrimage routes and thus one of the most sacred Hindu locations in all of India. The Bhagirathi River is the river goddess in her northern-most form. She roars through this incredible city of shrines, shops, and ashrams. “Gangotri” means “source of the Ganga.”
DAY 09: TREK GANGOTRI TO CHIRBASA (5-6 HOURS). OVERNIGHT CAMP
Our first trek of the trip! We hike alongside the Bhagirathi River on a good trail with increasingly riveting views, including our first close views of the Great Himalayan Range. The Bhagirathi flows out of the Gangotri Glacier, which is considered the true source of the mighty river. Along the way we cross several metal bridges over small feeder streams to the main river, and arrive at Chirbasa Camp for the evening. We sleep in a wooded cove in tents. Chirbasa means “place of pines” and is reminiscent of Maryland and the North Woods of Minnesota. If not obscured by clouds, we are greeted by views of the magnificent Bhagirathi Peaks! We will practice yoga on the sand beside the Bhagirathi and in the evening we gather to tell each other our own stories of the Ganga’s descent from the heavenly realm.
DAY 10: TREK FROM CHIRBASA TO GANGOTRI. OVERNIGHT HOTEL
We hike back down to Gangotri, explore the area and have dinner in the bazaar. We practice yoga in a small ashram for wandering holy men and women.
DAY 11: DRIVE GANGOTRI TO UTTARKASHI (4-5 HOURS). OVERNIGHT IN UTTARKASHI AT GUESTHOUSE OR TENT RESORT
We drive to Uttarkashi AND stay overnight in a tent resort or guesthouse beside the Bhagirathi River.
DAY 12: DRIVE UTTARKASHI TO SHIVPURI VIA DEOPRAYAG (7 HOURS). OVERNIGHT AT SHIVPURI TENT RESORT
As we move down toward the plains, we stop at Deoprayag, a sacred point of confluence (prayag) of the rivers that form the Holy Ganga. This is where the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers merge; it is considered to be a sacred place that emanates divine power or shakti. We visit the Rhagunathji Temple on our way down to the confluence for Darshan (divine seeing) and puja (the rite of worship). We then drive to our final destination of Shivpuri, where we stay in a lovely resort featuring porch tents with showers inside, a yoga building, a covered roof outdoor dining area, a fire pit, and several resort buildings. Monkeys (Rhesus and Langur) are abundant. This is a comfortable landing point after our descent from the mountains. Here we attend a private performance of the havan, or fire ritual, from a Hindu priest. We close our time with the exploration team with a special meal.
DAY 13 & 14: HARDWAR. OVERNIGHTS AT THE HAVELI HARI GANGA.
morning drive (1 hour) to the ancient city of Hardwar (“God’s Gate”). Here we enjoy a luxurious stay in the
Haveli Hari Ganga, situated right on the Ganga. The
Haveli is a former summer palace of the maharaja of Pilibhit. Here we are literally “on” the Ganga for
three days and two nights. We will
participate in riverside arthi at sundown with many
thousands of pilgrims and devotees.
The Haveli is in the bazaar itself but tucked away from the crowds. This is our luxurious ending to
the journey, an opportunity for shopping in the bazaar, yoga in a private
studio on the river, Ayurvedic massage, henna hand-painting,
visits to temples. Very few foreigners here, and much time to explore this amazing city. In the evening of our second day, we are
treated to a concert of classical Indian music at the Haveli. Two professional musicians provide tabla and sitar music, complete with informal conversation
with the musicians, demonstrations of the sitar and table, snacks, and
fellowship among ourselves and a few Indian friends. Both men and women of our group commonly
purchase Indian clothing in the bazaar – saris, salwar-kamiz,
kurta-pyjama -- for the
concert. Many photos are
DAY 15: HARDWAR AND NIGHT TRAIN TO NEW DELHI
The third day allows for more rest, massage, or exploration. Yoga on the veranda overlooking the holy river. Late in the evening we make our way via rickshaws to the Hardwar rail station and then depart for New Delhi on the overnight train in sleeper cars.
DAY 16: SHOPPING AT THE COTTAGE INDUSTRY EMPORIA IN DELHI. EARLY EVENING DEPARTURE FROM THE INDIRA GANDHI AIRPORT
On the early morning of our final day together, we go to the Hotel Imperial for a sumptuous breakfast buffet, after which we will visit the Cottage EmporIa from many of the Indian states, as well as the Tibetan Marketplace, for quality shopping. That evening we complete our journey together with a flight from Delhi.