Kedarnath  is one of the 4 Char Dham Hindu pilgrim centers in Uttarakhand, India. The town and the temple are open from May to October only to avoid heavy snowfall in winter. Specific dates are as per the Hindu Calendar and one needs to check for specific dates for each year. One can still visit when the town is shut down but one needs to be prepared for being on own amidst heavy snow fall. Gaurikund also shuts down in winter.
Kedarnath (about 3400 m high) is approachable on foot from Gaurikund (about 2900m high), which is connected by road to Rishikesh, Kotdwar, Dehradun, Haridwar and other important hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon region. Daily buses/taxis from Hardwar/Rishikesh/Dehradun ply during the pilgrim season (approx May to October) take you to Sonprayag. All the vehicles are allowed up to Sonprayag after disaster in June 2013. There are sharing jeeps available from Sonprayag to Gaurikund. The distance between Sonprayag to Gaurikund is 05 Km. The road ends here. After the disaster in 2013 Govt has made a new trekking route after Rambara and repair the older trek up to Rambara. Kedarnath is a steep 16 km trek from Gauri Kund (horses and palanquins are available for hire) by using new trek. There are 10 aviation companies operate a helicopter service to Kedarnath ji from Guptkashi, Phata and Sersi.
From Haridwar every day morning buses start to Sonprayag. Advance bookings can be made at GMOA (Garhwal Mandal owners Association) office in front of the railway station. It takes almost one full day journey to reach Sonprayag if there are no Landslides. Bus journey is very beautiful because most of the 240 kms is ghat road journey with many mountains around and river ganga following you through out the way.
If you choose to drive your own vehicle, make sure it has good ground clearance as there are rocks strewn all over the route. A powerful engine will make life much easier. Govt has made a new parking space at Sonprayag for all the vehicles. The new parking is very specious. There are sharing jeeps operate between Sonprayag to Gaurikund.
It will be good if you can do proper planning for Kedarnath Yatra. There is a Govt medical center available in Sonprayag. All the pilgrims take medical fitness certificate from here. One can also book pony and palki from Sonprayag. The pony cost for one way was Rs 1800/-and both ways was Rs 3200/-during Kedarnath yatra 2016.
Porters (pitthus in local language) are also available to carry your luggage up to Kedarnath and leave you free to walk up lighter. They can deliver to your hotel directly or walk with you.
Most of the hotels, Guest houses and ashram of Gaurikund washed away during the disaster in June 2013. The hotels are available in Sitapur and Rampur area on Kedarnath route. GMVN has put camps in Gaurikund. You can also take a dip in the holy water from a hot spring. Its a great relief to take bath in hot water. Some may find it crowded.
Kedarnath is 16 kms from Gaurikund and you can choose to walk or take a mule. Older people take the doli, which is carried by 4 hired people. There will be plenty of people on the side ways asking you, if you need a mule. Its always better to book in that office because the mules which they give are good in health and strong.
Once you start from Gaurikund, there is a concrete road to walk on and there is a small shop for every 200 meters where you can get some tea, chocolates, biscuits, maggi noodles etc., After 7kms , you reach a place called Rambara. There are proper resting shades available at every 01 km on this trek. All the guest houses and hotels in Rambara were washed away during the flood in 2013. Govt has made arrangement of camps and medical facilities at Bheem Bali, Rambara, Lincholi. Most pilgrims take a break here and eat some food and then resume the journey towards kedarnath.
The air gets thinner after Rambara and many people experience breathing trouble between Rambara and Kedarnath. This is particularly acute for people walking up. The ascent flattens out about a KM before Kedarnath. Thus, one climbs up about 1500 m in the 13 KM between Gaurikund and this point.
The view is fantastic while moving towards temple but the dung of mules make you feel uncomfortable because of so many mules. Even though there are some people, who constantly clean the path, it still smells little bad. A good pair of binoculars would make the journey even more breath-taking.
Walking is the only option. Kedarnath is a small hamlet, and much a labyrinth of hotels and guest houses.
The temple itself is quite an exquisite example of stone work. Houses the lingam, a symbol of the Hindu God Shiva. The temple is located among astonishing mountain landscape surrounded by peaks that are over 6000 m in elevation. There was samadhi Behind the shrine lies Adi Shankaracharya's samadhi, where he is believed to have taken rest after establishing the four dhams at an early age of 32 years, but samadhi was washed away during disaster in 2013. At a visible distance from the shrine also lies an ancient Bhairav Temple, beyond which one comes out to green glades and tiny streams, fed by the surrounding (and approachable) glaciers.
Treks leading out from Kedarnath are strenuous. If one arrives here early in the season, glaciers blocking these routes would be a common occurrence - and quite risky since one can never tell the thickness of the ice.
Gandhi Sarovar (lake) - and the Chorabari Glacier that feeds the lake - lie the closest, at a distance of 3.5km, which makes for atleast an hour of trek. Gandhi Sarovar is named after Mahatma Gandhi as his ashes were immersed here. There is a very nice waterfall on the way. The glacier retreats by the end of the season whereas there is snow/ice all over the route early in the season.
Vasuki Tal - which is famous for its blue waters - is at 8km, and involves very difficult climb and crossing glaciers. It generally takes one 4-5 hours to reach there, so set out early.
Puja and aarti at the temple if you are a Hindu. Treks to the adjacent valleys will take you through untouched forests and desolate paths. Some pilgrims even take a dip in the icy waters of Mandakini.
There were lots of ashrams, budget hotels and dharamshalas were available before June 13. Most of these accommodation washed away during the flood that came on 17th June 2013. Now there are 10-15 small budget hotels available close to the temple. The have neat and clean room with attached toilet and bath facility. Govt has made a new colony of the camps and huts near helipad in Kedarnath. These camps are offering ground bedded dormitories @ Rs 300/-per person. Every camp and hut can accommodate 06 people at a time. Govt has also started canteen where they serve meal to pilgrims.Anyone can go and order the meal at a fixed price.
Kedarnath is a strictly vegetarian place. There are a couple of restaurants (dhabas in local parlance), on the path leading straight up to the holy temple, which run from 4 AM to midnight and serve basic Indian food. Do not expect express standards of service or hygiene. Always choose cooked food, prefer boiled. An average meal costs around INR 100, though cheaper options are available. The temple is closed from 3 PM to 5 PM so plan to be at temple before 3 PM. Before 3 PM, visitors can touch the idol and do Abhishek with Ghee. After 5 PM, no one can touch the idol but can get Darshan from a distance. At this time, the idol is in an Emperor's costume. If you get late beyond 5 PM, don't try to get back to Gaurikund on the same day. The path is very risky and many a times, light system fails. Weather also changes frequently. There are many dharmshalas to stay at night. After that, you can attend the morning Aarti, participate in Abhishek and then start the descend.
- visit gandhi sarovar (Around 3900 m high)
- visit vasuki tal
- enjoy the greens beyond the small Bhairav Temple on the hill to the right of Kedarnath
- bathe in the icy waters of River Mandakini
Gandhi Sarovar : Its around 3.5 kms from the kedarnath. Its better to start early in the morning because you move close to kedar hills and there would be no clouds. As the day progresses, clouds may spoil the view. There is a beautiful water fall on the way. In July 2009, there was no water in gandhi sarovar, but you wont be disappointed because of its location. Its a nice place to roam around and take photos. There is paved cement road to reach the sarovar and do not take any short routes, stick to the paved road.
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