Source of the Sacred Ganges Trek

16 days
from
£2,199
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Trip code: 
TGS
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
New Walking Holidays
Min age:
16
Group size:
4–16

This trip visits a remote and highly spectacular part of the Indian Himalaya. Garhwal, celebrated in Hindu mythology and religion is locally known as the ‘Abode of the Gods’. In this massif, beyond the Hindu shrine at Gangotri, the mighty Ganges River has its source. Emerging from a glacier, this great river rushes down to the plains in a torrential flurry.  Our itinerary includes two short treks. The first trek is a warm up and takes us off the beaten track from the small village of Barsu to Dayara Bugyal and Bakaria Top for great panoramic views of the Garhwal Himalaya. We then move on to Gangotri and trek to Tapovan, where Shivaling and other mightly peaks are almost close enough to touch. We also visit the holy town of Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges and the 'Queen of hill stations'  Mussoorie.

Highlights

  • Fantastic views of Shivling, the Matterhorn of India
  • Trek to the source of the Sacred Ganges
  • Pilgrimage town of Rishikesh and Mussoorie the ‘Queen of hill stations’

Key information

  • 3 nights hotels, all en-suite, 4 nights guesthouses, 7 nights full-service camp
  • 9 days point-to-point walking with full porterage
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader and staff. Min age 16 yrs.
  • Altitude maximum 4,500, average 3,300m
  • Travel by bus, mini bus and on foot
  • Departure Ex London on 19th October 2019 led by Valerie Parkinson
  • Golden Triangle Extension available at the end of the trek

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 10 lunches and 10 dinners
  • All accommodation 
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival and departure transfers

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single supplements (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Days of Walking & Trekking
Pace:

Between 4 - 7 hours walking per day

Terrain:

Hill walking with steady ascents

Day by day breakdown
Day 48.0km/5.0miles
Day 58.0km/5.0miles
Day 610.0km/6.2miles
Day 78.0km/5.0miles
Day 914.0km/8.7miles
Day 109.0km/5.6miles
Day 116.0km/3.7miles
Day 1216.0km/10.0miles
Day 139.0km/5.6miles

Itinerary

London
to
Delhi
  • Day 1

    Depart London

  • Day 2

    Start Dehra Dun; drive to Rishikesh; evening Ganga aarti

    The group flight will arrive into Delhi in the morning and we will transfer to the domestic terminal, from where we fly to Dehra Dun. On arrival at Dehra Dun, we join our vehicles and drive to Rishikesh. The road soon leaves the plains behind and starts to wind its way into the hills. It should take about 1.5hr (25km) to reach Rishikesh. Every evening as dusk descends the Ganga Aarti is performed on the banks of the River Ganges. An aarti is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering. Candles and flowers are sent floating down this most holy of Indian rivers as offerings to the Goddess Ganga. For Hindus the ceremony is a powerful and uplifting ritual. Those who have made their own flight arrangements (Land only) will join us either at the airport in Dehra Dun or at the hotel in Rishikesh. Your leader will do a trip briefing this evening.

    Standard hotel

  • Day 3

    Drive to Uttarkashi and then on to the small village of Barsu (2,250m)

    We continue heading north into the hills following the Bhagirathi River all the way to Uttarkashi, an important pilgrimage centre on the banks of the Bhagirathi River, famous for its ashrams and temples and the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. The drive takes us through many small towns and terraced farmland. A short way after Uttarkashi we leave the main road to Gangotri and climb into the hills. Ahead we will start to see the mountains of Garhwal – Srikanta, Gangotri 1,2 and 3. We spend tonight in the small Garhwali village of Barsu.

    Basic hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 4

    Trek from Barsu to Dayara Bugyal

    Today we now start the first of our two treks. This short first trek will be great for acclimatisation and also affords wonderful views of the Indian Himalaya. More remote than the Source of the Ganges trek we still get wonderful views from spectacular campsites. On a clear day we are woken by a wonderful sunrise across the valley of Srikanta and Gangotri 1,2 and 3. We set off trekking after breakfast and the trail climbs all morning through mixed forest of oak, rhododendron and pine. We stop for lunch at Barnala, a clearing in the forest, where there is a small temple and great mountain views. It is another couple of hours climbing to our camp at Dayara Bugyal. We are now above the tree line and meadows and ridges stretch out all around us. Our camp is a little further on than the shepherd huts in a quiet bugyal (a high altitude meadow). From camp on a clear day we get views of Srikanta, Gangotri 1,2 and 3, Joanli, Draupadi Ka Danda and Bandarpunch.

    Full-service Camping (sleeping altitude 3,450m)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Trek to Syari Bugyal

    For the energetic there is an optional walk to a fantastic viewpoint called Bakaria Top at 3,800m (for those who do not want to do the peak they can go with the cook and ponymen direct to camp). Please note if you do the optional walk the distance covered will be 6.8 miles or 11km and it will take 6-7 hours. We will carry a packed lunch and set off up a series of bugyals (meadows) and ridges. We are almost above the treeline now and open meadows and distant mountain views surround us. It will take around three hours to Bakaria Top and the climb is well worth the effort. On a clear day we have magnificent panoramic views of the Garhwal Himalaya - Srikanta, Gangotri 1,2 and 3, Joanli, Draupadi Ka Danda and Bandarpunch are some of the named mountains but there are many more without names. In the far distance we can even spot Uttarkashi. We descend a short way for lunch and then trek down easy ridges to join the main trail, which undulates up and down ridges to our camp tonight at Syari Bugyal, where we spend two nights.

    Full-service camping (sleeping altitude3,400m)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Day walk to Surya Top then on to Uchlaru Top (3,900m)

    We spend two nights at the beautiful Syari Bugyal and for those who want to we can trek to the fantastic viewpoint at Surya Top, the highpoint of this warm up trek. From camp we ascend onto the ridge above us and follow the ridge climbing all the time. As we gain height the views become more and more spectacular. It will take us about 4hrs to Surya Top and further to Uchlaru Top at 3,900m. From here we get amazing views as we are even closer to the great Himalayan peaks. We take a packed lunch so we can enjoy the views and in the afternoon we descend to our camp.

    Full-service camping (sleeping altitude 3,400m)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 7

    Descend to Barsu

    Today is the last day of our acclimatisation trek. We descend back to the tree line and enter thick forest. As we descend we can still see the mountains ahead and in spring the rhododendrons, gentians and primulas add an extra dimension of colour.  We finally emerge from the forest at the village of Barsu, where we started our trek.

    Basic hotel (sleeping altitude 2,250m)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 8

    Drive to Gangotri (3,415m)

    Our warm up trek is now complete and we head further north and closer to the mountains, to the start of the Source of the Ganges trek at Gangotri. The road follows the valley as it winds its way into the hills, still following the Bhagirathi River. The higher it gets the narrower it becomes and we start to see impressive rock spires and snow capped peaks rising above the valley. We will arrive in Gangotri by lunchtime and have the afternoon to explore the temples. Gangotri (3,415m) is the seat of the Goddess Ganga. It is an important Hindu pilgrim town and origin of the River Ganges. It was here that the Goddess Ganga descended when Shiva released the river from the locks of his hair. The river here is called the Bhagirathi and it only becomes the Ganges after it’s confluence with the Alaknanda at Devprayag.

    Basic hotel (sleeping altitude 3,415m)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 9

    Trek to Bhojwassa (3,790m)

    We now begin the second trek to the source of the Ganges called Gaumukh. It is 19km from Gangotri, which will take us one and a half days. The trek starts with an easy climb surrounded by magnificent scenery. We pass the checkpost for the Gangotri Conservation Project, and continue following the river with impressive cliffs on our left. We get wonderful views of Mount Manda (6,510m), the Bhagirathi Massif and other surrounding peaks. We continue ascending through forests of pine and birch to Bhojwassa (which means home of birch trees). Ahead we can see the glaciated boulders and Bhagirathi peaks towering over the Gaumukh springs. A short distance above camp we will get our first views of Shivling (6,543m), the spectacularly shaped Matterhorn of India.

    Full-service camping (sleeping altitude 3,790m)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 10

    Trek to Gaumukh and on to Tapovan

    From Bhojwassa we trek gradually uphill for 5km to Gaumukh. This is the actual source of the Ganges and is where the many pilgrims will trek to. The river starts at the snout of the Gaumukh glacier and is one of the holiest places for Hindus to visit. We leave the pilgrims behind as we cross the Gangotri glacier. Ascending the lateral moraine we follow a steep cairned trail that leads to the east side of the glacier. We continue on to Tapovan (4,500m), probably the most spectacular camp of the trip with stunning views of Shivling, Meru, Kharchkund and the Bhagirathi peaks. The peaks are so close we can almost touch them and here is some of the most stunning Himalayan scenery. We spend 2 nights here to enjoy the spectacular setting.

    Full-service camping (sleeping altitude 4,500m)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 11

    Optional day walk to Meru base camp

    Spend a day in Tapovan, with time to enjoy the stunning scenery and views or take an optional walk to Meru base camp. The trail follows the right side of the valley and ascends the rocky moraine towards Meru base camp. The views are even more stunning as Shivling rises dramatically above us. Called the Matterhorn of India it is an impressive sight and from camp we can see the face called the Shark Fin, which to date has only been climbed once. We may spot Blue Sheep here up on the grassy plateau of our camp. We return to camp for lunch and the afternoon is free to enjoy the views and we can visit an ashram that is close by.

    Full-service camping

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 12

    Trek from Tapovan to Chirwassa

    Hopefully we will get a ast stunning sunrise over the great peaks around us before we leave this mountain arena and retrace our steps down the valley past Gaumukh and Bhojwassa to Chirwassa.

    Full-service camping (sleeping altitude 3,800m)

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 13

    Trek back to Gangotri; drive to Uttarkashi

    We finish our trekking today with a short walk back to Gangotri, where we meet our transport for the drive down the valley to Uttarkashi for the night. The drive is approximately 100km and will take about 4 hours.

    Basic hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 14

    Drive to Mussoorie

    Today we descend into the foothills and drive from Uttarkashi to Mussoorie. The scenery is no less spectacular as we descend the valley. The drive takes us through forested areas, small busy towns and farmlands.  After around a 5 hour drive we will reach the busy hill station of Mussoorie where we spend the night. (altitude 1,880m)

    Standard hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    Morning free in Mussoorie; afternoon train to Delhi

    We have time this morning to explore Mussoorie. Called the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’, it lies in the foothills of the Garhwal Himalaya. Now a bustling Indian town it was founded by the British, who were trying to escape the heat of the plains. It became the centre of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India and Sir George Everest lived here. The ruins of his home can still be seen with views of the Doon Valley and the peaks of the Himalaya. In 1850 the first beer brewery in India was built here. Even though the shops are all now modernised, a stroll down the Mall Road still evokes that sense of the British Raj. In the afternoon we take the train back to Delhi, arriving late evening.

    Standard hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 16

    End Delhi

    Those on the flight inclusive package will depart for London this morning for the daytime flight back to London; Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.

Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Extend Your Trip

Golden Triangle extension

Code: XBS

A visit to the incredible Taj Mahal and other great Moghul cities close to Delhi is an excellent way to begin or end a visit to Northern India. The five-day Golden Triangle extension can be booked before or after your main itinerary. The Taj Mahal in Agra was built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631, and is one of the most beautiful sights on earth. Close by is the imposing Red Fort of Akbar with its beautiful courtyards and palaces and let's not forget the deserted royal city of Fatehpur Sikri. The extension also visits the Pink City of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, which is one of the most attractive and colourful cities in India. The detailed itinerary can be found here

Essential Info

Visas

India

Visas are required if you are British and for most other nationalities. For UK residents full details of the visa process can be found here. Other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies.

If your trip visits Ladakh, in the very north of India, or Sikkim in the northeast, do not mention this on your Indian visa application. This can sometimes slow down or even cause the embassy to reject your visa.

When you reach immigration, you are required to pick up an immigration form. If you have an e-visa, ensure you stand in the correct queue - please follow the signs to the e-visa booth (in Delhi this is at the back of the immigration hall). You will need to fill out an additional form at the booth - please make sure that you have the details of your start hotel ready (these details can be found on your Final Joining Instructions).

 

Vaccinations

India

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. Some of our India trips spend time at altitude. In regions over approx. 2000m, there is low to no risk of mosquito-borne diseases. For trips going to altitudes of over 3000m there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness. Our itineraries are designed to enable everyone to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Please see the TRIP NOTES for further information.

Eating and Drinking

Breakfast is included throughout plus 10 lunches and 10 dinners.
When camping we have a cook and assistants who will prepare simple but plentiful nutritious food. Breakfasts will be porridge, cereals, eggs and toast with plenty of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Lunches will usually be a picnic lunch with soup, various kinds of local breads, cheese, eggs, tinned fish and meat and fruit where available. There will be afternoon tea and biscuits on arrival at camp followed later by dinner which is usually soup, a pasta, rice or potato based main course with fresh vegetables, followed by dessert, tea, coffee or hot chocolate. You will be provided with safe boiled drinking water during the trek.

Drinking Water
Staying hydrated is important when undertaking any physical activity. We strongly encourage you not to buy bottled water as this contributes to the growing problem of plastic pollution in India.
During the trek the cooks will collect and boil drinking water from the mountain streams and fill up your water bottles for you, but you may need to collect water during the day and may wish to use your own water purification treatment as well.

We also suggest that you may like to bring a reusable bottle with a wide opening (Nalgene or similar) with you and use a SteriPEN to treat any non-boiled water. A SteriPEN is a handheld UV water purifier – small, lightweight and battery powered so easy to pack for a trek. It’s quick to use, far more effective than purification tablets, and the water is ready immediately. It’s fine to use a SteriPEN on non-boiled water so long as it isn’t cloudy or full of sediment (which is uncommon in these regions). SteriPENs are widely stocked on Amazon, outdoor shops and other online retailers; look for the latest models but avoid USB charging ones. Using a SteriPEN means you won’t leave behind a single plastic bottle – and you can keep it for future trips.

Weather

Our departures are carefully timed to take advantage of the likely best weather conditions. Delhi will be hot in the daytime, especially on spring departures, and reasonably warm at night. Rishikesh and Mussoorie will be warm to hot during the day with cooler night time temperatures. Weather on trek will vary with the altitude, but will in general be comfortable for walking during the day (it can be really quite hot when the sun is out, particularly on the spring departure). At night on trek it can get very cold with temperatures down to as low as -5° Celsius or lower at the highest camps. Please note although April is the best time for flowers the weather can be cloudy and there can be rain.

Although the departures are timed to coincide when the weather is normally good, you should remember that in any mountain area the weather is never wholly predictable and you should be prepared and equipped to deal with any differences in weather beyond the conditions described above.

Is this trip for you?

This is a Moderate/Challenging (Activity Level 4) trek with 9 days fully supported point-to-point walking (warm up trek is 4 days and the Source of the Ganges trek is 5 days), with an average of 4-7 hours walking per day. The trek is on a full-service camping basis. Some previous experience of hill walking is beneficial although walks should be within the capabilities of those who lead a normal active life. The maximum sleeping altitude will be 4,500m, with an average of 3,300m.
You may find our Fitness Training Guide a useful reference: http://www.exodus.co.uk/assets/pdf/Exodus_WT_Fitness_Training_Guide.pdf

Walking hours stated within the itinerary are given as approximates only and will vary depending on the pace of your group. Driving times given are approximations of actual driving times and do not include stops for photos, lunch, toilets etc.

Why Trek with Exodus?
• Over 30 years’ experience of organising treks in the Himalaya
• 'Ask an expert' - talk to Exodus staff who have done the trek themselves.
• Experienced English-speaking local leaders who are qualified in first aid
• All staff (leaders, guides and porters) are fully insured and paid a fair wage.
• Carefully planned ascent rates and itineraries with built-in acclimatisation and contingency days.
• Staff carry a full first aid kit.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels, camping and guest houses

3 nights hotels, all en suite, 4 nights guest houses, all en suite, 7 nights full-service camping,

We stay in standard hotels in Delhi, Rishikesh and Mussoorie, all rooms have en suite facilities. In Uttarkashi, Barsu and Gangotri we stay in simple guesthouses, all rooms have en suite facilties.

The trek itself is on a full-service camping basis, meaning that our camp staff will erect and dismantle the tents for you, cook, and do all of the camp chores for you. You need only carry your daypack. We stay in two-person tents which have enough room inside for your kitbags. Sleeping mats and bags are not provided – please see the packing section. We also have a dining tent complete with table and folding chairs, and at least one toilet tent (usually two) for use during the evenings. No running water is available whilst camping. You will be camping close to a water source and the camp staff will provide bowls of warm water (to wash with) whilst trekking.
Should you wish to extend your stay, we can book additional nights for you either before or after the tour in Rishikesh or Delhi - please enquire at the time of booking.

Single rooms and tents are available for a supplement: the price may depend on the season you are travelling. Please advise the sales team if you wish to add this to your booking and they will confirm the price for you.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

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Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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Call us on 020 8772 3936