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Harsil in Uttaranchal - Best Long Weekend Getaway from Delhi
How about camping in Harsil with kids and family while sitting on the banks of Bhagirathi river near one of the most popular Chardhams of India? Yes it is true as there is some good news for delhites and for worldwide travelers who are searching for best long weekend getaway spots near Delhi. After checking the long weekend calendar for this year, I found that starting from October 9 to December 31, there are around six long weekend breaks and important holidays that can be utilized to discover northern parts of India. When we talk about Northern India, nothing is much better than Harsil, a small village, in Uttaranchal India where one can plan a weekend long trip. No car horns, no noise, no pollution. Just every now and then, you will hear chirping of birds and the sound of water flowing down the rocks. It is so relaxing and soothing that the feelings of this place cannot be explained in words. The feeling is same in the night as it is in the daytime.
Also, if you live in or around Delhi, you must have visited various overcrowded hill stations like Shimla Mussourie, Nainital, but believe me, your kids and family will be really happy if you will take them to a camping vacation to Harsil. Just like McLeodganj and Lansdowne in Uttaranchal, Harsil is again a little vacation spot away from the mad crowd of tourists visiting popular hill stations of Northern India. Harsil is situated in Uttaranchal State of India and is located close to Gangotri which is one of the four Hindu Pilgrimage Spots called as Char Dham of India (watch video below) witnessing thousand of devotees round the year, but then also very few know about Harsil. This is the reason why it is still not very popular among many which is a good thing for nature and peace loving people like you and me. Now without wasting time in talking about the history of Harsil, I will tell you about its beauty with some pictures, what you can do and see here, nearby attractions spots, how to reach Harsil, cost of fuel, accommodation and hotels in Harsil, total cost of visit for four people to Harsil from Delhi to give you an idea on the budget. I have also provided an interactive map marking all stops en route from Delhi to Harsil to make your journey a comfortable one.
Trekking in Harsil - Climbing hills above Harsil from Char Dham
What to do and see in Harsil?
Harsil itself has so many beautiful views and you need not to actually go anywhere else. Just walk to the army base nearby or simply walk down to the village and do some shopping of the woolen products like shawls, sweaters, etc. made by villagers. Though Harsil is situated in Uttaranchal, the look of the people of this village is somewhat like Tibetans. People are very friendly, cooperative, and soft spoken. There is a river flowing down between the tourist stay options and the village and you can visit the village with the help of a wooden bridge which is ages old but strong enough till now. The view everywhere around you is so soothing that you will forget to do anything and will keep enjoying the natural surroundings sitting along the riverside. This place is covered with lush green hilly forests. All the houses in the village are built with a mixture of mud and wood. The population in Harsil is not more than a few hundred.
Harsil is also famous for its variety of trekking routes, camping, and dense forests. It is a small village with some places of interest in the surroundings like bird watching, trekking, or simply building camps with kids and family near the river. You can also drive down to Gangotri and offer your prayers to the Goddess Ganges. From there, if you still wish to continue, you can do the Gaumukh trek, which is 16 kilometers long and will take you to the source of river Ganges making it the most peaceful weekend trekking spot in India.
In 2004, when I did this weekend long travel with my friends, we actually did nothing but to either visit the village, play with local children, who are really chirpy and pink cheeked, or simply stand at the bridge and stare at the crystal clear water flowing beneath us. We enjoyed our hard drinks and beers in the night camping along the banks of the river.
Camping - Most enjoyable thing to do in Harsil
It you want to have a chilled beer, just fix your favorite beer bottle in the roaring river water with the help of small stones and gravels, set a base camp or sit beside at any rock, ignite a bonfire, wait for sometime, enjoy the delicious snacks prepared by the cook of a nearby hotel and just after a few minutes, enjoy your drink which has gotten chilled by now.
Nearby Attraction Spots in Harsil
Well to be honest, there are limited places of attraction nearby, apart from visiting the famous Gangotri temple offering your prayers to the Goddess and enjoying camping and trekking at nearby places, but according to my experience, this place actually does not require any nearby place of interest. This place has loads of natural beauty, so enjoy camping, play games, do trekking, or simply use the walking treks alongside the river, sit on the banks of river, lie down, relax, and watch the sky. On the funniest part, being Lazy is the best activity in Harsil. All these activities will make you stress free of busy activities you have done in Delhi.
You can also visit army base in Harsil and interact with officers there if you want to know about the history of this place or other places worth visiting, but we were so amused by Harsil alone that we didn’t bother to go anywhere else.
One more thing to add, when you are on the way back to
Delhi, you can
stop over at the famous Tihri Garhwal Dam which looks awesome as shown in the above pic.
How to reach Harsil by air?
The airport nearest to Harsil is Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun which is approximately 235 kilometers away from this place. After reaching the airport, you can hire a cab to Harsil.
How to reach Harsil by train?
Rishikesh is 218 kilometers from Harsil and is the nearest train station and again from there you need to take the services of a taxi operator to visit Harsil.
How to reach Harsil from Delhi by road?
Harsil is easily accessible by roads so it is best to reach Harsil by road because on your way, you will experience the best part nature has to offer. Harsil is at a distance of around 430 kilometers from New Delhi.
Interestingly, there are two major routes for reaching Harsil which we will cover but the first one is the shortest route, so we will cover it first:
Route A (Please also check map for route A)
From Delhi, take National Highway 58 and reach Rishikesh via Ghaziabad, Modinagar, Meerut (just before the entrance to Meerut city, you will see a road sign indicating left as bypass and direction for Haridwar, Dehradun, so take left and continue on the bypass and merge on the highway at the end), Muzaffarnagar (from here just before the entrance to Muzaffarnagar city, you will see Muzaffarnagar bypass on the right, take right to avoid city traffic), then take right as the bypass ends (you will see a road sign indicating Roorkee, Haridwar at right), take right and then continue towards Rishikesh via Roorkee, Haridwar on the route. As you reach Rishikesh, leave NH58 which goes straight and take a left on NH94.
On NH94, continue till Dharasu via small towns like Narendra Nagar at Rishikesh Gangotri Yamunotri route, Jhajal, New Tehri, Tehri Dam and Chamba (not the Himachal wala Chamba). As you hit Dharasu, take a right on National Highway 108 (straight goes to Yamunotri on the same NH94) and continue towards Harsil via Genwala, Uttarkashi, Bhatwari (Bhatwari is a good place to stop for snacks), Raithal, Gangnani, and finally Harsil.
As you cross Chamba, you will witness one of the best drives of your life, as for most of this route, the famous Bhagirathi river will accompany you. Sometimes, you will see the river flowing down thousands of feet and sometimes, you will be driving alongside the river. It will be a drive full of majestic mountain views and lush green fields.
Route A: Starting Location A: Delhi and Ending Location G: Harsil
Route B (Please check map below for route B)
This route is for those who want to visit Mussorie hill station too and wish to stay here for one night before moving to Harsil. (we took this route while going). This route is similar to route A until Muzaffarnagar bypass end, where you will see the road sign showing direction asking you to turn right for Haridwar and Rishikesh.
DO NOT turn right as suggested for route A and instead continue straight from the roundabout and drive until the T-point. Take right (left goes to Shamli, Baraut) on NH72 and it’s a straight drive up to Dehradun via towns like Deobandh (famous place for Muslim Ulema and their all India meetings), Chhutmalpur, Mohand, and finally Dehradun. From here, you can directly go to Rishikesh (NH72 on the right) or continue towards Mussorie on the Rajpur Road. Later, you will find a signboard indicating left turn for Mussoorie (straight goes to Jhari Pani), take left and reach Mussoorie (from Delhi to Mussoorie, its around 275 kilometers). Once you are through with the night crowd of Mussoorie mall road (there are a lot of hotels in Mussoorie) and its shops, next morning take the route to Dhanaulti (another little place for those who look around for places to visit from Mussoorie). From Dhanaulti, continue straight towards Chamba and finally at Chamba of Uttaranchal, you will join the main NH94 towards Harsil. I cannot tell the exact distance between Mussoorie and Harsil, as the route we took via Dhanaulti to Chamba is nowhere available in the google maps and being a 2004 tour, I don’t remember the trip reading now but for easy records, it cost us around 550 kilometers to reach Harsil from Delhi via Mussoorie so I feel another 100 to 110 odd kilometers is the extra distance but the road from Mussoorie to Chamba via Dhanaulti is again full of scenic beauty.
Route B: Starting Location A: Delhi Via Mussoorie and Ending Location G: Harsil
GMVN Tourist Bungalow Harsil Uttaranchal near Gangotri Chardham
Cost of Fuel and Logistics to and fro from Harsil to Delhi
The cost will be shared by four people as if we take four people as standard for per person cost reference, so the costs would be fuel/4, stay/2 (on double occupancy basis for 2 nights) and food/4, it is just for reference and may vary depending on the vehicle and number of occupants.
Now for fuel, we will take the first and the shortest route for calculation, so the distance is approximately 430 kilometers one side and we add another 100 kilometers for trip to Gangotri and back (75 kilometers approximately) and other local traveling (25 km) so the distance comes out to be 530 km one side plus 430 km other side is equal to 960 km. Now, the average mileage for petrol car is 15 kilometers per liter and diesel car's mileage is 18 kilometers per liter. The rate for petrol and diesel will be taken as 51 rupees per liter and 40 rupees per liter respectively.
Petrol: 960/15= 64 liter fuel, so 64 x 51 rupees per liter = 3264
INR, so 3264/4 = 816 INR per person
Diesel: 960/18= 53 liter fuel, so 53 x 40 rupees per liter = 2120
INR, so 2120/4 = 530 INR per person
Accommodation and Hotels in Harsil
For accommodation purposes, frankly speaking, there are not so much options for stay in Harsil and it has only 4 to 5 important hotels. It is best to stay at GMVN Tourist Bungalow in Harsil but prior booking is required as it is in high demand at all times, especially during tourist season. All of them have tariff in the range of 700 to 2000 INR per night for two, so we will take average tariff of 2000 for two, so for 2 nights, it would be 4000/4 = 1000 per person for two nights.
Food in Harsil
Again for four people as a standard measure, we assume per day food cost (food is not expensive here) to be around 1200 INR (excluding hard drinks) so 1200 x 3 days = 3600/4 people = 900 per person.
So the total cost of visit by four people to Harsil from Delhi by car is:
Petrol Car: 816 + 1000 + 900 = 2716 INR per person
Diesel Car: 530 + 1000 + 900 = 2430 INR per person
The total cost of travel, food, and stay in Harsil for four people is 20584 INR (450 dollars) which is really amazing. This is the cost when traveling with friends but if you are traveling with kids and family, add another 5000 to 7000 rupees if you are four people, only 100 to 200 dollars more for foreign nationals, so enjoy the best long weekend getaway spot near Delhi within budget and do not forget to visit Gaumukh
Gangotri as it is an amazing experience, but be cautious as the walking trek to
Gaumukh is very steep, narrow, and slippery in times of rainfall in Uttaranchal. According to my review of Harsil, it is still undiscovered but it has a potential of becoming a popular long weekend vacation spot in the coming future because of camping facilities near the river, trekking options, and other kid friendly activities.