Harsil – An Offbeat Place in Garhwal, Uttarakhand [Ultimate Travel Guide]

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Are you already planning a trip to Harsil in Uttarakhand? This detailed travel guide will help you plan a memorable trip to this offbeat place in Garhwal – Uttarakhand.

Harsil in Garhwal - A Detailed Travel Guide
Harsil in Garhwal – A Detailed Travel Guide

Harsil is one of those villages that truly represents how unglorified Uttarakhand is. I have been a long-time advocate of the beauty that is Uttarakhand and that tourism needs to pick up its pace in the region. For Uttarakhand is divinity, and people need to experience this magical wonderland, often called Dev Bhoomi.

An integral part of the Gangotri National Park, Harsil is classified is an army area, though it does not have a full-fledged cantonment. The ideal companion in the Bhagirathi river makes this sleepy little town more life, more color, and allows you the luxury of taking things at your own pace. Scanning the landscape of Harsil, you’ll be able to spot many temples in the town nestled in between the forests of Deodar, Pine, and Oak trees.

About Harsil

Harsil is perched at an elevation of 2623 meters and is known for its proximity to Gangotri in Uttarakhand. But, this little town should be on your list individually, not because of Gangotri only. The village has apple orchards for as long as 70 km!

That kind of view is not only uncommon but damn near rare! Surrounded by very famous hill towns, Harsil has been overshadowed by the grandiose of places like Gangotri. But, it deserves its recommendation. However, Harsil is a must-visit offbeat place in Garhwal – Uttarakhand.

Geography

Located in a picturesque valley, Harsil is around 72 km after Uttarkashi en route Gangotri. Dense Deodar trees, the beautifully flowing Bhagirathi river, and the migratory birds form the highlight of the place.

Playing at the banks of the river at Harsil GMVN
Playing at the banks of the river at Harsil GMVN

Mythology of Harsil

People believe that two rivers, Jalandhari and Bhagirathi, were always up in arms with each other, fighting a lot and wanting to prove their supremacy over the other. Al this fighting led to a lot of havoc on the nearby villages and settlements.

Therefore, having no other choice, the residents prayed to Lord Vishnu to help resolve the fight between Jalandhari and Bhagirathi. Locals believe that upon hearing the prayers, Lord Vishnu transformed into a ‘Sila’ or stone.

He placed himself in the middle of the confluence of Jalandhari and Bhagirathi. Therefore, the place was named Harshil, which is essentially Lord Vishnu in the form of a rock.

Harsil Weather

Being a hill station in Uttarakhand, the Harsil weather is always pleasant – even in the winter months. Winter months experience an average high of 12-15 Degrees with the lows hovering around 0. It is one of the places of Uttarakhand near Delhi to experience snowfall.

Summer months can be in the higher ’20s with enjoyable nights. Monsoons are always tricky in the hills, with landslides expected. Hence, better to avoid late July to August period.

The most famous viewpoint of Harsil
The most famous viewpoint of Harsil

Best time to visit Harsil

While Harsil is always accessible, September to June is the best time to visit Harsil when the plains are getting too hot to handle. Summers are the epitome of pleasant Himalayan weather, where the evening is cool and the mornings are bright.

It is a must to dress in layers when visiting any hill town. It is always advisable to be a little alert if choosing to visit in the monsoon months.

Pro Travel Tip: Do not forget to check my list of things to carry on Himalayan trips.

How to reach Harsil from Delhi

Well connected by road, Harsil can be reached easily. While Dehradun is the closest location of railway and airport, there is still a substantial distance of 200+ KMs from Dehradun to reach Harsil.

Distance Chart

LocationDistance
Delhi to Harsil 468 km
Dehradun to Harsil 215 km
Chandigarh to Harsil 377 km
Shimla to Harsil 370 km
Harsil to Dharali6 km
Harsil to Gangotri 25 km
Harsil to Gangotri National Park30 km
Harsil to Nelong Valley42 km

By air

Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun is located at a distance of 232 km from Harsil. Cabs are available for hire to Harsil.

By rail

The nearest railway station is in Rishikesh, 215 km from Harsil. However, the railway station situated in Dehradun, at a distance of 217 km from the hill station, is also a viable option. Cabs are available for hire, both private and shared, to Harsil.

However, given that it is a small village – the likelihood of a lot of travelers will be limited. Your best bet for a shared cab will be to arrange your travels for people heading to Gangotri.

Snow walls at Dharali between Gangotri and Harsil
Snow walls at Dharali between Gangotri and Harsil

By road

Well connected by road, Harsil lied on NH 108, and regular buses to Rishikesh/Dehradun are easily available. Upon reaching these places, one will need to change buses to reach Harsil. From Delhi, the total driving distance is 470 km and takes a total driving time of 13 hours. Thus, we suggest to break your journey, and you may choose to spend a night in Dehradun.

If you’re planning on taking a bus, do note that you need to reach Dehradun/Rishikesh early in the morning to be able to catch a bus for Harsil. There are no afternoon buses available. You may want to end up spending a night at Mussoorie before heading to Harsil.

Things to see in Harsil – Tourist Attractions

Harsil has beauty in terms of the never-ending apple orchards, the meeting of Bhagirathi and the Jalandhari river, and the scenic backdrop. When you’re in Harsil, one more place worth visiting is Wilson Cottage.

Wilson Cottage

Set up by Mr. Wilson in 1864, he built by a deserter of the British Army who me the Raja of Teri. When the Raja refused to shelter him, Wilson moved to Harsil and built this property.

Upon finding this out, the Raja started receiving a certain profit for “leasing” his land. Wilson built a 350 ft long suspension bright over Jagdanda for the local people. So loved he was, that the locals still affectionately call him Pahari Wilson.

Trip Suggestion: Do not forget to check my travel guide about Manila – An unknown place in Uttarakhand.

The view of Bhagirathi river from GMVN TRH
The view of Bhagirathi river from GMVN TRH

Places to explore nearby Harsil

You can explore the following places near Harsil which you will enjoy visiting apart from Gangotri.

Dharali

A tiny hamlet, Dharali has many stories to tell. Located merely 2 KMs from the Harsil village, Dharali has beautiful apple orchards that will captivate you. There are many mythological stories from this place – including Bhagirath meditating here to wish for Ganga to flow from heave to Earth. So strong is this belief that there is an ancient Hindu temple with Shivji’s shrine at the right location.

Mukhwas Village

Traveling merely 1 Km from Harsil leads you to Mukhwas village. People consider it to be the winter home of Goddess Gangotri. Gangotri is usually engulfed by snow in the winter months, and the people tend to visit here in large numbers in the winter months to fulfill their devotion.

Trip Suggestion: If you have enough days in hand, then you can always check my most recommended itinerary for the Kumaon region.

Sattal

A group of 7 lakes (Sat = seven, Tal = lake) of freshwater provides a home for migrating birds and panoramic views for the traveling souls. These lakes lie at the height of 1370 Mts above sea level, and lush green forests of oak and pine trees surround it.

A short trek away from Dharali, Sattal will keep you engrossed for a long time, thanks to the insanely beautiful views and the bountiful flora and fauna.

Gangnani

Located approximately 25 km before reaching Harsil, this little settlement is popular amongst the locals for its hot water spring. Especially when visiting in the winter months, this is a must-have experience and should be top on your priority list. The views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks will leave you wanting for more.

Gangotri

A place needs no introduction, Gangotri is the reverential Dham for it is the home of Goddess Ganga. A place where the holiest river originates has to be a beautiful and peaceful spot- and it is. There is a beautiful temple at the height of 3048 meters, which is a lifetime wish of most Hindus to visit.

The distance of Gangotri from Harsil is 20 km. The place is more than worth a visit as the cascading games of the Himalayas and the Bhagirathi rivers will leave you speechless.

Gangotri Dham
Gangotri Dham

Other things to do near Harsil

There are many unexplored trails in the region which you can explore in your own leisure time. Most of these trails will lead you to spectacular views of gushing waterfalls, beautiful lakes, and everything in between. It is a great way to learn the value of natural living.

The village in itself boasts of highly eco-friendly tourism where you can partake in a calm environment and enjoy meditation, yoga, etc. I highly recommend speaking and interacting with the locals to understand their way of life and appreciating how easy they make it feel to survive without most of the amenities we take for granted!

Where to stay in Harsil

Uttarakhand Tourism is amazing, and of course, a GMVN is available with luxury views. While the rooms might be minimalistic, the food and the views make up for everything. The Nelangana Resort is a beautiful property located in Harsil.

A trek from this place takes you to Nelong Valley and also provides breakfast! Another decent option is a budget-friendly Airbnb called Harsil cottage.

GMVN TRH at Harsil
GMVN TRH at Harsil

Where to eat

Given the size and the isolation of the village, it’s no wonder that there are no restaurants in the village. However, there are a few roadside dhabas that will serve tasty, though basic, North Indian food.

In-house restaurants of hotels are your best bet. Also, Indo-Chinese food such as momos, thupka is available aplenty. But, I would recommend trying the Garhwali cuisine of Gahat Dal, Sisunak Saag, Chainsoo, etc.

You should always carry your own water bottle and refill it as many times as you need water. It will not only keep you hydrated always, but you will also help in saving the Himalayas from plastic garbage. Remember, every tiny step counts and your step in this direction can help save the Himalayas too !! 🙂 🙂

Trip Suggestion: If you are planning a trip to Himachal instead of Uttrakhand, you can check these 12 must-visit offbeat places in Himachal.

Views of the valley from Mukhba
Views of the valley from Mukhba

Conclusion

While it is lovingly known as the Mini-Switzerland of Uttarakhand – I disagree. India is a beautiful, breathtaking country with lots to offer. Personally, I tend to hate when anyone refers to places in India as “Doesn’t feel like we are in India, it is so beautiful!”.

As Indians, we should have gotten used to knowing there are gorgeous places for us to enjoy in our very own backyard.

Have a travel question?? You can follow me on Instagram and ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram too. I also conduct a weekly Q&A session every Saturday evening on Instagram, so see you there.

Harsil offers a lot of natural beauty that will want you to explore more and be present in the moment. The magic of villages like Harsil is that it connects you with the rhythm of nature. You forget to be on the clock and breathe as you’re supposed to. So, relax, unwind, and explore the beauty of Harsil. This little village has lots to tell.

I hope this Harsil travel guide help you plan a perfect trip to Harsil. Feel free to share it with your friends and family who are planning a Garhwal trip.

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About Author

Shefali spends most of her time day dreaming about her next big vacation. A happy-go-lucky personality, she is an amalgamation of all the places she’s lived in and experienced! She is always confused as to where to call home, having lived in Chandigarh, Shimla, Dehradun, Mumbai, Hyderabad in India and Vancouver, Abbotsford in Canada. Her love for travel is only challenged by her love for reading and eating delicious food! In order to sustain her dreams, she brought out her inner geek, got an MBA and has a job in the corporate world crunching numbers. Do follow @notravelplans on Instagram for updates on her next great adventure.

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