Panch Prayag, Joshimath, Auli – All the Way to Badrinath – Part I of II

Don’t be misled by the places named in the title. Though we are religious at heart, yet this trip could not be called a pilgrimage. It was the beauty and the snow that beckoned us. This time mainly it was the scorching heat of the plains that drove us to the hills for a brief respite. Two families packed off in our Honda City and hit a hurried semi-planned trip to the prayags hoping to drive till Badrinath in our 5-day long trip. We started off from Noida at 11.30 on a Friday night and after crossing Hardwar at around 3.30 and Hrishikesh at around 4.30 early in the morning, we finally reached Devprayag at about 8.30. It was a tiring overnight journey with each of us falling asleep in bits and pieces. Finally, at the dawn of day when we opened our sleepy eyes, even in the semiconscious state of our slumberous minds, we could not overlook the intense beauty of the transforming hills as the sky got brighter and brighter with the sun’s hue. The massive darkened silhouette of the wondrous Himalayas of the night time turned into giant mounds of sunny blue mounds with crimson tops at the day break. The sunny expanse hit our heavy eyelids and shook us out of reverie.

Day dawns over at Devprayag; first glimpse of Devbhumi.

The sleepy early morning Devprayag.

We would devoutly follow the route of NH 58 all the way till Joshimath via the four prayags. The first prayag that made us stop and stare was Devprayag, the lowest of the five confluences. This prayag is essentially a pilgrim spot. It also harbours a quaint hill town tucked into the folds of Himalayas. It is famous for the first of the five sacred confluences in which River Alakananda meets with five different rivers and gives River Ganges her ultimate stately divine form in five natural watery instalments. “Devprayag” attains its name from the Sanskrit derivation that means Godly confluence. It is said that this is the place where sage Devasharma led his ascetic life. Devprayag is the sacred confluence of the heavenly rivers Alakananda and Bhagirathi.

A bridge in the making (or breaking!!!).

As the Devbhumi of Devprayag slowly greeted another pleasant sunny morning, we felt the thrill of yet another tale of travel starting to take its form. Shaking off the residual sleep from our eyes, we climbed out of our car to stretch our bodies and took in lungful of the fresh morning mountain air. Time to collect and frame our memories! Groping for our cameras, we got busy clicking the molten green waters of the Bhagirathi melting with the muddy green of the Alakananda.

My precious 4-year old wakes up from sleep

Our faces and bodies were definitely showing streaks of tiredness and pronouncedly needed the comfort of a hotel room. After considering Monal Resort (where we had a great experience the last time we stayed for a couple of days) that is situated a bit away from the town of Rudraprayag and a couple of other hotels, we finally decided to burrow a hole in the modestly neat and clean Hotel Mandakini that offered a surreal view of the Bhagirathi from its balconies. The hotel was not at all crowded and was well within our budget. It was time to break our fast with Aloo Paranthas, dahi, achaar, and bottles of coke; and after that we decided to catch some sleep till noon. The sun was quite powerful and we had our ACs humming at medium speed. At around 1.30 p.m. in the evening, we opened our eyes to the shrieking howls of a mountain storm and a pitch dark cloudy mountainous Rudraprayag. Even as we enjoyed the storm outside from our balcony, we ordered a sumptuous lunch, meant to be a special attraction when in vacation. The food turned out to be tastier than we had expected.

Lunch at Hotel Mandakini.

Innovative way to cool off the coke we were carrying.

The twirling Bhagirathi from our balcony.

Enjoying the mountain storm, it had almost abated by that time.

We enjoyed the mountain prayag storm sitting in the balcony for quite some time. After a brief light shower, winds stopped blowing and the sky cleared. We set off from the hotel and proceeded towards the auspicious meeting point of the green and the brown. We parked our car in the market place, and after a 4 km trek through the Rudraprayag market and through the bridge, we climbed down quite a few steep stone stairs to reach the prayag sthal well before the evening aarti. We frolicked on the ghats; enjoyed the sights and duet songs of the torrentially turbulent mountain rivers; tried to dip our feet and hands into the freezing cold waters by carefully holding on to the side chains meant to prevent falling into the flowing current; and sang songs and watched a handful of pilgrims happily washing off their sins by dipping into the frozen prayag waters. We clicked some nice shots and soon it was time for aarti. The evening aarti created a magic and added to the surrealism of the atmosphere. The big heavy Diya or Panch pradeep was handed over to all devotees by the purohit one by one to offer their prayers to the river Goddess as the purohit continued to chant the devotional songs and mantras in his high-pitched voice over the microphone. It was a moment of truth.

Sis and bro-in-law posing before the bridge leading to the Rudraprayag ghats.

Rudraprayag from the bridge

The momentous meeting of Alakanda and Bhagirathi in a furore.

Idling away on the Rudraprayag ghats

The offering ready for the aarti

Evening aarti in Rudraprayag, incredible experience!

After these cleansing moments of the evening aarti, we retraced our steps back towards the hotel. On the way, we stopped over at a cold drinks joint to moisten our throats, and then again stopped over at a chaiwala’s to sip in some hot steaming local tea flavoured with the taste of Rudraprayag. We were at the Rudraprayag market and our eyes scoured every item in display in the quaint little stalls in a bid to find something worthwhile to carry back home. No nothing. It was a very small market barely catering to local needs. Meanwhile, it had started pouring again and we loved getting wet.

Stopover at cold drinks point.

As we came back to our hotel, we soaked in more of the rain and the silent, dark beauty of the hills. After that it was time for a bit of chit chat (while we planned for the next day) and some fresh cool breeze sitting on the balcony and another instalment of good food, a nice heavy dinner, to end the first day of the trip.

Ready for Joshimath, starting from Hotel Mandakini.

Waving goodbye to Rudraprayag

Next day morning, we got our breakfast packed and headed for Joshimath at around 8 a.m. It was a calculated four-hour drive from Rudraprayag. The hills were getting more and more rugged as we travelled farther and farther and more of stark, stony beauty of the Himalayas unfolded. The next stopover was at Karnaprayag. Karnaprayag is about 174 kms from Rishikesh and about 32 kms from Rudraprayag. It is again the divine meeting point of the geographically important green Pindar River with the religiously important brown and muddy Alakananda River. It is believed that here the mighty Karna had performed his penance and attained his indestructible powers from his father, the Sun God. We stretched our legs and after a brief stint of photography session, we continued heading towards Joshimath via the same NH 58.
Next came Nandaprayag after another 22 kms through the same route. Here it was the turn of the green Nandakini River to turn muddy by merging with the opaque waters of the Alakananda. Sure enough, this prayag bears resemblance with the others. Only that the rivers seemed to show even more gusto and power. Some more photos were clicked. By this time, we had caught on the madness of following the pious Alakananda all the way up the mighty Himalayas till her origin.
This route was not the familiar green Himalayan terrain that we encounter in Himachal or Uttaranchal. This was a more of a hard exterior exuding strength and character. The terrifyingly threatening, curvy narrowing roads snaking around the mountains as we crossed several mountains one by one were a sheer thrill. The drivers (my husband and brother-in-law alternating) were enjoying the drive while the women and the child enjoyed music, nature, beauty and thrill. The ladies took turns to sit beside the driver’s seat and sometimes literally had their hearts in their hands as the car edged up and across the steep mountain ridges. The more we tried to concentrate on the beauty, the more we were overwhelmed with nature’s stupendous creation, of the ribbon like numerous waterfalls rolling down the mountain sides, of the glistening reflecting rays of the sun that lured us further into its folds.

Landslide prone area.

A view of the creepy crawly roads snaking up the hilltops.

Finally we reached Joshimath, very refreshed and charged. We already had our bookings in GMVN, Main Bazaar. There are two GMVNs there, the old and the new, and we had a bit of confusion. We were booked in the new one. After checking in, we had a quick but elaborate lunch and were in a hurry to catch the coveted 20-minutes ropeway to Auli and disappear in the midst of the mystic alluring Auli meadows. Unfortunately, the receptionist informed us that the ropeway was under renovation and was not functioning. We extracted further information on the road conditions and found the answers satisfying enough to be braving the roads; and actually for us it was a blessing in disguise. We sped off in our car and the pretty roads offered us some unforgettable memories and views to be cherished for lifetime. The flowery, verdant, green lush covers stretching on both sides of the entire 30 kms to Auli were actually life giving. The soft pink, red and yellow miniature flowers adorning the valleys and the green patches on both sides of the road were a treat to the senses. The freshness that the snow-peaked beauty exuded, the cool breeze, the green meadows with leisurely bunches of sheep herd nibbling at the soft new grass blades made the atmosphere mesmerizing and electrifying. The meadows were breathing and gushing life with the limited summer-month window they had, till they are covered once more with frozen white ice and obediently transform into a skiing paradise, attracting adventure lovers from all across the globe.

The GMVN room, modestly tastefully decorated and spacious.

The mesmerizing road view on our drive to Auli.

Layers of glacier laden mountains unfold.

Happy to hit the paradise

Glaciers at their best

We had a nice relaxing couple of hours on the meadows. Some localites had spread their bounties and were enjoying picnic lunch while some other local couples sat and chatted perched on some mountain crevice. Several four wheelers rushed past us through the rugged road till the highest motorable dead end after a brief stopover at the meadows. We watched the sun rays dimming and vanishing beyond the snow peaks. The crimson glow caught up with the resplendent and lazy cloud balls. It was enchanting.

Here’s where God’s reside.

The valley of miniature flowers, that turns snow white in the winters.

The army base in the Auli meadows.

Trying our hands at the army training grounds.

Sun gradually sets and darkness falls as the hazy clouds grow hazier.

Cuddling two cute little puppies on our return from Auli.

Wild roses adorning the sidewalks all the way from Joshimath to Auli

As the day broke into night, we made a reluctant journey back to our restful haven. It was a beautiful full moon night. After reaching back to the hotel, we freshened up a bit and ventured out into the streets to live the Joshimath life. The small local shops and vendors were catering to the local needs. Few people frisked around busily rounding up their day’s chores. We were looking for some decent eating place. Unfortunately, we could not locate one that can withstand my paranoia of food hygiene. We directed our steps back to the hotel restaurant and ordered our dinner. Dinner had to be booked well in advance as they prepare only ordered meals. After that we shuffled between the roof top and balconies to catch every inch of the glittering full moon across the pearly dark mountain ranges.

Joshimath market place, while we hunted for a decent eating place

After the dinner, we decided to call it a day and sleep off our tiredness and wake up bright and shining for the big Badrinath tour the next day.


  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Very well written post equally supported by beautiful pictures.

    Out of five prayag , devprayag is only one which can be fully captured from camera from the road.

    Avoid driving in night , during day time no one can drive as systematically as truck driver but in night they are the devils.

    Bridge near Srinagar got broken while constructing only , 10-12 labour died since than no further construction has been done.

    Monal resort is quite expensive, what are the charges of hotel Mandakini.

    Auli is the place to be visited in winters.

    Looking forward to your next post.

  • ???? ?? ?????? ?????, ???? ?? ?????? ????, ?????? ?? ???? ?? ????? ?????? ?? ???????? ?? ???? ????? ?? ?????? ?? ?? ?????? ?????? ?? ???? ???. ???? ?? ???? ???? ?????? ???. ????? ?? ???????? ????? ??? ?? ?????? ???? ???. ?? ?? ?? ?? ???? ?? ?? ???? ?? ??????? ???? ??. ????? ?????? ?? ???? ?? ???? ???? ?? ?????? ????? ???. ????? ???????? ???? ?? ????? ??? ??? ???? ? ???. ???? ??? ?? ????? ?? ????????? ?????, ??????? , ??????????

  • rajesh priya says:

    hi bidisha, this is the first of ur post i m reading,but i m going read all ur earlier post
    right now.this post shows ur inetrest in literature,very nicely written.hope that 2nd post will be more request(also requested to ghumakkarji maharaj-pravin gupta)kindly mention hotel’s rent ,wherever you stayit will help others who wish to go theese places

    • Bidisha says:

      Hello Rajeshji. Yes, I am a literature student and love penning down experiences. Hope you like my second post better.

      Mandakini Hotel was quite pocket friendly as compared to the luxurious Monal Resort and was modestly neat and clean. The tariff was around INR 1,800 per day per night on twin sharing basis after negotiation. Before negotiation it was INR 2,200.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Very informative post . Enjoyed reading about panch prayag. Pictures are quite interesting – creepy crawly one is stirring.

    We had been till Rudraprayag and then to Ukhimath. However, Auli/Joshimath/Badrinath is still a dream.

    How is the road condition in Devprayag to Badrinath stretch?


    • Bidisha says:

      Aurojit Thanks. Please go ahead and fulfill your dream and you will cherish the memories forever. The road condition all the way till Badrinath (contrary to our expectation) was actually very good apart from the landslide prone patches. But conditions might deteriorate after rains.

  • Neeraj Jat says:

    ??? ??? ????? ?? ??? ???? ???? ?? ???? ??, ????? ??? ???? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ???? ??? ????? ??????????

    • Bidisha says:

      Thanks Neerajji. Yes, you are absolutely correct. Auli seems to very vibrant with fresh beauty and was green and flowery during the summers.

  • Aparna says:

    Hi Bidisha!

    Wow! you made the journey sound so easy while it actually is not. Badrinath and Auli are my dream destinations during winters. I have been to Badrinath while I was in college and it was just I want go there again. Well of the four prayags, I remember going to a cave where there are lot of Shiva lings, don’t remember the name…any idea on that? Also, in this weather the Valley of Flowers would be superb…will read the next post…:)

    • Bidisha says:

      Thanks Aparna. I am sure both Badrinath and Auli would be manifold more beautiful during the winters. Yes, this is the time to trek down to the fantasy land of the Valley of Flowers. I guess even we crossed the prayag with caves and Shivlings but did not have time to stop. But unfortunately even I don’t remember which one. Will find out if my co-travelers remember. Will then let you know.

  • ashok sharma says:

    beautiful post.very good photographs.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Hi Bidisha,
    Wonderful, marvellous pictures, nice description. Photos so nicely shoot that it describe story itself.

  • kavita Bhalse says:

    ?????? ,
    ???? ??? ????? ???? ?? ????? ??? ????? ????? ?? ??? ?? ???? ??? ??? .???? ???? ??? ????? ?? ????? ??? .???? ?? ???? ?????? ??? .
    ???????? ?? ???? ?? ???? ???? ???? ??? .
    ??????? .

    • Bidisha says:

      Hi Kavita
      Thanks for your sweet words Kavita. The appreciation seemed to have come straight from your heart :). Truly glad that you liked reading it.

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    You have written post very nicely and pictures of your post is very beautiful & Awesome.
    Thanks for refreshing my memory……

  • Pooja Verma says:

    Very picturesque writing Didi! Glad Manjusha shared the link with me. The pics compliment your post in the best possible way. Feels like I was one of the co-traveller! :D Keep writing.

  • Epsita Bisht says:

    Great Post !! Really enjoyed reading your blog, it refreshed my memory. Please tag me (if there is a option) to this post so that I can follow you.

  • Biswajit Ganguly says:

    Dear Bidisha,
    what a wonderful narration, absolutely ready reckoner for somebody not seen these places before. Uttranchal is very logically called Dev Bhoomi, because every now and then you come face to face with the almighty in the disguise of virgin forest, mammoth mountain ranges with divine beauty. In spite of its modest preparation compare to Varanasi, Haridwar and Rishikesh the Sandhya Aarti for a moment carries one into complete ecstatic state for the sheer divinity and simplicity. I am sure everyone who have gone through this post must have felt as if all of us were co travellers because of the spontenity of the events and the complementing photographs. One cannot ask for more as a Ghumakkar… thanks will keep waiting for the rest of the journey. biswajit ganguly

  • Hi Bidisha,

    This post is the living testimony of your self-description – literature-cum-ghumakkar rolled into one. I feel like reading it again and again for the sheer beauty of the language if not for anything else. Being a photo enthusiast myself, I also enjoyed the accompanying pics. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more and more travelogues from your mighty pen.

    Sushant Singhal

  • By the way, it would be great if you people give a smile also while being photographed. :) Were you too tired to smile?

    • Bidisha says:

      Sushantji, you made my day :). But please don’t scold. I always get a bit camera conscious when being clicked but my co-travelers did compensate with their broad smiles, didn’t they!

  • Sanjay Khera says:

    Nice Bidisha, you & your family luk like a typical ghumakkars. Photographs are marvelous. Keep it up.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Beautifully written Bidisha. The travels to Badri and Auli are often seen as hard and adventurous rides, taking hours of focused and laborious drive, landslides, devoid of worldly comforts and what not.

    Your description of the drive, the places enroute makes it appear as simple and non-intimadating. The towns feels warmer and the Arti seems very accessible. I think as a Ghumakkar and as a Write, if you are making it sound simple then probably it would make more people visit this place and you would have served the purpose of writing here. Bravo.

    • Bidisha says:

      Thanks Nandan, when you are in love with travel and adventure nothing remains a hurdle anymore. :) I think we all Ghumakkars know it all.

  • Very good narration Bidisha. Pictures are equally good. Specially the photo of creepy roads, the river deep in the valley is looking very beautiful. Snow clad mountains of Auli are looking amazing.

  • Rajesh Varshney says:

    Thanx Bidisha..for sharing valuable info like this.. something most of us is looking for and can never get.. We are planning to visit same place as u visited above and Valley Of Flowers in 2nd or 3rd week of Aug.’12 from Ghaziabad. I dont know how much time we wud take as we have only 3 days off.. :) .. Thanx again.. Cheers/RV

    • Bidisha says:

      Hi Rajesh

      Thanks. Valley of flowers would be a one-day trek from Govindghat. You can put up at some place in Govindghat and start early in the morning for Valley of Flowers, which is a 17 km trek, with a halt at Ghangaria. The closest staying options are available at Govindghat and Ghangaria (GMVN and forest rest house). Three days would demand a bit tight schedule. Hope you have a wonderful trip. :)


      • Rajesh Varshney says:

        Wow… u r so fast.. Thanx for the update..Cheers..
        Could u pls. let me know how much time wud take from GZB to GoindGhat by road in one go with 2-3 short breaks..? So that Ill try to accommodate my trip time within 3 days..

        • Bidisha says:

          Hi Rajesh

          Travelling from Ghaziabad till Rudraprayag would approximately take 10 hours. From there till Joshimath would be another 4 hours. And then from Joshimath till Govindghat would be approx 1.30 hours. So it would be like 16 hours of drive given the rains have not played any major havoc with the roads and rest everything goes as planned :). Cheers to you and glad to be able to help you in planning your trip.

  • me_nitin says:

    Amazing descption! I am planning a trip myself betweem mid-Oct to Auli & Badrinath. Pleasantly supriped to see Manjusha :) small world!

    Besides, wanted to confirm id there is a KVMN guest house in Auli or just in Joshimath?

  • Bidisha says:

    Yes Nitin, there’s a GMVN (not KMVN as it is not Kumaon region but Garhwal region :)) hotel in Auli too apart from the two in Joshimath. Thanks and how do you know my sis, Manjusha, I was wondering!

  • Bidisha says:

    1) It was not a central point while travelling to Badrinath, and also because Joshimath is en route.
    2) Auli is not an attractive spot for staying in summers unless in winters when it turns into a skiing hub.
    3) We were also looking forward to the ropeway ride to Auli and to and back from Joshimath.

    Hope this helps. :)

  • Babu Thomas Thekkekara says:

    Hi Bidisha,

    While doing some research about Rudraprayag, I happened to read your amazing travelogue of the high himalayas. I have never been to any of those places, however, I will love to visit them in future. I am from Kerala, now setteld in the US. I do write stories in Malayalam and the backdrop of my last story was Haridwar (even though I have not visited the place, but will defienitely do). I was planning a story based on the holy places in Rudrapryag and the surrounding hills. I like to learn more about the Aarati. Your wirting was so wonderful that I could get a very good view of the places. Your narrations are awsome (we soaked in more of the rain and the silent, dark beauty of the hills). I paln to read more of your adventures. Thank you.

  • Ra says:

    THanks! I really appreciate people sharing their experiences! It helps another so much n understanding the travel. Wish you had mentioned time taken and speed of travel…GOogle maps is way off mark in destinations like these!! Also it would be great if you could add a bit about the other hotels and their locations too – enen if you did not stay in them but passed them so that its a good reference ….. I am always looking for this sort of info from travel blogs!
    Wish you many more travels!

  • Anand says:

    Amazing pic,
    awesome discription,
    m also planning to go thru the same itinerary


  • Nandan Jha says:

    Does it need a Disqus comment to show old comments ?

  • Rakesh Dave says:

    I am 61 years old. Before reading your blog adding comments. Sorry for it Ma’m. I went to Badrinath during 1979 !!!!! Not thereafter. You drove this dangerous hills without driver. How safe is driving in hilly areas. Hope things have changed. Long back i was told that only experienced driver can go to such places.One has to hire driver from local Mandal. I may be wrong. Please brief shortly about your driving experience. Infact,now I would follow and start to read your journey. Can’t wait. and Thanks for bring details to my favourite destination.

    • Bidisha Dutta says:

      Actually Rakesh jee, we drive ourselves through various terrains in Himalayas since more than a decade. It did not feel a difficult drive for us. But in case you are thinking of driving yourself, I would suggest no please don’t. As such the drive is extremely picturesque and we stopped at major viewpoints. So for ghumakkars like us it was not a big deal. But people who are driving on hills for the first time, it might be an ordeal. And thank you so much. I love travelling and penning equally. :-)

      • Rakesh Dave says:

        So much thanks for your reply. You deserve applause. Much lucky that you drove yourself. Uttarakhand is amazing place !! Keep visiting and writing such inspiring adventures. Jay Shree Badrivishal !

  • Divyabh says:

    Possible to drive from Delhi to Badrinath in one stretch (starting at 12 midnight and reaching the same day by late evening) ? We have 3 guys who can drive and will switch after every 200kms.

    • Nandan Jha says:

      Its about 15 hours so doable but not recommended. Another option could be to leave a little early (say at 4 PM) and then stay at Haridwar/Rishikesh for the night and then start early morning next stay and you should be in Badrinath for the evening Arti.

  • Baadshah Banerjee says:

    Hey Bidisha.
    Its amazing to read your simple yet effectively detailed travelogue, complete with nice and appropriate photographs.
    It is indeed very encouraging for people like us, who love travelling and then documenting the experiences (like myself :) )
    I hope to keep reading your wonderful essays and stay entertained!

    If you would be kind enough to answer a couple of my queries with regards to your write up about Badrinath Tour:
    1. What are the timings of darshan at Badrinath Dham?
    2. Keeping in mind such timings, will it be possible to travel from Joshimath to Badrinath Temple, visit the Idol, go upto Mana village and come back toPipalkoti or Gopeswar the same day.
    3. If #2 means travelling after dark (between 6 and 8 pm perhaps), is it safe travelling in such terrains in the dark?

    . . . Thanks in Advance :)

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