A Spiritual Journey: My Kedarnath Temple (Dham) trip experience and itinerary

Unforgettable Kedarnath Temple(Dham) Visit: A Personal Story Experiencing the Divine

Namaste and welcome, fellow pilgrims and travel enthusiasts! Are you someone who loves to travel and explore new places? Have you ever felt drawn to a particular destination, like it was calling to you?  A yearning for a place steeped in history and spirituality? There’s a saying about Kedarnath Temple, a beautiful and holy place in the Himalayas: “You don’t reach Kedarnath Temple if you want to go, you only reach there when Shri Kedarnath Ji wants to meet you.” Today, I’d like to share my incredible trip, which felt like a sign that Kedarnath ji did indeed welcome me. This wasn’t just a vacation but a deeply spiritual experience I’ll never forget. Kedarnath Temple is one of the most important shrines in Hinduism, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It attracts people from all over the world who want to connect with their faith. Let me take you on a journey through my trip, from planning and preparation to the amazing feeling of reaching this sacred place.

About Kedarnath – History and Mythology

Kedarnath, nestled high in the Himalayas at a staggering 3,584 meters, is a holy Hindu pilgrimage site in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. It’s one of the Chota Char Dhams, a group of four sacred shrines revered by Hindus. Imagine a calm and spiritual atmosphere surrounded by stunning scenery – snow-capped mountains, vibrant rhododendron forests, and the majestic Mandakini River flowing nearby. It’s a truly breathtaking place that blends devotion and adventure!

The Name and Significance of Kedarnath: 

Kedarnath means “the Lord of the field,” as it is believed that the “crop of liberation” grows here. The exact origins of Kedarnath Temple remain a mystery, with no confirmed date for its construction. However, references to the temple appear as early as the 7th or 8th century. It is also believed that the great philosopher and saint, Adi Shankaracharya, met his end near the temple.

History and Mythology:

Here’s a fascinating story about Kedarnath’s mythology (According to Hindu mythology): After the epic battle of Kurukshetra, the Pandava brothers embarked on a pilgrimage to seek forgiveness for their actions. Lord Shiva, however, wished to avoid them and disguised himself in Guptakashi. The determined Pandavas continued their search, eventually finding him. But to avoid recognition, Lord Shiva transformed himself into a buffalo. As the Pandavas approached, he tried to disappear underground. Bhima, one of the brothers, held onto the buffalo’s legs and tail. Despite his efforts, Shiva dived and vanished, leaving behind his hump, which is now worshipped as the sacred Jyotirlinga form of Shiva in Kedarnath Temple.

Legend has it that through cosmic energy, the Pandavas were finally absolved of their sins, and Lord Shiva remained present at Kedarnath for all devotees to seek his blessings. This divine presence has made Kedarnath a vital pilgrimage site, blending spiritual reverence with the natural beauty of the Himalayas.

Best Time – When to visit and why

Kedarnath’s weather changes dramatically depending on the season, just like other places in the Himalayas. When planning a trip to Kedarnath, it’s essential to consider the weather and seasonal conditions to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

Here’s a guide to help you choose the best time for your pilgrimage.

Summer (May to June): Summer is the ideal time to visit Kedarnath. The weather is pleasant, with average temperatures around 17 degrees Celsius. This season is perfect for sightseeing, temple visits, and exploring nearby attractions. The clear skies and mild climate make trekking to the temple a delightful experience.

Monsoon (July to August): The monsoon season brings heavy rainfall to the region, making travel difficult and sometimes dangerous. In 2013, the area suffered extreme rainfall, which caused significant damage. The average temperature during the monsoon is around 12 degrees Celsius. It’s best to avoid visiting during these months due to the risk of landslides and floods.

Autumn (September to October): After the monsoon, the weather clears up, and the conditions are again favorable for visiting. September and October are excellent months for a trip to Kedarnath. The climate remains cool and pleasant, similar to the summer months, making it a great time for trekking and enjoying the natural beauty of the Himalayas.

Winter (November to April): Winters in Kedarnath are extremely harsh and the area becomes uninhabitable. The temperature often drops below freezing, and the region is covered in deep snow. During this period, the temple is closed, and the idol of Lord Kedarnath is moved to its winter abode in Ukhimath near Guptakashi. Therefore, visiting during winter is not possible.

Opening and Closing Dates: The opening and closing dates of the Kedarnath Temple vary each year based on the Hindu calendar.

Generally, the temple opens in late April or early May (Vaishakh month) and closes in late October or early November (Karthik month). The temple usually closes for the winter on the day of Diwali.

My Kedarnath Itinerary – Guide and Tips for Yours

I planned a 7-day trip starting from my hometown, Goa, and returning to Goa.  Here’s how my journey unfolded with some tips to help you plan your own experience and journey!

Planning Your Travel Time:

  • Starting Point: It doesn’t matter much if you start from Dehradun, Rishikesh, or Haridwar. Choose the city that works best for you.
  • Travel Days: Ideally, allow 1 full day to get from one city to another. This gives you time to relax and enjoy the journey.
  • Kedarnath Trek: Plan on 2-3 days for the trek to Kedarnath Temple and back.

My Trip Breakdown:

Day 1:

  • Flew from Goa to Dehradun (via Delhi) – Tip: Check for direct flights if possible.
  • Reached Dehradun by 4 pm and traveled to Rishikesh.
  • Relaxed by the Ganges River, keeping my feet in the refreshing, cold water, and washing my face with the rejuvenating water. Enjoyed the Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat, which helped wash away all the tiredness.
  • Stayed overnight in Rishikesh near Janki Jhula.

Day 2:

  • Took a pre-booked taxi to Sonprayag (or Gaurikund, ideally).
  • The trip took 8 hours (as expected)
  • Originally we planned to reach Gaurikund (the starting point of the trek) due to rain, so we stopped in Sersi (5 km before Sonprayag) to avoid getting wet.
  • Tip: Compare rates from multiple taxi services to get the best deal.

Day 3:

  • I was almost 5km from Sonprayag and almost 10km from Gaurikund.
  • Woke up early (around 3 am) to cover the distance and avoid crowds on the trek.
  • The trek was crowded with people and mules (Commonly known as Ghoda there), but the scenery was beautiful (green valleys and the Mandakini River).
  • It took 8 hours to reach Kedarnath Temple.

Day 4:

  • Descended from Kedarnath Temple back to Gaurikund.
  • Stayed overnight in Sersi for budget-friendly lodging.

Day 5:

  • Traveled from Sersi to Haridwar by taxi.

Day 6:

  • Explored Haridwar, including:
    • Taking a dip in the Ganges River at Hari Ki Pauri Ghat.
    • Visiting Mansa Devi Temple.
    • Witnessing the Ganga Aarti at Hari Ki Pauri Ghat.

Day 7:

  • Flew back to Goa (via Dehradun and Delhi).

Packing Essentials – Pack Smart

Here’s a list of essentials to pack for your trip to Kedarnath, keeping things comfy and convenient:

Official Documents:

  1. Register on the online portal of the Uttarakhand Tourism Department. 
  2. Decide your dates of darshan and register as soon as registration opens up. There is a high chance of slots getting filled or online registration being suspended for some time based on the crowd.
  3. Carry valid identity proof such as an Aadhar card or driving license.


  1. Pack clothes for exploring Dehradun, Rishikesh, or Haridwar, depending on your starting point and travel session.
  2. Pack comfortable trek pants, sturdy shoes (ideally trek shoes), and a dry-fit t-shirt for the Kedarnath trek.
  3. Stay Warm: Bring 2-3 warm clothes, including a waterproof jacket or poncho. Gloves, a woolen cap, and a neck warmer are also recommended.

TIP: you can rent trek pants, jackets, and shoes from several sites. I have rented them from SharePal.

Health & Fitness:

  1. First-Aid Kit: Pack a basic first-aid kit with essentials like bandages and antiseptic wipes.
  2. Medications: Consider bringing Diamox (for Altitude Sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness – AMS), ORS packets (for hydration), paracetamol (like Crocin or others), and tablets (for headaches and the common cold).

Be Prepared: Check your physical fitness beforehand. Ideally, you should be able to comfortably run 5km in 45 minutes.

Other Essentials:

  1. Carry cash (around 10,000 INR) as online payments may not work due to network issues. Distribute the cash in different places for safety.
  2. Note that locker facilities are available in Sonprayag and Gaurikund. Store extra luggage there and carry only what you need for the trek.

Locker Tip:

Take advantage of the locker facilities available in Sonprayag and Gaurikund. Store your extra luggage there and only carry what you need for the trek.

Remember: Pack light but efficiently for a comfortable and hassle-free journey!

Reaching the Abode of Shiva: How to Get to Kedarnath Temple

Kedarnath, nestled high in the Himalayas, is a place that calls to the hearts of many pilgrims. Kedarnath is well-connected with most major towns in Uttarakhand. The nearest road to Kedarnath is Gaurikund, about 18 km away.

By Air:

  • Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun: This is the closest airport (around 221 km away) with daily flights from Delhi. Taxis are readily available to take you to Gaurikund (the starting point of the trek).

By Train:

  • Rishikesh Railway Station: Located 207 km from Gaurikund, Rishikesh is the nearest train station. From there, taxis and buses can easily connect you to Gaurikund.
  • Haridwar railway Station: Located 238 km from Gaurikund. This is a bigger railway station as compared to Rishikesh. You will get more taxis and bus options from here to Gaurikund.

By Road:

  • Gaurikund: This is the final point accessible by road. From here, it’s a 16-kilometer trek to Kedarnath Temple.
  • Getting to Gaurikund: Buses and shared cabs are available from major cities like Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Rudraprayag. 
  • Shared Cab Service: The government offers a shared taxi service from Sonprayag (the last point for private vehicles) to Gaurikund for a fee.

Helicopter Option:

  • For those who prefer to skip the trek: Helicopter services are available from various helipads like Guptkashi, Sersi, and Phata.

Bonus Tip: While the helicopter is an option, I highly recommend experiencing the beauty of the Himalayas on the trek!

Also, there is a high chance you will get Acute Mountain Sickness, due to a sudden change in altitude level.

My Unforgettable Kedarnath Journey: Experience, Reflections and Tips

My Kedarnath trip was truly an experience that will stay with me forever. It wasn’t just about visiting one of the Jyotirlingas of Mahadev or sightseeing adventure. It was a chance to disconnect from the everyday hustle and reconnect with myself. It left me feeling refreshed, humbled, and filled with the magic of the Himalayas.

Day 1: Dehradun & Rishikesh Delights

My early morning flight from Goa meant a pre-dawn dash to the airport (around 5 am). After landing in Dehradun by 4 pm, here are some things I learned:

  • Taxis: If you don’t have someone picking you up, consider taking a prepaid taxi from outside the airport exit door (usually cheaper than the counter).
  • Negotiate: Briefly discuss your travel plans with the driver to get an idea of current fares. In my case, I hired a taxi driver for my entire 4-day Kedarnath trip (and return).

Rishikesh Magic:

We reached Triveni Ghat by 6 pm, just in time to witness the mesmerizing Ganga Aarti ceremony. Don’t miss this beautiful experience! We then explored the vibrant streets near Janki Jhula, ultimately checking into a decent hotel about 300 meters away.

Food for Thought (and Budget):

For dinner, we ventured to Cootiwala Restaurant. While the food was tasty, I felt the price was a bit high compared to the quality. On the plus side, the walk to the restaurant (via Janki and Ram Jhula) allowed us to explore these iconic bridges, even though it wasn’t daylight.

Day 2: A Scenic Ride with a Change of Plans

Fueled by breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and hopped in our waiting taxi by 9 am. The drive towards Sonprayag (or Gaurikund, depending on the final stop) was beautiful, with stunning valleys winding along the road. Here’s a heads-up for anyone who might get car sick on curvy roads – be prepared!

Around 2 pm, about 20 km from Sonprayag, the heavens opened up with a downpour! The heavy rain slowed us down significantly, taking 30 minutes to cover just the next 10 km. By the time we reached Sersi, the driver explained the situation:

  • Heavy crowds and rain meant he couldn’t drop us off in central Sonprayag. Parking was only allowed further out.
  • Reaching the center would take another hour or so in the rain.

Thinking it through, we decided to stay in Sersi for a few reasons:

  • Rest & Relaxation: It would give us more time to rest before the trek.
  • Dry Clothes: Staying dry was important, as our warm clothes would get soaked in the rain.
  • Budget-Friendly: Sersi offered a more affordable option for accommodation and food.

In the end, the unplanned stop in Sersi turned out to be a good call! It allowed us to recharge and face the trek feeling refreshed and dry.

Day 3: A Crowded Start and a Scenic Trek

Our day started at 3 am. After getting refreshed and having some tea, we headed towards Sonprayag around 4 am.

Just like us, many others had stopped at Sersi, and a lot of people were arriving directly from Haridwar or Rishikesh after a night-long road journey. It was extremely crowded, so we couldn’t reach the Sonprayag center by taxi. When we reached the Sonprayag parking spot, we saw a long queue for the government taxi to Gaurikund, which stretched for about 3 km.

It took almost 3 hours to reach the taxi pickup point, and then we finally took a taxi towards Gaurikund. Due to the heavy crowd, there was a traffic jam on the road to Gaurikund, so the 5 km journey took another hour.

The Trek Begins!: By 9 am, excitement surged as we finally started the actual trek to Kedarnath!

By 9 am, we started our actual trek towards Kedarnath. The energy was high, and we were excited. After 2 km, we realized that walking with mules on the same route was challenging and dangerous, but we had no other option. We also realized it would be tough to trek 16 km with our bags, so we handed them over to a “pitthu” (a person who carries bags in a basket on their back).

We enjoyed the scenic route to Ram Bada, taking constant water breaks and walking slowly and steadily. At Ram Bada, we had a lunch break and covered half the route, with about 8 km left. The challenge was that the steepness increased from this point, and the temperature dropped, so we had to wear warm clothes and ponchos if it rained. Additionally, being high up in the mountains made it harder to breathe.

With renewed energy, I started walking again. After another 2 km, it became clear that the trek was more difficult than we had anticipated. We had planned to reach Kedarnath by 4-5 pm, but by 2 pm, we still had over 6 km to go. Realizing it would take us 4-5 hours if we continued walking, we decided to hire a mule.

First Glimpse of Glory: We reached Kedarnath around 5 pm, and the first sight of the temple was mesmerizing—an image I will never forget. We quickly found a hotel close to the temple, just 100 meters away, as we didn’t want to stay in a tent.

After refreshing with hot water, we headed to the temple, even though our bodies were completely exhausted. Our souls were full of energy, and we were lucky to witness the evening aarti at Kedarnath Temple around 7 pm. The experience was amazing, and I felt the divine presence, thoroughly blessed.

Darshan and Divine Peace: After the aarti, we grabbed something to eat and decided to take the darshan of Shree Kedarnath ji – the deity. Since the queue for darshan (seeing the deity) was manageable. Within an hour, I got to see Shree Kedarnath ji in his full attire with jewelry. The divine connection brought a sense of satisfaction, calm, and peace.

Day 4: A Majestic Morning and Descent from Kedarnath

Waking up to the glorious sight of snow-capped mountains was an incredible way to start the day! After a delicious breakfast (Maggi always tastes better in the mountains!), it was time to descend.

After breakfast, we hired a pitthu again to carry our bags down to Gaurikund. Then, we visited the Kedarnath temple one last time, sat quietly around the temple, got tilaks on our foreheads, and visited Adi Shankaracharya Samadhi.

Around noon, we headed towards Ghoda Padaw, where all the mules (locally called “ghoda”) were stationed. We hired mules and started descending the mesmerizing mountain valley. It took us about 4 hours to reach Gaurikund.

Once we arrived in Gaurikund, we collected our bags from the pitthu and headed towards the taxi stand. Due to the crowd, there was a 2 km-long queue, but we managed to get a taxi to Sonprayag within an hour.

At Sonprayag, we informed our taxi driver to pick us up from the parking spot. We planned to stay at the same hotel in Sersi where we had stayed before going to Kedarnath temple. After a delicious, stomach-full dinner, we went to bed early, ready for the next day’s journey.

Day 5: Rejuvenated and Returning Home

After a blissful 8+ hours of sleep, I woke up feeling completely refreshed and energized. A hearty breakfast fueled us for the journey ahead – our return trip to Haridwar.

With clear skies and a beautiful route winding through mountains and valleys, the journey was detoxifying. A wave of peace washed over me – we had achieved our goal of reaching the divine. Meeting the divine and fulfilling our objective was deeply satisfying. It was already clear that I would miss this incredible trip.

We stopped to pay respects at Dhari Devi Temple on the way back. The guardian deity of Uttarakhand is revered as the protector of the Char Dhams (four sacred pilgrimage sites).

As evening approached, we reached Haridwar. We checked into a comfortable hotel near the main road, about 5 kilometers from the bustling Hari Ki Pauri market area.

Day 6: Exploring the Magic of Haridwar

We woke up around 8 am, feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep. Refreshed ourselves, and had breakfast in the hotel room. Our plan for the day was to dip in the holy waters of the Ganges at Hari Ki Pauri, visit the Mansa Devi temple, explore the Haridwar market, and watch the Ganga Aarti at Hari Ki Pauri ghat.

Since our hotel was close to the main road, we walked about 100 meters and took an electric auto-rickshaw to Hari Ki Pauri.

By 11 am, we reached the ghat and took a refreshing dip in the holy Ganges. Initially, I thought I’d just dip in and out in 5 minutes, but the water was so soothing that I ended up sitting in it for 40 minutes. Feeling rejuvenated, we changed into dry clothes.

Next, we headed to the ropeway booking counter for Mansa Devi temple. The temple is atop Bilwa Parvat on the Sivalik Hills. Though you can walk up, we were tired from our previous adventures, so we opted for the ropeway.

After waiting for 2 hours, it was finally our turn to take the cable car (locally known as Mansa Devi Udankhatola). We visited the deity Mansa Devi and then waited another hour in the queue for the ropeway to go back down.

By 5 pm, we decided to explore the Haridwar market near Hari Ki Pauri, as we wanted to witness the Ganga Aarti, which started at 7 pm.

Around 6 pm, we secured a good viewing spot at Hari Ki Pauri. Following the peaceful silence as the ceremony commenced, we felt a deep connection to the majestic Ganges River. The aarti lasted for about an hour, and after the crowds dispersed, we returned to our hotel for a well-deserved rest.

Day 7: Farewell to the Himalayas

Our flight was scheduled for 10 am, so we planned an early departure to ensure a smooth arrival at Dehradun Airport by 8 am. We checked out of the hotel at 7 am and climbed into our pre-booked taxi. The drive from Haridwar to Dehradun Airport is approximately 45 kilometers, taking about an hour.

Final Thoughts and Takeaways: Reflections on an Unforgettable Spiritual Journey

My Kedarnath trip was an unforgettable experience that went beyond just visiting one of the Jyotirlingas of Mahadev or a sightseeing adventure. It was a journey of self-discovery and spiritual rejuvenation, surrounded by the serene beauty of the Himalayas. The challenges we faced, from navigating crowded routes to enduring a long trek, only deepened the sense of accomplishment and connection to the divine. Each day brought unique experiences, from the mesmerizing Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh to the breathtaking views at Kedarnath and the vibrant atmosphere of Haridwar.

Reflecting on this journey, I realized the importance of flexibility and planning, the joy of embracing the unexpected, and the profound peace that comes from disconnecting from the everyday hustle. This trip left me feeling refreshed, humbled, and filled with gratitude. For anyone seeking both adventure and spiritual growth, a visit to Kedarnath is a must.

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