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Kedarnath Yatra | A Budget Trip

A Budget Trip to Kedarnath

Planning a budget trip to Kedarnath?

Kedarnath has become one of the top destinations in India not only among the pilgrims but adventure seekers too!

I took a solo trip to this shrine in the month of October and got many experiences while travelling. Lets discuss about everything here so as to make the Kedarnath Tour more informative.

Kedarnath… The name is enough to tell you about the importance of this divinely heaven. It is one of the most sacred Hindu temples in India, dedicated to Lord Shiva, which comes under 12 Jyotirlingas and the Chhota Chardham circuit in Uttarakhand.

Kedarnath is one of the ancient and glorious temples which is located in the higher Himalayas. The structure of the temple tells the story itself that how it was built using traditional techniques which still amazes the researchers today. The thoughtful constructive style that was used to build this temple is the reason which saved Kedarnath from the serious damage during 2013 disaster. But, here we will not go deep into it and instead will discuss about this pious and exciting budget trip to Kedarnath.

Here, I am going to share my experiences during my recent visit to this shrine, in the month of October and will also discuss on some key tips that you can try and follow to save your money and enjoy this religious and adventurous journey to the fullest.

Kedarnath town

A Brief History of Kedarnath

According to legends, after the battle of Mahabharata, the Pandavas made their way to this place in search of Lord Shiva, so as to purify themselves from all the sins. Lord Shiva escaped from them continuously and later he took shelter at Kedarnath in the form of a bull.

There is no recorded evidence that who built Kedarnath Temple. It is believed that the temple was initially built by the Pandavas when they reached this place to seek a sight of Lord Shiva, while some other believe that the temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century.

Whosoever built this holy shrine, since decades, the place has been a centre of attraction for many people around the globe. Every year, thousands and lacs of Hindu pilgrims flock to Kedar Dham to seek blessings of Lord Shiva.

An old picture of Kedarnath (Source - indiatimes.com)

Best time to plan a budget trip to Kedarnath

The portal of Kedarnath gets open during the month of Apr-May (particularly on Akshaya Tritiya) and then they are closed for winters on Bhai Dooj (After Diwali) in the month of Oct-Nov. From May till June, there is a huge rush here and you will find accommodation very expensive. So, when you are planning a budget trip to Kedarnath, try to avoid visiting during these months.

July till August is the time of Monsoons here. This is the time when there is low traffic of travelers visiting to Kedarnath, or the whole Uttarakhand, as sometimes the road from Rishikesh to Gaurikund gets block due to landslides. But, if you love travelling to the hills in monsoon and if you are a youngster, you can first check the weather and road condition in advance and after that take your decision. The charge of hotel rooms during these two months remains less as compared to other months.

The monsoons may sometimes extend till the month of September but, you can visit during this month. The rush is low and you can get the public transport and accommodation easily.

October is the ideal time to plan a trip to Kedarnath as the sky is clear and the visibility is also better, thus offering you good views of the mountains. But, avoid travelling during long weekends as the rush again increases during this time. Otherwise, you will find it more enjoyable during the month of October. Also, you don’t have to wait in long queues for offering prayers inside the temple. And, even the hotel rates during this month is less as compared to the peak season. So, everything make this season favourable for a budget trip to Kedarnath.

Weather changes in Kedarnath Valley within a short time

Things to carry for trip to Kedarnath

  • Jackets/Windcheater
  • Woollen cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen lotion/cream
  • Sweaters/Pullover
  • Walking Stick (if required) – the same you can purchase from Gaurikund also.
  • Personal medical kit (if any)

For people who are travelling from Delhi or beyond

For people, who are travelling from Delhi, there are many cheapest options available to reach Rishikesh, which is the starting point for journey in the hills. One of the option is State Government Roadways Buses. From ISBT Kashmere Gate, you can easily find these buses of UTC (Uttarakhand Transport Corporation) and UPSRTC (Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation).

There is a also a direct ordinary bus of UTC from Kashmere Gate to Guptkashi, which takes around 13-14 hrs. Guptkashi is 35 km before Gaurikund, the starting point of Kedarnath trek.

So, you can check this direct bus online and book your seats in advance. But, if you are unable to get a seat in this bus, you can take any one till Rishikesh. There are numerous buses which runs on Delhi – Rishikesh route. The current fare of the ordinary buses from Delhi to Rishikesh is Rs. 300. Try to cover this journey overnight as it will save your travel time.

Next morning, you will reach Rishikesh ISBT where you can find the private buses standing for Guptkashi or Sonprayag. If you don’t find a bus for any of these places then board anyone which is going to Rudraprayag. Till Rudraprayag, the fare of these buses is somewhere around Rs. 200-250. The distance from Rishikesh to Rudraprayag is 140 km with a travel time of approx. 6 hrs.

For your information, there are shared jeeps also available from Rishikesh to different parts of Garhwal including Rudraprayag/Guptkashi. For travelling in these jeeps, you will have to get down from your Delhi-Rishikesh bus at Natraj Chowk in Rishikesh, where you can find jeeps for any of the above places. The fare of these jeeps would be somewhere around Rs. 300-350 till Rudraprayag and Rs. 450-500 till Guptkashi.

Guptkashi market with a backdrop view of Chaukhamba peak

My Budget Trip to Kedarnath

I never had a plan for any such trip to Kedarnath. It was planned suddenly 3-4 days before I took this trip. Maybe it was a call from the place or Lord Shiva or the Himalayas. Whatever the reason was, in the month of October, I decided to take a solo trip to Kedarnath in my way of travel.

So, the next big challenge for me or which could be for anyone else was to take leaves from the office. I spoke to my boss regarding my plans and since I am into travel industry, I knew there would be something waiting for me to make the trip official! And Yes, my intuition was right. I was asked to do recci of few hotels so as to update the hotels info.

As I stay in Dehradun, so for me the travel distance wasn’t not too much as compared to others, but due to some undergoing road projects, the vehicle which I boarded got stuck many times in long traffic jams and I reached Sonprayag late in the evening.

DAY 01:

I started my journey from Dehradun and took a shared jeep till Rudraprayag. It was early in the morning at around 5 am when the jeep started from Dehradun. The road condition till Rishikesh was perfect but after that it was very rough and bumpy as these days there is a project going on to widen all the roads connecting Chardham of Uttarakhand from Rishikesh.

So, after 4 hours of journey (where it generally takes 3 hrs), the jeep reached Teen Dhara, where most of the buses and jeeps halt for half an hour of tea break. Teen Dhara was once a famous en-route stop for travelers to fill their water bottles from the 3 natural fresh water sources (from where the place got its name) and it was also known for juicy cucumbers with a topping of chat masala and lemon. But, now due to road widening work, everything escaped quickly and the place has lost its charm.

After the break, my journey resumed and around 1 o’clock, I reached Rudraprayag, where Mandakini river flowing from Kedarnath, meets river Alaknanda river (that comes from Badrinath). From Rudraprayag, you have two options. Either you wait for a bus or you can hire a shared jeep till Sonprayag.

The distance from Rudraprayag to Sonprayag is 70 Km and currently due to road widening work, it is taking around 4 hrs to cover this distance. I took a bus from Rudraprayag to Sonprayag via Guptkashi and I had to pay Rs. 100 only. Please note, there are only few buses available on this route and you may have to wait for a long to get a one. Other option is shared jeeps which you can find easily near the bus stop in Rudraprayag. The fare of these jeeps is somewhere around Rs. 200-250 per person.

People coming directly from Delhi and reaching Guptkashi, will have to take a shared jeep or a bus from Guptkashi bus stand to reach Sonprayag. With a distance of 30 Km, it takes around 2 hrs (as per the current road condition), to reach Sonprayag from Guptkashi.

So, by evening I reached Sonprayag and started looking for my accommodation for night stay. For those, who don’t know, Sonprayag is the last town till where the outside vehicles are allowed. One has to take local jeeps to reach Gaurikund from Sonprayag.

Now, coming to the accommodation part, if you are on time and able to reach Sonprayag before it gets dark, then I would suggest you to get down from your vehicle 1 km before Sonprayag, at a place called Sitapur. Now, you must be wondering, why?

Well, Sonprayag is a small town where most of the tourists come and stay overnight, as for next day it becomes easy for them to start for Kedarnath in the morning. And, most of the lodges/guest houses in Sonprayag take advantage of it and they charge almost double rates for their rooms sometimes varying to 1000-1200. If we discuss about their quality, it is not good at all as compared to lodges and guest houses in another towns/cities. Infact, there are hardly any proper hotels or guest houses in Sonprayag where you can find the value of your money.

So, in my suggestion, get down at Sitapur, where you can easily find a good room in the range of Rs. 500-600 and for next day also it will not be too much extra to cover. For dinner also, it will cost you somewhere around Rs. 100-150 per person extra.

DAY 02:

Next morning, with a light weight luggage, start a bit early and reach Sonprayag check post where you can do biometric registration (mandatory for Kedarnath pilgrims). You can also do biometric registration online in advance.

After biometric, board the jeep for Gaurikund which is just 5 km ahead. The charges of these jeeps are Rs. 25-30 per person. Get down at Gaurikund, where you can take a holy bath in the kund having hot water spring. One is not allowed to use soap and detergents inside the kund.

After taking bath, you can visit Gauri Mai Temple here which is dedicated to Goddess Parvati.

Gaurikund is a small place having congested market through which one passes to start the trek for Kedarnath.

Gaurikund pony stand

Start walking on the trail for the holy shrine of Kedarnath. After walking for half a kilometer, you will find a pony stand from where you can hire pony for Kedarnath. The charges for the same are Rs. 2500 per person per way. There are Kandi and Palkies also available, for which one has to pay Rs. 4550 to Rs. 6550, depending on the weight of the person.

As I like trekking a lot, so I covered this route completely on foot. After walking for 4 km, you will reach Junglechatti, the first rest point, where you can have tea/snacks.

Please note, all the en-route food/tea joints which you will find on this trail are expensive and the charges for all the items which you purchase or consume will be almost double the cost of MRP. This is so because, all these items, vegetables and food raw materials are shipped to these little dhabas/refreshment joints on ponies for which the owners have to pay heavy costs.

If possible, try to stock few snacks and fruits from Sitapur or Sonprayag so as to avoid paying heavy amounts during the trek.

The Trekking Trail

The initial 6 km trek to Kedarnath is not so much challenging and the altitude is also not so high. But, after you pass a midway rest point – Bheembali, you have to cross a bridge which takes you to the opposite side of Mandakini river, to the new route that was carved after the 2013 disaster.

Once you cross the bridge, the trek becomes challenging as the hike is steep from here, and it is almost continuously steep till the base camp of Kedarnath. But, if you walk slowly and steadily, and take short breaks in between, it will be less tiring. Don’t rush fast while climbing up the hills, as after some time you will be completely exhausted.

So, step by step when you hike up, the altitude also increases and some of you might feel problem in breathing too, as the oxygen level at higher altitudes is less. People who are not used to trek in mountains, especially on higher altitudes, should carry small packs of Camphor, as it helps a lot in curing with breathlessness.

I started the trek from Gaurikund at around 6 am and by 1:30 pm, I reached Kedarnath. The last 1 km of this trek is easy and is almost plain.

View from Lincholi
Entering Kedarnath Town

You can spot few tented accommodations on this stretch which are provided by GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) – an organization of Uttarakhand Tourism. Here, one can find shared accommodation (dormitories/tents) also for which the price starts from Rs. 250 per bed per night. But, for staying here, it is recommended to make an advance booking online, as most of the times these tents/dormitories remains fully occupied. The quality of these shared accommodations is satisfactory and at such a high altitude they try to maintain the same.

In case, if you are unable to find accommodation in GMVN then walk a bit further and enter the gate of Kedarnath market, after which, you can find few lodges where you can get rooms at Rs. 500-800. But, if you are travelling during the peak season i.e. in the month of May-June, I would suggest you to make an advance booking first otherwise, it would become challenging for you to get the rooms.

The first glimpse of Kedarnath Temple

If you reach Kedarnath between 1:30 – 2:30 in the afternoon, I would suggest you to visit the temple before 3 pm because after that the door of the temple is closed and then it opens at 5 pm. And, in evening you may find a huge rush and long queues. So, it is better to avoid visiting to the temple in evening.

For food, there are few dhabas available near the temple where you can have your breakfast, lunch or dinner. The per meal cost here varies from Rs. 100-200.

DAY 03:

Next morning, I visited Bhairav Temple which is at approx. 800 mtrs distance from Kedarnath. Spot the mesmerizing view of Kedarnath peak from this place. It will surely amaze you. From here, one also gets the best view of Kedarnath town.

Morning View

After returning back to my hotel in Kedarnath, I had my breakfast and then after visiting few hotels for my official purpose, I started my trek down towards Gaurikund. While trekking down back to Gaurikund, it takes hardly 4-5 hrs.

For my last night of the trip, I stayed in a lodge at Sonprayag for which I had to pay Rs. 600 but it was not worth at all. The room was full of dampness with no windows at all. Try to get rooms at Sitapur for night halts, whenever you are visiting Kedarnath.

Next day, I took a shared jeep till Rudraprayag and then from Rudraprayag, I took a bus for Dehradun.

My trip to Kedarnath was very exciting and I got to learn many things which I have shared with you. If you are planning a trip to this place in near future and you don’t want to spend much on your holiday, then try to follow the points that I have shared above. These will definitely help you a lot!

Ukhimath town as seen from Guptkashi

Must Read:

How I planned an economy trip to Ladakh – https://budgetescapes.in/trip-to-ladakh/

Also Watch:

Video on Kedarnath – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BJBGRbnGZM