Our Unplanned Road trip to Uttarakhand - Temple, Mountain, Rivers and Adventure!

Our recent unplanned road trip in Uttarakhand where we explored mountains and did river rafting in Rishikesh. A Self-Drive Tale in the mountains of Uttarakhand.

Our Unplanned Road trip to Uttarakhand - Temple, Mountain, Rivers and Adventure!

Our Uttarakhand Road Trip Adventure - A Self-Drive Tale in Mountains

Published: byJignesh Gohel,23 May, 2024

Do you ever feel like when life throws you a surprise, it's the best swing you've ever been on?

That's precisely how my recent trip to Uttarakhand with my wife, Aarti, unfolded. One day, we were preparing our grocery list; the next, we were booking flights to Dehradun, ready to be flown away by the magic of the mountains. It was an unexpected journey that led us from peaceful mountain retreats to thrilling river rapids, with an element of spirituality and local charm. 

Yes, we were casually talking about routine and suddenly I asked her; let’s go to Uttarakhand! She said, are you serious? I said yes, I am 😊

I took my laptop and booked flight to Dehradun for next day. No fixed itinerary, no fix plan!

We booked flight, self drive car and the stay for next day, rest we booked on the go and it was such a great experience must say.

Basic preparation for the trip:

As this was sudden and un-planned trip, I did below basic preparation before we took our flight to Dehradun.

Booked self-drive car:

Did basic search on Google and finalized two options – after quick call; I booked Maruti Swift Dzire from MCAR Dehradoon and Mr Mukesh was very friendly and supportive.

Route Plan:

I have been to Rishikesh and Haridwar before and thanks to TheIndia; I know few tour agencies in Dehradun. So consulted with them about possible routes and safety related suggestion. Thank to Dr Vijay Nakum who suggested me to take Rishikesh to Rudra Prayag route after understanding our interest and number of days we were travelling. He recommends visiting Kartik Swami temple and it was great experience must say.

Dr Vijay Nakum who already explored all amazing places in Uttarakhanda and shared his detailed travel story about how one can plan their tour to Kartik Swami temple from Rishikesh. It helped a lot to plan our route. 

Brief about Dr Vijay Nakum - He is Dr by profession but very respected person amongst travel community. He is sharing very detailed travel stories around various places he explore in Uttarakhand. Follow him on Facebook to stay updated about his wonderful travel journey now - https://www.facebook.com/vijay.nakum

Booking our Stay:

I only booked first night stay at Rishikesh because our flight was landing at 6:30 PM. From next day; I booked our stay on the go! Mostly I used GMVN guest house and resort for stay at Rudra Prayag. In Rishikesh, we stayed at Akva Ganga near Tapovan. Overall experience was pleasant.

Here is the brief itinerary for those who don’t want to read the entire travel story:

Checkout our brief itinerary from these 6 days tours that may help you to plan your next road trip to Uttarakhand.

Day 1 - Ahmedabad to Delhi to Dehradun Airport to Rishikesh

  • Reached Delhi Airport (Explored New Delhi due to 5 hours layover at Delhi).
  • Reached Dehradun by 6:30 PM
  • Dinner near Ram Jhula (Choti wala restaurant)
  • Stay at GMVN hotel near Muni Ki Reti

Day 2 – Rishikesh to Tilwara (Near Rudra Prayag)

  • Left from Rishikesh at around 8 AM
  • Visited Dev Prayag Sangam and other nearby location
  • Stay at GMVN Mandakini Resort at Tilwara
  • Dinner at GMNV resort and food quality is excellent
  • Reached at Tilwara by 5 PM

Day 3 – Explore Kartik Swami Temple and Rudra Prayag

  • Visited Kartik Swami Temple
  • Visited Rudra Prayag Sangam
  • Stay at GMVN Mandakini Resort

Day 4 – Back to Rishikesh (Adventure and Ganga Aarti)

  • Visited Dhari Devi Temple
  • Bungee jumping and adventure experience at Shivpuri
  • Ganga aarti at Rishikesh (Near Ram Jhula)
  • Shopping
  • Stay at Ekawa Ganga (Near Tapovan area)

Day 5 – River Rafting and Haridwar

  • 16KM river rafting from Shivpuri
  • Visited Haridwar (Har ki Paudi)
  • Local market visit
  • Stay at Ekawa Ganga Rishikesh (Tapovan Area)

Day 6 – Visited Triven Sangam Ghat at Rishikesh and Reach Air port

  • Visited Triveni Sangam ghat
  • Reached airport

For full travel journey, checkout our detailed travel story here.

Day 1:- Rishikesh (Ahmedabad to Dehradoon Via Delhi)

We boarded our flight from Ahmedabad and reached Delhi by Noon. As there was 5 hours of lay over; we decided to take a quick visit to New Delhi. Due to great connectivity of Delhi metro from IGI, we return back to airport within 3 hours by exploring all popular places in New Delhi.

It was great experience quickly visiting Navi Delhi, especially an India gate.

Boarded our flight to Dehradun and reached there by late evening. Mr. Mukesh (our taxi) was already waiting for us with Swift Dzire car.

This journey was a unique experience for me in multiple aspects. It was my first experience of driving a self-driving car in the mountains. We took a taxi from Jolly Grant Airport, and in no time, we found ourselves passing through the landscapes of Uttarakhand. The roads were stunning, with breathtaking views at every turn.

As it was late evening; we decided to stay at Rishikesh and start our drive early in the morning towards Rudra Prayag.

Day 2:- Rudraprayag (Drive Towards Rudraprayag from Rishikesh)

The next day, we started our early morning drive to Rudra Prayag. Total distance from Rishikesh to Rudra Prayag is around 138KM via NH 7 and Google Map says it may take upto 4 hours 30 minutes.

Our first major stop was just before Dev Prayag where you will find various Nimbu Soda seller. And from the same point; you can see this beautiful view of Dev Prayag Sangam where river Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet, forming the Ganga.

After having Nimbu Soda; we decided to trek down to visit Sangam ghat. It will take around 15 minutes’ walk from road to reach this ghat. With the beautiful aura and turquoise water flowing, we experienced the spiritual air calming our worries.

Here is the view of Devprayag Sangam ghat from highway.

We set at this ghat by dipping our legs in water and it gave great relaxing experience must say. We filled our water bottle with pure and divine water of Ma Ganga (yes, during this entire trip, we used to drink water from flawing river). It was around 12:30 PM and we yet to cross the half way.

Lunch at Rudra Prayag

After just crossing the village, we found this small but beautiful location where we decided to take a lunch. Two young kids were handling the reception serve us with beautiful smile and the food was delicious. If you are looking for great place to enjoy local food, this is the place.

We started our journey towards Rudra Prayag by 1:30 PM. On our way back, we met some travellers walking towards Kedarnath. Listening to their stories and experiences had a lasting impact on us. As there were one week left to start Char Dham yatra, you can see pilgrimage walking towards Gauri kund to attend the opening ceremony of Kedarnath temple held on 10th May.

Enroute to Rudra Prayag, I booked our stay at GMVN Mandakini Resort (though GMVN official website) which is located at the bank of Mandakini River.

We crossed Srinagar and took bypass of Rudra Prayag as our stay was in Tilwara located at around 11KM from Rudra Prayag on NH7 (towards Kedarnath). Just before the stay; we first time witnessed the road block!

Yes, there was some land slides due to on-going work and after waiting for 10 minutes, the road was re-open for traveller. We arrived at our beautiful retreat in Tilwara by evening - the GMVN Mandakini Resort. This place was an absolute heaven! You can imagine waking up to the crisp mountain air with the sound of the river nearby; we have lived it! 

As you step out onto the balcony, you're greeted by a breathtaking view that would leave any big city dweller in awe. This resort was the perfect place to unwind and soak in the freshness of nature with comfort. 

After check-in, we decided to spend some time at bank of Mandakini River which was 5 minutes’ walk from our stay. It was great experience walking on the bank of river and listening the sound of flowing river. Here is one click from the bank of river Mandakini.

We took our dinner at GMVN Mandakini resort restaurant where Mr. Rawat who attended the guest and serve food with smile on his face. The food was very delicious and Mr. Rawat take extra care to suggest best possible options. We also talked about various places to explore around and best season to visit Rudraprayag.

Day 3:- Visiting Kartik Swami Temple & Rudraprayag Sangam

Visiting Kartik Swami Temple and Drive Through the Villages of Uttarakhanda

Our 3rd day was dedicated to exploring a hidden gem of Rishikesh - the Kartik Swami Temple. 

We got up early with beautiful sound of River and bird, walked around to experience the nature. We met one taxi driver who inisted us to try local clothes and we couldn't resit trying it. Here is the picture we took in traditional Garwali clothes.

We took our breakfast at hotel’s restaurant where Mr. Ravat who guided us to take a route from via Shahid Yashodhar Baijwal Motor Marg to reach Chopta village (this is not a Tungnath Chopta).

We followed his instruction and took a route via Karndhar - Benji – Bandrikot - Durgadhar – Chopta – Kanakchonry.

The 3-hour drive from our resort was a visual treat, with mountains playing peek-a-boo through the clouds. Reaching Kanakchauri village via Chopta village, we began a short but rewarding 3.5 km hike to the temple which is located at the height of 3048 meters.

The serenity of the place and the rich history associated with Kartik Swami, the son of Lord Shiva, made the hike even more special.

Brief about Kartik Swami Temple:

While hiking towards the temple, we found this board sharing brief about this temple. According to this board which explain that the Kartik Swami Temple has a deep history.

Lord Shiva once challenged his sons, Lord Kartikeya and Lord Ganesha, to a race around the universe. He promised that the winner would be given a first priority to worshipped their parents i.e. lord shiva and Parvati ji. Both sons agreed.

Lord Kartikeya started his journey on his vehicle peacock to circle the universe, while Lord Ganesha decided to circle around his parents, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. When questioned, Lord Ganesha explained that his parents were his universe.

Impressed by Ganesha's devotion, Lord Shiva declared him the winner which upset Kartikeya greatly. In his anger, Kartikeya offered his body and bones to his father and his flesh to his mother as a sign of respect. This incident occurred at the spot where the Kartik Swami Temple stands today and worshipped in the form of bones.

It took around 1:30 hours to reach at the peak where temple is located and I can not explain the feeling in words. The most beautiful temple surrounded by mountains. During winter season, you can have a view of Himalayas from this temple.

While descend we took a lunch at some camp managed by local people. Serve local food at very reasonable price. I strongly recommend having lunch there when you visit Kartik Swami Temple. One group of 9-10 ladies who were travelling from Rishikesh gave us a company and shared all amazing stories from their journey to various temples around Uttarakhand.

On our way back, we decided to take a route via Rudraprayag. After crossing Chopta, you can take left towards Rudraprayag. En-route, we seen burning mountain which is really shocking and saddening part of this trip.

We reached at Rudraprayag sangm by 5 PM, where Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers meet.

Taking a holy dip at the Sangam ghat was an experience that washed away all our lingering concerns. 

If you are travelling to this region; please spend few hours seating at this place doing nothing. Experience the nature!

We reached at our resort by 8 PM and had a delicious dinner at restaurant. Overall, we really enjoyed the entire day exploring villages, temple and sangam ghat.

Day 4:- Rishikesh (Drive Back to Rishikesh)

By considering the remaining two days, we decided to drive back to Rishikesh as we wanted to experience the adventure and spirituality of these places.

On our journey back to Rishikesh, we couldn't resist taking a little detour to the Dhari Devi temple. It is located at just half hour drive from Rudraprayag towards Srinagar. The temple is located on the bank of river Alaknanda and can be reached by walking around 1 KM on a walkway towards the temple.

The temple has a legend that a devastating flood swept through the Dhari Devi temple, causing the idol to be washed away. Surprisingly, it got stuck near Dharo village, where the villagers were guided by a divine voice to install the idol there. We took blessing of Ma Dhari and started our drive towards Rishikesh.

At Shivpuri (a village which is famous for various adventure activities like bungee, river rafting and campsite), we experienced the thrill of a lifetime with a bungee jump and a giant swing. 

Not To Miss - Ganga Aarti at Rishikesh

In the evening, around 7 PM, we parked our car near Ram Jhula and crossed the bridge to witness the mesmerizing Ganga Aarti. 

(Remember, the paid parking area costs just ₹120!)

Hundreds of people are singing the chants, in-sync aarti steps of priests, the lighting of numerous diyas, and the mighty Ganga flowing by. We are not getting over this sight anytime soon. The ceremony radiated a sense of sacredness, enveloping us in a serene and calm atmosphere. 

There is one place known as Goa beach (yes, it is in Rishikesh and at walking distance from Ram Jhula). We walked towards it and seen that the place is very safe to take a holy bath.

The rest of the night was dedicated to exploring the bustling streets of Rishikesh, where we lived in the local vibe, browsed through quirky shops selling everything from souvenirs to yoga mats, and relished the delicious local street food.

Day 5:- River Rafting in Rishikesh

Experience the 16 KM River Rafting Followed by Ganga Aarti at Har Ki Pauri

Our 5th day was dedicated to tackling the rapids, and we certainly achieved that! We were excited as we prepared for our thrilling 16 km river rafting adventure on the Ganges, beginning at Shivpuri. 

We received thorough safety instructions from a seasoned guide, although our excitement levels were already rising. As soon as we touched the water, excitement filled the air. Ganga River, typically serene and calm, has become a rushing and powerful force. 

We experienced thrilling moments as we passed through the rapids and worked together as a team during the calmer parts of the journey. At one point, taking a refreshing plunge in the cool water became a much-needed experience as the current gently swirled around us, guiding us downstream without worry. 

Our river rafting guide Mr. Naresh Rana was very supportive who explained all the different rapids and guided us through entire journey. We really enjoyed swimming along with raft for almost 2-3 KM and it was great experience jumping in the river.

Please note that – all these done with safety and precautions. Whenever you do river rafting, make sure you follow all instruction given by your guide.

Haridwar's Spiritual Sojourn and Back to Rishikesh

Our river rafting was done by noon and then we decided to explore the Haridwar for rest of the day. I choose Chilla route to reach Haridwar as it passing by the Rajaji National Park. This route is very pleasant and take you through the protected area.

If you are travelling in car, better you park it at dedicated parking area and from where took a local transportation to explore the Haridwar village. We did exactly the same; parked our car at Din Dayal Paid Parking area near Har ki Pauri from where you can easily reach Har Ki Pauri ghat by 5 minutes’ walk.

We couldn't miss the opportunity to take a holy dip in the sacred Ganges here. We then witnessed another breathtaking moment of the evening aarti. The vibrant atmosphere, the chanting of mantras, and the flickering diyas illuminating the ghats created a genuinely mesmerizing spectacle. Due to weekend, there were thousands of devotees came here to participate in Ganga mata aarti.

Note – If possible; plan your trip to Haridwar and Rishikesh during weekdays to avoid traffic.

We took a local rikshaw to reach Gujarati Samaj which is located near Haridwar railways station. You will find plenty of Gujarati restaurant in this area where we took delicious Gujarati dinner.

Took our car from Parking and started our drive back to Hotel Akva Ganga at Rishikesh.

Day 6:- Triven Ghat in Rishikesh & Return

As our flight was schedule at evening, we checkout from our hotel and visited triveni ghat in Rishikesh as it was recommended by some locals. The ghat is very clean and nicely maintained.

Took our lunch at some local dhaba and reached airport where Mr. Mukesh from MCAR taxi provider was waiting to take his car. He thoroughly checked the car and return the deposit amount without any deduction. Overall, we had a great experience with their car and I strongly recommend them if you are looking for any type of taxi services / self-drive car in Dehradun.

This unplanned trip to Uttarakhand was more than just a vacation; it was a cyclone of emotions, breathtaking landscapes, and unforgettable experiences. We returned home with hearts full of memories, a newfound love for nature, and the realization that sometimes, the most unique adventures come our way when we least expect them.

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