While the internet is awash with travel blogs about popular trekking destinations, a careful perusal results in finding out that most of them are similar and may sometimes not have proper information.
After the many thankful emails and comments that I have received after the trekking guide to Kheerganga, I make this travel guide to Chopta, Tungnath and Chandrashila based on my recent trek in April 2017. The very nature of this beautiful and easy trek, distance and connectivity of Chopta make this an ideal weekend getaway from Delhi and can even be completed as a 2 day trip.
Chopta is a small tourist town located at 2600m and is also the last road head for the trek to Tungnath Temple & Chandrashila peak. The distances and nature of the trek make it a popular weekend holiday from Delhi and other parts of North India and hence this guide is an attempt to make it as easy as possible for prospective travellers.
How to reach Chopta?
Chopta is located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand and lies on the Ukhimath – Chamoli – Gopeshwar road. The distance of Chopta from Haridwar is 225 km and the distance from Ukhimath to Chopta is around 29 km. To simplify the reaching part, let me start from Delhi.
Distance from Delhi to Haridwar is 225 km and has regular buses from ISBT Kashmere Gate & Anand Vihar ISBT. Time taken to cover the distance is usually 5-6 hours. There are three kinds of buses from Delhi to Haridwar; normal buses, Janrath buses (AC) and Volvo buses (AC). It is recommended to take a 10 pm or 10:30 pm bus so that you reach Haridwar bus stand at around 4 am in the morning.
Haridwar to Chopta : If you reach Haridwar at 4 or 5 in the morning, there may be quite a confusion with regards to buses for Kund at the bus stand. In the absence of a proper information channel, no one will deny about the availability of a bus, nor will anyone tell you where and how it goes from.
Based on my experience, a humble suggestion – Do not waste time wandering here and there at the Haridwar bus stand. The earliest buses on the route to Chopta leave from GMOU bus stand (pronounced geemu), which is a 500m walk away from main Haridwar bus stand on the left side once you exit the gates. GMOU stands for Garhwal Mandal (Bus) Operators’ Association. GMOU bus stand is on the opposite side of the Railway Godown.
Kund is the point at which the road bifurcates – A left from here goes to Guptkashi and Gaurikund (Kedarnath route) and the straight road goes to Ukhimath, from where Chopta is around 29 km away.
There will be no direct buses for Kund or Ukhimath. So basically one needs to get into one of the below GMOU buses :
03:15 am – Joshimath (Get down at Rudraprayag) and change buses 05:00 am – Badrinath (Get down at Rudraprayag) and change buses 05:15 am – Gaurikund or Kedarnath (Get down at Kund) shared sumo 07:45 am & 08:00 am – Joshimath & Badrinath (Rudraprayag) and change buses
The route from Haridwar to Chopta
Haridwar – (24kms) Rishikesh – (70kms) Devprayag – (34kms) Srinagar – (33kms) Rudraprayag – (19kms) Agastyamuni – (10kms) Kund – (6kms) Ukhimath – (22kms) Duggalbitta – (7kms) Chopta.
Breakfast place in the bus is at a dhaba at 3 Dhara near Devprayag. Make sure to eat ample aloo paranthas, so that you can have food directly at Chopta after this. The distance from Haridwar to Kund is covered in the bus (300 Rs.) in approximately 7 hours. Once you reach Kund at around 12:30 pm, shared cabs (sumo) are available for Ukhimath (20 Rs.) and thereafter from Ukhimath to Chopta (40 Rs.). Depending on the luck with shared transport one can reach Chopta at 2 or 3 pm.
Once you are near Duggalbitta, accommodation options in the form of camps, tents and small homestays start appearing. If you are coming by public transport, the best idea is to get down right at Chopta (where there are trek stairs to Tungnath temple.)
Planning the trek
It is most likely that one will reach Chopta by 2 to 3 pm (if the transport connection to and from Ukhimath works fine). The time taken to trek to Chandrashila from Chopta is usually 4 hours for an average person. It can be classified as a fairly easy trek – on the difficulty level and can be ideal for a first-time trekker.
Most people stay at Chopta, do a day hike to Tungnath and Chandrashila and come back the same day. It is possible to do it provided one leaves early, say by 7 am. It is best to reach Tungnath by 10, pay your respects at the temple and enjoy the scenery. Trek ahead to Chandrashila, come back by 1 pm. Eat lunch either near Tungnath temple or at the dhabas on the trail and start the walk back to Chopta. Remember that usually the time taken to go back is half of what you’d take while hiking up, so one can get back to Chopta in 2 – 2 1/2 hours from Chandrashila.
Where to Stay in Chopta?
There are many simple guest houses to stay at Chopta, ranging from as little as 100/- per person to 500 Rupees for a four bedroom with attached bathroom. While some are also named ‘hotels’, don’t expect any standard of luxury. Duggalbitta is around 5 km before Chopta and there are also a few nicely located camping resorts on the side of the road (approx. 1500 Rs. per tent).
One can also stay in tents near Chopta, just before the Tungnath temple starting trek point. Tents are laid out in green meadows and it can be a good idea to stay if one wants the camping experience. Depending on the season, weekend crowds and weather – it is easy to find accommodation in Chopta and nearby even if you haven’t booked in advance.
In the worst case scenario of accommodation here being full at Chopta, one can move 2 kms ahead on the Gopeshwar route for more staying options. Try to reach as early as possible to make sure about finding a place to stay. If you have your own tent, you can pitch it in a safe place after asking the locals and paying them a fee.
Best Timing for Views : With regards to the best views on the Tungnath – Chandrashila trek, it is highly recommended that after reaching Chopta by around 3 in the afternoon, you start trekking towards Tungnath. Within 45 minutes, the path reaches a lush green meadow flanked by a ring of snowy peaks with 3-4 stone dhabas. One can expect bare and basic accommodation at these dhabas for around 100-150 Rs. per person.
Scenario No. 2 : The extremely fit trekkers can reach Tungnath, where there are simple staying options in the form of rustic guest houses. The sunrise views from Chandrashila Top are known to be legendary. Staying at Tungnath can enable a person to reach Chandrashila Top before sunrise.
Enroute : There are staying options in Ukhimath, Kund, Srinagar & Rudraprayag as well.
If you are staying in Ukhimath, remember that Omkareshwar Temple is the winter home of Kedarnath Temple and also Madhyamaheshwar Temple. In simpler words, the deities of the temples are shifted to Ukhimath for the winter months. It is a colourful temple and is highly recommended to pay your respects if you are here.
Trekking from Chopta to Tungnath
The trekking path to Chopta begins right on the road and is surrounded by many dhabas and guest houses. The trekking trail is well marked and is properly paved till Tungnath. Trees welcome the visitor as soon as the trek begins, and an endless array of snow capped peaks can be seen on the left side. The entire trek from Chopta to Tungnath and to Chandrashila is fairly easy and does not require the services of a guide.
Gorgeous meadows appear around 45 minutes after the start of the trek and may make the best camping spot on the entire trail. There are 3-4 dhabas here that provide tea, coffee, food and packaged eatables. The dhabas also double up as basic shelters in the night. These dhabas may also prove useful in case of an emergency or accident when somehow needs help.
The trail zigzags around this point and steadily climbs up gaining altitude. There are a few places where one can sit and enjoy the views of the snowy peaks on the trail. Lucky ones can also sight the state bird of Uttarakhand, colourful Monal – on the slopes near Tungnath Temple.
The tree cover gives way as you climb over 3100m, around halfway on the way to Tungnath and it can get quite hot with the sunshine. Make sure to have ample water with you for the trek. Especially for beginners, remember it is not a race and that everyone has their own pace, so just take it slow and steady, and enjoy the scenery on the trek.
The trekking distance between Chopta to Tungnath is 4 kms and usually takes around 2 and a half hours to cover.
Tungnath is the highest Shiva Temple in the world (3680m) and is one among the Paanch Kedar Shrines. It is believed to be more than 1000 years old. The temple is closed during the winters and the deity is shifted to Mukku village. Tungnath temple opens its doors to pilgrims in the summer around the end of April and shuts down in November in winter.
Around ten minutes before you reach Tungnath, there is a small detour to a peak called Ravanshila. It is the place where the demon king Ravana meditated to please Lord Shiva. There are panoramic valley views from Ravanshila. If you are unsure about the location, it is best to ask the locals or dhabawallahs near the temple.
Trekking from Tungnath Temple to Chandrashila
The path to Chandrashila starts from Tungnath temple itself. It is clearly marked and cannot be missed. Distance of Chandrashila Peak Top from Tungnath is approx. 1.5 kms and even though its a steep climb, the distance can be easily covered in 1 hour. There is a small temple at Chandrashila and from the top one can savour grand 360 degree panoramic views of the Kumaon & Garhwal ranges.
Behind the temple there is an endless valley view enhanced by snowy peaks. One can savour the sights for some time and listen to the wind that blows furiously here, with the sound of the bells it makes for a divine experience. Remember that the altitude of Chandrashila is 4000m and that one may feel effects of AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness). Keep water handy and in case of any discomfort, slowly trek back to Tungnath and have a black tea.
Views of the peaks are generally clear till noon and after that the snowy mountains may be obscured by clouds. Hence it is recommended to reach Chandrashila as early as possible for a clear view of the peaks of both Kumaon and Garhwal ranges.
Sunrise at Chandrashila
It is highly recommended that one reach Chandrashila just in time for sunrise which is a spectacular affair. The horizon is painted in shades of yellow and orange as the sun rises from behind the snowy peaks of Kumaon & Garhwal. For this one has to start the trek from Tungnath temple at around 4 am, in absolute darkness. It is essential to be well equipped with flashlights if you are planning to do the same. Needless to say, sure footedness is advised, even more so when its dark.
According to a mythological legend, Chandrashila is the place where Lord Rama performed penance after killing Ravana.
Trekking back to Tungnath & Chopta
The downhill journey will be surprisingly easy as the time taken will be roughly around half the time taken to ascend. So one can come down from Chandrashila to Tungnath in hardly 30 minutes. If there is no hurry, then a leisurely walk back across the meadows from Tungnath to Chopta will take around an hour and a half.
Option of Deoriatal
While coming from Ukhimath, there is a cut off for Sari village. Distance from Ukhimath to Sari village is 13 kms.
From Sari village, there’s an easy 2.5 km trek to Deoriatal (2300m) that takes around 1 and a half hour. The trek path passes through the lovely village of Sari that has some charming old houses. Deoriatal is a small lake amidst green meadows. The main charm of this place is the reflections of the snowy peaks during sunset and sunrise. Accommodation in the form of Tents and Camps is available quite close to Deoriatal lake. For budget travellers, there are a few dhabas which also double up as basic sleeping spaces in the night. There are many guest houses in Sari village.
- From Deoriatal, one can also directly trek to Chopta. The path involves crossing Rohini Bugyal (Bugyal means meadow). A guide is recommended for this part, because the trail may not be well marked.
- Stay in Deoriatal, trek back to Sari village in the morning and then go to Chopta by shared sumo or public transport. Distance of Chopta from Sari is 30 kms. Once you are in Chopta, the same path as mentioned earlier.
The Legend of the Sites of Paanch Kedar
Shiva had taken the form of a bull when he went into the ground to escape the Pandavas. Kedarnath temple is dedicated to the hump of Lord Shiva and is the most famous Paanch Kedar Shrine. The other Paanch Kedar sites are; Tungnath, Madyamaheshwar, Rudranath, and Kalpeshwar. At Tungnath temple, Lord Shiva’s arms are worshipped.
Important Facts and Recommendations :
Best time to go to Chopta and trek to Tungnath & Chandrashila is during the month of April/early May for seeing rhododendron blossoms. The entire landscape is bathed in a sea of pink flowers! The monsoon months from June to August are also said to be good for this trek, keeping in mind the weather forecast and conditions. September to November are supposed to be the best months to trek to Tungnath & Chandrashila. Views of the snowy peaks are clear during this time.
December to March can be a difficult time to reach Chopta due to snow on the roads. Technically the trek is still possible during the winter season but the dhabas and guest houses at Duggalbita and Chopta will be closed. Therefore, it is recommended to use the services of a trek operator or travel company if one if planning for a winter trek to Chopta Tungnath. Snow starts melting around February making it easier to trek then.
During winters, the road to Chopta may be closed due to snow near Duggalbitta itself and you may need to trek to reach Chopta. Hiring a guide is recommended if one is planning a snow trek to Chopta and Tungnath. Trekking to Chandrashila can be quite difficult in the winter months and is not recommended except if you are an expert trekker.
During rhododendron flowering season, it is recommended to buy rhododendron juice at any shop in Chopta/Ukhimath. There is no electricity in Chopta, but almost all guest houses have solar powered lights and even phones can be charged with the same. There are a number of shortcuts on the entire trek and one can take some of them on the way back.
Stunning views on the Deoriatal – Chopta – Tungnath – Chandrashila trek include unparalleled sights of the Chaukhambha massif with views of Neelkanth, Bandarpunch and other peaks.
It can get quite cold in Chopta, Tungnath and Chandrashila and the temperature can go down to less than 10 degrees even in summers, therefore carrying heavy woollens is advised all through the year. Keep a comfortable headgear to stay warm from the cold winds that blow on the trek. Phone networks are not reliable on the entire stretch from Chopta to Tungnath to Chandrashila. Airtel had zero tower in Chopta while Vodafone had 1 dot and no internet. BSNL was being used by locals who said that the internet works fine on it in Chopta. It is better to make your important phone calls from Ukhimath itself.
Drinking water is available in plenty in Chopta as pipelines have been laid down by the government. There are no menus in the dhabas and eateries of Chopta and it is better to ask the prices of food before ordering to avoid an unpleasant situation. Remember to keep a lot of water with you on the trek and not empty it before you reach Tungnath. It is recommended to carry some candies with you, they help the throat to not get dry on uphill climbs.
There are 3-4 general stores in Chopta. It is recommended to carry a power bank to recharge your electronic devices. ATM’s on the route are available in Rudraprayag, Srinagar and Ukhimath, but it is advised to keep required cash with you. Try to carry as less weight as possible with you in the backpack, and leave the excess stuff at Chopta or the Guesthouse you are staying at.
Basic idea of the costs from Delhi (per person) : Janrath AC tickets from Delhi to Haridwar & back – Rs. 800/-. GMOU Bus from Haridwar to Ukhimath & back – Rs. 600/-. Shared taxis Ukhimath to Sari/Chopta and back – Rs. 200/-. Stay at Sari/Chopta/Tungnath/Ukhimath – Rs. 250 per person per day. Food : 300 Rupees per person per day.
So for a 2-3 day trip, the expenses can be roughly worked out to around 2500-3500 Rupees per person.
Please ensure that as responsible travellers and trekkers you don’t litter the place, and try to keep it as clean as possible.
Bus connections to come back from Chopta to Ukhimath and then back to Haridwar/Rishikesh
There is a solitary bus everyday from Gopeshwar to Ukhimath that goes through Chopta; its time of crossing Chopta is 2 pm. According to the locals, this bus service is erratic and it is better to go to Ukhimath by shared sumo. Shared taxis run all day to Ukhimath and cost around 50 Rupees.
From Ukhimath to Haridwar, the earliest bus is a GMOU service which leaves at 05:30 am and reaches Rishikesh at around 11:30 am and Haridwar at 12:30 pm. Most buses to Haridwar/Rishikesh/Dehradun leave from Ukhimath in the morning hours. The locals told me that the last bus for Haridwar is at around 1 or 2 in the afternoon.
Slow and steady, always your best buddy
Since most of you who read this are likely to be city dwellers; a sedentary lifestyle has left us in a not-so-fit position health-wise. Remember to keep it simple, take less weight on your back and progress slowly and steadily on the trek. Fall in love with nature and let your mind take a break from the busy everyday schedule. Make friends with unknown strangers and keep the trail and surroundings pristine.
If I’ve left out any detail in this detailed travel guide to Chopta, please do let me know in the comments section. Always happy to hear feedback.