It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic setting for a temple than KEDARNATH (3583m). Reached by a 14km trek from the town of Gaurikund, Kedarnath sits 223km northeast of Rishikesh, close to the source of the Mandakini, and overlooked by tumbling glaciers and giant buttresses of ice, snow and rock. The third of the sacred Char Dham sites, Kedarnath is among the most important shrines in the Himalayas and as one of India’s twelve jyotrilinga – lingams of light – attracts hordes of Hindu pilgrims (yatri) in the summer months. The area makes a refreshing change from the rocky and desolate valleys of west Garhwal, with lush hanging gorges, immaculately terraced hillsides and abundant apple orchards. Kedarnath is also a good base for short treks to the beautiful lakes of Vasuki Tal and Gandhi Sarovar.
It’s not a very attractive town – in fact it’s almost unbearable at the height of the pilgrimage season (May, June & Sept). It’s a grey place, whose central thoroughfare stretches 500m between the temple and the bridge, lined with resthouses and dharamshalas, pilgrim shops and administrative offices. However, the sheer power of its location tends to sweep away any negative impressions, and it’s always possible to escape to explore the incredible high-altitude scenery.