Set amid tall deodar and pine forests at the head of the Bhagirathi gorge, 248km north of Rishikesh at 3140m, Gangotri is the most remote of Garhwal’s Char Dham and the last place to stock up on supplies before heading up to the high altitudes. The jeep drive from Uttarkashi is breathtaking – in more ways than one – as it winds high above the Bhagirathi and crosses one the world’s highest bridges, over the gorge near Lanka. Although the wide Alaknanda, which flows past Badrinath, may have a better technical claim to be the main channel of the Ganges, Gangotri is for Hindus the spiritual source of the great river, while its physical source is the ice cave of Gaumukh on the Gangotri Glacier, 14km further up the valley. From here, the River Bhagirathi begins its tempestuous descent through a series of mighty gorges, carving great channels and cauldrons in the rock and foaming in whitewater pools.

 

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