As the sacred land that holds the sources of the mighty Ganges and Yamuna rivers, Garhwal has been the heartland of Hindu identity since the ninth century when, in the wake of the decline of Buddhism in northern India, the reformer Adi Shankara incorporated many of the mountains’ ancient shrines into the fold of Hinduism. He founded the four main yatra (pilgrimage) temples, deep within the Himalayas, known as the Char DhamBadrinath, KedarnathGangotri and Yamunotri. Each year, between May and November, once the snows have melted, streams of pilgrims penetrate high into the mountains, passing by way of Haridwar and Rishikesh, the land of yogis and ashrams.

For more than a millennium, the yatris (pilgrims) came on foot. However, the annual event has been transformed in the last few years; roads blasted by the military through the mountains during the war against China in the early 1960s are now the lifelines for a new form of motorized yatra. Eastern Garhwal in particular is getting rich, and the fabric of hill society is changing rapidly – visitors hoping to experience the old Garhwal should spend at least part of their time well away from the principal yatra routes. In addition to their spiritual significance, the hills have become a hub for adventure sports, offering all levels of trekking, whitewater rafting, paragliding, skiing and climbing.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

19 places to get utterly lost

19 places to get utterly lost

One of the great joys of travelling is stumbling across unexpected places, wandering without a single destination in mind and embracing the journey. These place…

12 Sep 2017 • Keith Drew camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
13 tips for backpacking India

13 tips for backpacking India

Whether you’re hurtling along in a rickshaw, eating fantastic curries, kicking back on the backwaters or hiking in the mountains, backpacking India will alwa…

15 Aug 2017 • Helen Abramson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month