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Harsil is a beautiful village as well as hill station in Uttarakhand that is situated at an altitude of about 2,745 metres along the Bhagirathi river. It is immensely popular because of its natural beauty, views of majestic snow-clad Himalayas, pine forests and sprawling apple orchards. In fact, Harsil Valley comprises 8 villages. Along with being a tourist destination, Harsil is also an army base since it is close to the Indo-China border. Furthermore, the village is also part of the Chota Char Dham Yatra as it lies on the way to Gangotri.

About Harsil, Its Rich History And Its Military Significance

Stunning Views from the Harsil River and get a memorable experience.

Image Credit: Amit.pratap1988 for Wikimedia Commons

Situated along the Bhagirathi river in Uttarakhand, Harsil is a small village and hill station at an altitude of approximately 2,745 metres above sea level. It is about 80 km from the religious town of Uttarkashi and is also part of the Chota Char Dham Yatra as it lies on the route to Gangotri. Moreover, owing to the snowfall that makes Gangotri inaccessible during the winters, Harsil becomes the temporary home to the idol of Goddess Ganga which is brought down from Gangotri to a village near Harsil. It is also home to Bhotiyas, an ethnic group with ties to Tibet.

According to legends, Harsil got its name when Lord Vishnu, also called Hari, had to intervene in an argument between rivers Bhagirathi and Jalandhari. The two were arguing over their respective importance the Lord Vishnu turned himself into a shila in order to absorb their anger and thus the village came to be known as Har-shila or Harsila. It is also believed that the two rivers have since not been too turbulent. Harsil is also of military importance since it is located close to the Indo-China border which is a disputed area. The village has a base camp of the Garhwal Scouts as well as the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.

Must Read: Things To Do In Gangotri

Cultivation And Eco-Tourism In Harsil

Cultivation of apples from the lush greenery at the Harsil.

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The village of Harsil is not only renowned for its natural bounty but also for its wide expanse of apple orchards. It is said that during the British Raj, an Englishman named Frederick Wilson left the East India Company to live in Harsil. Here, he began chopping deodar trees and selling them to the Company for the construction of the railways and also introduced the cultivation of rajma and apples. The river Bhagirathi flowing next to the village rendered cultivation very convenient. He came to be known as Raja of Harshil as was friends with author Rudyard Kipling. Today, the Harsil Apple Festival is quite famous.

Given its abundant beauty, the government is in the process of growing eco-tourism in the Harsil by developing the eight villages in the Harsil Valley along with Nelang Valley. Some of these efforts include the establishment of a leopard conservation centre, development of homestays and other accommodation in the villages, putting up telescopes for star gazing and also involving locals from nearby villages like Jhala, Jaspur, Sukki and Purali to work as guides. They would be eco-tourism guides and would accompany visitors on tours and treks and would tell them all about the region’s diverse flora and fauna.

5 Things To See And Do In Harsil

Mukhwa Village near Harsil to see on the next visit

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Although a small village, there are a few things that you can do in and around Harsil and they are as follows:

    • You can embark on the popular Kyarkoti Trek. It begins from Harsil village and ends in the breathtaking Kyarkoti meadow about 17 km away in Harsil Valley. The route passes through Lamkhaga Pass and is filled with scenic views of dense cedar, birch and pine forests, meandering streams, majestic peaks and overall natural beauty. The Kyarkoti Lake is also a beautiful sight to behold.
    • Dharali is a quaint little abode about 7 km from Harsil and is must-visit, especially since it has vast apple orchards and is also known for its red bean cultivation. It is said that Bhagirath meditated here in order to have the Ganges river to flow out of heaven and on earth. There is a temple here which houses an idol of Lord Shiva.
    • It would be a good idea to visit Gangnani if you are looking for a quick getaway to a quiet and serene place. Gangnani is about 30 km from Harsil and is famous for its stellar views of the Himalayas and also for being a great place for meditating. There is a hot water spring here.
    • Sattal should definitely be on your list of places to visit when in Harsil because it is a treat for nature lovers. It features seven interconnected lakes, abundant natural beauty, different migratory birds and thick oak and pine forests. Sattal is ideal for bird watching and picnics.

You can also visit Mukhwa Village which is just 1 km away, especially during the winter months. Not only is the area stunning under a blanket of snow but it is also the winter abode of the idol of Goddess Ganga since it is moved here from Gangotri which becomes inaccessible during this time.

Suggested Read: Resorts In Jim Corbett

Best Time To Visit Harsil And How To Reach

Scenic View of Gangotri Dham a hidden gem

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The best time to visit Harsil is during the summers, from April to October. Even during this time, April to June and September to October are considered to be the best time to visit since the months between July and August receive heavy rainfall. This increases the possibility of landslides. Moreover, the winter months are not only very cold but the area also receives snowfall which can make outdoor excursions difficult and dangerous.

There are multiple ways to reach Harsil. You can take a car and drive here since it is well connected by road to most nearby cities. It would also be easier to explore Harsil and its neighbouring areas if you have your own car. There are also buses from nearby cities. Taking the train is also an option but the closest railway station is about 240 km away in Rishikesh. You would need to hire a taxi to make the 7 hour drive here. Alternatively, you can also take a flight to the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun about 245 km away and once again hire a car to get to Harsil.

Further Read: Places To Visit in Gangotri

This guide to Harsil should help you plan your trip to this picturesque village which is perfect for nature lovers. You can take a short trip to Uttarakhand here with friends or family and perhaps also think of planning to visit other famous destinations for an even more memorable time. So get on to booking your tickets now!

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Cover Image Credit: Debrupm for Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions About Harsil

Is it pleasant to visit Harsil during the winter time?

It is not unpleasant to visit Harsil during the winter season but the region receives snowfall during this time which could make sightseeing or adventure sports difficult. However, snow-clad Harsil would be an incredible sight to see. Moreover, if you weren’t able to visit the Gangotri shrine during the summers, you can visit it during the winters since the idol is moved close to Harsil.

How much time does it take to get from Harsil Gangotri?

Harsil is located very close to Gangotri and is only about an hour away. The two destinations about approximately 26 km away from each other and Harsil lies en route to Gangotri on the Chota Char Dham Yatra.

Is it easy to go from Harsil to Yamunotri?

While it is possible to visit Yamunotri from Harsil, there is no direct road that connects to two. Yamunotri is also not very close to Harsil. You would need to drive about 200 km to Janki Chatti and from there, you must trek the rest of the 7 km to Yamunotri.

What is the link between Harsil and Tibet?

Harsil happens to lie on the Silk Road or old caravan trail between India and Tibet or the Tibet Autonomous Region. It is also home to some ethnic groups that speak languages similar to the Tibetan language.

Is Harsil part of the Chota Char Dham Yatra?

No, Harsil itself is not part of the sacred Chota Char Dham Yatra but it is en route to Gangotri which is a part of this journey.

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