NEED TO KNOW
LOCATION Badrinath lies in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, close to the Tibetan border
WEATHER The high altitude means that, even during summer, days can be rainy and nights cold
DISTANCE Badrinath is around 180 miles (300 km) from both Rishikesh and Haridwar
On the right bank of the Holy River of Alaknanda, hemmed in by the sacred mountains of Nar and Narayan, stands the 9th-century temple of the Hindu god Vishnu. For a thousand years, pilgrims have trekked here to seek the blessing of “Lord Badrinath.” These days most people, aside from the occasional Sadhu armed with water pot and umbrella, drive or are driven to Badrinath.
The spectacular route follows the winding course of the Ganges from the plains below Rishikesh, through Srinagar and Rudraprayag, and onward and upward through the tortuous curves and cliffs of the Himalayas. Just beyond Joshimath lies the greatest surprise of the journey, the near-mythical Valley of Flowers. This national park, in a range of relatively gentle hills squeezed between the Zanskar Mountains and the Great Himalaya, has breathtakingly beautiful meadows of alpine flowers, myriad butterflies, and rare wildlife such as the snow leopard and the Himalayan golden eagle. Beyond the park, the road climbs again towards Badrinath, where plumes of steam from the hot springs of Tapt Kund announce that you are nearing the Great Temple. After bathing in the warm, curative waters you may go and pay homage to Vishnu.
Later, explore the area to see the stone-bound impression left by the serpent Shesh Nag, and the footprints of Vishnu himself, embedded in a massive boulder called Charanpaduka.
Those pilgrims reinvigorated by the healing springs can make the short trek on foot to Mana, the last Indian village before Tibet, and to the spectacular waterfalls and glaciers of Vasudhara and Alkapuri, passing the cave where the epic Mahabharata is said to have been composed.
Getting There and Around The nearest airport is at Dehradun (198 miles/ 320 km). Regular bus services run from Rishikesh and Haridwar. There is a complicated system of road closures on the narrow roads to Badrinath, so allow two days’ traveling time.
When to Go The best time to visit is from May to September. The temple closes in September, and Badrinath is almost unreachable outside these months anyway, due to inclement weather and landslides. The Valley of Flowers is at its finest in July and August.