Tungnath Temple and Trek- A beginner’s guide

Tungnath Temple with snow

Introduction:

 The Tungnath Mahadev Temple is the highest Shiva temple in the world. The temple sits in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, right above the Chopta Valley. Tungnath holds a special place in ancient Hindu mythology and is generally covered with the famous Kedarnath Temple Yatra. Additionally, it is also known for its gentle trek and breathtaking views. In the past few years, it has emerged as a hub of several trekkers coming from across the globe.

In this article, we clear various doubts that you may encounter as you plan your trip to Tungnath. It also acts as your guide right from the beginning to the end of your journey. Make sure you read till the end!

History of Tungnath- Setting the Scene: 

History of tungnath Temple
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The history of Tungnath takes us to the battle of Mahabharata (or Kurukshetra.) It was the time when the Pandavas killed their cousins called the Kauravas and won the war. With the victory came a massive surprise for the Pandavas. The compiler of the Mahabharata, Rishi Vedvyas, told them that Lord Shiva was upset with them as they killed their own cousins & friends in the war. Consequently, the Pandavas decided to move towards the Himalayas and seek pardon from Lord Shiva. 

Shiva was already aware of the movement of the Pandavas and didn’t want to face them. Hence, he decided to hide and took the form of a bull in a place called ‘Guptkashi.’ Later on, the body parts of this bull (Nandi) appeared in five different places in the neighbouring areas of Guptkashi. These places are ‘Panch-Kedars’ and include: 

  1.  Kedarnath- The place where the hump of the bull materialized. 
  2.  Madhyamaheshwar- The stomach appeared here. 
  3.  Tungnath- The arms of the bull appeared here. 
  4. Rudranath- The head appeared here. 
  5. Kalpeshwar- The hair of the bull appeared here. 

The Pandavas built the panch-kedars. Though, these were discovered by Adi Shankaracharya later. 

Where is Tungnath Mahadev Temple located?

The Tungnath Mahadev Temple is in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. It sits in the Tungnath & Chandrashila range of mountains that lie just above Chopta valley. 

 Situated at an elevation of 3,470 metres above sea level, Tunganth is the highest amongst the Panch-Kedars. The valley is a part of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. The temple has gained a lot of attention in the past few years due to the famous Chopta- Chandrashila trek. It is one of the stoppages in Chopta-Chandrashila Trek. 

 

How to reach Tungnath  Temple?

View from Tungnath
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To reach Tungnath, you first need to arrive at Chopta, the base camp. In this section, we explain to you the different routes/ modes of transport to visit Chopta. 

Important Note: We have noticed that people often consider Chopta and Tungnath as the same destination. However, one must note that Tungnath temple lies at a distance of three kilometres uphill from Chopta. One can easily trek up to Tungnath from there. 

Chopta by Road

  • Chopta is easily accessible by road. For instance, take a case where you are travelling to Chopta from Delhi. You need to take the following route:

Delhi>Meerut> Haridwar> Rishikesh> Srinagar Garhwal> Rudraprayag> Kund>Chopta.

  • If you are travelling on public transport, you can first take the bus to Rishikesh from Kashmiri Gate ISBT in Delhi. From Rishikesh, you can take the direct bus to Ukhimath. The bus to Ukhimath generally leaves at 5-5.30 in the morning. 

           From Ukhimath, you have to hire a taxi to reach Chopta. Shared taxis are rarely available from Ukhimath. 

  • You can also take a shared taxi from Rishikesh to reach Srinagar/Rudraprayag. From there, you can get taxis to Ukhimath and then Chopta.
  • As you plan travelling to Chopta by road, we recommend you starting your journey early to reach on time.

 

Reaching Chopta-Tugnath by Air Transport

The nearest airport to Tungnath & Chopta is in Jolly Grant (between Dehradun & Rishikesh.) The airport is called Dehradun Airport or Jolly Grant Domestic Airport. It is well-connected with the cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Lucknow and Hyderabad. 

From here, you can hire a taxi to Rishikesh and continue your journey towards Chopta, as mentioned in the above point.  

The nearest railway station to Chopta-Tungnath. 

The Rishikesh Railway station is the nearest railway station to Chopta. However, the trains are yet not very frequent to Rishikesh from places like Delhi. Alternatively, you can also book your ticket till Haridwar and take the bus to Ukhimath from there. 

  • The distance between Haridwar and Chopta is around 240 km, and it takes you eight hours to reach here. Moreover, the condition of the roads till Chopta is safe for a self-drive. 

Good News: The Rishikesh-Karnaprayag Railway Project is under construction and will be completed by 2025 (as projected.) After the completion, the yatra will become much more convenient. The Rudraprayag Railway Station (upcoming) will be the nearest railway station from Chopta and Kedarnath then. The distance between Rudraprayag and Chopta is just 70 kilometres. 

Distance chart

CHOPTA DESTINATIONS DISTANCE ESTIMATED TIME (Google Maps)
Chopta Delhi 451 km 10 hr 45 min
Chopta Rishikesh 261.1 km 6 hr 12 min
Chopta Haridwar 234.5 km 6 hr 16 min
Chopta Auli 137.4 km 4 hr 48 min
Chopta Badrinath 200.2 km 7 hr 4 min
Chopta Kedarnath 54.6 km 2 hr 15 min
Chopta Kedarkantha 135 km 4 hr 45 min
See also  Heartfelt Experiences At Chopta

The Chopta- Tungnath TempleTrek

Tungnath trek in summers
The Chopta-Tungnath Trek  | IG: AnuragMaithani

After you reach Chopta, you start your trek towards Tungnath. The ‘trek’ from Chopta till Tungnath involves a gradual climb and serves you astonishing views of the Himalayas. The difficulty level of Chopta-Tungnath Trek is easy and recommended even for first-time trekkers. 

After a climb of 1.5 kilometres from the base, you get a view of the long & stretched bugyal (grass fields.) It is generally the first stop of all the trekkers, and you may find people sitting on the grass fields, enjoying. Interestingly, there are some food joints on the left and right sides of the trail where you may get maggie and parantha. We suggest you fill your water bottles here. This point is famous amongst the visitors as some scenes of the movie ‘Kedarnath’ were shot here. 

The entire trek to Tungnath is well maintained and constructed. There are benches on both sides at alternate intervals. It generally takes three hours for a beginner to reach the temple from Chopta.  

The Tungnath- Chandrashila Trek

Tungnath-Chandrashila Trek
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As you exit from Tungnath after having prayers, you find a route towards the left that leads you to Chandrashila. The length of the Tungnath-Chandrashila trek is 1.5 kilometres. However, it is slightly steep as compared to the ‘trek’ till Tungnath. The last 100 metres of the trek are very steep and lead you to the summit. 

The best time to visit Tungnath

Precisely, if you are coming for the darshans, the best time to visit Tungnath is between mid-April to October end. It is the period when the temple remains open, and you can have darshans. 

If you are coming only for trekking, you can plan your trip at any time of the year. The trek remains open almost around the year. But, we usually recommend people to not visit here during the monsoons (June-July.) The heavy rainfall in the entire valley can ruin your trekking experience. Moreover, it becomes arduous to climb the Chanrdrashila summit during heavy rains. 

Tungnath Temple Opening Dates 

Tungnath temple remains closed for six months due to heavy snowfall. The Badri-Kedar Temple Committee decides the opening/closing dates of the temple. The temple usually opens in April or mid-may.  

Tungnath Closing Dates

The gates of the Tungnath temple are closed in October or November. The symbolic idol of Lord Shiva is moved to the nearby Makkumath Temple and worshipped there till re-opening. Makku is also known as the winter seat of Tungnath Mahadev. 

Tungnath-trek During Winters 

tungnath in winters
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You may experience heavy snowfall in Tungnath during the winters. A thick layer of snow covers the Chopta-Tunganth trek. Sometimes, you may not be allowed to trek to the temple without a proper guide. You must confirm the condition of the ‘trek’ from the locals before planning your trip in winter. Remember to carry your identity cards (Aadhar or any other) while you head towards the temple.    

The view from Tungnath in December & January is to die for. The Himalayas are fed well with the snow, and the entire valley looks ‘whitish.’ 

The three-fourth part of the temple remains covered with ice. You may also get a good view of the Himalayas from Chopta in winters. 

We recommend you put on a pair of shoes with an excellent grip as you trek. If possible, you can use snow spikes. They increase the friction between the shoes and the ground and protect you from slipping. Do not forget to carry a trekking pole/stick while you trek. 

Tungnath-Trek During Summers

The Chopta-Tungnath-Chandrashila trek is full of people during the summers. Most often, people visiting the nearby Kedarnath temple do visit Tungnath temple too. Kedarnath is just 70 kilometres from Tungnath. 

If travelling in early spring, the Chopta Valley is full of red & white rhododendrons. The trek becomes easy as against the winters. However, you would not find snowfall anywhere in Chopta-Tungnath Valley after April, till October end. For old-aged people, we recommend visiting Tungnath and Chopta in summers

Tungnath-Trek after Monsoons

It is always a good decision to trek to Tungnath and Chopta after monsoons. The valley becomes greener after the monsoon rains and looks very beautiful. The temperature is also pleasant, not hot and not very cold. However, you may carry a pair of jackets and sweaters. 

Tungnath’s Climate

The climate of Tungnath is cold. When we refer to the word ‘climate,’ we mean the average weather conditions of a place round the year. 

Tungnath’s temperature in winters: Hovers between 0-8 degrees Celcius. The temperature of Tungnath in summers: Minimum 12 degrees and maximum 24 degrees. 

Things to do in Tungnath Temple?

You can do the following activities while in Tungnath Temple: 

  1. Trekking & Hiking: The entire Chopta valley is famous for trekking and hiking activities. You’ll find more than ten treks nearby ranging from beginner to difficult level treks. 
  2. Photography: Tungnath is a perfect destination to have a photo/video shoot. Before planning photography-related activities in the Tungnath temple, you should consider taking permission from the temple authorities. You may also need permission to fly a drone here. Moreover, Chandrashila is your perfect place to capture the panoramic view of the Garhwal and Kumaon Himalayas. 
  3. Bird-Watching: After the monsoons, the Chopta valley is full of bird-watchers. Tungnath and Chopta are a part of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary and house more than 180 species of birds. 
  4. Yoga and Meditation: Tungnath and Chandrashila are the favourite spots of people planning for Yoga and Meditation. The legend has that after killing the demon-king Ravana, Lord Rama came to Chandrashila to meditate! Probably, we don’t need any explanation further!!

What are the places near Tungnath?

Chandrashila Peak

Chandrashila is a peak at an elevation of 3,680metres and is the summit of the Tungnath temple. You get to see a 360-degree view from Chanrashila. Peaks like Gangotri, Jogin, Mount Kedar, Satopanth and Chaukhamba can be seen right above the Chopta valley. On either side, you get a panoramic view of Hathi & Ghodi Parbat, Dunagiri, Hardeol, Nanda Devi, Kalaka and Trishul peaks. 

Chandrashila is one of the few places in India where you can see multiple peaks from such a close distance. We recommend you to trek early in the morning the enjoy the beautiful sunrise from Chandrashila. 

Deoriatal

Deoriatal is a high altitude mountain lake near Chopta. The lake is surrounded by dense and lush green forest. The speciality of this place is that you get to see a reflection of the Himalayas (Mt. Chaukhamba especially) on the lake.  

The trek to Deoriatal Lake commences from two different places. The first, and more common, starts from a village called Sari. Sari is at a distance of around 20 kilometres from Chopta. The Sari-Deoriatal trek distance is around 3kilometres and involves steep climbs at some patches. 

The other route starts from a place called Tala. Tala lies at a distance of 17 kilometres from Chopta. The trek distance from Tala to Deoriatal is around 3.5 kilometres. However, it’s a gradual climb and most suited for first-time trekkers. 

Rohini Bugyal

Rohini Bugyal is one of the stoppages in Deoriatal-Tungnath yatra. The bugyal (or meadow) is equidistant from Chopta and Deoriatal. For people who are planning for less crowded destinations near Chopta, Rohini Bugyal may be the right choice. Above all, the meadow is famous for its breathtaking sunrise views and magnified view of the Himalayas. 

The trek to Rohini Bugyal starts at a village called Ushara. The distance is around four kilometres and is suitable to visit around the year. 

Madhyamaheswhar

Madhyamaheswhar is the second among the five-kedars. Located at a distance of around 60km from Chopta, Madhmaheshwar is famous for the clear view of Mount Chaukhamba. The trek starts at a village called Ransi. The trek is 18 kilometres long, and we suggest you leave early from Ransi. 

Syalmi Bugyal

If you are looking for both something beautiful and close to Chopta, you should visit Syalmi Bugyal. You can reach here after a trek of 1.5 kilometres from Tala village. For beginners, it is one of the best places to visit near Tungnath and Chopta. You can also plan camping here on dome tents and enjoying the beautiful milky-way galaxy at night! Most people visit Syalmi Bugyal after visiting Chandrashila. Interestingly, you can easily complete your two-way trek here in 5-6 hours.

FAQs

Nearest Market to Tungnath 

 The nearest market to Tungnath Temple is Ukhimath. The distance between Ukhimath and Tungnath is around 29 kilometres. Chopta also has a market but it only consists of a few resorts/campsites and dhabas. 

Is camping allowed in Tungnath Temple?

As per an order by the Uttarakhand High-court, you are not allowed to camp anywhere in the meadows. So, camping is not allowed in Tungnath. However, you can plan camping in Chopta

Food Joints 

There are enough food joints and eateries while you go up the temple. The food served along the trek is purely vegetarian. However, you can expect non-vegetarian food at the resort/campsite you’re planning to stay at. 

Ideal time to start Tungnath- Chandrashila Trek

Ideally, you should leave for the Chopta-Tungnath-Chandrashila trek early in the morning. You should start the trekking at around 8.30 AM (during winters) and 10.00 AM (during summers.) 

You can start moving back from Chandrashila and Tungnath at around 3.00 PM (during winters) and 5.00 PM (during summers.)

If possible, you can try seeing a sunrise or sunset from Chandrashila. To clarify, make sure you have a guide with you. As you will have to come back in the dark.  

How many days should I spend in Chopta Valley?

You should spend at least two days at Chopta. On the first day, you can plan to go to Tungnath. On the second day, you can plan to go to Deoriatal. There are some riverside spots near some resorts in Chopta, you can plan to visit there too. Additionally, if you feel exhausted, you can go to Rohini Bugyal. It’s an easy trek but full of views. 

Hotels in Tungnath- Clearing the Doubt. 

There are no hotels in Tungnath. To stay at Tungnath, you will find a small dharamshala near the temple premises. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the dharamshala is not open for visitors. We suggest you to to stay at Chopta itself. There are a number of resorts and camps in Chopta. Due to a heavy rush, the camps and hotels may book early on weekends. You should book them beforehand to escape the last hour rush and save your money.  

Trekking Equipment on rent in Tungnath

You need not buy basic trekking equipment like sticks/poles, boots, gloves as you plan your trek to Tungnath. Rather, rent them at the trekking point itself. You just need to deposit some security amount (INR 200-500) which they refund after you return the equipment. 

Rent for trekking pole- 50 Rs

Rent for trekking boots- 100-150 Rs

Conclusively, you can also rent the equipment from the hotel you are planning to stay at.  

Car Parking Facility

There is no specified parking in Chopta. You can park your vehicles along the roads. They are completely safe. Most importantly, no incident of harm to the vehicles has been reported to date. 

Medical Facilities 

The nearest hospital to Tungnath is in Ukhimath. It is a government hospital with basic healthcare facilities. There are no hospitals in Chopta or Tungnath. you can carry a medical kit with you. If you have breathing problems, you may consult your doctor before your trek. 

Tips and Tricks 

  1.  Please carry a power bank with you while going on the trek. There’s no facility for charging your phones while on the way. 
  2.  Make sure you’re carrying enough cash. The nearest ATM to Tungnath and Chopta is in Ukhimath. We suggest you not rely on Ukhimath’s ATM for cash as there are only a few ATM machines available. Sometimes, they may go out of cash. 
  3. Do not rely on digital payments. On the other hand, you may face network issues due to poor connectivity sometimes. 
  4. If travelling in winter, please take the help of a guide. You must take a guide for the Tungnath-Chandrashila trek in winter. 
  5. Carry proper woollens. The nights may get extremely cold. 
  6. Avoid littering on the trail. You can carry a cloth bag and put your wrappers in it. 
  7. Be careful while driving or riding in the snow. The roads tend to become very slippery. You should not Overspeed and should not apply brakes all of a sudden. Especially during the morning and late evening, a layer of mist (pala in local language) covers the roads. It’s very slippery and must be taken care of while travelling. 

Conclusion

Many times we have found that people ask if it is safe to visit Tungnath or not? The answer is yes. Still, It’s safe unless you plan to stay here forever! To sum up, the beauty here can hypnotise you in certain ways! Beware and have a happy journey!

 

See also  The Perfect Time to Visit Chopta: A Beginner's Guide

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