Uttarakhand has many places as yet untouched by time or travelers. Harsil, at a height of 2620 meters, located on the banks of the Bhagirathi River, is one such jewel, far from civilization, nestling comfortably in the lap of the Himalayas. It is quaintly rural and charming, serene and tranquil. There are mountains in the distance and dense Deodar forests all around. If you want utter peace and a relaxing time, head for Harsil.
Harsil’s claim to fame is the legend of Raja Wilson. Frederick. E. Wilson was an adventurer who sought refuge in the lonely mountains. He married a local girl and built a fortune by exporting fur and musk and sleepers for railway tracks. He even minted his currency and built a huge mansion, Wilson’s Cottage.
Harshil is about 73 kilometers from Uttarkashi, located on the Uttarkashi-Gangotri Road. From Delhi it is a 445 kilometer journey by road. You can take a train or fly to Dehradun and go on to Uttarkashi from where Harsil is at a distance of 7 kilometers. The best time to visit it is in summer from April to June, before rains start, or just after the rains have stopped, up to October. Summers are pleasantly cool while winters can be extremely cold at the high altitude.
Places to visit and things to do
Harsil is on the route to Gangotri and in winter the idol from the shrine at the top is brought down to Mukhbha village in the neighborhood. As such Harsil has special religious significance. Harsil is on the route to Gangotri. After a couple of relaxing days here, you could go on to Gangotri National Park in Uttarkashi district. The Park is spread over a 1550 square kilometer area and is home to hundreds of birds and animals besides a diversity of flora.
Then you could go trekking up the slopes or explore the valley and come upon Tibetan settlement. You can see for yourself how they rear mountain goat and sheep and make woolen garments. You could go on the Sattal Trek that takes you to seven lakes, across rugged mountain terrain. It is a different world where raw nature rules and you find peace, far from the hustle and bustle of cities.
Make sure you carry woolens as it can get a bit cool up there in the mountains.
Now a tourist resort, Harsil has its fair share of hotels ranging from budget to slightly expensive and then you also have the option of staying at the Government tourist lodge. Meals are available in most hotels and there are a few eating places serving Punjabi and local cuisine.
Harsil is a destination you could choose if you want to spend a quiet weekend meditating and recharging yourself. You could also make it a part of your itinerary when you visit Uttarkashi and go on to Gangotri, with this tiny hamlet providing a relief during your strenuous travels. In any case, you are sure to remember this little jewel for its wonderful scenery and the peace it brings to you.