Nelong Valley – The Ladakh of Uttarakhand?

Nelang (Nelong) Valley was the raison d’être of this whole trip. I wanted to visit Nelong ever since I heard the news of restrictions being lifted. I had to cancel the previous trips due to some or the other reason. Even this trip was on the brink of cancellation due to “Monsoons”. But thankfully, we made it!

NEWS ARTICLE Valley opens for tourists first time since 1962

Waking up in Gangotri that day, was a different feeling all together. All my thoughts were around setting foot in Nelong. That we will only get a few hours there and eventually will retreat to Harsil did not matter

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS TRIP Among the most scenic drives in India – Uttarkashi to Gangotri
Why Nelong (Nelang)?

Well, it is still a relatively unexplored part of our country. Visiting such places is the whole point of Roaming Hawks. As recently as 2015 (check the news report mentioned above), no one could venture here. With the administration relenting a bit, it is now possible to go up to the ITBP Nelong check post (~23kms from the entry point). But, the truly astonishing places are much beyond the check post. They still remain out of bounds – places like Tirpani, PDA, Pulamsumdo, Jadhang etc. The villages in this valley were displaced during the 1962 war. No one lives in these parts now. China still claims this as a disputed region asserting it is Chinese territory.


Is it Nelang or Nelong?

Older texts refer to this place, Valley of Jadh Ganga, as Nelang, even Nilang at places!. Example – High Himalaya Unknown Valleys by Harish Kapadia. Most of the locals pronounce it as Nelong. I suppose the print and electronic media has picked up the term Nelong from the local dialect. Even local administration seems to be using Nelong. Either ways, it doesn’t matter as someone once said – what’s in a name?

All right, Moving on ..

The morning at Gangotri was very pleasant. We saw the Sun shinning bright probably for the first time in this trip. First thing on the agenda was visiting the Gangotri temple and getting some of the holy water from Bhagirathi for people back home. The temple visit was smooth and swift, thanks to less crowd. I shudder to think what it would be like when thousands of people descend here for a Darshan.

After Darshan and a hearty breakfast, we visited Suraj Kund. Situated on the opposite bank of Bhagirathi. Mythology says, this is the place where heavens end and our mortal world starts. Geographically speaking, it’s a nice waterfall! Thanks to the monsoons, it had lots of water. Some of the other pictures of this place that I have seen on the internet, show a mere trickle. Some photos later, we started for Nelong Valley.

Nelong takes our breath away!

The turn to Nelong Valley is approximately 8 KMs from Gangotri. Once we crossed it, the world around us suddenly changed! It almost felt like we were in Ladakh. The road disappeared! Instead of Bhagirathi, it was Jadh Ganga giving us company now. The water in Jadh Ganga was still a shade of emerald and not muddy, like Bhagirathi.

Disheartening thing is, the road never gets down to the river’s level. So admire all you can, but you can’t unwind by the banks. The road gets incredibly narrow at places. The work is on to widen and tar this road. Near the final check post, it’s almost like a salt flat where you can set a land speed record! (Don’t try it though)

Watch the Video log

We came across a wooden bridge built on the cliff side. It’s a small artifact of what remains of the centuries old trade route between India and Tibet. Areas along Nelong thrived on this bilateral trade. Precariously dangling on a near vertical cliff, it is hard to imagine how this was built. Even with all the modern equipment, it would be a challange to build one today.

There were a couple of water crossings along the way. The streams had lot of water. Watch the GIF below to see some “action” 😎. For more, do check out the video.

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So far removed it is from civilization, it almost feels like being on a different planet! We took numerous stops on our way to the Final frontier – the check post till where civilians can travel.

There is a temple on a nearby hill, visible from the post. The locals, who were displaced in 1962, still come here on festivals to offer their prayers to the Gods.

A little higher from the temple lies a lake called Parvati Kund. As per the stories we heard – nobody comes back from that lake! 😱 Maybe, it’s a story passed over generations, to discourage people from venturing out there. Maybe, there is some truth in it. Either ways, we didn’t have the time today to try it out. At close to 12,000 feet, 3 PM is a very bad time to start a trek.

Time to head back ..

We stayed there for quite sometime, chit chatting with the Jawans. We were humbled talking to them, astonished even, at their politeness. They seemed quite happy to have come across civilians and even offered to host us for the night in their camp! The blocker was Uttarakhand Forest department – they issue permits to Nelong only for a day visit as of now.


With a heavy heart, some fond memories and a promise to return someday, to go past this post, further towards Tibet, we retraced our steps back to Bhaironghati.

The return journey was no less pleasing! We stopped at even more places, clicked more photos and finally exited the Nelong Valley and proceeded towards Harsil, our stop for the night. That is for another post, sometime later.

Have you been to Nelang/Nelong yet? How was the experience? Any stories or photos to share?

4 Comments Add yours

  1. The Traveller says:

    Hi Guys,

    It was great seeing you people enjoy Nelong Valley, and it inspired me and my friends to include it in our itinerary in November this year. I had some queries..
    What is the earliest and the latest time to start the journey?
    How long does it take to go and come back to Bhaironghati ?
    Anything to know before starting this journey?
    Did you use your own vehicle for this trek or use a forest department vehicle? What is the process for this and price?
    We would like to go without any tour operator’s help…Is that possible?
    Would be grateful if you helped a fellow traveller with all details….

    1. Abhinav says:

      Hello,

      You can take the permits from SDM, Uttarkashi. What time you start etc will depend on the permit – camping allowed or not, upto which point you are allowed. If they grant permission till the 1st ITBP checkpost, Nelong 0 and don’t grant permission to camp in the valley, you can start by 7 or 8 and be back in Bhaironghati easily by 4.

      You might need to get separate permission from Forest department as they can spoil your plans at the checkpost, better be prepared with permission. You can take it from DFO, Uttarkashi.

      Yes, we took our own car – you can see it in the video log.

      Without tour operator should be possible.

      Enjoy the trip!!

      1. The Traveller says:

        Did you drive on your own? I saw the roads and they are freakishly dangerous…We don’t have the experience for this road..Can a driver cum guide be with us?
        What is the total cost for this trip including permit and guide?
        Any additional help would be great…Cheers

        1. Abhinav says:

          Hello,

          Yes, I did drive on my own, that was part of the ‘thrill’ 🙂

          I guess you could try to contact some operators in Uttarkashi or Dharali who might be able to help you.

          Total cost is hard to calculate specifically for this area as it was a long road trip and covered a lot of places. That said, the nearby areas have all kinds of option – something in every budget, so that shouldn’t be a problem!

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