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I am trying to put together a comprehensive Do It Yourself guide for visiting Chopta, Uttarakhand. It is one of the easier and shorter yet most rewarding treks in Garhwal that can be done without any guide or assistance. I am trying to spoon-feed everything for the extreme novice. Advanced travellers can skip the basics and locate whatever they are looking for.
Where and what exactly is Chopta?
Actually Chopta is just a small settlement on the road with a few restaurants. When one says that he has trekked to Chopta, it basically means he has trekked upwards from that to the Tungnath Temple and further up to the Chandrashila. Tungnath is one of the panch kedars and so an important pilgrim destination. Chandrashila is the peak of that particular mountain.
Most people also cover the lake called Deoria Tal in this trip, which is in a slightly different direction but not very far. You approach the lake from Sari Village, which is around 15 kms away from Chopta.
But I thought it was in Sikkim!
Yes there is a different place called Chopta Valley in Sikkim. Do not confuse this with that one although someday I will make it to that one too.
How to reach Chopta?
There are multiple routes. But you will have to reach Haridwar-Rishikesh first and move up along the NH 58. After that,
• Break your journey at Rudraprayag, go to Ukimath and then Chopta.
• Break your journey at Rudraprayag, go to Ukimath and then to Sari. Visit Deoria Tal and go to Chopta the next day.
• Break your journey at Rudraprayag, go to Ukimath and then to Sari. Visit Deoria Tal and trek to Chopta the next day via Rohini Bugyal.
• Break your journey at Gopeshwar (which is ahead of Rudraprayag), and then Chopta.
Now, I personally chose the 2nd one. The 4th route is longer but the road is supposed to be better. On the other hand the 3rd option is interesting but will take one day extra to accommodate more trekking, something we should have planned beforehand.
Approximate Distance Chart
Rishikesh to Rudraprayag 140 kms
Rudraprayag to Ukimath 42 kms
Ukimath to Sari 12 km
Sari to Chopta 16 km
Ukimath to Chopta 29 km
Rishikesh to Gopeshwar 214
Gopeshwar to Chopta 41
What exactly is to be done at Chopta?
Your car or bus will take you to Chopta. From there you will trek upwards. It is not a very long or hectic trek. The road is well built and there is no need for guides or assistance. Once you reach Tungnath, you can visit the temple and explore the hills. You will easily locate Himalayan Monals, an endemic species of pheasant. However prospects of locating other animals are thin.
The next day if the time permits you can trek upwards and summit Chandrashila which is around 4000 metres. I personally had to abandon this part for various reasons but it is not very difficult either.
Deoria Tal is in a comparatively lower region at around 2300 metres and you need to trek for around 2.5 kms from Sari Village to reach it. You can camp by the side of the lake. The tour operators at Sari can help you with that.
What are the accommodation options at Chopta?
There are several basic accommodations around Tungnath Temple. Generally the lodge owners also cook food. In Sari Village, we stayed with Heera Singh Negi who can also arrange tents at Deorai Tal and guides for some other treks. All these rooms cost no more than INR 300-400.
When to Visit Chopta?
It is one of the few places in the region that is accessible throughout the year. The winter trek is more difficult as the route is completely covered in snow. But the best season is spring and early summer when the Rhododendrons are in full bloom. I was there in the 1st week of May.
What to Buy?
The squash made of Rhododendron, called Buransh by the locals is supposed to be good for health. You will get to buy bottles at the restaurants in Chopta.
Can you connect us to a guide?
While I trekked without a guide, you can surely hire one from Sari Village. They can also help you arrange for camping equipments such as tents and sleeping bags and take you to more remote areas that you cannot do alone.
I can suggest Umendra Singh Negi of Chaukhamba Himalayan Adventure for this purpose.