Nandanvan and Tapovan are located at a distance of 6 km from Gangotri, opposite to the Gangotri glacier. Nandanvan offers the magnificent view of peaks like Shivling, Bhagirathi, Kedar Dome, Thalay Sagar and Sudarshan. This place serves as a base camp for trekking to the peaks like Satopanth, Kharchakund, Kalindi Khal, Meru and Kedarnath, to name a few.
Trekkers can trek alongside river Bhagirathi and see Gomukh. It is one of the most famous treks, which involves mountain climbing, boulder hopping, glacier traversing and rock climbing. The trekking route passes through pine trees and birch shrubs at Chirbasa and Bhojbasa respectively. The trek route leads to Lanka and Gomukh from Bhojbasa. Trekkers pass through Gangotri glacier and Chaturangi glacier on their way to Nandanvan. The trekking route from Nandanvan passes through rocky terrains finally leading to the lush green meadows of Tapovan.
Gangotri Glacier is one of the largest glaciers in the Himalayan Region. The volume of the glacier is 27 cubic km, and the length & width is around 30 km and 4 km respectively. This glacier is surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Gangotri group like Shivling, Thalay Sagar, Meru and Bhagirathi III, most of which are known for their tough climbing routes. This glacier which emerges from a circle located below the Chaukhamba Peak flows roughly towards the north-west and finally terminates forming a shape resembling the mouth of a cow. Hence, the place is called Gomukh, meaning cow’s mouth. It is a ritual for the Hindus to take a bath in the freezingly cold water of the glacier.
The glacier has been thinning at a rate of 19 m per year since the first measurement in 1780. There are three main tributaries of the glacier namely Raktvarn, Chaturangi and Kirti. Additionally, it has more than 18 small tributary glaciers. The elevation of the glacier ranges from 4120 m to 7000 m above sea level. The glacier is made of talus cones, snow-avalanche fans, snow-bridges, dead ice mounds, conical peaks, serrated ridge crests, glacial troughs, smooth rock walls, crags, waterfalls, rock basins, gullies and glacial lakes.
Bhagirathi river, which is an important tributary of the Ganga river, originates from Gomukh. It is a Himalayan river, believed to be holy by the Hindus. The river derives its name from the ancient king Bhagiratha. According to mythology, this king brought the river Ganga from heaven to release his 60000 uncles from the curse of the sage Kapila. The source of the river is perched at an elevation of 3892 m above sea level, and the river has numerous tributaries.
Trekking is one of the most popular activities in Gomukh. The popular trekking route starts in Gangotri and after covering a distance of 22 km ends in Gomukh. Sometimes, trekkers can spot Bharals here. Bhujbasa is situated at a distance of 4 km from here. Tourists can stay here for one night in the bungalow of Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited. After trekking around 5 km from here, trekkers can reach Gomukh, where the snowy peaks seem to warmly welcome the guests. The trekking to Tapovan and Nandanvan starts from Gomukh.
The trekking route becomes more challenging after Bhojbasa owing to big boulders and landslides; hence, trekkers are advised to be accompanied by guides. The climb towards Tapovan is stiffer still; trekkers have to climb 70 degrees within 2 km to a height of 1500 feet. Therefore, it is a very challenging experience for trekkers.