The word Nelong traditionally means the ‘place of blue stones’. At an elevation of 11,009 feet above sea level in the Gangotri National Park, located 45 km before the Indo-Tibetan border, Nelong Valley is one of the most beautiful valleys and one of the best kept secret of Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand. The climate and landscape of this cold desert is same as Ladakh and Lahaul-Spiti.
Before 1962, the Nelong was a popular Indo-Tibet trade route but in 1962 due to Indo-China war, villagers were shifted out of the valley and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) & Army checkpoints were set up in the villages. It was closed for civilians after the war. But in early 2015, the govt. opened this cold desert for civilians after a petition to the state government. Only Indians who have permission from SDM Uttarakashi and Forest Department are allowed to visit Nelong Valley. (To get permission you need an ID proof and a fitness certificate).
The majestic valley of Nelong are open for Indian nationals from the month of May to November. However due to security reasons, camping and staying overnight in Nelong is not allowed. As the valley falls under Gangotri National Park, only forest department vehicles are allowed into the valley and no other vehicles (including 2 wheeler) are allowed and that too only till Nelong. Beyond that you cannot go. No more than 6 vehicles are allowed for Nelong everyday. Carry food, water and snacks with yourself because you won’t find anything to eat or drink in the valley. If you are planning to visit Nelong, book your stay in Bhairon Ghati, Harsil, Dharali or Gangotri. In Nelong, the days are pleasant but night turns extremely cold and one can feel the mercury drop at the sunset.
Nelong Valley is full of fauna as it is park of Gangotri National Park and has wildlife like brown bear, snow leopard, musk deer and Himalayan blue sheep. According to people, who were first to enter Nelong after the 53 years ban, they witnessed was a landscape totally alien to the rest of the Uttarkashi Valley. It was stark and beautiful reminiscent of Ladakh. The aquamarine blue waters of the river passing through a deep gorge. The mountains were rainbow hued, with striations on different strata clearly visible.
— ITBP (@ITBP_official) July 9, 2016
You can see the remains of old Indo-Tibetan Trade Route in this stunningly beautiful abandoned valley even today. One of the most beautiful spot to see in Nelong is the Gartangali. A suspended path with wooden sleepers wedged into the rock and planks to walk on. Other points to visit includes Lal Devta temple, beautiful valleys and meadows.
For adventure junkies, Nelong Valley is the Ladakh of Uttarakhand. So, are you ready to add this paradise in your bucket list?
Pic Credit: Silverkloud