Union Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh on Monday flagged off this year’s first batch of 58 pilgrims for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Two experienced liaison officers who are familiar with the routes and can take care of the elderly will accompany the pilgrims, Singh said.

Singh hoped the pilgrimage, which passes through difficult terrain in the Himalayas, concludes smoothly. Eighteen batches of 60 pilgrims each will undertake the 24-day pilgrimage this year.

The first batch will reach Kailash Manasarovar in Tibet via Lipulekh in Uttarakhand, one of the two routes of the pilgrimage. It requires some trekking, and costs around Rs 1.6 lakh per person, the government said.

The other route passes through Nathu La pass in Sikkim. It is a motorable route, and suitable for older pilgrims. The route costs around Rs 2 lakh per pilgrim. Pilgrims were not allowed to use the Nathu La route in 2017 in the wake of the Doklam standoff between India and China.

The Ministry of External Affairs has been organising the annual Kailash Mansarovar Yatra since the 1980s.