Just picture yourself, being offered a humongous bouquet of the most exotic flowers of the world, of the most vivid of colors, - imagine the sight your eyes would have to feast upon! Slightly mind boggling, isn’t it? What if I were to tell you that such a place exists, where it is nature that hands you the most alluring and mind capturing bouquets of all - The Valley of Flowers National Park! They say the best way to experience heaven is to spend a day with Mother Nature, and boy oh boy they were right! Chances are, you would be skeptical about this over-enthusiasm, since some things in life are better experienced, than described in words, but this Valley surely lives up to its name and hype. Nestled in the Himalayas, approachable by man only on foot, the natural world has a spectacular and a bold picture of various pigments and shades of bloom to offer.
- What is the Valley of Flowers
- Details about Valley of Flowers
- The Discovery
- Legend Has It
- The Tourist’s Allure
- Critters of the Domain
- The Call of the Valley
- Route Master
- The Most Avidly Availed Itinerary
- Essentials for the Trek
- Few Tricks of the Trade
- Commonly Asked Questions
- Measuring Up
What is the Valley of Flowers
As can be determined by its name, it’s a valley famous for its floral diversity which is located in the district of Chamoli, Uttarakhand. This picturesque landscape houses a variety of over 600 species of flowers, and the view is spectacular even if you don’t fall under the categories of botanists, photographers or even regular nature lovers. Its scenic beauty is the reason it bears the title of a National Park since 1982 and has also been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005.
The valley of flowers is a valley of the Pushpawati River, which happens to be a tributary of the Alaknanda River. Topographically the valley would be categorized as a hanging valley. Among the ring of peaks that surround the valley, the prominent names that stand out are, Dunagiri, Rishi Parvat, Kalanka, Nanda Khat, Nanda Devi East, Nilgiri Parvat, Rataban, Gauri Parvat, Saptasring and Nanda Dev.
The vast terrain being a heavily glaciated area, almost 73% of it is covered in snow, 21% consists of alpine meadows and the remaining 6% is covered in coniferous forests. The sub-alpine mixed forests are known to house trees such as the Himalayan Yew, Himalayan Maple, Oak, Silver Birch, Pindrow Fir, Morinda Spruce and Deodars among others. Alpine grasslands take over after the 11500 feet (above sea level) limit of the forests. This area covers the highest floral diversity, while mosses and lichens are the only foliage growing amongst glacial moraines and rocky slopes.
Valley of Flowers - Trek to the Vibrant Fairyland on Earth
Where is it located- Uttarakhand
Number of trekking days- 5-6 Days
Trekking Grade- Moderately Difficult
Max Altitude- 15,190 Ft
Trekking distance- 47 Kms
Tucked away in the majestic mountains, this marvel of nature would have gone unnoticed, had it not been for three British mountaineers who were looking for shelter from inclement weather in the wilderness above Joshimath, present-day Uttarakhand. The party of three, namely Frank S Smythe, Eric Shipton, and R.L Holdsworth, in 1931, had lost track on their return trip from a successful climb of Mt. Kamat, when they chanced upon this heavenly terrain, blossoming with flowers of a multitude of colors. The monsoon of 1937 even brought Frank Smythe back to the valley, where he spent time extensively exploring, identifying and gathering flowers and seeds from the wealthy plant life available there. It also lead to Frank Smythe authoring a book titled - Valley of Flowers.
Legend Has It…
Locals of the area have always maintained they were very much aware of the valley’s existence, even before its ‘accidental discovery’, and they believed it to have been inhabited by the Gods and Fairies. The Valley of Flowers is known in Hindu mythology as Nandan Kanan means “Garden of Indra in Paradise”.
This valley is popularly associated with the legendary story which states that Hanuman picked the Sanjeevani Buti, the healing herb, from this very region, to treat the wounds of Lakshman, brother of Lord Rama, who was injured during the war against Ravana in Lanka. There exists a temple ‘Lokpal’ which is in dedication to Lakshman.
While for the Hindus Sri Lakshman Mandir and the neighboring Badrinath hold pilgrimage importance, for the Sikhs, it is the Gurdwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib, the lake of ice, which is regarded as one of the holiest places.
Both of these are the highest temples in India. The neighboring Lake has equal significance to the Sikhs, who know it as Sarovar, holy water believed to wash away one’s sins and vices.
The Tourist’s Allure
The most obvious reason tourists gravitate towards this location, picking the Valley of Flowers National Park as a trek, is due to the multitude of colors which is a treat to the eyes and a memory of a lifetime. Among the flower species, one gets to see are the Himalayan Slipper Orchid, White and Yellow anemones, Aconites, Euphorbia pilosa, Calendula, Daisies, Himalayan Blue Poppy, Iris kaemaonensis, and rhododendrons to name a few.
But, it’s more than enough to tell you that these countless flowers of different shapes, sizes, and hues adorn the valley creating a veritable kaleidoscopic carpet.
Srikrishna Chaitanya the blogger of CandidChaitu shares his magical experience to the Valley of Flower- "The soothing silence…. The misty breeze….the vast floral diaspora redolent with a mild perfume…. Multiple colors…gushing sound of the flowing waters….. the enormity of the surrounding mountains… and the delicate beauty of the omnipresent geraniums and pink balsams. These are perhaps what strikes most when you enter the Valley Of Flower."
Critters of the Domain
While feasting your eyes on the buffet of flowers, you might get a glimpse of the various animals and birds that inhabit this region. Among the easier to spot are the blue mountain sheep, Himalayan Tahr or deer species such as the musk deer and the sambar. Red foxes, brown bears, and black bears are also common to this terrain.
Consider yourself really lucky, should you happen to see the rarest of them all – the Snow Leopard which is also called the ‘King of the Valley’. However, given that it only lives in almost unreachable places and blends in well with its surroundings, it’s almost a rare sight! Large birds such as Griffon Vultures, Lammergeiers, and Himalayan Griffon Vultures, can also be seen feeding on carcasses.
Among the more colorful varieties of birds are the Monals or Snowcocks, and Blood Pheasants.
The Call of the Valley
You know the saying, ‘Good Things Take Time’, well the Valley of Flowers is the very personification of it. The National Park, Chamoli is snowbound for most parts of the year, beginning its thawing process only by the end of May. It opens to the public on the 1st of June and remains open till about the 4th of October.
You may enter the valley at 7:00 AM, however, it’s best to arrive there a bit early to get your entry ticket early as time is of the essence here. Entry is allowed up to 2:00 PM. The entrance fees vary for an Indian National and Foreigners. Indian Nationals have an entry fee of Rs150, valid for three days and an extra of Rs50 for an additional day. In the case of foreigners, the entrance fee is Rs600 (approximately US$10), valid for three days and an extra of Rs250 for an additional day.
You need to vacate the valley by 5:00 PM, so most people begin to head back by 1:30 PM to be able to make it back in time. In case you happened to manage to visit the region apart from these stipulated months, you could never tell where the glacial zone starts or where the valley ends, it all just looks the same. A note to remember, should the view entice you to want to live there, it could be disappointing to learn that no kind of human inhabitation, permanent or temporary is permitted.
It is virtually impossible to directly just reach The Valley of Flowers. The Trek towards the valley only begins at Govind Ghat or Pulna Village.
So, how do you get there?
In case you decide to travel by road, you’ll need to reach Dehradun using the NH 72. Dehradun is 54kms from Haridwar and 235kms from Delhi. NH72A links Haridwar to NH58 at Roorkee (35 km) and thereon south to Meerut (170 km) and Delhi (235 km). Haridwar is another 280kms from Joshimath and thereon, Govind Ghat is another 22kms from Joshimath. From Govind Ghat you need to trek 10kms to reach Ghangaria- the final destination.
Traveling by the rail services is also an option since Haridwar is well connected to important cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kolkata, and Mussoorie.
Popular train options are -
- The DDN NZM AC EXPRESS (2205) from Delhi,
- The Doon Express (13009) from Kolkata,
- The Dehradun Express (19019) from Mumbai and
- The Dehradun Express (12687) from Chennai.
Flights are available on a daily basis from Delhi, to Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport which is about 48kms from Haridwar. So, there are multiple options to choose from as per your budget and convenience.
The Most Avidly Availed Itinerary
Upon reaching Haridwar the most used itinerary goes as such.
The Day I is the travel to Joshimath which is approximately 253kms away and is popularly known as the Winter Abode of Lord Badrinath. The journey would require the utilization of a major chunk of the day, post which it's best to rest it out.
Day II is the travel to Govind Ghat, about 22kms away. Once there, the trek begins towards Ghangaria or Govind Dam which is the base camp for Hemkund Sahib and the Valley of Flowers Trek. The trek to Ghangaria is a distance of 10kms.
Quoting the experience of Jitaditya Narzary the blogger of Travelling Slacker- "Despite the congested and crowded nature of the settlement, Ghagharia offers a brilliant spectacle once you slightly move out of the business area. After a couple of hundred meters from the market, you arrive at an open lush green area where the path bifurcates, one towards Valley of Flowers and one towards Hemkund. "
Day III is THE DAY! The most scenic part of the trek. The trail moves alongside the wild and beautiful Himalayan flora of striking and unconventional flowers, creating a breath-taking view, and an ultimate experience. After spending time in this remarkable valley it’s back to Ghangaria’s base camp.
Day IV, the time has come to take a U-turn. Completing the 10km trek to Govind Ghat followed by the drive back to Joshimath. The return could be even broken down between two days to ease it up. However, it’s, unfortunately, a moment to bid adieu to the hills and to go back to where we came from.
Essentials for the Trek
- Woollen Clothes
- Full Sleeved Fleece Jacket or a Woollen Jumper
- Wind-Proof Jacket
- Thermal Innerwear
- Light Rain Coat
- Woollen Monkey Cap /Balaklava
- Quick Drying Trekking Pants
- Light-weight Umbrella (Optional)
- Sunglasses/Goggles (UV protected)
- Trekking Pole (Sturdy Walking Stick)
- Water Bottles
- Torch and Batteries (Lightweight)
- Small Light Weight Towel
3. Footwear (Incredibly Important)
- Trekking Shoes (Good Quality) *Ensure that if these are new, they are well broken into, never use shoes for the first time on a trek
- Camp Shoes
- 4-5 Sports Socks
- Slippers/Sports Sandals (Optional)
4. Body Care Essentials
- Toiletries *Carry as few as possible, try sharing with friends to reduce carrying weight
- Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 40+
- Mosquito/Insect Repellents
- Medikit/First Aid Kit
- Dry Fruits, Energy Bars – High Energy Low Weight Food
Few Tricks of the Trade
- A couple of days before your trek, triple your water intake so that you are properly hydrated. This would reduce your chances of dehydration.
- When choosing your hiking shoes, choose a size half a number larger than your normal size. Choosing a size smaller or exactly the same, not only will cause discomfort but may leave you with sore toes and painful blisters.
- Another way to avoid getting blisters is by wearing two layers of socks, a thin nylon one and then a thicker Turkish sock over it.
- When carrying electronic articles that could be damaged by the weather conditions such as your mobile phones or cameras, it’s mighty handy to have a supply of plastic waterproof bags for them.
- When trekking with the group, remember to maintain your natural rhythm of walking. Walking too fast or too slow will cause premature fatigue.
- When trekking up remember not to sit down for too long as the muscles start to cool off quickly and get jammed.
- While carrying a windcheater is encouraged and is even a part of the list of things to bring, it’s advisable to not wear it when actually trekking since the body produces solid heat, and to regulate that, the heated muscles of the body sweats profusely. The already humid atmosphere coupled with a hot and perspiring body covered in a windcheater will only cause you to feel suffocated. Wear the windcheater when you take a long halt, till then, keep it packed in.
- When climbing, it’s normal to be affected by high altitude sickness, which can show up in the form of Headache, Nausea or even Diarrhoea. Apart from medicines, the ginger lime juice is a good remedy for travel & altitude related sickness.
Commonly Asked Questions
1. When is the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers?
This trek is a Monsoon trek only, as this is the season when the flowers are actually in bloom. The rest of the year this valley is covered in snow, pretty much an extended glacial zone. Also, as mentioned, the National Park opens between the months of June and October only.
2. What kind of weather should I be prepared for?
The weather is pretty unpredictable. There is close to no chances of having hot sunny days, and be prepared to unexpected rain showers.
3. What are the day and night temperatures like?
Day time temperatures could be anywhere between 8o to 12o while at night the temperatures could easily drop below 0o
4. How difficult is the Trek?
There are no treks where a particular level of fitness isn’t expected, similar is the case with this one. Many of the Trek groups and planned excursions will provide you with a certain standard of fitness, some might even require a doctor’s certification to sign up. However, should you be a regular fitness freak or more of a dormant existence, it’s advisable you prepare your body well in advance for the change of pace in activity it will have to endure. Regular walks and jogging for about 25 minutes every day should do the trick, a month before you take the trek. Although the Valley of Flowers is at a high altitude, it is considered as an easy trek.
5. How much will I have to trek every day?
Most treks are planned such that they cover approximately nine to ten km in a day which makes for six to seven hours of walking. However, keep in mind these are estimations, and it could vary keeping in mind conditioning of the trekking group in question, weather conditions etc.
6. What will be the sources of water?
Most of the Himalayan streams have safe to drink water, and there’s never a shortage of supply. Local guides or trek leaders are well aware of the right places to drink water from. Should you still feel unsure, or have a weak stomach, you could always carry purifying pills to pop into your water bottles.
7. Are there provisions for toilets or baths?
Some trekking groups do carry toilet tents for the comfort of the group. However, mostly being hygienic and environment-friendly is promoted, with going outside for nature calls being widely encouraged.
Unfortunately, there is no facility for bathing. Although taking the temperature conditions into account, you might want to consider skipping it anyway.
8. What happens in the case of a Medical Emergency?
Trek Leaders and local guides with years behind them leading trekking groups have plenty of experience, some are even certified, for when it comes to handling illnesses at a higher altitude. Many carry the basic medical kit and oxygen cylinders.
It’s always advisable though to carry your own personal medicine bag containing the basic medicines at the least. Always inform someone in your group as soon as you start to feel anything, so that you can get medical attention at the earliest, never keep it under wraps.
9. What kind of shoes should I wear?
While trekking shoes aren’t mandatory, you definitely shouldn’t show up in floaters or basic running shoes. Do not be fooled by seeing the locals make the journey in slippers, or even barefoot, as they are more familiar with the terrain than you are.
What you need is a pair of quality comfortable shoes with a good grip. Nothing will dampen your spirits more than painful blisters and sore feet.
10. What about a trekking pole?
The sole purpose of a trekking pole is to give you a third point of balance. It helps propels you and dispels the weight of your backpack at the same time. While it isn’t necessary you have a fancy trekking pole, there are plenty of sturdy branches shaved down sold dirt cheap by the locals, which will serve the same purpose, but a trekking pole is lightweight, can be looped around your wrist, the height adjusted to you and also foldable at the end of the day. Again, it’s your pick!
11. Can Senior Citizens and Children make the trek?
The answer is yes to both. Senior citizens who have maintained a good health, and perform the regular level of activities, can. However, trekking 12 -14 kms is no easy feat, and it’s advisable they consult with their doctor before making the trip. Also, keep in mind that they should not have suffered from high altitude sickness in the past. For children, infants are a no-no. Basically, your child should be at an age where he appreciates and enjoys the trek, leaving you also to enjoy your own!
All said and done, there are porters/ponies etc which is a blessing in disguise for senior citizens and children to enable them to go on the trek without having to push themselves too much.
12. What documents should I carry?
It’s best to carry an original ID and a photograph.
13. Will I have access to electricity and mobile networks?
On most days of the trek, you will not have access to either, however, you would electricity at Auli.
14. How many days will the trek take?
Most treks are planned such that they are covered in four – five days.
This trek can be termed as ‘tea-house’ trek. Tea house treks are most popular in Nepal where food and lodging are interspersed throughout the trial, similarly, with this, the trail is well-marked, what with it being so popular all over the internet and social media. Plenty of trekking agencies also makes it a bit simpler in case you don’t want to go all out and plan for yourself. It can’t quite technically be categorized as a trek, yet is one of the most sought after in India. This odyssey is perhaps the perfect experience to enjoy the thrill of the Himalayas.
In for it for the trek or otherwise, do make time out to visit the Valley of Flowers once in your lifetime. It’s a box worthy to be ticked off your bucket list.