“The numerous different colors which I can see together,
Those million tiny cute things called flowers
Occupying every corner of the valley,
They dance with the gentle breeze,
Bathed with half sunrays and a half behind the clouds
A view which activates all my senses instantly,
This is surely a piece of heaven straight out of childhood imaginations.”
Even while writing this, I can imagine and feel its endemic beauty from behind my head.
Valley of Flowers, by its name is an enchanting valley full of different type of flowers blooming through the year. Hundreds of beautiful flowers bloom in vivid colors in this captivating valley during summer. There are around 300 species of flora, and the valley also supports a large number of rare and endangered flower species and also some of the threatened medicinal plants. Orchids, poppies, primulas, marigold, daisies and anemones usually carpet the ground with an army of flowers.
But it is not only for the carpet of flowers you should go for. “We couldn’t see the famously presented carpet of flowers as shown in the pictures, but the alluring scenery and breathtaking landscapes were enough reason for us to forget that and in fact it was beyond our expectations” said one of my friends who visited Valley of Flowers (VOF) not in the best season but still came back satisfied.
It is not simply considered as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and a World heritage site. At 3352 to 3658 meters above sea level, the fragile landscape of the VOF National Park enhances the rugged mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi National Park to the east. Its rarity and uniqueness is a result of a valley’s location within a transition zone between the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and Great Himalaya. Being the second core zone of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, The Park stretches over an expanse of 87.50 km.
One of the effective rules taken by its Management (Uttarakhand State Forestry Department) is that there is no settlement in the area and no grazing activity happening since 1983.
The spirit of the People here is strong as they bravely recovered from Uttarakhand floods in 2013 and once again started welcoming tourist in Valley of Flowers with full swing.
History >>> A place discovered “by Accident” by adventure bitten bug mountaineers Frank S. Smythe, Eric Shipton and R.L. Holdsworth, exposing this hidden Valley of Flowers in front of the outer world. Since then, this place has been attracting crowds internationally over decades.
One such person who got attracted, was a Botanist Joan Margaret Legge. Her curiosity made her traverse some rocky slopes to collect flowers; unfortunately she slipped off and lost her life. She was later immortalized by her sister who visited this place and erected a memorial near the spot.
An interesting myth about this place and if the story is to be believed, it is the same medicinal mountain carried by Hanuman in Ramayana.
Opening, Timings & Best Time to Visit >>> Valley of flowers opens on 1st June every year and closes on 4th October. Valley of flowers opens at 7.00 am every day and last entry is allowed till 2.00 pm. You need to get out of the valley by 5 pm. The best time to visit the valley of flowers depends upon what you like to see and how rough and tough you are. But to experience its eternity carpet of flowers with its colors in riot, the best time to visit is in July and August.
How to Reach >>> To reach this place you have to first reach its nearest rail head, Rishikesh. From Rishikesh you have to drive on its motor able road till Joshimath (10hrs drive) or Govindghat (further 2hrs).
Another option from Delhi, one can take the train to Haridwar and then travel by bus to Govindghat via Rishikesh.
If you decide to come by plane, the nearest airport is Jolly grant at Dehradun. Govindghat is 284km (6hr) away from Dehradun.
By road, you can drive from Delhi till Govinghat 500kms (5hrs).
Climate: >>> From October to March, the valley is covered in snow. From April onwards to June, the temperature is cool – it reaches a maximum of around 20C. At the end of June to September, there is heavy rainfall. This is followed by dense fogs and slightly colder weather right up to October again.
Day 1 (Rishikesh to Govindghat) – start your scenic drive to Govindghat via Devprayag, Rudraprayag and Joshimath. Govindghat is a starting point of valley of flowers trek. Enroute you will be crossing Devprayag, which is a holy city and the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers, after this the rivers become the holy Ganges. You should reach Govindghat by evening. Rest for the night here.
Day 2 (Govindghat – Ghangaria) - Leave from Govindghat early morning. Govindghat to Ghangaria is 14 kilometer trek. You will gain an altitude of 4700 feet. The trek is quite steep in some places, but it is worth the effort (no pain, no gain).
You can hire a pony or porter for yourself (A one way horse/mule ride charges around Rs. 500 and it takes around 3 hours to reach Ghangaria.).
Helicopter services are also available at Govindghat till Ghangaria.
There is a jeep service available from Govindghat further till ‘Pulna’ village shortening your trek to just 11kms fir the day.
There are small tea shops along the trek route to keep you rejuvenated.
At Ghangaria you will find budget hotels, dormitories and restaurants to spend the night.
Day 3 (Ghangaria – VOF – Back) - Finally the day has arrived when your heart meets your soul via your eyes. The excitement is already getting high due to the previous days experience. Ghangaria is the base village for Valley of flowers (also for Hemkund sahib) it takes an average of 3 hrs to reach to this spot. Once you reach the place, the area is big enough for you to explore depending on your stamina. The main Valley of Flowers is about 8 km long and 2 km wide. Normally people trek up to Joan Margaret Legge’s Memorial. Start returning by max 2 pm as the VOF gets closed by 5:00pm.
Day 4 (Ghangaria – Hemkund sahib – Ghangaria) - Hemkund is a Sikh place of worship and pilgrimage site. Though it is optional, It is worth extending your trip after coming so far. A Naturally formed glacier lake surrounded by 7 mountain peaks can be found here.
Day 5 (Ghangaria – Govindghat) – Prepare yourself for returning back with happy memories.
Kunthkhal – Hanuman Chatti Trek Route
After 45 years the Uttarakhand Government has opened a new route for Valley of Flowers trek. The government says it will be helpful to rescue teams in case a disaster like the Kedarnath flash floods strikes the region again and the adventure lovers will get a chance to explore a new virgin trail. The trek starts from Kunthkhal in VOF & ends up in Hanuman Chatti. It is about on 4500 meters & approx. 11 KM from VOF & having steep Climb between the mountains. And at Kunthkhal you will find “Brahmakamal. Total trek is about 25 KM & will take approx. 17 hrs to cover.
Some important points:
** You can deposit part of your luggage at the cloakroom in Gurudwara at Govindghat.
** Buy a walking stick if you think your knees can give in.
** Rain-plastic is available all along the route.
** Mobile network of IDEA and BSNL present. Both erratic. Idea more reliable.
** This is a moderate level trek, so little fitness level is required.
** Govindghat to Ghangaria: Last mule at 4PM.
Weight over 70 is charged 10% extra.
** At Ghangaria, you get mules to Hemkund. Their base is at the end of the Ghangaria Street. (Both ends) Mules don’t take you to VOF.
** You may hire a porter to carry your luggage. Professional cameras are charged extra.
** Carry glucose water. Acute Mountain sickness cannot be ruled out.
** City sleeps by 9:30 so have your dinner before that.
** Phone calls are charged @10/min by telephone booth operators.
** Hotel checkout time is usually 10:30 AM.
Hot water comes in buckets at an extra cost.
Hotel staff would wake you up at 4 AM thinking that you’ve come to visit Hemkund. So warn him not to disturb you.
** After Srinagar, Joshimath is the last place to find any ATM.
** There is an entry fee of about 150 bucks to enter VOF for Indians. Camera charges extra.
** If you are carrying a camera also keep some plastic bags handy because it can rain at any moment.
** Also, power cut is frequent here and so charge your phones and batteries wherever you can.
** The food here is mostly vegetarian and there are no 5 star hotels or swanky resorts.
** If you are looking for some alone time and prefer to avoid any crowd coming in the middle of your solitude with nature then VOF is certainly not for you.
Expect crowds coming due to its easy accessibility.
** Leave your denims behind – these are ill suited for treks.
** Do not bring any non bio degradable material.
** After packing, weigh your gear. It should be in the range of 8-9 kg – preferably on the lighter side. Anything heavier, you will need to iterate and remove what is not essential.
List of Things to carry for the trek –
>> Trekking shoes – Sports shoes not allowed. Forclaz 500 and Actions shoes are good choices
>> 3 pair of track/trek pants
>> 3 tees, preferably full sleeves
>> A full sleeves fleece jacket
>> A full sleeve thick jacket or something similar
>> A light rain coat/poncho
>> Sun glasses – curved ones will cover your eyes well. No blue colored sunglass — they don’t block UV
>> Sun cap
>> Light towel
>> Cold cream & sun screen lotion
>> 2 Water bottles (1L each)
>> Personal toilet kit (minimal) and toilet paper
>> Personal medical kit containing: Crocin , Avomine, Avil 25mg, Combiflam, Disprin, Norflox, Crepe bandage, Band aid, Digene Gauze cloth, Leukoplast, Cotton, ORS, Betadine or any antiseptic cream, Moov spray, Nebasulf/ Soframycine powder.
>> LED Torch with 2 extra set of cells
>> Carry a few extra plastic bags
>> Trekking pole is mandatory
>> Small repair kit consisting of safety pins, needle, thread and string