“The earth laughs in flowers.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
The cited quote perhaps best suit a passionate traveller who loves to explore the virgin splendour of a soothing nature enclosed with vibrant bloom. This post would take you through a high-altitude Himalayan valley of flowers situated in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand. The region has gained significance as valley due to the existence of a diversified blend of flora and fauna. In 1982, the valley of flowers was declared as the National Park of India. The park is administered by the National Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Uttarakhand State Forestry Department, India.
However, the region carries its tale of existence since ancient times when Indian Yogis and monks used to scale the mountain for meditation. Today, this is a world heritage site recognized by UNESCO.
The Historic Tale of Unexplored Flower Valley
The valley of flowers is set in the backcloth of the regal Zanskar Ranges. The dimension of the park is 8km long and 2km wide with around 87 square km expanse. The unexplored prospect of this virtual paradise came into notice in 1931 when this land of flowers was discovered by a mountaineer called Frank S Smith. Erected in the high altitude, this fairy valley is delimited by snowy mountains and glaciers. This Himalayan valley has been the greatest ground of magnetism for mountaineers, botanists and nature lovers across the world. It is 20km northwest of Nanda Devi National Park across the dale of the Bhyundar Ganga.
Prior 1931, the place was not much explored to the global visitors. The main reason was its inaccessibility. It is told that in 1931, three British mountaineers lost their way while coming back from Mt. Kamet, which is the second highest mountain in the Garhwal region. Finding no other ways to follow they reached to a new valley. The British mountaineers were mesmerized with the natural beauty and colourful flowers of the valley and they decided to name it as ‘’valley of flowers.’’ Later after returning from this place, Frank S Smith wrote a book on it with the same title.
Today global visitors and mountaineers find this meadow of alpine flowers one of the most thriving peaks to climb. The place is quite safe to travel and the local inhabitants are very modest and courteous. You can speak Hindi to communicate with them. However, in some cases speaking English will also help you to express your message.
When to Visit
The best time to climb this inner Himalayan valley is March to mid-winter when the temperature lies between 7oC to 20oC. If you visit the place during March to October, the expected climatic feel is somewhere between 13oC to 27oC. However, the high altitude valley has a pleasant climate that you can cherish through the year.
To be more explicit about your seasonal visit to this land lists the following:
- For experiencing panoramic beauty, best time is June to October
- For experiencing the frosty region on the peak, best time is May to November
- For spotting the endangered wild creatures, best time is July to October
- For witnessing the blooming flowers, best time is August to September
Visitors planning to reach this valley of flowers during winter, please carry proper winter wears due to its extreme frosty climate.
Sometimes due to extreme snowfall, the roadways get covered under a thick blanket of snow. As a result, visitors are not able to relish the outdoor attraction of the region. Therefore, it is recommended to visit the valley of flowers during July to August. This is the time when you can rejoice the beauty of somnolent nature. This is the time when the monsoon clouds kiss the face of the valley and the valley starts emerging its flowery appearance. For a true nature lover, the valley of flowers is a sheer canvas of a drizzling climate, waterfalls and flowery meadows. You just need to add on your colourful thoughts to give this canvas a meaningful portrait.
Why Valley of Flowers
For local inhabitants this place is a flowery meadow encircled with a blend of varied fauna, snow leopard, blue sheep, butterflies and musk deer. The immaculate water of Pushpawati divides this land of flowers into two parts. Well, the depiction does not stop here. The place has lot many striking ingredients to bring you more close to the valley of flowers.
In order to give your adventurous persona a daring touch, the valley of flowers has famed destinations for trekking, wildlife, paragliding and skiing. This is one of the most happening destinations for global tourists who can spend their leisure time here for long.
Apart from its amiable meadows, visitors also intend to visit here to see the Hemkund Sahib and Ghangharia. Let’s have a glimpse on these two destinations where visitors often plan to reach.
Hemkund Sahib: It is located at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters above the sea level surrounded by frosty peaks, which is known as Hemkund Hill. In order to reach Hemkund Sahib, you need to complete 6km walk from Ghangharia. This place is the centre of attraction for Sikh devotees. It is believed that the tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Govind Singji stayed at the Hemkund Sahib for meditation purpose. The word Hemkund Sahib signifies ‘lake of snow’. There is a lake in this place the water of which is as cold as snow. A star shaped Gurudwara is located near the lake where ample of Sikh devotees rush every month for religious purpose. The best season to visit this place is from July to October. During mid-winter the Gurudwara remains closed due to extreme frosty weather condition. Visitor can reach Hemkund Sahib by trekking through thick woods, vivacious cascade and fascinating views of the Himalayas. This is around 15km trek, which starts from Ghangharia on the Rishikesh-Badrinath highway. You will also find a temple here, which is dedicated to Lakshman.
Ghangharia: It is a picturesque village perched at more than 3,000 metres altitude above the sea level. Ghangharia is the last human habitation place if you are heading towards Hemkund Sahib and the valley of flowers. The best season to visit here is from May to October. During winter, Ghangharia witnesses heavy snowfall. The available rest house, Gurudwara and hotels provide you accommodation facility during your stay in Ghangharia.
Besides, you can also go for excursions to some of the nearby happening places. Some of the prominent places for excursions are:
- Badrinath: It is one of the sacred Dhams among the key Char Dham pilgrimage in India. The sacred town Badrinath is located around 3,000 metres above the sea level of Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. Ample of Hindu devotees visit this divine place every month. The best time to visit here is between May to October, as after that the temple remains closed due to extreme frosty climate. Badrinath is around 21 kms ahead of Govind Ghat.
- Auli: For a true adventure lover, Auli has awesome paragliding and skiing spots to amplify the bliss of your trip. The place was more into news for hosting the SAF Winter games during 2010. Auli is around 40 kms away from Govind Ghat, which can be reached via motor vehicles.
- Mana: It is a village located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand and it is very close to Tibet border. Mana is inhabited by Bhotias, the Indo-Mongolian tribes. Mana is around 24 kms away from Govind Ghat. This place is well-known for its dense caves namely Vyas Gufa and Ganesh Gufa.
- Joshimath: It is one of the renowned maths created by Adi Shankarachariya, and the place is located around 1890 metres above the sea level in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Joshimath is linked to Auli by cable car, which is known as the highest cable car of Asia. Narshing and Kalpavriksha are the two key temples here that often attract the attention of travellers. These temples are situated merely 26kms before Govind Ghat.
How to Reach Valley of Flowers
Keeping in mind the mounting number of tourists every year, Uttarakhand State Forestry Department and the National Ministry of Environment and Forests made the entry more viable for the visitors these days. A new motorable bridge is constructed for better commutation from valley of flowers to Govind Ghat. It has effectively curbed down the trekking distance to reach Ghangharia.
You can reach the valley of flowers by any of the following modes of commutation:
By Air: Visitors planning to reach the meadows of flowers by flight, the nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport. After that the roadway will connect you till Govind Ghat. Thereafter, you have to make the distance through trekking. The distance between Jolly Grant Airport and Govind Ghat is around 292 kms. These two places are well-connected through motor vehicles as well. If you are commuting from Delhi, daily flights are available to reach Jolly Grant Airport.
By Train: For railway commuters, Rishikesh is the nearby railway station. However, from Rishikesh you can travel till Govind Ghat and afterwards you have to trek almost 16 kms to reach the valley of flowers. The frequency of train to Rishikesh is quite suitable. You can reach Govind Ghat from Rishikesh by bus and taxi as well.
By Road: As already mentioned, the valley of flowers is connected till Govind Ghat, which can be reached by bus and taxi. From ISBT Kashmiri Gate, Delhi you will find several buses towards Rishikesh, Karnaprayag, Ukhimath, Srinagar, Pauri, Rudraprayag and Chamoli. From all these places you can also take taxi that will reach you till Govind Ghat.
For your convenience, sharing you the probable road distance chart to reach valley of flowers:
In addition, from the places like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur the distances are:
- Mumbai to Valley of Flowers 1824 km
- Pune to Valley of Flowers 1859 km
- Nagpur to Valley of Flowers 1344 km
Because of strict ecological discipline, you are allowed to visit the valley of flowers during only daylight hours, i.e. from 7am to 5pm. The last entry time to the valley of flowers is 2pm after which, no one is allowed to enter the Himalayan meadow.
For foreigners and Indians the charge is somewhere around Rs.650 and Rs.150 respectively. This can be availed in the form of a pass. You will be required to collect your entry permit by making the payment at the Forest Department checkpoint available there. Please make sure you carry a valid ID proof, which will be required to show at the time of your entry.
If you want to hire a mule or a porter, you will be charged around Rs. 650 (may vary). You can hire it at Govind Ghat. As the climate keeps on changing frequently, plastic raincoats are also available there at reasonable prices. If you hire a complete guide during your entry to the valley of flowers, you may be charged around Rs.1, 500. From Govind Ghat to Ghangharia helicopter service is also available at the charge of around Rs.3, 500 per person.
Where to Stay
The valley of flowers is a renowned world heritage site today due to which, overnight stay and camping is not permitted here. A rigid ecological regulation is followed here so that the ecosystem of the valley remains undisturbed. Therefore, you will not find any accommodation facility in the valley of flowers. Hence, to manage your accommodation you need to visit Ghangharia, which is 3.2kms behind the valley of flowers. At Ghangharia, you will get some convenient food stores, camps, hotels and restaurants at reasonable prices with quality food and accommodation facilities.
If you are at Joshimath and looking for overnight stay before going to Ghangharia, the best option for you is Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) guesthouse.
Points to Remember:
- Due to recurrent changing weather condition it is advisable to carry rain-coat, first-aid kit, warm clothes, torch, sun glass, water bottle, fruits, route map, trekking footwear etc.
- Make sure you do adequate homework and check the weather and route condition well before trekking. You can take help of local inhabitants or your trekking guide to know about the weather condition, which is a challenging ask for the mountaineers.
- If you are running short of money, you can find several ATMs in Govind Ghat and Joshimath. However, once you reach the valley of flowers, no ATMs will be there for cash withdrawal purpose.
- In order to explore the Himalayan valley and nearby places, you would require minimum 3-5 days. However, depending on your tour plan you can also extend your stay.
- Since the valley of flowers is situated at high altitude, hence availability of oxygen could be one of the most challenging parts for you. This may lead to breathing issues. To complete the distance by trekking, one has to be physically and mentally fit. You can coordinate with your guide in case of emergency, and do not forget to carry the essential medicines, which you may require.
- Carry a handy bag to keep your essentials during trekking.
- Last but not the least, visiting such eye catching meadow without carrying a high resolution camera is like going into desert without any water support.
Feel the charismatic panorama of flowers and mountain in the lap of India’s most breathtaking national park, the valley of flowers. Existance of three sub-alpine forests at various parts of the mountain safeguards around 500 species of wild flowers in this valley. Some of the endangered animals like red fox, brown beer and blue sheep can also be witnessed near the trekking trail. And the most wow moment is when you see India’s second highest mountain peak Nanda Devi from the valley of flowers national park. An ardent nature loving person may find this craggy mountain peak even more electrifying with the blend of wild bushes, aromatic wild flowers and untamed strawberries.
Wish you a splendid expedition to the meadows of flowers. Once you are done with scaling the elevation of valley of flowers, you will have an implausible story to depict your voyage.