What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word Himalayas? Mountains and pines dusted with snow? The cold air blanketing you at the high altitudes? At the point where the Western and Eastern Himalayas converge, is a place that will leave you spellbound for just how different it is from your expectations. Valley of Flowers Trek is nothing less than a heavenly walk through mother nature.
The localities have always believed that the valley of flowers was earlier inhabited by the flower fairies, and add on to the much needed magical note to this place.
Valley of Flowers is a UNESCO world heritage site that was made known to the outside world by Mountaineer Frank S Smith in the year 1931. This valley tells you an entirely different story from that of the great Himalayas.
Located in the Charmoli district, this place is a sight to not be missed while visiting Uttarakhand. Approximately 300 kilometers north of Rishikesh is this expanse of fairyland flowers. From the major cities such as New Delhi, it is located at a distance of more than 500 kilometers.
How to reach here
Due to its remote location, it takes at least 3 days to reach the Valley from places such as Haridwar. A few meters away from the Valley is the last motorable point – Govindghat. From there on begins your trekking experience which would go on for 4-5 days. The trek conducted each day would go on for around 6-7 hours based on your speed of pace.
The base point would be Ghangria for the trek. This is where your stay for the Valleys would be, as it is closest to the Valleys. After a long day of trekking, reaching your stay for resting shouldn’t be a tedious task. There are private lodges and hotels for accommodating large groups of people to solo travelers at Ghangria. Safety and security are assured around these areas as it falls under the administration of the Uttarakhand State Forestry Department and Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The trek that begins at Pulna (Govind ghat), has been rerouted and made steeper following the 2013 floods. The distance has increased by around 3 kilometers. Make sure that you reach the checkpoint before 2 pm. After which nobody would be allowed to enter the Valley. The earlier you reach, the more beautiful is the sight of the flowers blooming in the morning hours. So make sure you PLAN IT RIGHT! The valley is open to visitors from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm. You will be asked to wrap up your trekking and return to your base camp by 6:30 pm.
Just like the saying “The early bird gets the worm”, the earliest you start from your base camp, the longer you get to trek!
When to visit
For the year 2020, the valley would be open from June 1st to October 4th.
In the colder months, the valley stays untouched and covered with ice. By the end of May, the ice melts off, leading to a quicker germination process. Around mid-July, the flowers will be in full bloom.
With the multitudes of exotic flora in the summer months and the dewy flowers in monsoon showers, the Valley never fails to amaze the visitors throughout the seasons.
The suggested period to witness the colorful expanse though would be during the full bloom period in July, August, and September.
Bifurcated by the glistening waters of Pushpawati directly from the mountains, you can see two natural divisions of the Valley. The valley to date remains unspoiled by human activities and hence very much in its magnificence. Activities such as settling in the park and grazing have been banned since 1983.
What can you spot here?
The Valley was declared as a National Park in the year 1982 and is categorized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The recorded varieties of Himalayan flora in the Valley of Flowers National Park is 520. This includes a bouquet of angiosperms, gymnosperms, and pteridophytes out of which 498 are of flowering capacity. Very understandably so, it’s also known to be a Botanist’s Heaven.
The main exhibits here include the endemic alpine flowers that bloom in huge waves. The wildflowers first appear in the July monsoons. The other varieties here include the wild Orchids, Himalayan Rose, Hooked Stick seed, Poppies, Dog flower, Meadow Geranium, and so on. Few things that are hard to miss on your way are the stone paths, glorious glaciers, delicately built bridges, rhythmic waterfalls amidst the backdrop of the mountainscapes.
While observing the flowers you’d also get to witness the beautiful wildlife of the mountains. These include the Himalayan Black bear, Himalayan Weasel, yellow and red-billed choughs, Monal pheasant, grey langur, snow pigeons, Lime butterfly, and so on.
The valley is known for its medicinal herbs, and this roots back to the excerpts from the Ramayana. Hanuman was believed to have brought the Sanjivani for an injured Lakshmana from this very Valley of flowers.
Hemkund Sahib which is not far from the trekking spots in the Valley is visited for several religious purposes. Right behind the Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara are the clear waters of the alpine lake flowing at an altitude of approximately 14,107 ft.
A few of the raw wonders at this altitude are the exclusively born Brahmakamal flowers which grow only at the heights of about 10,000-15,000 ft. This becomes yet another addition to the sacred aura of the place.
Apart from this, sometimes at the Gurudwara can be spent on meditation and the ritualistic Langar (a meal that is considered the Prashad of the Guru Granth Sahib).