One of the best things about the Himalayas is that you cannot go just once, it will call you back. Over the past few years, I have developed an immense love for the mountains and especially the Himalayas. There is something wonderful about the mountains and my love for them is eternal.
A World Heritage Site, Valley of Flowers is situated in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. At a colossal expanse of 87 sq. km., it is a majestic valley endowed with endemic alpine flowers and fauna set amidst the transitional zone of the splendid Zanskar ranges and the eastern and western Himalayas.
Until 1931, this blooming meadow’s presence was unknown to the world until three British mountaineers discovered it. Frank S. Smythe, Eric Shipton, and R.L. Holdsworth had lost their way while returning from a successful excursion to Mt. Kamet and stumbled upon this exotic valley carpeted with blooming flowers. Spellbound by the beauty of the place, they dubbed it the ‘Valley of Flowers’. Frank S. Smythe also authored a book on the valley with the same title.
Here is your step by step guide to the Valley of Flowers trek and the gurdwara, straight from the horse’s mouth:
Getting To The Base Camp – Govind Ghat
Distance: 294 km
Route: Haridwar – Rishikesh – Devprayag – Rudraprayag – Karnaprayag – Chamoli – Joshimath – Govindghat
Mode of Transport: Pre-paid taxis, shared vehicles or bus
Time: approx 9 hours (with lunch & evening tea halts)
The camp at Govindghat is located a good 294 km from the nearest railway station, viz. Haridwar Junction. From the railway station, one can take shared Pre-paid private taxis, shared vehicles or a Garhwal Mandal bus. The uphill drive via Devprayag and Joshimath offers panoramic views of the mountains. The route passes through Devprayag where the Bhagirathi & Alaknanda rivers merge to form river Ganga.
Govind Ghat to Ghangaria
Distance: 12 km (Govindghat – Ghangaria Camping Ground)
Mode of Transport: On Foot
Time: approx 4 hours
This is the starting point of the trek and the distance to be covered is 10 km. From Govindghat, shared taxis up to 3 km are available and from there on start your trek up to Ghangaria. One can always opt for a pony, but then you are on a trek! This route passes through gushing rivers of the Zanskar ranges and it is an enchanting view. You are most likely to find Sikh pilgrims trekking up to Sri Hemkund Sahib and motivating you through the journey.
Temperature: Remember, the temperatures at this height are lower than what you would expect in plains. The air, however, is very breathable. The acclimatization stretch, i.e. from Govindghat to Ghangaria, is enough to prepare you for the heights to be scaled. But, yes, the trek does require an optimum level of stamina and physical fitness.
Note: Start early from Govindghat to reach Ghangaria by evening. You can also hire ponies to carry your luggage which is quite helpful. There are dhabas on the way serving some lip-smacking Maggi and chai.
Ghangaria – Sri Hemkund Sahib – Ghangaria
Distance: 11.4 km (5.7 km aside)
Mode of Transport: On Foot
Time: 6 hours (2 hours halt at Sri Hemkunt Sahib)
Sri Hemkund Sahib is situated at an altitude of approximately 4,633 m. The gurdwara holds importance to Sikh pilgrims and it is one of the highest gurdwaras in the world. The distance is 6 km and is a steep route. Once you reach the gurdwara, there is a small pond outside where you can take a dip. There is a special variety of flower that grows around the gurdwara, called Brahma Kamal. The religious site is said to be the meditation ground of Guru Gobind Singh in his previous life. The Lake of Ice remains frozen for 8 months.
In months of June, July, August, & September, the ice melts and one can take a dip into the chilled waters here. The Sikhs are extremely warm with their hospitality and you can shamelessly hog on to the langar food.
Do not be in a rush to get down, for the descent is always difficult then ascent. Walk down slowly, and in no time, you will be back to Govindghat.
Note: The gurdwara shuts at 2 PM so it is recommended to start early since 6 km of the steep climb is a little challenging. If you’re lucky enough, you might not experience heavy rain but drizzles and cloudy weather is expected.
Ghangaria – Valley of Flowers – Ghangaria
Distance: 10 km (Ghangaria Camping Ground – Valley of Flowers National Park – Ghangaria Camping Ground)
Mode of Transport: On Foot
Time: 5 – 7 hours (Ghangaria Camping Ground – Valley of Flowers National Park – Ghangaria Camping Ground; 2 hours for leisure at the National Park)
Once you reach Ghangaria, rest. Acclimatize yourself with the weather and enjoy the bliss moments in the mountains. Valley of Flowers is approximately 5 km from Ghangaria. The route is narrow and passes through dense forests and uphill mountain trails. Once you reach the valley, it is a paradise with Himalayan blue poppies, lilies spread out vastly and a sight you never want to forget.
Cascading waterfalls are abundant while you’re traversing towards the valley and one can see the Pushpwati river gushing through the valley.
How to get to Valley of Flowers
Flight: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun. A cab can be hired from there directly to Valley of Flowers
Train: The closest station is Rishikesh station at a distance of 272 km. You can either hire a taxi or take a bus to the Valley of Flowers
Road: The closest bus stand is at Govindghat and from there the trek begins to the Valley of Flowers. You can also hire a porter, mule or helicopter.
Some Interesting Facts About Valley of Flowers
- The Valley of Flowers is a World Heritage Site and is in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
- The Valley of Flowers was originally called Bhyundar Valley.
- It was accidentally discovered and named by three British mountaineers while on the way back from their expedition at Mt. Kamet.
- It is home to exclusive alpine endemic flowers, flora and fauna.
- In 1939, a botanist with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Joan Margaret Legge slipped and lost her life at the valley while collecting flowers on unsteady slopes. Her sister erected a memorial in her name at the spot.
- Professor Chandra Prakash Kala, a botanist with Wildlife Institute of India, has authored two books on the valley; The Valley of Flowers – Myth, and Reality” and “Ecology and Conservation of the Valley of Flowers National Park, Garhwal Himalaya.
- It is believed that Lord Hanuman had brought Sanjivani from The Valley of Flowers for the ailing Lord Laxman to cure him. The glaciers from Hathi Parvat and Saptrishi peaks are the main source of The Hemkund lake at the Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara.
Places to Visit Near Valley Of Flowers:
Being popular as the ski destination of India, Auli is the emerging winter destination & hill station of Uttarakhand. Popularly known for its snowy slopes, Auli has everything that an ideal tourist dreamed of.
Gurson Bugyal (Gorso Bugyal) is located at an altitude of 3056 mts, just a 3 km trek from Auli. It is a large land of green pastures surrounded by coniferous forest and oak trees. You can also trek towards Chattarkund, which is just 1 km away.
The famed town of Badrinath is among the four dominant Char Dham pilgrimage sites of India as well as the Chota Char Dham. It is perched at an average elevation of 3,300 meters about 10,827 feet above sea level on the banks of Alaknanda River.
Mana is very close to the Tibet border and it is one of the last villages of India. Most of the tourists who visit Badrinath also come to see the end of the road at Mana. Mana is inhabited by Indo-Mongolian tribes often called Bhotias. Bheem Pul, Vyas Gufa, and Ganesh Gufa are interesting places to look for at Mana Village.
Joshimath is one of the four ‘math’ created by Adi Shankaracharya. Joshimath is the home of Shri Badrinath during winters. Joshimath is connected with Auli by the highest cable car in Asia. It is situated at an elevation of 1890 mts above sea level. Do visit Kalpavriksha and Narsingh temple while visiting Joshimath.
Trekkers often ask us these questions:
1. How long is the Valley of Flowers trek?
The Valley of Flowers Trek is a 3 to 4 day-long trek. The trek begins in Ghangaria, which is an 11 to 12-hour drive from Rishikesh. Each day you will be trekking for about 6 hours. From Govind Ghat, you trek to Ghangria, which will be yours on trek base. Each day you will trek for about 6 hours, and return to Ghangaria. In these 3 days, you will witness a wide array of things – from blooming flowers, gushing rivers, tall mountainscapes in front of you, delicate bridges, stone paths, lakes and much more.
2. What is the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers trek?
The best time to do the Valley of Flowers trek is in July, August, and September. During these monsoon months, the flowers are in full bloom. The entire valley, for as far as your eyes can see are blanketed with flowers of a different colour – green, yellow, red, blue, etc. In July and August, you will be able to see the Meadow Geranium, Snake Foil, Himalayan Rose, Blue Poppy, River Anemone, Dog Flower, and White Leaf Hog Foot, to name a few.
3. How difficult is the Valley of Flowers trek?
Valley of Flowers is a moderately difficult trek. This means that you should follow a regular fitness routine before going for the trek. On each day you will be trekking for approximately 6 hours, and on some days, it will be longer. The entire trekking distance you will cover is around 35 km. Each day you will gain an altitude of approximately 2000 ft, and on some days even more. For your body to handle this trekking distance and altitude gain, you need to be extremely fit.
The Valley of Flowers trek requires a high level of cardiovascular endurance. You must begin training for your trek at least 2 months in advance. Begin by jogging every day. Slowly increase your pace. Before the trek, you should be able to comfortably run 5 km in under 40 minutes.
4. Is it okay to trek to the Valley of Flowers during the rainy season?
Yes, the Valley of Flowers Trek is primarily a monsoon trek. All of July, August, and upto the first week of September is the best time to do the trek. The flowers in the valley are in full bloom during this time of the year. You will encounter rain on this trek, so be sure to carry your poncho and other rain gear.
5. Is it okay for a first-timer to attempt this trek?
Yes, the Valley of Flowers treks is a good first-time trek. You get to experience high altitude trekking Be sure to work on your fitness before the trek.