The pressures of modern day personal and professional life do not allow us to do things which we love on a regular basis.
While professional success does make us happy, at times we do look for satiating out mind and soul and indulging in activities that help us remain happy. Trekking is one of the many such activities that we can indulge in once in a while.
Picture yourself walking on nature’s trail with lush green rolling meadows on a valley by its side having a carpet of wildflowers blooming over them against the backdrop of snow capped mountain ranges.
Surreal it sounds, isn’t it? Well, a place with just this exact description actually exists in India and it is one of its kind. We will discuss all the Valley of flowers trek in detail here.
About Valley of Flowers Trek
The Valley of flowers quite aptly called God’s own land by many, is quite actually hidden from the outside world and is kind of a paradise on earth.
This valley of flowers was discovered by the British explorer, botanist and mountaineer, Frank S. Smythe in 1931 while returning from one of his expeditions. It was only after his discovery that people came to know about this place.
In this book, “The Valley of flowers” he vividly describes the sights of the valley and details about it. In 1939, the British Botanical Association for further study of the valley sent one of their botanists, Margaret Legge but due to an unfortunate accident, she lost her life during her journey.
Post this, her sister came and erected a memorial in the spot she had died. Professor Chandra Prakash Kala, a botanist with the Wildlife Institute of India, later on, picked up from where the other researchers had left and made a long list of nearly 520 alpine plants that grew in this region.
In 1980, it was established as a National park and renamed as Nanda Devi Biosphere reserve in 1982. Grazing and habitations were also banned from this area eventually. In 2004, it was declared as a UNESCO MAB reserve. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
This high altitude valley was formed by retreating glaciers, forming a U shaped valley. It is located within the transition zone between the Zanskar and Great Himalayas ranges and also between the eastern and western Himalayas, giving it is a rather unique alpine vegetation.
The Valley of flowers is spread over an expanse of 87.50 km2 and is about 8 km long and 2 km wide. The Pushwati river flows through this valley. A number of streams are also present on the way. The presence of high altitude forests has helped in retaining the needed moisture for such flowers and other plants to thrive even in such harsh climatic conditions.
Some of the rarest flora and fauna can be found here which have adapted themselves over the years to the climatic and geographical conditions. Wildflowers are found blooming in this valley.
A research has shown that there are nearly 420 species of flowering plants and almost 500 species of other plants in this Valley of flowers trek. It also houses a lot of medicinal plants. A number of animals like the Snow leopard, Asiatic black bear, musk deer and other birds have also made it their home.
The Valley of flowers remains frozen from November to May but when the ice thaws, the various flowers start blooming creating a riot of colours.
Flowers like Anemone, Geranium, Aster, Lilium, Poppies and many others bloom during this time. The trek starts from Govindghat and one has to trek nearly 14 kilometres to reach Ghagharia from where the Valley is just 3 kilometres. The Valley of Flowers trek is one of the most memorable and unique experiences ever.
The Valley of flowers trek is one of the most scenic treks in the country. From crossing streams and rivers to witnessing a valley full of colourful flowers set amidst rugged snowcapped mountains, it offers a huge variety of sights and experiences together. Here is the full itinerary for this memorable trek journey-
Day 1: Rishikesh-Joshimath-Govindghat
The trek to the Valley of flowers starts from Govindghat which is located just nearby to Joshimath. Govindghat can be reached from Haridwar or Rishikesh which are nearest railheads.
This place falls on the way to Badrinath, another important pilgrimage spot and the highway passes through some dangerous gorges and has the river Alokananda by its side.
One has to start early in the morning from Haridwar/ Rishikesh and the drive to Govindghat takes around 9-11 hours surely. Since it is a very long road journey, we will rest here at a hotel for the night and gear up for tomorrow’s trek
Day 2: Govindghat-Pulna-Ghangharia
The distance of Govindghat to Ghangharia, another base point is around 14 kilometers and had to totally trek but recently a motor able road of 4 kilometers from Govindghat to Pulna has been constructed, thereby decreasing the distance to nearly 9 kilometers now.
Cabs and jeeps are available for covering this distance of 4 kilometers. The next 9 kilometers can be accessed only by foot and has a well defined trail. A lot of small shops are there in this way and therefore there is no necessity to carry extra food.
This entire trail from Pulna to Ghangharia has the river by the side of it. You can walk at your own pace without much difficulty as it is a steady ascent. At midway, you can cross the river and go to the other bank. After 5-6 hours of trek, you will reach a tabular land, which signifies you have almost reached Ghangharia.
Ghangharia can also be reached by helicopter as there is a helipad for those who do not want to trek. Ghangharia has lots of options in accommodation. The best place to rest for the day is the Gurudwara here which offers free accommodation for all. We will stay here for the night.
Day 3: Ghangaria-Valley of Flowers-Ghangaria
The trek from Ghangaria to Valley of flowers is around 3 kilometres one way. We will start our trek early today. There is a counter at the beginning to buy tickets to the Valley.
A number of small bridges have to be crossed on the way and after some walking, the valley appears. It is myriad of colours everywhere, just miles and miles of flowers against the backdrop of large snow-capped mountains.
Surely a heaven on earth this place is. The glacier is visible at a distance from where the various streams in the valley originate. Dip your leg in the icy cold waters of any of the streams and all your tiredness will immediately vanish.
There is no food or stalls available up there and therefore it is advisable to carry food with you up there. We will come back the same day to Ghangaria again as camping or stay here post-sunset is not allowed. We will stay tonight at Ghangharia
Day 4: Ghangaria-Hemkund Sahab-Ghangaria
Another must-visit destination on this trail is the Hemkund Sahib, an important pilgrimage centre for Sikhs. The trek to Hemkund Sahib from Ghangharia and back nearly takes 9-10 hours. The distance that has to be covered is 6 kilometres one way.
It is situated at a very high altitude and the path does have a steep climb. It is advisable to walk at a stretch and take very fewer breaks, so as to save time. The Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara looks absolutely divine with a frozen lake behind its compound that remains frozen for almost 6 months every year.
The waters are crystal clear and almost undisturbed. Rare flowers like Bramhakumari bloom here in the vicinity. The langar here serves really delicious food. After having lunch here, we will start our journey back to the Ghangharia camp sometime in early afternoon. It will take nearly 4-5 hours for the entire descent
Day 5: Ghangaria-Pulna-Govindghat
It is the final day of the trek. We will start our trek back to Pulna early in the morning.
The descent will take lesser time than the ascent. So in some 4 hours, we will reach Pulna, from where Govindghat is easily accessible by a cab. We will check into a hotel for the night here.
Day 6: Govindghat-Rishikesh
We will check out from our hotel in Govindghat and head towards Haridwar or Rishikesh. Cabs can be booked for the same purpose. From Haridwar, you can proceed towards your journey back home as it connected to all major cities.
Location and How to Reach
The valley of flowers is situated in the state of Uttarakhand. Govindghat, the starting point of the Valley of flowers trek and can be reached from Haridwar/ Rishikesh by road. Buses or cars are available from Haridwar/Rishikesh to Govindghat.
This is the same highway that leads to Badrinath, an important pilgrimage centre and has a lot of dangerous mountain cuts and gorges on the way. The river Alokananda flows by its side.
The distance from Rishikesh to Govindghat is nearly 300 kilometres. It can also be reached from Joshimath. The nearest railhead is Rishikesh while the nearest airport is at Dehradun.
After crossing the Alokananda river at Govindghat, the trail with the Bhuyandar Ganga river by its side has to be covered for 14 kilometres while eventually leads to Ghangharia. Out of this 14 kilometres, 4 kilometres to Pulna can be reached by car and the rest needs to trek on foot.
The distance from Ghangharia to Valley of Flowers is 3 kilometres one way where the breathtaking views of the Valley await.
For people who do not like trekking, helicopter services are available from Govindghat to Ghangharia, the latter has a helipad. Elderly people can take pony rides or palanquins to cover the distance. However, the best experience can only be felt by travelling on foot.
Things to Carry
It is a medium to hard difficulty trek and surely tests endurance. Thus it is advisable to carry a good amount of water and dry fruits during the ascent. The valley is at a very high altitude and there has low levels of oxygen and low temperatures.
Make sure you carry sufficient amount of warm and comfortable clothes. Camphor also helps in breathing at such high altitudes. Some basic trekking gear like sleeping bags and walking stick is also required.
Along with this gloves, goggles and a good pair of trekking shoes is a must on this path. Frostbites and shoe bites can be avoided by wearing the right footwear and right socks. The right type of socks also helps in blood circulation that is really helpful on an enduring trek like this.
Also, do not forget to carry your camera to capture the beautiful sights and landscapes on the trek. This trek happens during monsoon and hence it is a must to carry umbrella and raincoats.
Your identification cards, passport photo, medical fitness certificate and voluntary declaration advocating your participation in this trek are compulsory. These are required for the various permits and permissions required on the way.
Carry a basic first aid kit with basic medicines like antiseptics, anti-pyretic and analgesics. Since this, a long enduring trek, do carry crepe bandages and pain reliever creams also. If you are having any ailments, make sure you carry your prescription and the prescribed drugs. Carry your mobile power backups as you will trek the whole day.
The Valley of flowers trek is not necessarily an arduous or extremely difficult one. The level of difficulty is medium to hard and is surely endurance testing.
However, people who love adventure and are up for new thrills and challenges will surely love this experience. Sights on the trek are absolutely stunning. It has a well defined and wide walking trail and is not a risky one.
However, it does test your endurance and patience at times but at the same time fills you up with adrenaline rush and vigour. Some of the portions have the steep gradient.
If you are leading a rather sedentary life, then make sure you workout or make yourself physically fit a month prior to this in order to do this trek. Making yourself mentally prepared for this will also help. Many elderly people also do this trek, which can surely be motivation enough to do the trek.
The path from Ghangharia to Hemkund Sahib is a very steep one and does test your endurance in a big way. Since this trek happens in the monsoon time, the paths are a bit muddy or slippery, a walking stick or support really comes handy in such a scenario.
Elderly people or people who have problems with walking can take pony rides or palanquin rides to the valley as they are available on the way. Helicopter service till Ghangharia is also available. The valley is present at a very high altitude and there might be low levels of oxygen.
Some people might experience difficulties with that, so they should come prepared. Also the temperatures high up there might be very low, proper woollen clothes and gear should be carried.
ATM and Connectivity
There are no ATMs nearby and also on the trekking route. The nearest ATM is at Badrinath and Joshimath. It is more advisable to withdraw money from Joshimath as it is a bigger town and has a number of ATMs.
Make sure you withdraw sufficient amount of cash for the entire journey and carry it with you as none of the shops or hotels in Govindghat or Ghangharia accept debit or credit cards for transactions.
None of the cell phone networks also work up there properly, however, you might get limited network for BSNL and Airtel at Ghangharia. There is no connectivity beyond this point whatsoever. If you want to charge your cell phones on the way, a number of shops can help you with that.
Permissions/ Passes/ Permits
The Valley of Flowers trek does require a number of permits and permissions during the entire trek. There are entry fees at certain checkpoints.
Permits for the Valley of flowers need to be taken at a certain price from the entrance gate of the park. For Indians, the fees are Rs.150 while for foreigners it is Rs.600 and it is valid for 3 days. If you want to film or photo any documentary here, you will have to take permission for the same and that would come at a large cost.
Identification cards such as driving license or voter ID along with a passport size photo, a medical certificate advocating your physical fitness for the trek and a disclaimer certificate ensuring your submission to voluntarily participate in this trek are compulsory and would be required while attaining the permit for the trek.
This place is situated in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and the required entry fees pass must be acquired at the Forest Department checkpoint.
The Forest Department checkpoint is located at Ghangari. Deposit the fees here to obtain the permit for the Valley of Flowers trek. Plan your trip accordingly as camping inside is not permitted and it is only open from 6 AM to 6 PM. 3 PM is the last entry to the park.
My Experience about the Valley Of Flowers Trek
I had visited the Valley of Flowers trek with a bunch of friends who are equally interested in trekking like me. We had started from Delhi and first reached Rishikesh by train. From here we booked a car to Govindghat.
The highway is absolutely spectacular offering spectacular views of the River Alokananda and the mountain ranges. The drive to Govindghat takes around 9-11 hours, so by the time we reached this place, it was already evening.
We stayed at a hotel for the night. Next morning we started our trek with much vigour and excitement. The whole distance from Govindghat to Ghangharia, another base point is 13 kilometres, out of which we could cover 4 kilometres to a place called Pulna by a shared cab.
It is from here that the whole trekking started. It was a well-defined path with the Bhuyandar Ganga flowing by the side. This is the same path which also leads to Hemkund Sahib, a Sikh pilgrimage site, hence, we could find a lot of trekkers and pilgrims on the way. The trek is mostly easy but is surely enduring. Having a walking stick helped.
The sight of the forests of oak, birch and rhododendrons, the river by the side and the backdrop of the mountains was motivation enough to move forward. After some 5- 6 hours of continuous walking, we reached Ghangharia late in the afternoon.
We planned to do the Valley of flowers trek tomorrow from here as we were very tired for the day. We checked into the Gurudwara here at Ghangharia that provides free accommodation. Ghangharia does have some limited mobile network connectivity, so we ensured that we make all our calls to our family members and friends from here.
Next day we started our day with some parathas and fresh chai or tea, providing us with the much-needed kick for the start of the much-awaited part of the trek. The distance of Valley of flowers from Ghangharia is only 3 kilometres. After crossing some bridges over the river and walking steadily up the ascent for some 2-3 hours, we finally reached the Valley of flowers which surely resembles a celestial playground. The flowers all of the different hues could be seen blooming on the rolling meadows of the valley.
Glacial streams here and there ran through this carpet of flowers. This whole scenery against the backdrop of snow capped mountains was totally breathtaking. We made it sure to take unlimited selfies and photographs here and preserve them as memories worth cherishing forever.
Camping is not allowed here and hence we descended soon after and reached Ghangharia late in the afternoon. We stayed here for the night.
Next day we visited the Hemkund Sahib which is again 3 kilometres from Ghangharia. The trek here does have a very steep ascent and tests your patience. However, the sight of the Gurudwara and clear waters of the Hemkund Sahib lake soothes the eye.
We had lunch here at the langar which prepares really delicious food. The descent from here to Ghangharia takes around 4-5 hours. We stayed at Ghangharia for the night. Next day, we started early.
It was our last day for the trek and we reached Govindghat in 5 hours as descending takes comparatively less time. We stayed at a hotel here for the night. Next morning we hired a cab and headed for Haridwar, from where we were supposed to take our train back home. It was surely one of the most memorable trips for me.
Which is the Best Season/Seasons to Visit Valey Of Flowers trek?
The Valley of Flowers remains frozen from November to May and it is only in June that the ice melts and the glacial streams help in rejuvenating the land giving rise to the beautiful flowers that bloom all over. The best time to visit this valley is between July and August.
It is the rainy season, more flowering happens. The weather remains conducive for trekking from June to September every year.
The last week of May sees less flowering as snow is still in the process of getting melted and the climatic conditions still remain severe.
Only in June, things become better. The maximum temperatures during these months are around 19 degrees. There are dense fog and rain especially during the last leg of monsoon months.
Winter months should be totally avoided as the entire region is frozen and there is little or vegetation that remains exposed. The flowering happens during this time of the year.
What will be the Total Expense?
The whole trip is not so expensive if we exclude your air or train fares. A cab from Haridwar/ Rishikesh to Govindghat should cost you something around Rs.7000 for the whole car( Prices might change as per the times and petrol/diesel prices).
If you go in a group, food and every other expense will be shared, thereby reducing the cost. Try carrying bottles of water and food with you because as you go up the trek, the shops charge everything 2 or 3 times the MRP like most tourist or trekking places.
If you plan to hire a guide or porter, you will have to bargain and settle at a decent price. The accommodation options in Ghangharia come to decent prices ranging from Rs. 800-1200. The Gurudwara here provides free accommodation.
The ticket prices to the Valley of Flowers is Rs. 150 for Indians and Rs. 600 for foreigners. The whole trip approximately should cost anyone between Rs.8000 to 10000 ideally but again can differ from person to person based on the needs.
How to prepare for this Trek?
This is a trek that will test anyone’s patience and endurance. If you are a person who is not physically fit and mostly leads a sedentary life, then it is advisable to indulge in some form of physical activity like exercises or sports to make yourself fit for the trek.
Legs and calve muscles need to be worked upon especially as they are used the most. swimming and cycling will also help.
People who are not very comfortable with treks at such high altitudes can do some form of yoga as it helps in building mental and physical confidence. Carrying basic first aid kit with yourself during the trip is also compulsory.
Consult your doctor before coming to this trek and ensure that you are medically fit to go for this trek as the trek does have some difficult terrains and climatic conditions.
It is also a must to buy raincoats and umbrellas prior to the trip as the trek happens in the monsoons season. Also, make sure you have sufficient warm garments for the trip and buy them.
Do research well everything on the internet or ask friends who have come here to get a proper understanding and information about the place.
Ensure you have raincoats and umbrella as it rains a lot during the July- August month. Make sure you have a walking stick to help you walk on the slippery terrain after the rains.
Carry water and dry food material with you. Stock your luggage with extra clothing and warm garments. Carry basic medicines and a first aid kit during the entire journey.
If you have some serious ailment, it is advisable to get yourself checked by a doctor prior to the trip. Buy the right pair of trekking shoes and socks for the journey, as to as have a comfortable trekking experience.
Best things to do on a Valley of Flowers Trek
The Valley of flowers trek does have a huge amount of sights to witness and things to do. Other than the Valley of flowers that provide breathtaking views having flowers of various shades of hue amidst the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, it has a few more sights to offer.
The Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara, which also falls on this trail, is a very holy pilgrimage centre for the Sikhs and a lot of people visit it every year. It is believed that Guru Govind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs had meditated here for some years. There is a lake beside this gurudwara which remains frozen for most of the times of the year.
Ghangharia is another important stopover in this trek and is the place where the Valley of Flowers is just 3 kilometres. Ghangharia has a gurudwara and a number of shops. This place receives heavy snowfall in winters.
The Valley of flowers is situated in the Nanda Devi Biosphere region which means there is lots of flora and fauna that can be found in this region. Animals like an Asiatic black bear, musk deer, snow leopard, various birds and others can be found here. The forests have trees like birch, pine and oak as well as rhododendrons.
Govindghat, the point from where the trek starts is the point where the rivers Lakshman Ganga and Alokananda meet. The Lakshman Ganga which is also called Bhuyandar Ganga originates from the Hemkund Sahib Lake. The Bhuyandar Ganga can be seen throughout the trek till Ghangharia. Another river Pushpawati meets the Bhuyandar Ganga at Ghangharia.
Joshimath is just 22 kilometres from Govindghat, from where other pilgrimage and trekking routes can be reached. Badrinath and Mana are popular destinations that can be visited along this route. The Valley of flowers is the best place to be amidst nature, introspect, meditate and cut off yourself totally from the humdrum of daily life.
Necessary Trekking Equipment
The trek is not a very difficult one but does require you to carry basic trekking gear. Proper trekking shoes are compulsory for this trek with a thick sole.
If they are waterproof, that will be even better. A walking stick or support is also necessary for the entire trail as the path can be slippery due to the monsoons. Also, carry a sufficient amount of water and dry fruits for the entire trek.
Since this trek primarily happens in the monsoon season, therefore, make sure you have proper raincoat and umbrella. Carry basic medicines and first aid kit for the entire trek duration. A good backpack is also required that can accommodate a lot of things.
Do not make it heavy as it might cause difficulty while trekking. Also make sure you carry a torch, sunglasses and proper woollen garments for the trek. Sunscreen lotions or creams are also necessary as the UV rays might cause damage to the skin.
Where Can I Rent the Trekking Equipments
This trek does not require you to have advanced trekking equipment but basic trekking equipment like having good trekking shoes, a walking stick and a good backpack is a must.
Good trekking shoes can be purchased from any good footwear store. Walking stick or support can be rented from any shop on the way. Good backpacks and trekking gear can be purchased or rented online.
Websites like tiptoes, www.10kya.com, trekking, Wildcraft and many more provide a huge range of options in adventure and trekking gear to choose, buy or rent from online.
A lot of agencies who conduct these trekking expeditions here also rent out some of the things.
How good is Valley of Flowers Trek for a solo travel plan
The Valley of Flowers trek can be very easily done as a solo trek as the path is well defined and the trail is not too steep or risky. There are a lot of trekkers and pilgrims who you will find in large number on the way. Travelling solo will have a certain range of pros and cons.
The pros would be you will be able to walk at your own pace and plan your own schedule. For expenses also, you can plan as per your own convenience. However, the cons would be that if there is some problem on the way, having a group really helps. It is always fun to be with a group as you can talk and go on the way.
Cost wise also, going as a group does help in reducing some cost as the whole budget gets divided among the members. However, if you are planning a solo trip here, it will not be an issue much here and you will love the whole experience as a solo traveller.
There are a lot of dhabas and shops on the way for food and the Gurudwara offers free accommodation. There are a lot of small hotels also for budget solo backpackers. You will eventually meet a lot of new people of the way.
Is Guide Required for the Trek?
Though this trek is a moderate one and a well-defined trail, it is advisable to hire a guide if you want to know more about the place.
A guide generally is aware of all the flora and fauna about the place. He can also tell you about the local stories and the history of the place. If you are going without a guide, you will not come across any such information. Sometimes guides can also help you with shortcuts in such trekking trips.
The Valley of Flowers trek is once in a lifetime experience. The sights and views it offers are one of its kind and cannot be found anywhere else. It surely resembles the abode of the Gods.
The peace, serenity and beauty of the place stay in the minds of people once they visit it, they really capture their hearts. It is a riot of colours out there with so many flowers on the valley and the backdrop of snow capped mountains, provides a spectacular view.
It is one of the most unique trekking experiences ever and hence highly recommended. It will not only soothe your mind with its sight but also would also satiate your soul.
The Valley of Flowers trek is one of the beautiful treks, for a reason.
Trekking on Valley of Flowers will leave an everlasting impression on your mind and soul.
The Valley of Flowers Trek is an experience that will touch your soul and will give you memories for life.
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