In nature’s soothing retreat, I find my cozy comfort,
Urging my fancy, with force impelling me into an effort!
I hear voices! The sounds of rustling leaves and swaying pines rejoicing amidst the whistling breeze cutting through the thick alpine. This time around the breeze arising from the Valley of Flowers National Park in Uttarakhand called out to me. The divine mountain land located in Shivalik Range of the Himalayas has been beckoning ever since I set foot in Chamoli almost a year ago.
Image Courtesy: Debraj Das
The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves listed site is nestled in the vast alpine of Western Himalayas. It lies coated under layers of snow for the better part of a year and opens up for nature enthusiasts only in summer & monsoon. It’s the time when hundreds of indigenous flower species bloom and turns the entire region in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve into a divine spectacle. Moreover, the treacherous trails leading to the valley make it one of the most obscure places to reach in the Himalayas.
Valley of Flowers National Park is special for the rich biodiversity that it houses. As you are traveling to the valley by road you can be assured of unparalleled nature views. The trio of Ghangaria, Valley of Flowers, and Hemkund is studded with infinite streams shooting out of the mountains. Hundreds of flora species, including those with medicinal advantages, can be spotted in the valley.
About Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Trek
Getting to the numbers, Valley of Flowers is located at an altitude of 3650 meters above sea level. The road to the valley is quite interesting, with most of it concealed under thick forest. The trek begins from Pulna – almost 5 km from Govindghat. Govindghat to Pulna can be easily covered in a jeep at a nominal charge of INR 50 per person. It is here that luggage is unloaded from the vehicle and handed over to the trekkers.
Ponies and porters can be seen frequenting the trail in large numbers. They’re there to help trekkers with the luggage. Remember, it’s a 14 km trek from Pulna to Ghangaria which ascends to a maximum altitude of 3050 meters.
The 7-hour trek is endowed with exceptional views. Spare some time and marvel at them, the views are precious.
Ghangaria acts as the base camp for Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek. While Valley of Flowers is a 7 km trek from Ghangaria, Hemkund Sahib is a steep 7 km trek.
At 4633 meters, Hemkund Sahib is the highest Sikh pilgrimage in the world. It is here that the holy Hemkund is fed by the glacier emerging from the remote mountains in the Himalayan region.
Detailed information about the Valley of Flowers
To reach the Valley of Flowers one has to traverse the entire set of 5 Prayags – the confluence of holy rivers that are deemed pious by the Hindus. These rivers fall en route the Valley and look at their glorious best.
Image Courtesy: Debraj Das
It starts with Dev Prayag – where Bhagirathi meets Alakhnanda (Tehri Garhwal), continues to Rudraprayag – Mandakini meets Alakhnanda (Rudraprayag), further heads to Karnaprayag – Pinder Ganga meets Alakhnanda (Chamoli), Nandprayag – Nandakini meets Alakhnanda (Chamoli), and finally to Vishnuprayag – Dhauli Ganga meets Alaknanda (Chamoli).
The majestic views of colossal mountains guarding the road on either side would humble you and leave you enchanted. My head hung out of our tempo traveler throughout the journey and I tried to contain the best of views that nature had to offer. In the mean time my lungs were busy absorbing the scent of the pines.
Best time to visit Valley of Flowers National Park
Image Courtesy: Debraj Das
Monsoon is the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers when you can spot plenty of the renowned flora species of the national park region blomming in its full blory. Therefore, plan a trip to the Valley between July and September. Ideally, the valley is opened for travelers from early June to the beginning of October.
How to reach Valley of Flowers
By air: Nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, from where it takes around 11-12 hours to reach Joshimath and then further to Govind Ghat
By road: Delhi to Haridwar is a 5 hour journey. Buses ply frequently from ISBT Kashmiri Gate. Haridwar to Joshimath is an 11-hour journey. This part is tricky because if you are looking to catch a state roadways bus you can avail its services only till 7:30 am. For the rest of the day taxis are available on reserved/sharing basis. A reserved taxi from Haridwar to Joshimath would cost you INR 3-4k.
Please note that helicopter services are also available from Ghangaria to Govindghat & Badrinath. The facilities can be availed after reching Govind Ghat!
Ideal duration for Valley of Flowers Trek: 6 days (including Hemkund Sahib trek)
Approximate budget required: INR 15000 approximately (from Delhi)
Image Courtesy: Debraj Das
Circuit: Haridwar – Auli – Govindghat – Pulna – Ghangaria – Hemkund Sahib – Ghangaria – Valley of Flowers – Ghangaria – Pulna – Govindghat – Auli – Haridwar
Day 0: Arrival at Haridwar
With ecstatic mind and restless soul, I boarded the UPSRTC Volvo bus from Kashmiri Gate. After a 6 hour journey, the bus dropped me at Haridwar Railway Station on the morning of July 29th. It was still 4 am and I was left with no other option but to book a hotel till morning. This hotel was located 50 meters from the Haridwar Railway Station. At 9 am I reached the station entrance where our tempo traveler, bearing the sticker of GIO, was awaiting us.
In a span of 1 hour, all of us assembled at the pick-up point and got introduced to each other. Our group comprised of 10 super passionate people. In no time we changed from 10 individuals to a small trekking family that stuck together till the next 6 days later.
Image Courtesy: Debraj Das
We started at 10 am from Haridwar and after taking comfortable breaks; enjoying our lunch & tea, booing scary roads, and soaking immense vistas we finally reached Auli at 7 pm. We were welcomed with tea, soup, and pakode. Soon we were allocated our rooms. And we called it a day.
A special word of thanks to team GIO who ensured that we stayed in the most scenic resorts in Auli. Our stay was perfectly entwined amidst the Himalayan peaks, apple orchards, and vast marijuana plantation. I’d deem it as one of the best stays ever!
Day 1: Trek to Ghangaria
Post breakfast we left for Govindghat. The overcast conditions made the outdoors even more intruguing. I could feel the bite in the air. Moving past the scary mountain roads, and a couple of confluences we entered the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Govindghat is a 30-minute drive from here. After getting our individual pass, we headed to Pulna in a shared jeep.
Before midday, we assembled at Pulna all geared up for the big trek. After 8 hours of absorbing trek, we finally reached Ghangaria – the base camp for Valley of Flowers & Hemkund trek. Upon arrival, we were served with steaming hot soup and were allotted rooms.
Pulna – Ghangaria:
Distance traveled: 14 km trek
Time taken: 8 hours
Day 2: Hemkund Trek
Day 2 was all about twists and turns. Excitement and adventures awaited us! Oh, did I mention that by the time we reached Ghangaria it started raining quite a lot? The forecast didn’t look good for the next day. We woke up to a gloomy weather and it was pouring all around.
As we gathered at the origin of the trek, we were informed that fearing the chances of a landslide, the forest department had restricted any entry to the valley.
Durgaji (our trek leader), also a seasoned mountaineer, decided that we must do the Hemkund first. The 12-km-trek turned out to be harder than we anticipated. Hemkund, perched atop the mountains near Hemkund Glacier, is a 6 km uphill trek.
Towards the end of the trek, there is a steep flight of almost 1500 stairs. This one is somewhat vertical but reduces the trek by almost 400 meters. I took the stairs and returned by the normal route.
At the Gurudwara entrance gate, I could easily hear the holy chants playing on loudspeakers. And I was stupefied by the spirit of Sardars staying there on mountains atop at 4600 meters in such extreme conditions.
The Gurudwara lies nestled in the glacial mountains with scenic sights all around. Fog and clouds engulfed us and we could barely see anything. But, from whatever we saw, the views totally occupied us. We got lucky to observe the last round of ‘Ardaas’, which takes place at 1:30 pm. It also happens to be the last prayer of the day.
After eating prasad we headed over to the Langar where we were helped with piping hot khichadi and tea. The weather was freezing outside, and despite wearing a poncho (raincoat) I was soaked top to toe. It was at the Gurudwara that we decided to change our clothes and recommence our trek back to Ghangaria.
If you thought that we toiling really hard and just trekked, then you are mistaken. We had loads of fun together capturing magnificent views around, munching on the candies, stopping at the random shops for Maggi and tea! I took us almost 5 hours to reach the summit, and a little more than 3 hours to trek back to the hotel.
Upon our arrival at the hotel, we were served a delicious meal. It was the time when I figured out that I had caught cold and fever. In no time I popped a few paracetamol tablets.
My body had already started showing the symptoms of fever by the time I entered the hotel. An eventful day came to an end. For now, the only thing on our minds was, are we trekking to the Valley of Flower tomorrow? This was an important question because there were no signs of the rainfall coming to a halt. The body was tired but the spirit soared high. A good sleep won’t take time to come!
Distance traveled:13 trek
Time taken: 8 hours
Day 3: Valley of Flowers Trek
The sun shone brighter than ever and we rejoiced. Finally, we were headed to the Valley of our dreams! The 7 km trek took almost 4 hours to complete and the first look of the valley was absolutely mystic.
After having a lunch inside the valley we headed to Joan Margaret Legge grave – the British botanist who came to India to study the plant species found in the valley but accidentally fell from the mountains and died in the valley.
Somewhere in the valley!
Guides shared the details on the history of the valley with us and educated us about the plants and herbs found in the valley. By 5:30 pm we were back to Ghangaria and it had already started raining by then!
The majestic rock juttinng into the valley. This landscape left me spellbound. Our first halt in the Valley of Flowers!
Distance traveled: 12 km
Time taken: 7 hours
Day 4: Back to Auli
Turns out that it was a blessing in disguise. We went on a village excursion in Auli and happened to witness the most beautiful evening of my life. What a mesmerizing experience it was!
A rare sight of Himalayan Ibex having a day out in the mountains. The guys are gifted with exceptional ability to walk on the mountain slopes that are as good as vertical
Ghangaria – Govindghat – Auli – 14 km + 3 km trek – 10 hours
Day 5: To Haridwar
On the final day, we were dropped back to the Haridwar Railway Station. Thus concluding an extraordinary 5-day trek in the Himalayas.
My learnings from Valley of Flowers Trek
- Keep an eye on the weather of the valley. It changes in no time.
- If you are a regular trekker who loves trekking round the year it’s better to keep waterproof shoes handy. Shaggy shoes aren’t comfortable to walk. I’ve experienced it, and it’s a terrible feeling.
- Keep fewer clothes (without compromising on the utility ones) and more of utility stuff. It helps in a long trek as this one.
- Don’t crib if you aren’t carrying a DSLR. I relied heavily on my iPhone 7 and the decision paid off. I took some amazing photographs from my phone.
- I overlooked carrying trekking pole and raincoat. Had it not been for GIO, my life would be in danger without these two essentials. Guys, when you are traveling to the valley DO NOT forget to pack these two items in your backpack.
- Don’t crib about the stays if end up getting a modest hotel with not too many views from your room. Walk outside, the nature awaits you.
What did I pack for the Valley of Flowers Trek
i) Full sleeves tees with collar
ii) Full sleeves thick jacket
iii) Thermal innerwear
iv) Comfortable tee-shirts, tracks or trousers
v) Windproof jacket
vi) Woolen head-scarf/muffler & Mittens
vii) Light towel
viii) Raincoat or Poncho
SHOES & SOCKS
i) Proper trekking shoes
ii) Sports socks – at least 4 pairs
SKIN CARE ESSENTIALS
i) Sunglasses with 100% UV protection, preferably curved ones
ii) Lip balm
Crocin, Avil, Combiflam, Disprin, Crepe bandage, Band-aid, Digene, Gauze cloth, Leukoplast, Cotton, ORS, Betadine or any antiseptic cream, Volini or Moov spray
i) Water bottle
ii) Hot water bottle/bag
iii) Trekking pole/ walking stick
iv) LED Torch/ headlamps are preferable
v) Spare plastic bags/newspaper
The valley of flowers trek can be perfectly done in a 5-day span! Which can also include a trip to badrinath if luck is on your side! Don’t miss this heaven of bliss & tranquility. You can just drop a comment below if you want to know more about the trek.
How close one can reach to the Valley of Flowers by Vehicle?
The closest you can reach to the Valley of Flowers is Pulna. 5 km from Govindghat.
Is helicopter services available to the Valley of Flower and Hemkund?
Yes, you can reach Ghangaria by helicopter and then take a mule to reach Hemkund Sahib. Mule services are not available for Valley of Flowers but you can hire porters.
Which is the nearest airport to Valley of Flowers?
Jollygrant Ariport is the nearest you can get to the Valley of Flowers by air.
Are trekking essentials and equipments available at the Valley of Flowers base camp in Ghangaria?
Yes, you can find all the trek essentials at Ghangaria. During the peak season everything is available.
What are the stay options at Ghangaria?
There are plenty of stay options available in Ghangaria. One can book from a number of hotels and guest houese in Ghangaria. Also, there are GMVN camps and resorts available for the travelers. You can also pitch your tent in the campgrounds near Ghangaria after speaking with the locals. However, staying inside Valley of Flowers is not permitted. The forest officials sitting at the check point mark every single entry and exit from the valley.