It’s very unfair that one of most beautiful treks in India has such a tiny window in the whole year for prime blooming season. But maybe this is what makes the Valley of Flowers so special.
The Valley of Flowers is located within the Nanda Devi National Park in the Garhwal Himalayas, at a height of about 11,980 feet. It covers about 80 sq kms, and is filled with waterfalls, glaciers, towering mountains, and of course, flowers. In peak season, there are almost 300 species of flowers that bloom here, including fragrant roses and wild strawberries. Every day, dozens of new species blossom, turning the floor of the valley a different colour every day. Besides this, the Valley of Flowers is also home to animals such as the snow leopard and the endangered Asiatic black bear, amongst others.
The climate in the Valley of Flowers is what makes it so special. The valley is snowbound for at least six months of the year, but by late June, the snow begins to melt. The frozen ground thaws, and when the monsoon begins in July, the ground receives heavy rainfall. This, combined with the low-hanging clouds, causes the flowers to burst forth in successive stages, covering the valley and the slopes around it in a riot of gorgeous colours.
Rich in biodiversity, this high altitude Himalayan valley attracts botanists, nature-lovers, and trekkers by the horde. Thanks to the Valley of Flowers being declared a national park in 1980, the influx of day trekkers is limited. Every trekker needs a permit to enter (your operator will arrange these for you) and nobody is allowed to camp inside the park. This allows nature to take over without being disturbed.
Best season to visit Valley of Flowers
If you’re coming to see the flowers, you should plan to visit it from mid-July to mid-August. This is peak time, and you’re sure to have a gorgeous trek. However, trekking in the Valley of Flowers is beautiful all year round, and there are different attractions. If you go in late May or June, you’ll see the glaciers that fill the valley, creating great opportunities for photography. Botanists will advise you to go shortly after peak season, in August and September, when the valley quiets down. This is when the rare Brahmakamal flower blooms. Trekking in the Valley of Flowers during this time takes you through a lush green paradise dotted with flowers too.
Trekking in the Valley of Flowers
The Valley of Flowers trek is a fairly easy trek, except for a few steep inclines. The trail to Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara, if your itinerary covers it, can be quite a climb too. You should definitely consider combining the trek to the Valley of Flowers with a visit to Hemkund Sahib, a gurudwara and pilgrimage spot that lies alongside a glacial lake. At the gurudwara, you’ll see pilgrims (many of them senior citizens) taking dips in the freezing water of the holy lake. Some itineraries add a visit to the famous temple of Badrinath as well, on the way back.
The Valley of Flowers Trek Route
Your trek to the Valley of Flowers begins from Govindghat, and you’ll trek from here to Ghangaria, which is about 7-8 hours one way. After this, you’ll be staying at the same hotel for the next two nights, so you can leave your bags in your room and just carry a day pack. From Ghangaria, the route splits into two: one trail leading off to the Valley of Flowers, and one towards Hemkund Sahib. The next morning, you’ll set off, entering the Valley of Flowers almost immediately. It’s about 3 hours (one-way) to the main sections of the Valley of Flowers, and it’s a wonderful trek with plenty to see. You’ll have time to explore the valley, and then head back for the night.
The next day, depending on your itinerary, you’ll go back into the Valley of Flowers, or you’ll set off towards Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara. This is also a 3 hour trek one-way. You’ll return to Ghangaria for the night. Most people trek back to Govindghat the next day.
Variations to trekking in the Valley of Flowers
There are a wide range of options for the Valley of Flowers trek. Depending on the price, you can be picked up from Haridwar or you can arrive at Govindghat on your own. Some packages include a stay at Auli or Joshimath, which are a 45 minute drive away from the entry of the Valley of Flowers. If you’re not up for trekking, take a helicopter instead! In the last few years, there are helicopter rides that cover the 8 hour trek from Govindghat to Ghangaria (in just 15-20 minutes), but you’ll still have to trek into the Valley of Flowers from here.
It is advisable to book a trek through a reputed operator. This operator will arrange your permits, as well as accommodation in the small town of Ghangaria, right outside the park. There are plenty of viewpoints and hidden beauties to be discovered while you’re trekking in the Valley of Flowers, and a guide will help you make the best of your time here.
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