I am always fascinated by the mighty mountains and especially find the Himalayas to be mystical. Then one day while chatting up with my trek mates, we suddenly decided to travel to the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand. I had heard so much about it and was thrilled to trek in the fabled garden of gods.
Also Read : Top 5 Enchanting Flower Valleys Of India
Valley of Flowers is an alpine valley in the Nandadevi National Park in Uttarakhand. The park is a part of Nandadevi Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The richly diverse valley is home to rare and exquisite flowers. At least 500 studied varieties of wild flowers bloom here.
The Biosphere itself is a home to many elusive and endangered animal species including snow leopard, musk deer, red fox, and blue sheep. The valley is approximately an 8 km long and 2 km wide glacial corridor that is stretched over a span of 87.5 square Km. It's altitude gently rising to 10500-12000 ft.
Valley of Flower is one of the best monsoon treks in India. The valley lays snow-covered for 7-8 months as winter sets in the Garhwal Himalayas. As the snow starts melting in March, the seeds burried under it start germinating. Come monsoon and the valley gets a makeover of a fairyland with innumerable wild flowers dotting along its slopes.
Though the monsoon showers may cause a bit of discomfort while trekking but the mesmerizing vistas of this fairyland surely makes up for it. The valley comes to full bloom in the months of July and August. Given the short lifespan of flowers, the valley slopes change colours every few days. We had visited the valley in the month of August.
As decided we flew to Delhi from our respective cities. From Delhi, we booked a cab to Haridwar. It took us about 6 hours to reach Haridwar. As soon as we dumped our luggage and freshened up, we ventured out to explore the place. We took a shared auto to Rishikesh which is about 20 km from Haridwar.
We went to see the famous Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula. These iron suspension bridges over the Ganges offer a beautiful view of the holy river. We wandered around the ghats visiting temples and soon it was time for the grand Ganga aarti at the Triveni ghat. After the ceremony, we devoured yummy parathas and lassi and headed back to our hotel in Haridwar.
The next morning we woke up early and got our breakfast and lunch packed for the journey. At around 4 AM we started from Haridwar to Joshimath. The journey was scenic with roads curving at deep gorges along the Alkananda river on Badrinath highway. As we proceeded on the mountain roads, the temperature started to drop slowly. It took us approximately 10 hours with two pit stops to cover the 280 km.
Also Read : A Travel Guide To Joshimath
Joshimath is a city in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand which is about 20 km away from the base town for the Valley of Flowers trek. Many private and government lodges are available for accommodation in Joshimath. We checked into our booked accommodation and went around exploring the town and its temples before retiring for the day.
We woke up to see a beauteous sunrise over the Garhwal Himalayan ranges. After grabbing a quick bite we started for Govindghat. In about an hour, we reached Govindghat and our trek leader told us from this point onwards our phones won't catch signals. We made quick calls to our respective homes, letting the families know that we'd be unreachable for the next two days.
Located on the banks of river Alkanada, Govindghat is the last point that has a motorable road. From this point onwards one has to walk. We visited the Gurudwara, refilled our water bottles and started the 16 km walk to Ghangaria. I always pack light and therefore carry my own bag, but those who want to hire mules or porters, Govindghat is the place.
The hike to Ghangaria is well-marked and it's a pretty straightforward walk. You will meet many trekkers and Sikh devotees walking along the way as Ghangaria is also a halt point for Hemkund Sahib - a Sikh place of pilgrimage. Ghangaria is the last place which has accommodation and therefore all those who are trekking to Valley of flowers or Hemkunt Sahib stay here.
The walk was moderately challenging but extremely scenic. The trail went through ascends and descends as we crossed the hills and gushing streams. It drizzled for a while and we put on our rain jackets. There's a helipad around 1 km from Ghangaria which serves as a landmark. It took about 7-8 hours for us to reach Ghangaria.
It was drizzling sporadically. The temperature had suddenly dropped as we reached Ghangaria and the place was freezing cold. We wore layers of clothes and jackets to stay warm. After draining hot tea and munching some snacks, we sat by the fireplace our hotel had. Soon after we had dinner, our tired bodies crashed in the cozy beds.
Day 4: Valley Of Flowers
Three days since our adventure had begun and we were tired from the previous day's trek. But the weather had cleared up and our guide told us it's a perfect day to trek to the valley. At 6 AM we geared up with daypacks and packed lunch and started trekking. Despite it being a clear day, we carried raincoats too as we had learned that the weather in mountains could be unpredictable.
After walking for about a kilometer from our hotel, we reached the entrance of the National Park. The path forks here and the trail on the right goes to Hemkund Sahib, where we saw many young and old Sikh devotees hiking. We bought the entry tickets and entered the Park. Few meters into the valley and we came across a roaring stream that had a rickety wooden bridge on it.
Also Read : Shepherd Trail Gaddi Trek
In no time we were deeper into the valley and surrounded by numerous wildflowers vibrantly swaying in the alpine valley. The valley was bustling with red, pink, yellow, blue and lavender colored flowers. Some of them had strong fragrances. Our guide warned us to not touch or smell any flowers as it could prove dangerous.
Our guide educated us about some known/ studied flowers and berries. We were amazed to learn about some rare and medicinal flowers and herbs. Some flowers that grow here are daisies, poppies, primulas, marigold, orchids, but the exquisite Blue Poppy or Himalayan Queen steals the show.
We reached near the memorial of Joan Legge - a botanist who had lost her life in the valley. We rested at a nearby stream. Though the 8 km long walk inside the valley was easy with hardly any ascends or descends, dipping our feet in the icy cold stream was refreshing and we felt instantly energized. We ate our lunch and headed back to Ghangaria a little late afternoon.
On day five we ate our breakfast and checked out of the hotel. We hadn't stopped talking about the wondrous valley since the previous day's trek to the fairyland. Our hotel had a satellite phone so I made a quick call to my mom and told her how amazing the trek was and that I'll fill her up the details later.
We trekked back to Govindghat. Compared to the day of climbing up, this day of climbing down was easier and we reached the base by afternoon. We visited the Gurudwara at Govindghat and ate at the lungar - meal provided by the Gurudwara, before starting back to Haridwar.
I would take a train from Haridwar the following day and would soon be back to the routine life by the day after that, but my heart and mind would still linger in the enchanting valley of flowers - where the fairies reside.