Trekking to Valley of Flowers is one of the best place to cover in Uttrakhand. After an arduous 13-hour drive from Haridwar, we are welcomed by a persistent loud sound as we stumble into our hotel in Govindghat at dusk. Dawn reveals the furious tumbling down of the beautiful Alakananda River, joined by the smaller Lakshman Ganga.
Steep, conical black mountains are sentinel standing. Govindghat is the starting point for the popular trek to Valley Of Flowers in Uttarakhand. The first leg is 14 kilometers from Govindghat to Ghangaria.
The first four of this, up to Pulna, are motorized. Jeeps are available near the suspension bridge, but the excitement of real-blue trekking is always there, which is what we’ve done. You can also ride a mule or use the newly opened helicopter service that takes 10 minutes to cover the distance.
Pulna is permeated by the stench of pony dung, something you learn to forget as you plod deeper into the trek. A walking stick is a main accessory for trekkers and can be found at all Govindghat shops. Upon passing Bhyundar with its few eateries, we are fortunate enough to have the beautiful sight of a glacier coming down a distant mountain. Ghangaria (also known as Govind Dham) is a single-alley town at a height of 10,000 feet. The site is dominated by a Sikh administration that meets the needs of pilgrims traveling to Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara.
In 1931, mountaineers Frank S Smythe, Eric Shipton and RL Holdsworth accidentally discovered Valley of Flowers at 12,000 feet, returning after an expedition to Mount Kamet.
Smythe came back later, and in 1938 he published The Valley of Flowers. In 1939, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, commissioned Joan Margaret Legge to scientifically catalog the flowers here.
Sadly, she died while picking roses, slipping down a cliff. Her older sister came later to finish her job. It is thought that the valley has about 520 plant species, of which 498 are flowering plants. In 2005, the Flowers Valley was designated a World Heritage Site Trekking to Valley of Flowers is one of the toughest trek.
Four kilometres away from Ghangaria to the Trekking to Valley of Flowers. The first is a pleasant walk, crossing a gurgling stream under the pine trees. Here there is a Forest Office where one has to pay entrance fees (INR 150 for Indians / INR 600 for foreigners).
Beyond the river Pushpavati crashing down the rocky side of the mountain and the bridge spanning the stream, the track becomes narrower and rougher.
In their’ basket-chairs,’ eager porters are waiting, ready to haul anyone who cannot make the climb on their own. For the most part, this section of the trail is wooded and panoramic. The final kilometre slopes gently into the broad valley flanked by the Pushpavati river on one side. Here flowers are blooming in a rush by mid-August. The tomb of Legge stands deeper in the valley, in a serene and imposing atmosphere.
Trekking to Valley of Flowers
The Eco Development Committee (EDC) Bhyundar, an NGO, works from Govindghat to Flowers Valley and Hemkund Sahib on solid waste management. They collect tons of plastic waste from the trek path every season (June-October) and send it to be processed. EDC is screening a 20-minute documentary on Flowers Valley at the Ghangaria Nature Care Centre. Through buying books, caps and souvenirs from them, one can help EDC. While the trek to Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara, dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh, is a spiritual journey for most people, trekking enthusiasts are faced with a serious physical challenge.
The gurudwara’s distinctive star-shaped architecture blends with the glacial lake, surrounded by mountains that are now painted. Inside the gurudwara, melodious kirtans are continually rendered, and it is easy to spend an hour in the cosy sanctum, where blankets are carefully provided for visitor comfort.
- Govindghat’s closest airport is 300 km from Dehradun. Haridwar (290 km) is the closest railhead. Busses from Govindghat to Haridwar / Rishikesh. It is also possible to hire cabs.
- Some medium-budget hotels in Govindghat are open.
- The temple of Badrinath is 25 km from Govindghat.
- For this walk, physical fitness is important. Before Hemkund Sahib, it’s easier to do Valley of Flowers, as the former lies at a lower altitude. Carry prescription medicines to help with nausea.
- It is a must for raincoats. Carry a small amount of baggage.
- The Flowers Valley National Park generally closes on October 10 for visitors.