Valley Of Flowers Trek
Valley Of Flowers trek was discovered by Frank Smythe and his team of mountain explorers. In 1931, Frank S. Smythe was one of the six British mountaineers who climbed Kamet Peak. On his return to the plains, he crossed the Bhyundar Pass, standing at 5,086m, “with the intention of exploring the mountainous region at the sources of the two principal tributaries of the Ganges, the Alaknanda and Gangotri rivers.” The next day, Smythe descended to “lush meadows . . . embordered amidst flowers. The Bhyundar Valley was the most beautiful valley that any of us had ever seen. We camped in it for two days and we remembered it afterwards as the Valley of Flowers” (The Valley of Flowers, Frank S. Smythe, Hodder and Stoughton, 1947).
The first flower that Smythe noticed in some profusion was the primula, coloured “a blue so intense it seemed to light the hillside . . . At the most it stood six inches high, but its flowers were enormous for its stature, amd ample in number – sometimes as many as thirty to the beautifully proportioned umbel.” His camp, he recalled was surrounded by flowers – white anemones, golden nomocharis (which resemble lilies), marigolds, globe flowers, delphiniums, violets, eritrichiums, blue coridalis, wild roses and rhododendrons. Higher up, near the moraine, were saxifrage, yellow and red potentilla, geranium, asters and gentians, so many that “it was impossible to take a step without crushing a flower.”(Frank S. Smythe)
The valley had long held a place in local legend, and was called Nandan Kanan – the garden of Lord Indra. But Smythe’s name stuck, and the Valley of Flowers it is. Though the Himalayas are home to countless alpine meadows, called bugyals in Uttarakhand and thatch in Himachal, the Bhyundar Valley has come to occupy the popular imagination as the place to see alpine blossoms in the Himalayas. If you stand at the foot of the valley, grassy meadows run down to the cleft of the stream, which, even in August, is still fringed by ice. On both sides, green slopes turn to dark rock as they vault into deep blue skies. Rising gently, the valley ends as a notch on the horizon, crested by the snows of the Rataban (6,166m) and Nilgiri (6,474m) peaks. And underfoot, the flowers that give the valley its name.
Mercifully, you don’t have to climb Kamet Peak to get to the valley – the next time Smythe visited the region, it was via Joshimath, which is today a major army station, and on Badrinath route.
Suggested trek itinerary for Valley Of Flowers trek starting from Govindghat, the closest road head to Valley of Flowers. Ideally, this trek should be done in 5 days i.e 4 nights 5 days from Govindghat. TrailHikers recommends that you should stay a day at Govindghat on arrival to acclimatize and a day on return to rest so the trek requires a week to undertake.
Distance: 13 km Time: 4-5 hrs Level: Moderate
Govindghat (1,828m) is a humongous parking lot, catering to the thousands of Sikh pilgrims threading up to the Hemkund Lake (locally known as Lokpal). The pilgrim traffic, and those catering to it, completely dominate the landscape and the walk is unending ribbon of stalls, providing tea, refreshments, full-fledged meals, phone calls and, as you climb higher, even massages ! Leave your transport on the right bank of the Alaknanda. The ascent begins as soon as you cross, and join the cheerful groups heading up to Ghangaria – now also known as Govind Dham. Tracing the path of Laxman Ganga, the mule track climbs past the terraced fields and vegetation, to the hamlet of Pulna (3km). From here, the trail is a little wider, and more forested, with occasional glimpses of snow peaks, and of the cascading waters that feed the Alaknanda. The 7 km from Pulna to Bhyundar Village are a steady ascent and, mercifully, the altitude is moderate, so your lungs should have no problem coping.
Shortly after Bhyundar, the trail crosses the Laxman Ganga, over a bridge elevated by giant boulders. The going is somewhat harder now, but Ghangaria is only 3 km away. During the short season ( Jul-Sep ), Ghangaria (3,050m) can be enormously crowded. You can always find a place to shelter – including a Forest Rest House, gurudwara, and associated dharamshalas. But if you want some solitude, there is ample camping spots both before and after Ghangaria.
Distance: 8 km Time: 7-8 hrs Level: Easy
Leave Ghangaria with the stream of pilgrims heading to Hemkund. You need to veer left (north-west) as they climb east to the lake. The trail is well marked, and is a delightful ramble as it climbs gently through a coniferous forest, before dropping down to a bridge, shack and check-post that mark the official beginning of the Valley of Flowers ( Bhyundar Valley, 3,858m). Pay your entry / permit fee (Indians: Rs150, foreigners: Rs650 – for 3 days) here and climb up a rocky trail. The forest is now behind you, and the flowers begin to appear. As the trail levels out and turns right (east), you begin to get a sense of the valley. To the right, just below the trail, a marble slab marks the death of Margaret Legge, a botanist from Edinburgh who fell to her death here in 1939: “I will lift mine eyes unto the Hills from whence cometh my strength.”
The valley is exquisite and it seems a shame not be able to spend the night here – depending on the weather, snow bridges may still span the river below, and scrambling up-valley, crossing its numerous feeders, is a delight. In any case, do try and reach there early – both to catch the morning dew on the blossoms, as well as to make the most of the day.
Distance: 6 km Each way Time: 4 hrs each way
Crossing the bridge over the Hem Ganga once again, head east up the heavily trafficked path. It is a challenging ascent, but derive some strength from the perseverance of the thousands of pilgrims who make the climb uncomplainingly. And if you have done the Valley of Flowers the previous day, you will be better acclimatised than most others. If you nevertheless feel drained when you reach the glacial lake (4,329m), you could try joining the more abiding in faith, who swear by the restorative powers of a dip in its clear waters.
Distance: 13 km Time: 4-5 hrs Level: Moderate
Return the same way !
Getting There & Out
From Rudraprayag to Joshimath, it’s 114 km/4 hrs by car or 6 hrs by bus, on the Badrinath Road via Chamoli.
Joshimath to Govindghat is another 20 km/45 mins by taxi or 1 hr by bus on this route.
Return the same way from Govindghat. This narrow road from Joshimath to Govindghat is one-way only and traffic is governed by ‘gates’, time slots that regulate departure in each direction, so look for the earliest time which you can leave. Direct buses (13 hrs) to Haridwar between 4 and 7 am. Taxis take 11 hr
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can do this trek ?
Valley Of Flowers trek is an ideal trek for beginners who are looking for a trail on an easy to moderate gradient. Any physically active & healthy person can do this trek.
How to physically prepare for this trek ?
Valley Of Flowers trek involves hiking almost 8-10 km daily, so its better if you include jogging or walking in your daily routine at least a month before the trek.
Is this trek suitable for kids ?
Valley Of Flowers trek is recommended for persons aged 15+ years. The trek involves atleast 8-10 km of daily walking which can be very strenous for children below 15 years.
What is the best season to do this trek ?
The best season to do Valley Of Flowers trek is monsoon & autumn. It is a high altitude trek so its not recommended for extreme winter season when there is too much snow on the upper reaches.
What is the ideal duration for this trek ?
Valley Of Flowers trek can be done in 4 nights 5 days from village Govindghat. The trek itinerary also includes 1 night stay on arrival at Govindghat and 1 night stay on departure, so the trek requires almost a week if you are coming from Delhi NCR region.