The Valley of Flowers is famous for its beautiful meadows of alpine flowers. It is the habitat to a diverse range of common flora such as buttercups, yellow and blue poppies, edelweiss and monkshood. It is also home to some endangered species such as the Asiatic black deer, snow leopard, musk deer, red fox and blue sheep.
High in the Himalayas of the Garhwal region in Uttarakhand sprawls this 87 sq km enchanting valley at an altitude of 3,658 metres above sea level. Located 300 km north of Rishikesh near Badrinath is a core zone of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Unspoilt by pollution and land sharks, it has eye-catching spectacles such as cascading waterfalls, small streams and colourful flowery meadows making it the perfect treat for trekkers.
Bursting with vibrant colours, this park has the largest collection of wild flower species. The park’s beauty is enhanced by the Pushpawati River flowing in the vicinity overlooked by towering Rataban peak in the background.
Declared as a National Park in 1982, the valley is a World Heritage site as well. The display of nature attracts nature-lovers, photographers and botanists every year. It is in full bloom in July, August and September and is covered with a thick blanket of snow during the winter season.
In 1931, three British mountaineers lost their way and discovered this valley and named it Valley of Flowers. In 1939, Botanist Joan Margaret Legge deputed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London arrived here to study the flowers. She lost her life when she slipped from the rocky terrain. There is a memorial near the spot.
Legend claims it to be the place from where Hanuman had collected Sanjeevani booti to cure Lakshman. This place has floral pastures, running streams and beautiful backdrop of the mountains.
From Haridwar, it takes a minimum of 3 days to reach Valley of Flowers. En route is Joshimath which is 235 km from Haridwar with a driving time of 11 hours. Joshimath is the winter seat of Lord Badri whose idol is brought down from Badrinath annually. Overlooking Joshimath are the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers meeting at the confluence of Vishnuprayag.
From Joshimath, the 22 km drive to Govind Ghat takes one hour. The trek to Ghangaria starts from here. The 14 km trek along the Lakshman Ganga River is difficult but enjoyable. From base camp Ghangria, the Valley of Flowers is a 3 km climb. One has to go in the morning and come back by the evening. Ghangaria has lodges and hotels for accommodation. One cannot stay at the Valley of Flowers. Therefore, Ghangaria remains an ideal place to stay.
Ghangaria to Hemkund is a steep 5 km trek. Hemkund, at an altitude of 4,329 metres, is a lake surrounded by snow peaks. Here is Hemkund Sahib, the gurdwara and a Lakshman temple on the lake banks.
Valley of Flowers opens on 1 June every year and closes on 4 October. Entry to the valley is at 7 a.m. and the last entry is allowed till 2 p.m. Departure from the valley is by 5 p.m.