Duration: 6 days.
Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate.
Starting/ Ending Point: Haridwar.
Set at an altitude of about 3,600 metres inside North Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts of Uttarakhand, the Valley of Flowers National Park inside the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is one of the most visited places in the country, owing to its rich natural biodiversity. It has a rare collection of endemic alpine flowers and all different kinds of wildflowers, which include primulas, calendulas, daisies, anemones, orchids and so on. It is also home to some rare and endangered animals like the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, musk deer, brown bear, red fox, and blue sheep. Representative of the Western Himalayan Alpine shrub and meadows ecoregion, the Valley of Flowers National Park is no less than a heaven on earth for mountaineers, botanists and wildlife enthusiasts. The sight of the valleys filled with blooming wildflowers along with the snow-laden mountains in the backdrop makes the Valley of Flowers trek one of the most desirable and sought after treks in the country.
The trek begins and ends at Haridwar, which is at a distance of about 291 km from the national park. One can typically traverse the trek in about 6 days. The trek will lead one through numerous mountain valleys and meadows, a number of waterfalls, streams and glaciers, and hills covered with pine and oak forests. The picturesque valleys with the mountains along the skyline make this trek a paradise for photographers as well. One can even trek to Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib Ji (commonly known as Hemkund Sahib) at an altitude of about 4,160 metres, which is one of the most revered Sikh shrines in Uttarakhand.
A moderate trek in terms of difficulty owing to the narrow and steep terrains, this trek is still suitable for amateur trekkers. The initial ascent is comparatively gradual with short trekking hours, and the latter part of the climb becomes a little longer and difficult as the ascents become steeper as one approaches the park. The trek becomes a little trickier during the monsoons, as the roads become a bit slippery.
Despite being more challenging during the monsoons, the Valley of Flowers trek is widely visited during the monsoons as the valleys are completely filled with blooming wildflowers especially during this time of the year. The park remains open for tourists from June to October, but it has the most number of visitors during the monsoon months of July to September. The valleys are completely covered in snow during the winters and become completely inaccessible.
One can also visit other nearby places, which include Gorson Bugyal (a beautiful valley at an altitude of about 3,056 metres), Malawi (a small village near the Indo-Tibetan border), Pandukeshwar (a shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu, at an altitude of about 1,829 metres), Niti valley, Joshimath, Govindghat and many more. Apart from witnessing the breathtaking views of the mountains, valleys and the rich flora and fauna of the region, one also gets to closely experience the age-old tradition and rich cultural diversity of the Garhwal villages, and it is definitely a once in a lifetime experience for trekkers and mountaineers.
One of the most beautiful and sought after treks in the state of Uttarakhand, the Valley of Flowers trek is definitely a bucket list trip for every nature lover. The spectacular views of the valleys and the serenity of the mountains is what inspires trekkers and mountaineers to traverse the difficult terrains, and what one gets in return is truly one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences.
Before one sets out on the Valley of Flowers trek, here are a few key points one should remember:
· Inquire and gather enough information about the weather, as the climate in the mountains is always unpredictable.
· Beginner trekkers are advised to take professional aid and guidance, as professional guides are experienced and aware about the roads and the climate and all possible challenges one could face.
· Being a protected area, the park has no facilities for night stay. One has to trek to the park and return to the nearby villages of either Ghangaria or Govindghat for accommodation at night.