The stunning landscape of The Valley of Flowers National Park in northern India's state of Uttarakhand, bordered by Nepal and Tibet, comes alive with the monsoon rain.
This high-altitude Himalayan valley has around 300 different varieties of alpine flowers, which appear as a bright carpet of color against a mountainous snow capped background. It's spread over 87.5 square kilometers (55 miles) and was declared a national park in 1982. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main Valley of Flowers is a glacial corridor, around five kilometers (3.1 miles) long and two kilometers (1.2 miles) wide.
The trekking route to the Valley of Flowers was badly damaged by floods in 2013. The Valley reopened for the entire season in 2015.
The Valley of Flowers National Park is located in Chamoli Garhwal, close to Nanda Devi National Park. It’s about 595 kilometers (370 miles) from Delhi, and has an altitude that varies from 10,500 feet to 21,900 feet above sea level.
The nearest airport is in Dehradun, 295 kilometers (183 miles) away. The nearest railway station is in Rishikesh, 276 kilometers (170 miles) away.
How to Get There
Some effort is required to reach the Valley of Flowers. The trek begins at Pulna village near Govind Ghat. To get to the starting point, you'll need to travel approximately 10 hours by road to Joshimath from Dehradun, Haridwar or Rishikesh. This is followed by another hour by road from Joshimath. The route is on the way to Badrinath temple and this article has more information about transport options.
From Pulna village you'll need to trek to the base camp at Ghangaria. Following the 2013 flood, the path has been rerouted at many places and the total distance has increased from about 13 kilometers (8 miles) to 16 kilometers. However, the new road from Govind Ghat to Pulna village will knock about an hour off your trek time. Depending on your fitness level and how fast you trek, you can expect it to take six to eight hours. Do note that there's a checkpoint near the start of the trek and you won't be allowed to cross it after 2 p.m. So, get going as early as possible!
The beginning of the main valley, where all the flowers are, is a further 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from Ghangaria. The trek has become steeper since the flood, as part of the path has been rebuilt. Inside the valley, you'll need to trek for a further 5-10 kilometers to see all the flowers.
How Difficult is the Trek?
The first stretch, from Govind Ghat to Ghangaria, is fairly easy to moderately difficult. It becomes more strenuous after that. However, you'll feel on top of the world in this magical and enchanting place. Exotic flowers and foliage can be found all along the route from Ghangria to the main valley.
Those who are concerned about their fitness level can hire a porter at Govind Ghat to carry their luggage to Ghangaria or ride mule (or even go by helicopter if the weather is fine).
When to Visit
The Valley of Flowers is only open from the beginning of June until the beginning of October, as it's covered in snow the rest of the year. The best time to visit is from mid July to mid August, when the flowers are in full bloom after the first monsoon rain.
If visit before July, you’ll find hardly any flowers at all. However, you will be able to see snow and melting glaciers. After mid August, the color of the Valley changes quite dramatically from greenish to yellowish, and the flowers slowly die. In September, the weather becomes clearer with less rain but the flowers start drying up.
In regards to the weather, temperatures get quite cold at night and in the early morning.
To prevent trekkers and livestock from taking too much of a toll on the park, access to The Valley of Flowers is restricted to daylight hours (from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and camping is prohibited. The last entry to the park is at 2 p.m. You’ll need to go from, and return to, Ghangaria on the same day.
Entry Fees and Charges
The entry fee is 650 rupees for foreigners and 150 rupees for Indians for a 3-day pass. Each additional day is 250 rupees for foreigners and 50 rupees for Indians. There’s a Forest Department checkpoint less than a kilometer from Ghangaria, which marks the official beginning of The Valley of Flowers. This is where you pay the money and obtain your permit. (Make sure you carry appropriate ID).
Expect to pay 1,000 rupees upwards per person for a porter or a mule (depending on demand), for the trek to Ghangaria. Cheap plastic raincoats are also available for purchase at Govind Ghat. A guide will cost about 2,000 rupees. Travel by helicopter one way from Govind Ghat to Ghangaria (or the opposite direction) costs about 3,500 rupees per person.
Where to Stay
The government-run Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) guesthouses are reliable budget options for accommodations in the area, and advance bookings are possible.
You can spend the night at Joshimath or Govind Ghat before starting the trek to Ghangaria. The accommodations are more plentiful and of a higher standard in Joshimath through. One of the best places to stay there is Himalayan Abode Homestay, as the host is an experienced mountaineer and owns an adventure travel company. Nanda Inn homestay is recommended as well.
There are Sikh gurudwaras (shrines) at Govind Ghat and Ghangaria that provide safe and clean accommodations, and free food. If all the private rooms are occupied at the Ghangaria gurudwara, you can sleep in the hall.
At Ghangaria you’ll find a range of accommodations from cheap guesthouses to luxury tents, priced anywhere between 200 rupees to 1,500 rupees per night. However, comforts are minimal, and the electricity and water supply are erratic. The Sri Nanda Lokpal Palace is the best place to stay there.
What to Pack
Make sure you bring plenty of clothes in case you get rained on (which is likely). Other useful things pack include a raincoat, flashlight, headlamp, sunscreen, cap, water bottles, first aid kit, toiletries, small towel, and plastic bags to protect your electronic items from getting wet. Ideally, wear waterproof hiking shoes, backpack and day pack.
This website has a comprehensive list of what to pack for the trek.
Allow three days to complete the trek -- one day from Govind Ghat to Ghangaria, one day for the Valley of Flowers, and one day for the return trek.
Govind Ghat and Ghangaria get quite crowded from July to September with Sikh pilgrims on their way to Hem Kund (a Sikh shrine with the highest altitude in India), so it’s a good idea to book accommodations in advance.
If you have an extra day, you can also visit Hem Kund. It has a picturesque mountain setting with an alpine lake. The trek is steeper than that to the Valley of Flowers through. Expect it to take 3-5 hours from Ghangaria. The altitude of Hem Kund is 14,100 feet above sea level, so it will be cold there.
There are restaurants serving basic Indian food along the route up to Ghangaria. You'll also find shops on the way from Ghangaria to Hem Kund, and free food at the shrine. However, you'll need to carry your own food from Ghangaria to the Valley of Flowers as none is available.
Note that there are very few toilets along the trekking route and none in the valley. Expect to relieve yourself in nature.
Most people will find that their cellular network coverage disappears after Govind Ghat.
Tours to the Valley of Flowers and Side Trips
Blue Poppy Holidays has more than 10 years experience in trekking to The Valley of Flowers, and the owner is passionate about the area and nature. The company runs regular premium fixed departure tours every year from Haridwar and their website is full of helpful information. The tours are priced higher than other companies but they allow two days at the Valley of Flowers instead of one -- and are the only company that does this. In addition, they have their own premium tented camp at Ghangaria and cottages at Auli to accommodate guests.
Other reputable local tour companies include Nandadevi Trek n Tours and Himalayan Snow Runner. Popular adventure company Thrillophilia also offers trips. Make sure you check out the details of what each provides in comparison to the cost.
Government operated tours run for seven days from Rishikesh (see Tour 12). The tours are well-organized and fun but have basic accommodations. The holy Hindu town of Badrinath is only 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) from Joshimath and can easily be visited on a day trip from there, and as a stop on the tour. The town features a colorful temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It's one of the Char Dham (four temples) popular with Hindu pilgrims.
New Treks Near the Valley of Flowers National Park
In order to attract more tourists after the park's closure, the Forest Department is adding a number of new trekking routes around the Valley of Flowers National Park. These are:
- a 15 kilometer trek from Kunthkhal (in the Valley of Flowers) to Hanuman Chatti, which has been opened to tourists again after 45 years.
- a 21 kilometer trek to Dibrugheta from Lata Village.
- a 13 kilometer trek in the rocky mountains of Dronagiri.
- a trek through Chenab Valley, at a height of 3,200 to 4,000 meters above sea level.