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, and the nearest railway station is in Rishikesh, 276 kilometers (170 miles) away.
The closest you can get to The Valley of Flowers by road is Govind Ghat. This requires a 10 hour drive to Joshimath from Dehradun, then another one hour to Govind Ghat. From Govind Ghat, you'll need to trek to 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. Trekking time is now approximately eight to 10 hours. Alternatively, it's possible to hire a mule, or go by helicopter if the weather is fine.
The start 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.
When to Visit
The Valley of Flowers is only open from the beginning of June until the end 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 you go before July, you’ll find hardly any flowers at all. However, you will be able to see melting glaciers. After mid August, the color of the Valley changes quite dramatically from greenish to yellowish, and the flowers slowly die.
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 600 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 check point 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).
It costs around 700 rupees to hire a porter or a mule (depending on demand) at Govind Ghat, for the trek to Ghangaria. Cheap plastic raincoats are also available for purchase. A guide will cost approximately 1,500 rupees. Travel by helicopter one way from Govind Ghat to Ghangaria (or the opposite direction) costs 3,500 rupees per person.
Where to Stay
It’s best to stay overnight in Joshimath before continuing to Ghangaria. The government-run Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) guesthouses are the reliable options for accommodations in the area, and advance bookings are possible.
There are plenty of other options to choose from though. One of the best is Himalayan Abode Homestay, as the host is an experienced mountaineer and owns an adventure travel company. Nanda Inn homestay is recommended as well. You can also check out current Joshimath hotel deals on Tripadvisor.
At Ghangaria you’ll find both basic hotels and camping facilities. However, comforts are minimal, and the electricity and water supply are erratic. The Sri Nanda Lokpal Palace is the best place to stay there. Alternatively, the more adventurous can camp as close to the entry of the park as permitted near Ghangaria.
The Valley of Flowers requires a strenuous hike but 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. Make sure you pack plenty of clothes in case you get rained on (which is likely), and carry some food with you for the hike. Govind Ghat and Ghangaria get quite crowded from July to September with Sikh pilgrims on their way to Hem Kund, so it’s a good idea to book accommodations in advance. Hiring a porter at Govind Ghat to carry you luggage to Ghangaria is also recommended to make the trek easier. Also, note that there are no toilets anywhere in the valley or along the trekking route. Expect to relieve yourself in nature.
This website has a comprehensive list of what to pack for the trek.
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. They run many premium fixed departure tours every year and their website is full of helpful information. The tours are priced higher than other companies (and not everyone is satisfied with the service. You can read about some issues in this review). However, they allow two days at the Valley of Flowers instead of one.
Other local tour companies that are recommended include Nandadevi Trek n Tours, Adventure Trekking, 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 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 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 3,200-4,000 meters above sea level.