Valley of Flowers National Park: The Complete Guide

Valley of Flowers

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Valley of Flowers National Park

Address
Uttarakhand 246443, India
Phone +91 135 255 9898

The stunning landscape of the Valley of Flowers National Park in India's northern state of Uttarakhand, bordered by Nepal and Tibet, comes alive with the monsoon rains. This high-altitude Himalayan valley contains approximately 300 different varieties of alpine flowers, which appear as a bright carpet of color against a mountainous snow-capped backdrop. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is spread over 87 square kilometers (55 miles) and is located about 595 kilometers (370 miles) from New Delhi. It borders Nanda Devi National Park and has an altitude that ranges from 10,500 feet to 21,900 feet above sea level. The main valley in this national park consists of a 5-kilometer (3-mile) glacial corridor known as a final destination for visitors embarking on the trek from Govindghat. Along this route, you can see cascading waterfalls, mountain streams, and rare wildlife.

Things to Do

The Valley of Flowers is only open for visitors from the beginning of June until the beginning of October, as it's covered in snow and inaccessible the rest of the year. The best time to visit is from mid-July to mid-August, when wildflowers like orchids, poppies, primulas, marigolds, daisies, and anemones blanket the landscape after the first monsoon rain. The only way to access this spectacle is on foot via a 7-kilometer (4-mile) round-trip trek from the village of Govindghat.

In addition to the famous trek, many other hikes and nature walks can be tackled in the park. Some can be accessed even during the off-season, as efforts have been made to extend visitation numbers to the region. Most hikes are somewhat strenuous, but you can hire a porter to act as both a guide and a helper to carry your load. Booking a homestay in the last inhabited village along the Valley of Flowers trek, Ghangaria, allows you to sleep and dine, refill your water bottles, and indulge in the rural lifestyle of this magical valley.

Wildlife photographers flock to this region of the globe, as it's one of the most special ecological biospheres on our planet. This park is home to rare and endangered species of animals, like the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, musk deer, brown bear, red fox, and blue sheep. Embarking on a nature hike, especially if you go with a guide, can offer some once-in-a-lifetime spottings, as well as a great opportunity to take photos.

A visit to this park is not complete without a stop-off at neighboring Nanda Devi National Park, as the mountain peak of Nanda Devi (at 7,816 meters, or 25,643 feet, above elevation) provides an unbelievable backdrop to the Valley of Flowers. Ride the ropeway (aerial tram) from the city of Joshimath to the hill station and ski resort of Auli, taking you by some of the highest mountaintops in the world.

Best Hikes & Trails

Most people visit the Valley of Flowers to complete the famed trek from Govindghat to Ghangaria and see the wildflowers in full bloom. More recently, several other trekking routes have been opened in and around the park, in an effort to attract tourists to the high mountain villages.

  • Valley of Flowers Trek: The 40-kilometer (25-mile) Valley of Flowers trek begins at Govindghat and ends at the remote village of Ghangaria. It starts out as an easy jaunt on a moderate grade, and then becomes more strenuous as you gain almost 6,000 feet in elevation. Exotic flowers and foliage can be found all along the route from Ghangria to the main valley. Visitors concerned about their fitness level can hire a porter at Govindghat to carry their pack, or ride a mule.
  • Kunth Khal Trek: Considered the original trekking route of the Valley of Flowers, this 15-kilometer (9-mile) route starts at Kunthkhal (in the Valley of Flowers) and ends at Hanuman Chatti. This advanced trekking route takes you by glaciers, gorges, waterfalls, and rivers, and should only be attempted by seasoned climbers. A fixed rope is required to navigate the last rock ledge on this trail.
  • Lata Village to Dibrugheta: This 21-kilometer (13-mile) trek takes you through terraced fields and open, grassy meadows full of rare wildflower species. Along this route, you may also spot musk deer in the summer.
  • Chenab Valley Trek: The 60-kilometer (37-mile) trek through the Chenab Valley is a memorable nine-day adventure. Walking through the Garhwal Range of the Himalayas and passing by Chenab Lake, at a height of 13,000 feet above sea level, this route navigates easy slopes suitable for beginners. Along the way, you'll encounter wildflowers, like primulas, orchids, poppies, marigolds, anemones, and daisies, before reaching your final destination of Dhar Kharak.

Valley of Flowers Tours

Many reputable tour companies offer guided multi-day visits to the Valley of Flowers National Park. Most tours include transportation from village to village, accommodations, and food. Blue Poppy Holidays runs premium fixed-departure tours that start at Haridwar. The tours are priced higher than other companies, but this company operates its own tented camp at Ghangaria and cottage stays at Auli to accommodate guests. Valley of Flowers Trekking Tours offers options for visitors who want to trek, camp, or take a helicopter tour of the Valley of Flowers National Park. And the popular adventure company Thrillophilia offers guided treks, complete with hotel stays, guides, cooks, helpers, and porters.

Where to Camp

Backcountry camping is not permitted anywhere inside the national park. Most people use homestay accommodations along their trek, though you can reserve a tent stay at Blue Poopy Holiday's tented camp in Ghangaria. Each tent offers a double bed, electricity, a flush toilet, and a sink, but no running water. Water needs to be hauled in by bucket. The on-site mess tent serves local, organic dishes, and the surrounding mountain scenery provides a stunning backdrop for your night in the mountains.

Where to Stay Nearby

Spend the night in a cottage or homestay in Joshimath or Govindghat, before starting the trek to Ghangaria. Homestays provide a family-style bed-and-breakfast feel, often similar to the comfort of a nice hotel. Accommodations are more plentiful and of a higher standard in Joshimath.

  • Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) Guest Houses: Government-run cottages are available in the villages of Ghangaria and Auli, offering a reliable budget option for visitors to the Valley of Flowers. Most cottages include air conditioning, on-site meals, and free Wi-Fi. Advance bookings are recommended.
  • Himalayan Abode: A stay at the Himalayan Adobe in Joshimath offers visitors the full Himalayan experience, complete with customs, tradition, and architecture. Here, you can stay in a well-furnished room with an attached kitchen, a bathroom, and an amazing mountain view. A restaurant is available on-site, and the host is an experienced mountaineer who can dial you in on the region.
  • Nanda Inn: The Nanda Inn Homestays in Joshimath and Auli offer clean rooms with attached baths with hot water, bountiful gardens, and balconies overlooking the mountains and forest. Choose from a mountain or jungle view room, a suite, or an Ashram-type room. Yoga and massage are available on-site, as well as vegetarian room service.

How to Get There

The nearest airport to the Valley of Flowers National Park is the Jolly Grant Airport located in Dehradun (183 miles away), with connecting flights arriving from New Delhi. From here, you can hire a taxi or rent a car and make the 11-hour journey to Joshimath. Most treks begin at Pulna village, near Govindghat, which is another hour up the road and the last accessible village by car.

Travel Tips

  • The villages of Govindghat and Ghangaria are quite crowded from July to September with Sikh pilgrims on their way to Hem Kund (a high-altitude Sikh shrine). Book accommodations in advance, if you choose to travel during this season.
  • Access to the Valley of Flowers is restricted to daylight hours (from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.), and the last entry into the park is at 2 p.m. Plan accordingly, as you’ll need to go from, and return to, Ghangaria on the same day.
  • There are very few toilets along the trekking route and none in the valley. Be prepared to relieve yourself in nature.
  • Restaurants serving basic Indian food can be found on the route 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.
  • Most cellular network coverage disappears after leaving Govindghat.
  • A forest department checkpoint is located less than a kilometer from Ghangaria, marking the official beginning of the Valley of Flowers. This is where you pay your entrance fee—which is more expensive for tourists than it is for Indian nationals—and obtain your permit. Make sure to carry appropriate identification.
  • Expect to pay upward of 1,000 rupees for a porter or a mule (depending on demand) to trek with you to Ghangaria. A guide will cost about 2,000 rupees. Travel by helicopter one way from Govindghat to Ghangaria costs about 3,500 rupees per person.
  • Make sure you bring plenty of clothes in case you get rained on (which is likely). Cheap plastic raincoats are available for purchase at Govindghat. Other useful items include a flashlight, headlamp, sunscreen, sunhat, water bottles, first-aid kit, toiletries, a small towel, and plastic bags to protect your electronics from the rain. Ideally, make sure your hiking shoes, backpack, and day pack are all waterproof.
  • If you visit before July, most flowers have yet to bloom, however, you can watch the snow recede and the melting glaciers. By mid-August, the color of the valley changes dramatically from green to yellow, and the flowers slowly die. In September, the weather becomes clear, with less rain, but the flowers dry up, as autumn makes its return.
  • The holy Hindu town of Badrinath is only 14 kilometers (almost 9 miles) from Joshimath and can easily be visited on a side trip. Here, you can see a colorful temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, a site included in the Hindu religion's Char Dham (four temples).
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Valley of Flowers National Park: The Complete Guide