Trek To The Valley Of Flowers In Uttarakhand

The Himalayan valley is a magical place where a million wildflowers bloom, changing the landscape into a riot of colours
The Bhyundar Valley was later named as the Valley of Flowers
The Bhyundar Valley was later named as the Valley of FlowersDinesh Valke/ Wikimedia Commons

In 1931, mountaineer Frank S Smythe and his colleagues, including the legendary mountaineer Eric Shipton, chanced upon a valley on their way from a successful expedition to climb Kamet, and were mesmerised by the carpet of colours. It was impossible to take a step without crushing a flower. The Bhyundar Valley was the most beautiful valley that any of us had seen.

We remembered it later as the Valley of Flowers. In 1937, Smythe returned to the valley to climb, explore and collect flowers and seeds. His reminiscences were published as The Valley of Flowers. The name stuck. Till 1982, the Bhyundar Valley was home to people who populated its hills, rivers and forests with stories about deities and fairies, and used its meadows as summer grazing grounds for animals.

Then, it was declared a national park, out of bounds for locals, who now had to run guesthouses and dhabas. Today, it is part of the larger Nanda Devi National Park, and is also a Unesco World Heritage Site. The notified area of 87.5 sq kms lies above 10,500 feet and is under snow from November to April. The valley has a range of altitudes, and vegetation, and just 19 sq kms is the kind of fecund meadow land that tourists have access to.

The tourists have access to only 19 sq kms of fecund meadow land
The tourists have access to only 19 sq kms of fecund meadow land

Reaching The Valley

Something called by as intriguing and romantic a name as the Valley of Flowers shouldn't be found conveniently off the highway. So, even after a long trip from Delhi to Joshimath, you have to hike up from a point called Govindghat. It's a breathtakingly beautiful trek, with immense mountains, snowy backdrops, a gushing river and incredible greenery as you cross the Alaknanda, meet its tributary the Bhyunder, and walk along it. After 56 hours, you reach the settlement of Ghangharia, which is the overnight halt for the valley.

Tip: The trek from Govindghat to Ghangharia (13 kms) is moderately tough. You may experience high-altitude sickness. You can hire porters (who charge around INR 500 per day) and mules (INR 750 per day) at Govindghat, and they are also available en route.

Next morning, wake up early because you may have to return any time around 2 pm to 3 pm if it starts raining. You should take a guide because even after hours of walking, you still may not find the meadow of flowers you are looking for. You have to tiptoe over a small glacier, reach the Bamini Dhar, where the tree line ends and the valley becomes a bugyal (a high-altitude grassland meadow in Garhwal).

Hundreds of wild flowers bloom in the valley
Hundreds of wild flowers bloom in the valley

Nature's Bounty

The Valley of Flowers bursts upon you as an absolutely radiant canvas. Flowers plummet down from rocks, proliferate over every inch of space and devouring every morsel of soil. In May, large parts of the valley are full of blue primulas.

In June, it is the purple-red of geraniums that dominate, but gives way to herds of lanky, fragrant polygonums in September. Monsoon time is when maximum flowers bloom. The valley is home to a bewildering variety of plants --- in a few square kilometres, there are a hundred plant species to be seen. At the far end of the valley is where the Pushpawati spreads out into many streams.

Tip: Don't expect big garden variety flowers. Wildflowers are smaller, to be seen as part of a living ecosystem. Raincoats are a must. Guides at Ghangaria charge INR 500 a day

Entry: Indians INR 150
Foreigners: INR 600
Permits are valid for three days.

Timings: 7 am to 3 pm

Photography Free; Videography: Indians: INR 500; Foreigners: INR1,500.

The park is open only in summers between June and October
The park is open only in summers between June and OctoberRaghuram A/ Wikimedia Commons

Where to Stay And Eat

Camping is not allowed in the valley. The summer settlement of Ghangharia (or Govind Dham) is the base for excursions here. Camps are set up just before Ghangaria.

Himalayan Eco Lodges (Dehradun landline: 0135-2769696-97, phone: 07895979208/ 211; Tariff: INR 5,650, double occupancy (breakfast and dinner); Cottage tent: INR 4,600 (double occupancy, breakfast and dinner) is the best option here. Other good ones are Ghangaria Camp Resort (Phone: 09412936360, 07579208060, 08449812304; Tariff: INR 6,500 with meals) and Camp Sarovar Ganga (Phone: 093593-33338, 094581 53317; Tariff: INR 6,400 with meals). All offer luxury tents with attached bath.

Kuber Hotel (Phone: 08958397949; Tariff: INR 6,000, breakfast included) and Hotel Sri Nanda Lokpal Palace (Phone: 09412909307, 9412054570; Tariff: INR 3,250 without meals) are decent choices. The food available is vegetarian and plain. The restaurants also pack you food for carrying into the valley. There are dhabas on the way from Govindghat to Ghangharia.

There are many trekking agencies which organise treks to the valley and to Hemkund. You could do the trek with Great Indian Outdoors (, which offers the trek at INR 9,900 per person. If you're an experienced trekker, you can retrace Frank Smythe's steps (in the opposite direction) by traversing the length of the Bhyundar Valley and crossing the 5,100m Bhyundar Khal (pass) at the head of the valley as well as the Rataban glaciers to the Dhauli Ganga Valley. GIO (Phone: 7895979207, 7895979211) offers this trek for INR 27,500 per person.

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