Why Valley of Flowers is a trek full of colors

 The Valley of Flowers trek has a lot of tales around it. Stories are usually about travelers falling unconscious from the heavy scent of flowers on the valley floor. Whatever be the stories there is a grain of truth in them. It is rare to find a valley so full of flowers.  The flowers are everywhere in myriad of colours: purple, yellow and white. They envelope the valley floor like a carpet so much that there are times when you can’t see the valley at all.

Yet, to see the flowers you need to time the trek right. In July and August when the monsoon is active is the best time to do the trek. There would be a day or two of rains on the trek but the sight of the flowers make up for any discomfort.

Day 1 : Getting to the base camp(Govind Ghat) -1900m

A little beyond Joshimath at a piligrim hamlet called Govind Ghat, the trek to valley of flowers(VOF) and Hemkund starts. Leave Haridwar or Rishikesh early in the morning and travel along the  Alakananda the river on the Badrinath highway. The roads are  precariously cut on the mountains edges and  at times you only see the river flowing in the  gorge deep below. The journey from Rishikesh to Joshimath takes about 10  hours. Plan to stay at Joshimath for the night as the stay options are more. There is a GMVN and a couple of private lodges to choose from.

Take  a shared taxi to Govind Ghat ( 20 kms and 45 minutes away) which is the starting point of our trek to Valley of flowers and Hemkund. Govind Ghat is the starting point for the treks to Valley of flowers and Hemkund. The two treks have a common trail till Ghangria from where the trails branch. Deposit any extra luggage not required for the trek at the Gurudwara at Govind ghat.

Do not carry food with you as there are plenty of eateries on the way catering to the multitude on piligrims who tred this trail. As a trekker, there is no need to hire porters or mules on this trail but if you need one to carry your backpack, Govind ghat is also the place to hire a porter or mule.

Day 2 : Govind Ghat (1900m) to Ghangria (3000m) 

 7 hours, 13 kms gradual ascent

Walk past the numerous eateries and shops selling trinkets and cross the bridge over the Alakananda. The water below is sparkling blue and crystal clear. The trek trail starts immediately after the bridge.

The trail is a well laid out and is usually full of Sikh piligrims going either ways. You would not fail to notice the cleanliness of the trail inspite of being trodden by hundreds everyday. Thanks to the volunteers who sweep the trail everyday.

The 13 km trek from Govind Ghat to Ghangria goes all the way along the river. Stop by any of the roadside dabhas for a drink or a bite to eat. The trail is alternately sunny and shady. At around the mid point of the days trek, you cross the river and go to the other bank. After this you no longer trek alongside the river.

The trek takes 6-7 hours and you approach flat open land when you know you are close to Ghangria. Ghangria has a helipad and some space for camping. Half a kilometer from the helipad is the one street village of Ghangria lined with hotels,resturants and a Gurudwara. Gurudwara offers free accomadation and food to all.

 

valley-of-flowers-ghangria

Valley of flowers Ghangria

Day 3 : Ghangria to VOF (3500 m) back to Ghangria 

10 kms easy ascent followed by flat walk through the valley and return

Leave Ghangria early by 6 am to give yourself the whole day to spend at the Valley of flowers. The trail splits in less than a kilo meter and there is a gate to buy entry tickets to the valley. Walk inside and notice the small flowering plants springing up on either sides.

Valley of flowers trek - the map of the valley

Valley of flowers trek – the map of the valley

A kilometer inside, and there is a  scenic bridge across a stream gushing below. Tall rocky mountains raise in front of you looking majestic.  Notice that the well laid out trail has now become a small footway along the side of the valley. The stream flows below you and there are small hard snow patches by the side. On the trek inside the valley of flowers its most likely that you and your group will be the only ones around but for an occassional trekker passing by. A big and welcome contrast to the previous days trek where there were hundreds. The scenery has also taken a drastic turn for the better and any direction you look in looks straight out of a picture post card.

valley-of-flowers-entry 2

Valley of flowers trek – entering the valley

Trek along for a couple of kilometers on the flat path and to your right opens up the valley. Cross another rickety bridge and collect water to drink from below. The entire valley is generally a carpet of colours green/yellow/red/blue , surrounded by mountains with trees at the lower levels, brown and grey soil in the middle and white snow at the top. A bright sunny day will ensure deep blue sky completing the picture and taking it beyond your imagination.

Valley of flowers - blue skies and white mountains line the valley

Valley of flowers – blue skies and white mountains line the valley

The valley is really a botanists’ dream as one can find flowers, leaves, buds of various shapes, sizes, colors all growing together. Notice various types of bees and insects hovering on these strange flowers.  Walk further into the valley and you will be engulfed with an amazing scent which unfortunately cannot  be captured but can only be felt. The valley stretches on from here into 5-7 more kms until it ends at the glacier visible at a distance.  The stream flows all the way through the valley. Take off your shoes and dip your feet into it to experience the icy cold water.

Valley of flowers - the river through the valley

Valley of flowers – the river through the valley

Carry packed lunch from Ghangria on the Valley of flowers trek day. There is nothing available in the valley to buy and no overnight camping allowed either. Plan your return along the same path by early afternoon.

The afternoon sun falling on the valley from a different direction, gives a whole new perspective to the same place you saw in the morning.

valley-of-flowers-river-3

Valley of flowers – Different shades in the afternoon sun

Day 4: Ghangria to Hemkund (4300m) Sahib and back to Ghangria
6 kms 7 hours hard climb 5 hours descent

Start your day early especially on the day of the climb to Hemkund. Weather can be fickle in the afternoons and sudden cloud cover and rain can get you stranded if you do not get down on time.  The thought of getting up before 5 a.m can be daunting but the Gurudwara makes it easy. Their day starts at 4 am with singing of Bhajans. By 5 am you hear people outside the gate of the gurudwara chanting in chorus and the horses being readied to go up to Hemkund Sahib. Get up and grab a hot drink of chai. A poncho (light rain coat ) and a trekking pole can be handy on the trek to Hemkund. Pass the deviation to Valley of flowers. Continue to trek up the steep path slowly but steadily. Spot a pretty water fall on your right falling through the rock walls on the right.

Hemkund trek - ghangria taken on the way to Hemkund

Hemkund trek – ghangria taken on the way to Hemkund

After about 2 hours of walking you are higher than the tree line and the views begin to get better. Spot the route to Valley of flowers on the mountain in front across the river gorge. After another hour of slow walking with numerous breaks,  you begin to feel that reduced oxygen levels in the air. A melting  glacier lies on the way.

Hemkund Valley of flowers - The steep switch back climb to Hemkund Sahib

Hemkund Valley of flowers – The steep switch back climb to Hemkund Sahib

Hemkund - The melting snow patches on the way

Hemkund – The melting snow patches on the way

Take generous breaks while climbing up the steep path. Breaks while going up are important as going up very fast could only mean inviting altitude sickness. Breaks are meant to be standing ones and do not sit down. Sitting down causes your muscles to relax and getting back on track can be very difficult. An hour of stiff climbing brings you to Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara. The lake lies just behind it. The Hemkund Sahib lake remains frozen for six months.Warm yourself in the Gurudwara and have generous helpings of hot tea and kichidi .

hemkung-lake

Hemkund lake and the Gurudwara

Walk around to the other side of the Hemkund lake. The lake with crystal clear water , set amidst tall mountains and reflecting them and the Gurudwara is some sight to watch. Around Hemkund, the Himalayan flower, Brahma Kamal grows abundantly. This flower grows only at heights of 10000 ft to 15000 ft.  Leave Hemkund by early afternoon. The walk down can be strenuous on the knees and toes.  It takes 4- 5 hours to walk down the 6 kms.

Day 5 : Ghangria to Govind Ghat 

13kms easy descent 5 hours

Start early by 6 a.m to be down at Govind Ghat by 11 a.m. At Govind ghat,  wait for a shared taxi to take you to  Badrinath or head down to Joshimath and beyond. Having come all the way to Govind ghat Badrinath and Mana are must visits for the first timers in this region.  Badrinath is a couple of hours away by road and the road and the scenary can take your breath away. Do not fail to read the Boards along the road put up by the border roads organization. They are meaningful and humorous.

Once you reach Govindghat, choose to proceed to Badrinath/Joshimath-Auli* or stay back at Govindghat and leave the next day.

Day 6 : Govind Ghat to Haridwar

Drive down to Haridwar and take a night train back to Delhi

Trek Reviews



Paradise - An ideal or idyllic place or state, Garden of Eden - Poorna and Brinda blog on their Valley of flowers trek this September 2012

By Poorna and Brinda

Imagination run wild when we hear the word paradise. Or is it just imagination? Does Paradise really exist?

Yes, it does. It is very much within India. It is called "Valley of Flowers". In Garhwal Himalayas in India. Read More.

On a butterfly trail - Shankar Bharatan's blog on his Valley of flowers trek in August 2011

 

By Shankar Bharatan

Snow-capped peaks, lush green landscapes, innumerable streams,  gushing rivers, plenty of colors, exotic flowers, pure, unadulterated  physical labor,  mules, some soul searching, hot parathas,, rainy banters, glaciers, ice cold baths, an emerald lake, piety, hot water springs, wet and more wet clothes, a feeling of being all alone, a feeling of being one with the world, a divine blessing, sighting an invisible river,  a holy dip, a path that leads to the heaven, Read More.

 

A trek to the Valley of flowers - Priyanka Mitra blogs on her Valley of flowers trek this August 2012

 

By Priyanka Mitra

Valley of Flowers, valley of colors, valley of clouds, valley of an evening sun, valley of mellow mists, valley of magic, valley of mystery, valley of enchantment, valley of liberation…..  The emotions are just endless!

Things to get

This is the mandatory list of things you will need to carry on your trek.

BAGS

  • Backpack (40-60 litres): Backpack with sturdy straps and supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential. 
  • Daypack (20 litres): It is mandatory to carry a daypack if you choose to offload your backpack. If you decide to carry your backpack, day pack is not required.

FOOTWEAR

  • Trekking shoes:  No sports shoes. The shoes need to have soles with good grip and better ankle support. Do not wear a new shoe to a trek. It might cause blisters. Before bringing them to trek, wear it for a week to make it softer. FORCLAZ 100, 500, and 600 are great shoes.  
  • Socks (3 pairs): 2 cotton pairs, 2 woolen pairs (mostly to be used on campsites and while sleeping. Keep them dry.)

CLOTHES - REGULAR

  • Trek pants (3 pairs): We highly endorse synthetic quick-dry pants as they are light. Plus, when it's cold you can wear one over the other. While trekking a pair is what you would carry apart from the worn. You could keep the third pair for your return journey. Alternative : Cotton pant with many pockets / Track pants are comfortable too. Please do not get Denim jeans, shorts or 3 quarters to trek.
  • Collared t-shirts (3 pairs): Preferably light, full sleeve t-shirts. The collar and the sleeves prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Avoid loud colors that would distract birds and animals.

CLOTHES/ACCESSORIES (weather specific) 

  • Full sleeve woolens (2 pairs): We endorse fleece over wool as it is light weight, compact and warm.
  • Thick jacket: Carry 1 hollow full sleeve jacket/down jacket 
  • Thermal inners: 2 pairs of lightweight, upper and lower (optional)
  • Wind Proof Jacket: If your jacket is not wind proof, get one thin wind proof jacket. 
  • Raincoat/poncho: A lightweight poncho is preferred as it covers your rucksack as well from top. Raincoat can also be used as wind proof when required. Enquire Indiahikes for availability of ponchos at the base camp.
  • Balaclava: The cap must cover your ears and neck. You may also use scarves.
  • Synthetic handgloves: Ensure that the gloves are waterproof.
  • Suncap: 1 pair of nice warm gloves required, fleece or woolen. 1 pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves. You get very thin inner gloves nowadays. You may get one of those to use layering.
  • Sunglasses: Curved ones will cover your eyes well. No blue coloured sunglass — they don’t block UV. Blacks, greens, browns are fine. Avoid multi tone sunglasses. Sunglasses prevent snow blindness. Sunglasses are mandatory for this trek.People who wear spectacles, choose one of these - contact lenses, photo chromatic glasses, or if either of the above is not possible, wear your spectacles and carry a big sunglass that can be worn over your spectacles.

OTHERS

  • Toiletries (Sunscreen - SPF 40+, moisturiser, light towel, lipbalm/chap stick, small soap, toilet paper, wet tissue)
  • Repair kit (needle & thread)
  • Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
  • Camera: Carry all accessories - spare batteries, charger, etc.
  • Cutlery: Carry a plate, spoon, coffee mug & a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons. To save weight,  you may use your lunch box to have food in it and also carry it.
  • Water bottles: 2 bottles, 1 Litre each. Packaged drinking water bottles like Aquafina, Bisleri and others are not allowed.
  • Trekking pole: Trekking pole is mandatory. Duralumin 4-step telescopic anti-shock trekking poles are available with Indiahikes at the cost of Rs 450. To order mail us at support@indiahikes.in
  • Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalize things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
PERSONAL MEDICAL KIT
  • Diamox - 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
  • Crocin – 6 tablets (cough, cold)
  • Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
  • Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
  • Brufin 400 - 5 tablets (high fever)
  • Combiflam – 4 tablets (body pain, headache, & tiredness)
  • Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
  • Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
  • Digene - 10 tablets (acidity)
  • Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
  • Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
  • Gauze - 1 small roll
  • Band aid – 10 strips
  • Leukoplast - 1 small roll (to tape around your feet incase prone to sensitive skin to avoid blisters)
  • Betadine – Ointment (for cuts and wounds)
  • Cotton – 1 small roll
  • ORS – 5 packets
  • Betadine or any antiseptic cream
  • Moov spray (aches, & sprains)
 
MANDATORY DOCUMENTS
 
In addition, please carry the below three documents. Document two and three need to be downloaded(PDF), filled in, signed and handed over to the trek leader at the base camp. Without these documents you will not be allowed on the trek.
 
1. Original and photocopy of government photo identity card- (driving license, voters ID, etc.)
2. Medical Certificate (to be filled by the trekker) - Download PDF
3. Medical certificate (to be filled by a doctor), and disclaimer - Download PDF
 
Note: These documents are mandatory

How to get there

 Reach Haridwar via overnight train from New Delhi. Buses run from Haridwar to Joshimath and Govind Ghat early in the morning from the bus stand. There is a bus every 30 minutes. You can also take a shared taxi from Haridwar to Joshimath or Govind Ghat. The road is long and scenic and may take 8-10 hours. The journey depends on road condition. There can be frequent road blocks during the monsoon season. 

Plan to stay at Joshimath for the night as the stay options are more. There is a GMVN and a couple of private lodges to choose from. In case of emergencies and if there is a need to break journey then one can halt overnight at Rudraprayag or Srinagar too. 

The next day you can take  a shared taxi to Govind Ghat ( 20 kilometres and 45 minutes away) which is the starting point of our trek to Valley of flowers and Hemkund. 

 

 

Fitness Required

Minimum Age: 

14 years

Past experience in trekking:

Useful but not essential

Fitness required: 

Valley of Flowers trek, like any other Himalayan trek requires you to be physically fit. Everyday is long and ranges around the 10 km range. You must be able to jog 4.5 km in 30 minutes before commencement of the  trek. This makes your lungs strong and gives it ability to process less air for more work. It also helps the body to acclimatise better to the bitter cold of the trek. Given below is a fitness chart that will help you to start from scratch if you have not been jogging at all. 

In addition you need to add some strength and flexibility training to your workout. 

Flexibility is the ability of muscles and tendons to relax and stretch easily.  It determines the amount of movement your bones can make in any direction around joints such as shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.  Stretching improves your posture and helps to prevent low back pain.  Stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and low back muscles regularly, promotes relaxation in the tissues reducing the strain on your back.  

On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. 

For Flexibility training

For Strength training

 Here’s a simple and highly effective fitness plan that will help you be better prepared.fitnesschart (600 x 777)

 

 

Videos from the trek

Watch this lovely video of the valley of flowers captured by trekker Shivraj

Trek inclusions

The trek fee Rs 7850 includes all costs of the trek from the start of the trek at Govind Ghat to the end at Govind Ghat.

Specifically, the cost includes the following:
 

    • The trek fee
    • Vegetarian food as per menu on the trek
    • Forest charges
    • Trek permits
    • 5 nights hotel accommodation at Govind Ghat and Ghangria. (Good, clean rooms with attached washrooms, tripple sharing).
    • Safety equipment
    • Mules 
    • Services of a guide and trek leader
       

Please Note: Service Tax of 3.09% is payable on the trek fee .

 Transportation: The cost of transport from Haridwar to Govind Ghat and return from Govind Ghat to Haridwar has to be borne by the participant. Indiahikes has arrangements with local transporters to pick up trekkers from Haridwar. The vehicles will leave Haridwar at 6.30 a.m.

 Most participants opt for the Indiahikes pick up – and we assume the same in your case. In case you do not want the Indiahikes pick up, please let us know at least 20 days in advance to the start of the trek. Intimation is by email only at info@indiahikes.in

 Stay at base camp. Stay at base camp is organised in dormitory style lodges. Participants share the rooms. Men and women are housed separately. 

Note: Consumption of alcohol and smoking are not permitted anywhere on the trek including at the base camp. 

 Cancellation: If for some reason you wish to cancel your trek, an email intimation needs to be sent to support@indiahikes.in . Cancellation requests are not taken over phone. However, you can phone to check whether your cancellation has been processed.

 The cancellation charges are as under:

Cancellations prior to 30 days from the start of the trek -- full refund.
Cancellation between 30 days and 20 days to the start of the trek -- 50% refund.
Cancellation less than 20 days to the start of the trek -- no refund.

 Note: If a trek is called off at the last moment due to a natural calamity (like rains, earthquake, landslides etc), Indiahikes will issue a Trek Voucher for the full amount. The voucher can be redeemed for the same or another trek in the next one year. 

 Backpack carrying: Indiahikes expects all trekkers to carry their own backpacks with personal belongings. All common gear will be carried by the support team. If for some reason a trekker is unable to carry his or her backpack, he/she can offload the same by paying an additional Rs 200 per backpack per day. 

 Drop out during trek: If for some reason a participant has to drop out from the trek on any day then Indiahikes will make arrangements for his/her return to the nearest road head. A Indiahikes staff will accompany the participant to the nearest road head. On the Valley of Flowers trek it is at Govindghat. From Govindghat you get vehicles to Rishikesh/Badrinath. Vehicles are intermittent and may take a while to get and could involve stay at Govindghat. In case of dropping out of the Valley of Flowers trek transportation and stay cost at any location has to be borne by the participant.

 

Who can trek at 50% concession:

 

1. Doctors: At Indiahikes, safety of a trek comes first. You will experience it first hand on the slope. Your team is accompanied by experienced trek leaders, safety gears, high end trek equipment, high altitude first aid kits and most importantly the right information. As an initiative in this regard we want to encourage doctor trekkers to function as team doctors. If you are a doctor on the trek and would like to function as the team doctor let us know immediately. As a gesture of recognition, you will receive an Indiahikes trek voucher for 50% of trek fee after the trek is completed. The trek voucher can be used for other Indiahikes treks. The only conditions are that (1) you need to have done one another high altitude trek before and (2) only one doctor is allowed to be a team doctor. Apply to sandhya@indiahikes.in 

2. Amateur photographers. Are you an amateur photographer? Are your photographs almost professional? Amateur photographers can go on Indiahikes trek at 50% of cost. Amateur photographers need to shoot 30 great photographs of the trek, submit a review of the trek (450 words) and write a personal account of the trek (no word limit). For selection send link of your work with the trek you want to do to Ms Izzat Ansari: izzat@indiahikes.in. Only one amateur photographer per trek is allowed.An Indiahikes Trek voucher for 50% of trek fee will be issued on completion of the trek. The trek voucher can be used for future Indiahikes treks.

Map

Valley of flowers trek - the map of the valley