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.
The park is 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 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 around a 10 hour drive to Joshimath, then another one hour to Govind Ghat. From Govind Ghat it’s a 13 kilometer (8 mile) trek along a steep, narrow, but well defined mountain trail to base camp at Ghangaria. This will take between 4 to 8 hours, depending on your fitness! The start of the main valley, where all the flowers are, is a further 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from Ghangaria.
When to Visit :
The Valley of Flowers is only open from the beginning of June until the end of September 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 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and camping is prohibited. The last entry to the park is at 3 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 ($12) for foreigners and 150 rupees for Indians for a 3 day pass. Each additional day is 250 rupees ($5) 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. It costs 450 rupees plus food to hire a porter, and around 500 rupees for a mule (depending on demand), at Govind Ghat for the trek to Ghangaria. Cheap plastic raincoats are also available for purchase for 20 rupees (50 cents) each.
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. At Ghangaria you’ll find both basic hotels and camping facilities. However, comforts are minimal, and the electricity and water supply are erratic. 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.
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 10 years experience in trekking to The Valley of Flowers. They run numerous fixed departure tours to The Valley of Flowers every year and their website is full of helpful information. Government operated tours to The Valley of Flowers run for 7 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.