You know how they say that it’s not the destination but the journey that matters? Don’t think that applies to the magical Valley of Flowers trek in Uttarakhand. Sure, the trek is beautiful and exciting. But this National Park is one of those places that can make anyone feel like they’re in paradise. After all, the National Park which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to stunning flora such as the Blue Poppy, Cobra Lily, Brahma Kamal amongst many others. So if you’re planning to Unstumble upon the Valley of Flowers Trek in Uttarakhand, here’s what you need to know.
How many days does it take?
The trek takes 3 days to complete after you’ve reached the destination from where it begins. So, your first day would involve getting from Joshimath-Govindghat-Ghangaria. This can take anywhere between 7-9 hours depending on your pace. The second day would be Ghangaria to Valley of Flowers. This will take 6-8 hours to go there and return to Ghangaria. Your final day would be returning to Govindghat from Ghangaria.You can also experience the Hemkund Sahib Trek if you have more days in hand, as that’s also just a detour away from Ghangaria. Read more about the Hemkund Sahib Trek here.
How to get there?
Before you can begin the actual trek to the National Park, you will need to get to the mountain town of Joshimath. Located in the Chamoli District at a height of about 6150 feet, the town is the best way for anybody to reach Govindghat, which is the starting point of the trek. There are two ways you can go about this, depending on where you’re coming from.
Before we share the route, you should know that Haridwar is the nearest Railway Station to Joshimath, while Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest accessible one. The roads from Haridwar and Dehradun are well connected for you to drive to Joshimath, and the distance is about 270 kms from both the cities. Here are the two routes you can take.
Rishikesh – Joshimath via Chamoli
You can take a Bus from Rishikesh but there are no direct buses. So your ride will either take you to Chamoli, which is just 50 kms away from Joshimath, or to Rudr-Prayag, which is further away. Getting another cab or bus from either of these places won’t be a problem. Or you can also get a shared taxi from Natraj Chawk in Rishikesh, which is definitely faster.
Do keep in mind that shared cabs (TATA Sumo) may get cramped up and uncomfortable. So depending on your luck, it might not be a very comfortable ride. But if there are no budget constraints, you can always get a private cab too. One thing is for sure, the journey is pretty enjoyable because of the scenic sights of the mountains and rivers on the way.
Overall, if you take a bus, your journey will take about 11 hours. If you’re used to buses and don’t have back problems, you should be fine. Oh also, the last bus from Rishikesh to Joshimath leaves at 9 AM so plan accordingly. The cab will take about 9 hours. But chances are, even that won’t take you directly to Joshimath, so better plan accordingly.
Dehradun – Joshimath
Buses are the undisputed choice if you want a cheaper option. Also, you can take the State Transport Bus from Mussoorie Bus Stand, which will take you directly to Joshimath. These buses run from 5-8 am, with one bus every 30 minutes. If you miss that, your option is a bus to Chamoli or Karn-Prayag, from where you’ll have to get another cab or bus to Joshimath.
If buses are not your thing, you can always get shared cabs from Parade Ground and Rispana Taxi Stand. They would obviously cost you more but will save you time, if that’s your criteria. The total travel time for a cab would be anywhere between about 7-10 hours, including breaks. While a bus can take anywhere between 8-12 hours, including all the halts and stops.
Joshimath – Govindghat
Now for you to get to the actual place from where the trek begins, you’ll need another shared cab from Joshimath to Govindghat. Your journey will only take about an hour and the shared cabs are not only convenient, they are cheap too. This is the fastest mode of transport and quite frankly, the only one you should consider. Not like there are a lot of options anyway.
Here we go! Your first milestone would be the 14 km climb to the village, Ghangria. Start early in the morning because this part takes about 6 hours. Here you’ll come across a lot of Sikh population as it’s a popular pilgrimage site for them. Things will only get exciting here on. First, you’ll start seeing dhabas and stalls selling Parathas, Chai and Maggi Noodles, etc.
You’ll also be spotting a lot of domesticated mules. One of our favourite spots was the footbridge above the river which flows through Govindghat. Also, a great spot to take a short break would be the rocky climb with the river stream of Laxman Ganga flowing on your right side. It’s definitely a great place to just relax and listen to the sound of the stream.
While the trek might seem tiring for first timers who are not prepared, the charming Bhyundar Village and elegant flora you’ll come across will totally act as a refreshing sight. Also, you can certainly expect a colourful welcome from the mountains, in the form of the beautiful flowers like Inula, Cobra Lily and Clematis Vine, among a bunch of others.
After one last steep bit, you will reach the Ghangaria Village. From here the pathway becomes quite narrow and uneven but it’s still not too big a challenge. You’ll find some hotels and guesthouses here. This is where you call it a day and rest a little for that one last climb which takes you to The Valley of Flowers.
Another 3-4 kms of climb from Ghangaria awaits. As you keep going, you’ll feel the refreshing difference in your eyes and nose alike. You’ll see nature blooming in all its glory. The adventure will also involve crossing an iron bridge over the Pushpawati bridge. But not before paying a nominal fee at the checkpost and writing your name on the register.
This is the final bit you will have to complete. The path would be rough, sloped and narrow, so you’ll have to tread carefully. Any moment now, you will come across a wooden bridge with a map. If that’s within your peripheral vision, then Voila! Welcome to the magical and colourful Paradise, which is nestled away at a height of 14,400 feet.
What makes it special?
The National Park is exactly what the name suggests. While there are many places in India which have a beautiful flora to treat your eyes, the Valley of Flowers is exceptional and one of its kind. This where nature reveals its true colours in the most untamed and blooming form. The valley is blessed with about 500 species of flowering plants, some of which are also rare.
Not that we felt any differently, but the Valley of Flowers is a vibrant example of how majestic our country is. We were absolutely blown away by how the parking section was packed with subalpine forests of Rhododendron and birch. And we came across so many different types of flowers like Himalayan Columbine, Musk Larkspur and Many Flowered Anemone, to name barely a few.
If that wasn’t enough, the place also inhabits creatures like Himalayan yellow-throated Indian chevrotain, Lammergeier, Koklass pheasant and many species of butterflies, bees and reptiles. Trust us when we say this, Valley of Flowers is where you can come across many rare species of flora and fauna. We came across so many that we didn’t even know existed.
All in all, it’s not just about the flora and fauna, but the Valley of Flowers for us was a reminder of how our country is just as beautiful as any. For us, it was an eye opener and made us realize just how marvellous nature is and just how little we appreciate it, if at all. Above all of that, the peace and purity of the place is nothing short of therapeutic.
So it doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced trekker or looking for a first time experience, go trekking here because it’s a life changing experience, to say the least. This is the kind of adventure that stays with you forever.