Imagine yourself in the middle of an endless expanse of lush green meadows, covered in vibrant flora, overlooking snow-capped mountains that touch the sky. No, it’s not a fairy tale scene and you are not dreaming. You could be there, right at this moment.
Welcome to India’s very own wonderland at the Valley of Flowers National Park in Uttarakhand. The valley region is known for its myriad species of flora amidst verdant meadows, stretching across 87.5 sq. km. This exotic floral pasture was discovered by the British officials in the 1930s and later declared as a ‘National Park’ in 1982. Today, the Valley of Flowers National Park complements the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and is a popular World Heritage Site. If you’re planning a trip to the valley, book Dehradun cabs for a comfortable journey.
The valley is a part of the Garhwal region and lies 20km north-west of the Nanda Devi National Park. Perched at 3,658 meters above the sea level, this exotic locale is situated in the district of Chamoli, about 300Kms north of Rishikesh, near Badrinath. You can rent a car in Dehradun to get to the Valley of Flowers.
Exploring the Valley
Since the valley is remotely located, you can only drive till Govindghat and there onwards, trek through the wilderness, to reach the national park.
Trekking through the Valley of Flowers is the best way to enjoy its magnificence. Explore the Himalayan flora and immerse yourself in the abundance of nature’s beauty, as you tread the natural trails, feel the crisp mountain air and smell the perfumed wild-flowers.
There are trekking expeditions organized by local groups and tourist guides, which you can sign up for online or at the nearest towns of Joshimath, Dehradun or Haridwar. If you’re planning to visit the valley after your Char Dham yatra, you can easily book a Haridwar taxi and go on a trekking expedition here. The trek continues for about 17Kms, through the village of Ghangaria, and then enters the valley region through rose bushes and strawberry shrubs on either side. Trekking through the Valley of Flowers requires a permit from the Forest Department, at Ghangaria.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit the Valley of Flowers is between the months of June and August when the lap of the Himalayas opens up in its full glory. In June, as the Himalayan glaciers start melting, you can explore the valley, but you would find most areas still frosty, which is yet another beauty. The peak season is from July to mid-August when the flowers are in full bloom. Thereafter, the hills and valleys assume a warm, golden hue of autumn and the greenery transforms into a golden glow, with the snow gradually engulfing the mountains. For the photography enthusiast, any time of these three months is equally delightful.
The parks are open to the public from 7am to 2pm, post which, it is recommended that you start heading back, lest you get lost in the hills or encounter the wild. There’s a nominal entry fee which allows you to roam across anywhere within the valley, with professional guide and assistance, of course.
Flora & Fauna
This colorful paradise is home to myriad kinds of alpine flowers and other endemic flora, that you would not have ever seen anywhere in India. Flowers like Epilobiums (locally called River Beauty), Golden and Cobra Lilies, Geraniums, Rhododendrons, Himalayan Bellflowers, Blue Poppy, East Himalayan Fritillary, Vajradanti and similar, cover the vales in a chromatic blanket.
Besides the picturesque greenery, the Valley of Flowers National Park is also home to unique wild animals. If the wild side of nature attracts you, then don’t miss out on a wildlife adventure. Though less in number, most of the species found here are rare and endangered and include the Himalayan black bear, red fox, Himalayan musk deer, blue sheep, snow leopard and more. Among the winged ones, you can spot the Himalayan monal pheasant, or the Scaly-bellied woodpecker, yellow-billed choughs, snow pigeons and lime butterflies.
As you absorb the colors and sounds of this exquisite Himalayan turf, rest assured that you would mentally transcend to another world, and feel that you are living in a fairytale.