Valley of Flowers, also known as “Phoolon ki Ghaati” is one of the most talked-about places in Uttarakhand. It is known for offering rewarding trekking experience in the backbreaking Himalayan region of Uttarakhand.
VOF is not just a random place but hush heaven bethroned in the quaint mountainous region of Uttarakhand.
The trek to VOF is on the bucket list of many avid trekkers and adventure junkies. If you are one amongst them, then you’ll find the Valley of Flowers Guide helpful.
So without further ado, let’s check out the Complete Trekking Guide to Valley of Flowers National Park. Those who are well acquainted with this place also call it as VOF Trek.
Newbies when reading this, will think of it as a valley, which blushes and gushes with varied vibrant flowers. Yup! You are close but not near. So let us simply it for you, and answer your query on– “What is Valley of Flowers? And Where is it?”
Valley of Flowers is a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This famous Indian National Park is known for its alpine meadows, consisting of endemic alpine flora and fauna. VOF sprawls in the region of Chamoli in the state of Uttarakhand.
The popularity of this national park is such, that it is among the top tourist places in Uttarakhand, which is visited by many backpackers every year.
The scintillating Valley of Flowers is an apple of the eyes of every free spirited wanderer, who wishes to explore every ounce of beauty in nature. The alluring valley decorates itself with rare alpine flowers, that can only be found in the higher altitude region of Uttarakhand.
The plush landscape of the Valley of Flowers National Park adds a contrasting beauty to the raw mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi National Park to the east.
Both of these national parks are enclosed in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (223,67 ha), which is further surrounded by a buffer zone (5,148.57 km square). They altogether encompass a unique transition zone amidst the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and the Great Himalayas.
The Valley of Flowers is tucked in the upper expanses of Bhyundar Ganga near Joshimath, Chamoli Garhwal. This fairyland valley is in the Pushpawati valley about 23 km-northwest of Nanda Devi National Park. It lies completely in the temperate alpine zone, and features the majestic Himalayan ranges as its backdrop.
VOF is enthroned at an impressive altitude of 3,352 to 3,658 metres above sea level, and is well protected by snow-shrouded mountains. It coordinates between 30° 41′ to 30° 48’N and 79° 33′ to 79° 46’E.
This gorgeous valley is generously spread over an expanse of 87.50 km square and is 8 km long and 2 km wide.
VOF is known for its beautiful foliage that attracts many wildlife researchers, and botanists to conduct their studies here. One such study carried out by the Forest Research Institute in 1992 recorded 600 species of angiosperms and 30 pteridophytes in VOF. The team also discovered 58 unrecorded plant species in the valley out of which 4 were new for the Himalayan state.
From them, 5 out of 6 plant species are namely:
In the early 90s Prof. Chandra Prakash Kala, a botanist deputed by the Wildlife Institute of India conducted a study on the floristics, and conservation of the valley for a decade. The prof. made an inventory of around 520 alpine plants, growing in the Valley of Flowers National Park.
The intensive study of Prof. Kala can be studied in his books “The Valley of Flowers- Myth and Reality” and “Ecology and Conservation of the Valley of Flowers National Park, Garhwal Himalaya.”
The site of Valley of Flowers is designated as a Centre of Plant Diversity. It is known for safeguarding some of the threatened medicinal plant species such as:
This naturally abundant valley decorates itself with beautiful blooms during the summer season. It features 520 species of high altitude plants including angiosperms, gymnosperms, and pteridophytes of which 498 are flowering plants. Some of the blossoms that carpet the recreation center are:
One can see the sub-alpine forests of birch and rhododendron outlining the region, and adding natural charm to the floral valley.
Valley of Flowers is home to several rare and endangered animal species. The park showcases 13 species of mammals including:
Along with this a few reptile species, wild bees, and an enormous assortment of butterflies can be seen fluttering in the national park. Some of these are the Lime butterfly, Common yellow swallowtail, Common Mormon, Spangle, and Common Blue Apollo.
The Valley of Flowers National Park has a very small visiting window. It remains open for tourist visits from the beginning of June, as it’s covered in snow for the rest of the year. Therefore, visitors need to plan their trips accordingly.
Now, you may ask, “What is the ideal time to visit the Valley of Flowers?”
To be precise there is no ideal time to visit this place. Since VOF has a very unique vegetation, and each month you can see the changing moods of nature.
Different season means different blooms:
Some months you can see more blooms than in others. While in some you can witness monsoonal showers painting the valley in bottle green colour. The other months you can hear more calls from the wild, and can spot a varied variety of animals leaving their footprints behind.
What you should know about the flowering season of Valley of Flowers:
Since VOF is famous for its rare alpine flora, and if you are an anthophile who loves inspecting rare flowers. Then the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers would be from mid-July to mid-August. Because the flowers are in full bloom after being bathed by the fresh monsoon shower.
If you plan to visit before July, then you’ll hardly find any flowers. However, you’ll be able to savour the view of snow and melting glaciers. After mid-August, the colour of the valley changes dramatically from youthful green to pale yellow, and then they slowly die.
In the month of September, the weather becomes clearer with less rain but the flora slowly dies.
Since every month brings out the different hues of nature. So if you want to enjoy the blooms, then check out the flowering timeline of VOF. Which will tell you when the flowers are in full bloom in the Valley of Flowers.
In the months of June and July: During these months one can enjoy the view of waterfalls and beautiful glaciers in the valley. The benefit of visiting in these months is that there’ll be little to no rain, and flowers will start to blossom.
In the months of August and September: As snow starts to melt in May, and new plants start to germinate and grow up till August. During this time, one can see a lot of flowers blooming till mid-August. However, the best time to see maximum number of flowers is in August and September.
Opening and Closing Hours of Valley of Flowers National Park:
Valley of Flowers is accessible between 7 am to 5 pm, and remains closed for tourist activity at the wee hours of night. The last entry at the park is at 2 pm, which means you need to go and return Ghangaria on the same day.
Therefore, the entry of hikers who wish to camp at night should drop their plans asap, as camping is prohibited inside VOF. Since the green cover of VOF is rare therefore, measures are being taken by the government bodies to safeguard its vegetation.
The visitors have to pay a small amount of money for accessing the Valley of Flowers. The entry charges are different for foreigners, and domestic visitors, which are given below. Check out to know where to pay the fees for visiting the Valley of Flowers:
You have to pay the entry fees at the Forest Department checkpoint, which is less than a km away from Ghangaria, which marks the official beginning of the VOF trek. From here you’ll obtain your permit, so make sure you carry an appropriate ID.
Other expenses that you need to pay:
VOF is a hub of endemic plant species that are only found in this region. Thankfully this unspoiled natural beauty is free from human interference. Therefore, you won’t find any restaurants, shacks, or food joints inside the national park. It is advised to carry your food, water and properly discard the waste thereafter.
Once you leave for the VOF trek, there are no food or drink stalls on the way. Because the Valley of Flowers trek is relatively isolated as compared to Ghangaria and Hemkund Sahib.
You can either pack your own lunch or get it packed for you at any dhaba or local restaurant located in Ghangaria. These dhabas provide an appetizing lunch for Rs 150- 200 INR. To tame your food cravings, you can also buy some refreshment drinks, energy bars and snacks to munch on.
Is fresh drinking water available at Valley of Flowers?
Even the most expensive canned water stands no chance in front of the fresh sparkling water of the waterfalls, that one encounters along the way. Carry a bottle and refill it from the waterfall streams that roar out of the valley. Because you won’t get to drink such fresh and quality water in the city.
Although you won’t find any hotels or motels inside or around the periphery of Valley of Flowers. But there are government-run Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) guesthouses near Valley of Flowers.
If you are looking for budget-friendly accommodation near Valley of Flowers. Then GMVN guest house is one of the cheapest and best-staying options at Valley of Flowers.
The GMVN guest house at Ghangaria is located at approx. 13 km from Govindghat, and only 6 km away from Hemkund Sahib. You will also find a Gurudwara there, where tourists heading to Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib usually stay.
It is highly advisable to book your stay in advance as GMVN get calls from several adventure enthusiasts around the year.
Alternatively, you can also spend the night at Joshimath or Govind Ghat before starting the trek to Ghangaria. There are plentiful accommodations and of a higher standard in Joshimath.
Where to stay at Valley of Flowers if you are on a tight budget?
There are Gurudwaras at Govind Ghat and Ghangaria that offer clean and safe accommodation option near VOF. Here you can get free food and water. In case all the private room are occupied at Ghangaria Gurudwara then you can sleep in the hall.
If you are on a tight budget and staying at Gurudwara isn’t an option for you. Then you can check out a range of affordable accommodation options from cheap guesthouses to luxury tents, priced anywhere between Rs 200 to 1,500 per night. The only downside is that comforts are minimal, and the electricity and water supply are erratic.
Valley of Flowers was a virgin destination up until 1931, when British mountaineers namely Frank S. Smythe, Eric Shipton and R.L. Holdsworth discovered this place accidently.
While ascending from Mt. Kamet, the three mountaineers lost their way. But as a stroke of luck, they reached a valley that was teeming with alpine flowers. The mountaineers were left in awe of its beauty hence, they named it as the “Valley of Flowers.” Later, Frank Smythe authored a book by the same name.
Since Uttarakhand’s Valley of Flowers has gained huge importance as a region containing a diversity of alpine flora, representative of the Western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows ecoregion. The Valley of Flowers was declared a national park in 1982, and now it is a World Heritage Site.
Mythology and legends related to VOF:
There are several legends and mythological tales associated with Valley of Flowers. In Hindu mythology the Valley of Flowers has been named as “Nandankanan,” which was created by the flower showering done by revered Hindu Gods on earth.
According to a popular local legend, this magical valley was once the abode of fairies known as “anchariya”. It is said that the fairies would carry off anyone, who tried to venture too far into their world.
Another similar story explains that VOF was inhabited by beautiful fairies, who possessed supernatural powers. They would prey on beautiful men, who came wandering into that valley because of the melodious song sung by the fairies.
It is a common belief that some flowers growing in the valley carry a pungent fragrance, that is too strong for anybody to faint.
Opening and Closing Time of VOF:
VOF isn’t open for tourist activity all year round. So kindly check out the opening and closing date of Valley of Flowers before deciding to throng here.
Opening Date of Valley of Flowers: Each year on June 1, 2020 the Valley of Flowers opens its portals for tourist activity.
Closing Date of Valley of Flowers: Every year, the Valley of Flowers closes in October/November. The 2019 Valley of Flowers trek was closed on 31 October 2019.
Things to carry at Valley of Flowers Trek:
To make sure you don’t go unprepared to the Valley of Flowers trek, here’s a list of items that you need to pack for the Valley of Flowers trek. So without further ado, dive below to check out how to pack for Valley of Flowers and tick mark every item from the VOF Packing Guide.
|Sr. No.||Description||Entry Fee|
|1||Entrance Fee (in Rs.)|
Per Head for first Three Days
|Rs. 150 for Indian nationals and Rs. 600 for foreigners|
|Extra day||Rs. 50 for Indian nationals and Rs. 250 for foreigners|
|Still Camera (Non-Professional)||Free|
|Still Camera (Professional)||Free|
|Movie-Video (Professional)||Rs. 500 for Indian nationals and Rs. 1500 for foreigners|
|Feature Film Per Day||Rs. 100000 for Indian nationals and Rs. 200000 for foreigners|
|Documentary Film Per Day||Rs. 10000 for Indian nationals and Rs. 30000 for foreigners|
|4||Security for above|
|Feature Film Per Day||Rs. 100000 for Indian nationals and Rs. 200000 for foreigners|
|Documentary Film Per Day||Rs. 50000 for Indian nationals and Rs. 100000 for foreigners|
Valley of Flowers as we all know is one of the most popular treks in India, which is undertaken by people from around the world. This rewarding trek offers scintillating views of the snow-laden Himalayas, and the rare alpine flowers that dance with the gust of the wind.
Trekking at Valley of Flowers is an experience that will live with you for a lifetime. So if you are an avid trekker or an adventure lover, who wishes to explore the nook and cranny of Uttarakhand Himalayas, then Valley of Flowers is a must do trek for you.
The trek to Valley of Flowers begins at Govindghat or Pulna village. A hanging bridge over the Alaknanda river will take you forward, from where a zig-zag mule track will open up to the view of terraced fields and vegetation.
After leaving Pulna village behind, the trek uncovers more adventures hidden in the valley. The Laxman Ganga becomes swifter, and you can steal a view of the gorgeous snow-shrouded peaks camouflaged behind the verdant hills.
The exciting 7 km trail from Pulna to Bhyundar village is a treat to the eyes. As amazing views of bubbling streams, and cold water springs can be savoured. One can see a plethora of shrubs including wild roses growing abundantly and rhododendrons, that make the whole aesthetic rosy.
If you are a tea connoisseur, then you’ll love having hot tea at the hawker shops lined across the route. Here you’ll find awesome and chatty tourist guides, who carry immense knowledge about the flora and fauna of the valley.
After lazing around for a while, continue trekking towards the right bank of Laxman Ganga river. The lush green views will accompany you, and soon you’ll reach a long bridge which is supported by huge boulders on each side. When you’ll cross this bridge, the trail will become steeper and tough. About 2 km from here, you’ll reach Ghangaria, the base camp for treks heading towards Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib.
If you wish to visit the Valley of Flowers then you need an itinerary, which will help in sketching out your plan. So here’s a final draft of how your trek at Valley of Flowers will be like, and what all you can do there. Although you can include Hemkund Sahib and Hanuman Chatti in your VOF trek but let’s just keep it simple and traditional. Without further ado, quickly check out the traditional and most popular trekking itinerary for Valley of Flowers.
Day 1: Rishikesh – Joshimath – 255 km I 9 hrs
Road distance: 255 km
Time taken: 9 hrs
Altitude change: 372 metres at Rishikesh to 1875 metres at Joshimath
Wake up, sip your tea and get ready for experiencing the nomad life for a few days. Which means you have to leave your destination, here we are taking Rishikesh as an example. Since it is well connected to major towns and cities of Uttarakhand by motorable roads.
On reaching Rishikesh from whichever city you belong, you’ll need to leave for Joshimath, about 255 km from Rishikesh. At a minimum fare, you’ll get a direct bus service to Joshimath from Rishikesh bus station. If you are looking for more comfort, then you can hire a taxi. By evening, you’ll be in Joshimath, check in at a hotel, have a nice dinner and crash into your bed.
Money Saving Travel Tip for visiting Valley of Flowers: If you wanna save some money then we would definitely suggest you to go heavy on public transport. The plus point is— it gives you an exposure, you meet interesting people from different places, you learn how to be independent, responsible and in true sense experience the fun of road trips.
In case you don’t get a direct bus from Rishikesh to Joshimath then break your journey, or you can also keep an eye on shared vehicles like Tata Sumo, and Max heading towards Joshimath.
Day 2: Joshimath- Govindghat- Ghangaria
Road distance: 20 km
Trekking distance: 10 km
Time taken: 1 hr by road and 6 hr for trek
Trek level: Moderate
Altitude Change: 1828 metres at Govindghat to 3049 metres at Ghangaria
After having breakfast, check out from your hotel and drive to Govindghat approximately 22 km from Joshimath. Now hike towards Ghangaria with packed lunch. The tiny hamlet of Ghangaria also famous as “Govind Dham” is the base camp of Hemkund Sahib and the Valley of Flowers trek. After completing 10 km on foot you’ll reach Ghangaria, where you’ll retire for the night.
Note: Now the distance of 4 km from Govindghat to Pulna village is motorable. Earlier the visitors had to cover the 14 km distance on foot to reach the Valley of Flowers National Park. However, after the havoc caused by 2013 Uttarakhand floods, a new route has been carved for travellers visiting Valley Of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib.
Essential Travel Tip for Valley of Flowers trek:
If you are someone who gets muscle cramps while traversing on steep valleys, then there’s a good news for you. As ponies are available for riding, and will safely drop you at Ghangaria. However, if you wish to enjoy the views and the trek route, then try to trek by yourself, and you can also book a pony only for your goods. In case you run out of breath, or someone from your group gets injured then you can avail this service.
Day 3: Ghangaria- Valley of Flowers- Ghangaria
Trekking distance: 7.5 km total on both side
Time taken: 2 hrs for one side
Trek level: Easy
Altitude Change: 3049 metres at Ghangaria to 3658 metres at Valley of Flowers
The day has come, and now you’ll be touching the beautiful Himalayan flowers, and rolling on the grass that’s always greener on this side. So make sure you gear yourself up for your betrothal with the Valley of Flowers. This placid trail will walk past the thick vegetation embellished with the exotic Himalayan flowers and the wild flora, casting a spell on us.
Once you reach VOF you’ll be welcomed with refreshing views of the gurgling streams roaring in the valley. If you don’t know, VOF is a home to various species of birds, butterflies, and insects. After exploring the valley, return to the valley and have an overnight stay.
Day 4: Ghangaria- Govindghat- Joshimath
After satisfying your jaded palletes with a wholesome breakfast, get ready for trekking. After completing a 10 km trek to Govindghat, then drive to Joshimath via Badrinath. On reaching Joshimath, check in at a hotel of your choice where you can stay for the night.
Day 5: Joshimath- Rishikesh
Post breakfast, check out from the hotel with your luggage. Catch a bus, hire a taxi and drive back to Rishikesh, whilst bidding adieu to the hills.
Note: You can extend your stay at Ghangaria for one more day and visit Hemkund Sahib as well, which is only 6 km from Ghangaria.
Important Update for Valley of Flowers:
There’s a good news for adventure bugs as a new trek route has been carved for Valley of Flowers, which will easily guide you towards the floral valley. To make your journey rewarding, a new motorable bridge has been introduced in Govindghat, connecting 4 km towards the Valley of Flowers till Pulna village. Now the tourists have to trek only 10 km to reach Ghangaria, which is the base camp for VOF trek.
Another great update is that after 45 long years, the government has reopened the old trek route to Valley of Flowers. Whoa! Imagine how senior trekkers must be feeling after hearing this news. We can smell nostalgia here. This alternate trekking route to Valley of Flowers is also known as the Kunthkhal-Hanuman Chatti trek route.
About Kunthkhal-Hanuman Chatti trek route:
The 15 km trek starts from Hanuman Chatti, where the famous Hanuman Mandir is located. Hanuman Chatti is located on the way to Badrinath about 10 km before Badrinath.
From there people can trek to Kunthkhal and Ghangharia to get back to civilization. The Forest Department is also geared up and is continuously promoting other underrated treks near Valley of Flowers. Some of these treks cover Chenab Valley, Kagbhusandi Tal, Dronagiri Parvat etc.
Short Trekking Itinerary for Valley of Flowers- Hanuman Chatti- Badrinath Trek
If you wanna trek to VOF the old school way, then you must follow the Hanuman Chatti-Badrinath trek route. As it offers awe inspiring views of glaciers, meadows, gorges, and rivers. Since the trek route has been closed for more than four decades, the vegetation around has thickened.
This trail is bounded by peaks such Mount Hati, Ghori, Ratavan, and Neelkanth to name a dew. The route starts from the left Valley of flowers to the base and after crossing the pass. It proceeds to Hanuman Chatti.
How is the trekking route of Valley of Flowers- Hanuman Chatti- Badrinath trek or the Frank Smythe Himalayan trek:
This high altitude begins from Hanuman Chatti about 33 km from Joshimath and 283 km from Rishikesh. The trail meanders through ice, snow, moraines, rivers, streams, high pasture lands and fabulous mountain scenery. It is advised to carry essential provisions, rations, and porters/guides (if needed).
It is 8 km steep ascent from Hanuman Chatti to Palsi Udair and a further 8 km gradual ascent, which leads to Kunthkhal Pass (4430). The Pass was used by both Longstaff’s and Smyth’s parties on their way down to Hanuman Chatti in the Alaknanda Valley. From the pass to Kunthkhal it is a 3 km steep descent and a further 10 km gradual ascent leads to Tirpa Kharak.
You need to extract a permit from the Divisional Forest Officer, Nanda Devi National Park, Joshimath which can be obtained after remitting requisite fee.
So here’s a short trekking itinerary for Valley of Flowers- Hanuman Chatti- Badrinath trek or the Frank Smythe Himalayan trek:
Arrival at Joshimath
Drive from Joshimath to Govindghat (1828 mts/13 km/1 hr) to Ghangaria (5-6 hr trek)
Ghangaria to Valley of Flowers- Kunthkhal Top (4430 m/08 km trek- 5 to 6 hr)
Kunthkhal Top to Kunthkhal base
Kunthkhal base to Hanuman Chatti- Badrinath
Badrinath-Joshimath- Departure to Rishikesh