At a height of nearly 13,000 feet in Garhwal hills of Western Himalayas lies the valley of flowers famous for its colourful pastures of alpine flowers and clear streams set against snowy mountain peaks. The smoothness and flowery calmness of the fairyland kind of valley makes a wonderful contrast against some of the other places to see in India. The Valley of Flowers National Park has been part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2004.
Flora and fauna of the Valley of Flowers
Every year, thousands of tourists flock to the Valley of Flowers (located in Uttarakhand state) to have a glimpse of its beautiful diverse landscape and catch a sight of some of the rare and endangered species of animals. Some of these tourists are not only nature enthusiasts, but also some ardent trekkers and even botanists.
The Valley of Flowers is habitat to animals like the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep; and rare distinguished flowers like the Brahma Kamal (a flowering plant native to the Himalayas), the Blue Poppy and the Cobra Lily. There are various species of butterflies with colors that can equally match the hues of the flowers.
List of some of the animals that can be sighted in the valley:
• Black bear
• Brown bear
• Snow leopard
• Bharal (Himalayan blue sheep)
• Red Fox
• Common langur (monkeys native to India)
• Tahr (an animal related to the wild goat)
• Mouse hare
• Serow (goat-like or antelope-like mammals)
Some common birds of the valley of flowers:
• Snow Pigeon
• Himalayan Golden Eagle
• Himalayan Monal
• Snow Partridge
• Himalayan Snow cock
• Sparrow Hawk
• Griffon Vulture
The meadows are filled with orchids, poppies, marigold, daisies, primulas and anemones of nearly 520 species of which 498 are flowering plants. The valley is also home to various medicinal herbs. The flowers in the valley bloom in different hues that give out great aroma of spectacular floral scent. You just have to stand there to sense it. Adding to the beauty and amazement is the changing shades of floral splendor as the day progresses; which gives the impression of being something out of the world. The forests of the valley are dense with trees with oak, blue pine and other conifers.No wonder, the locals believe it to be a divine playground, where nymphs and fairies have fun.
The glaciers are main source for various streams flowing through the valley. The most important is the Pushpawati River that emerges from the glacial deposits around Rataban and Nilgiri ranges. The river flows through the valley and divides it into two sections of which the right bank is widely used for trekking. Most of the streams which irrigate the valley merge with the River Pushpawati.
The famous legend of the place states that this is the place from where Hanuman came to locate the Sanjeevini herb to save Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother from dying. In addition, Guru Govind Singh (tenth Guru of the Sikhs) used to meditate at the Hemkund Lake close to the valley hence the place serves as a pilgrimage site for Both Hindus and Sikhs.
The birch tree of Bhojpatra is found on higher levels in the surrounding mountains. This tree has special place in India, as it was used to write scriptures by Indian sadhus (holy men).
Trekking at the valley of flowers
The magnificent Valley of Flowers has been a major attraction for trekkers from all over world. In fact, its paradise for those who love the outdoors, they will love feasting their senses with beautiful colors, exotic floral scents and clean mountain breeze.
The trek for reaching the valley begins at Govind Ghat and ends at village of Ghangaria, which is nearly 14 km long. This particular trek is full of bliss as the travelers can see spectacular scenic beauty at its undisturbed best. It is decorated by wild flowers, waterfalls, springs, rocky boulders and in between glimpses of snow capped peaks. Ghanghria serves as the base camp for most of the treks undertaken for Valley of Flowers.
When to Visit
After lying dormant under a blanket of snow through the winter; the Valley of Flowers begins to show signs of life in the month of April, when the snow starts melting. As the summer progresses, the valley gets bombarded by a myriad of colors ranging from white, French blue, violet, yellow, pink, red and purple. The spreading of growth and scent of plant life continues till the end of August. By September, it begins to calm down and the colors begin to fade, leaving the valley behind in shades of brown. The meadows at the valley can also be seen best during the end of the monsoon season.
For those starting the trip to Valley of Flowers from Delhi; the best option is to pass through Rishikesh, Joshimath before ending at Govind Ghat for the Char Dham Yatra. From there, you will have to trek for nearly 14 km from Govind Ghat to Ghangaria, which is a tough but a very rewarding experience. One can also take a helicopter ride to Ghangaria. From the base camp Ghangaria, the Valley of Flowers is a 3 km climb. Trekkers are allowed to go there daily but they have to come back the same day as camping at the Valley of Flowers is not allowed for preservation purposes.
The nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport (Dehradun Airport) at Dehradun, about 300 km from for the valley. From there, you must travel by road to Joshimath then to Govind Ghat. From there as mentioned earlier, it is a 14 km trek to Ghangaria. There are tourist guest houses, resorts and hotels at Ghangaria to stay the night. There are both government and privately operated tours to the valley. Privately operated tours can be arranged by the hotels.
It’s not easy to get there and it’s not for everyone. It will depend if you have done trekking before and on your level of fitness. If you love trekking, walking, nature, or you are an ecologist or botanist, the Valley of Flowers is for you.