They say that exploring Himalayas is a life changing experience. A mere glance at the majestic peaks of the Himalayas offer such surreal experience that gives you a finer perspective of life in moments.
Last year, I did a solo trek to Valley of Flowers and Hemkunt Sahib. There was no life changing experience other than that one point where the forest guard fined me for entering the valley without permission. I understood that these people are not just enjoying the cool breeze of the hills. They are also really great at swearing.
So, to save you from any such situation where you end up seeing bear cubs (story for another day) or end up pissing off a team of security guards (again, a story for another blog), I am preparing this small guide to Valley of Flowers for those planning to visit this gem of Uttarakhand in 2019 and beyond.
Best time to visit Valley of Flowers
Valley of Flowers National Park opens in first week of July or last week of June. The blooming season however starts only by mid July and continues till the end of August. If you are lucky, you’ll see the bed of flowers in the month of September, but later you’ll visit, the less flowers will be there.
If you want to trek Valley of Flowers in off season then mid September to first week of October is the best time. Maximum visitors come to Valley of Flowers National Park in August due to Independence Day Long Weekend and a few more festivals falling in the same time. September is relatively empty and you’ll mostly find the pilgrims going to Hemkunt Sahib Gurudwara, which falls on the same route.
Is trek operator for Valley of Flowers worth it?
Well, this depends on your mood and convenience. A trek operator will pick you up from Delhi or Haridwar and will take care of your transfers, food and stay. You’ll only trek and return home in 3 or 4 days. A solo trek to Valley of Flowers leaves you on your own. Not that travelling to VOF is inconvenient. You’ll have to change multiple buses, first from Delhi, then from Rishikesh, then a shared jeep from Shrinagar/Rudraprayag and then another from Joshimath.
If you are short on budget and have a couple of days extra in hand then solo trek is the best option to Valley of Flowers. The whole trek is manageable in INR 3000 with food and stay included at all locations. For about 500 rs extra, you can also visit Badrinath and Mana.
Is solo trek to Valley of Flowers manageable?
Solo trek to Valley of Flowers is easily manageable. Internet is filled with guides for Valley of Flowers. You can also check forums on Quora, Devil on Wheels, Indiamike for the latest information. Facebook forums of The Himalayan Club, Devil on Wheels and many other travel groups will get you a real time update from visitors who have been there just before you. This way, you can also keep an eye on any landslide that has happened recently.
You’ll find a number of solo trekkers going to Valley of Flowers. You can tag along and if you have good speaking skills then you can also convince them to share a hotel room.
How to reach Valley of Flowers
Valley of Flowers trek begins from Govindghat. This is a small market town where you can get ponchos and trekking sticks for the trek.
Reaching Govindgath is one hell of a journey. Considering that you travel from Delhi to Rishikesh in the night, you’ll find your next bus to Joshimath or Rudraprayag waiting on the stand. You’ll reach Rishikesh by evening, so this journey requires a lot of endurance. Find a cheap hotel in Joshimath and spend the night watching stars outside your window.
Next morning you take a shared jeep from Joshimath and it will drop you outside Govind Ghat. From here your walking starts. But you can also find easy lift to the point where the vehicles are not allowed. Everyone has to walk beyond that point.
Since we are talking about a trek done in INR 3000, we are not going to talk about how to reach Valley of flowers by helicopter or ponies. But these facilities are available on the trek.
The entire trek from Govind Ghat to Ghangharia takes almost 6 hours to complete. The route is well maintained and there is no point where steeps accents or descents appear.
You reach Ghangharia, find a guest house and sleep for the night.
Where to stay in Valley of Flowers
Ghagharia is the only point where any kind of stay option is available. Small guest houses and campsites are present in this small settlement where you can find a cheap room for INR 400 per night. If you are tagging along with someone then the cost can be divided.
Campsites are just before Ghanghria and charge almost 3000 for a night. The stay includes meals, guide for both Valley of Flowers and Hemkunt Sahib. But that is not the stay options we are looking for right now.
You can also carry your tent and pitch it in the field outside Ghanghria. Beware of bears though. I saw two cubs wandering on the road. The thought of their mother being around scared the shit out of me.
Going to Valley of Flowers from Ghangharia
The gate to Valley of Flowers opens at 7:00 AM. Now here is the catch. A lot of blogs will tell you that you can walk into the valley by 6:00 AM but it is mandatory to take the permit. This is important because it helps in rescue of someone who hasn’t returned even after the permits being issued.
Even if you manage to walk into the park before the opening of the permit counter, you’ll be caught on your way back. I had to pay INR 300 as a fine and I don’t recommend this stunt to anyone.
What to carry on Valley of Flowers Trek
A small 50l rucksack will be enough for Valley of Flowers trek. If you are a photographer then you can easily carry your camera bag or ditch your camera bag and move your camera and lenses into the rucksack. I did the later and managed to carry a tripod till Ghangharia and later to Valley of Flowers.
Eating options in Valley of Flowers
All the eatouts are present in Ghangharia. You can spend your evenings on the amazing langar meal at the Gurudwara or go for Maggi for breakfast. You’ll also find pakodas, samosa, daal chawal and gulab jamuns in small restaurants.
Valley of Flowers doesn’t have any restaurants. Although you’ll find eating spots on your way to Hemkunt Sahib. It is a wise idea to pack biscuits and chocolates on your way to Valley of Flowers. Remember to bring back the wrappers and nothing leave behind.
How tough is Hemkunt Sahib trek?
Hemkunt Sahib’s route is well made and all you need to do is to climb stairs. It is not tough but longer than Valley of Flowers. You can easily add Hemkunt Sahib trek if you have additional days in your hand. Don’t try to mix Valley of Flowers and Hemkunt Sahib for same day. It is practically impossible and you’ll end up missing the best of both sides.
Is it a wise idea to visit Badrinath and Mana
Not really but most of the trek operators add Badrinath and Mana on the way back and then start driving for Delhi after lunch. Again, you will need an additional day to explore both places. If you skip Badrinath and Mana, you’ll be in Rishikesh by night; otherwise, you’ll have to spend another night in Joshimath.
A small itinerary to Valley of Flowers with Hemkunt Sahib, Badrinath and Mana
Day 1 – Delhi to Rishikesh by bus (start at 11 PM, arrive Rishikesh by 3 AM)
Day 2 – Rishikesh to Rudraprayag by bus (Bus starts leaving by 4 AM, you’ll reach Rudraprayag by 10 AM)
Rudraprayag to Joshimath by shared jeep (jeeps are available till 5 PM. The journey takes around 5 hours)
Stay in Joshimath
Day 3 – Joshimath to Govind Ghat (start by 7 so that you reach Ghangharia before dark)
Govind Ghat to Ghangharia
Day 4 – Ghangharia to Valley of Flowers
Valley of Flowers to Ghangharia
Day 5 Ghangharia to Hemkunt Sahib
Hemkunt Sahib to Ghangharia
Day 6 Ghangharia to Govind Ghat
Govind Ghat to Badrinath and Mana
Badrinath to Joshimath (remember to leave by 3 PM otherwise you’ll have to stay in Badrinath for the night)
Day 7 – Joshimath to Rishikesh
Rishikesh to Delhi
Note: If you end up spending your night in Badrinath, you can still travel to Rishikesh via Joshimath and later to Delhi on the same day.