Valley of Flowers
If nature has to show it’s best artwork in an exhibition, it would be called the Valley of Flowers. Residing in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, the Valley of Flowers National Park is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
With 600+ varieties of flora, this magical valley attracts nature lovers, adventure junkies, and botanists from around the World. A variety of flowers can be seen over a span of 3 months i.e, mid-June to mid-September.
The moment you enter the valley, you have a comprehensive view of its endless stretch covered in a layer of flowers, leaves and a glacier at the end. The white glacier with the lush green mountains all around complements the beauty of this place.
Guru Govind Singh Ji, the 10th Sikh Guru meditated around the lake now called Hemkund lake. Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib stands by the side of the lake, provides the ambiance of purity and tranquility. On a clear day, the mystic views around the lake can make you feel awestruck.
Being the highest Gurudwara in the World, this place is covered by snow-capped mountains all around the year except for monsoons. Apart from religious reasons, many people visit this place for its blissful beauty, to submit themselves in the serene aura.
An interesting fact, Hemkund is exactly half of the height of the mighty Mt Everest. Brahmakamal, one of the sacred flowers, can be found here which only grows at a height of 10,000 to 15,000 ft.
So, here is your day to day itinerary to plan your trip to the serene and magical place called Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib:
Day 1 – Rishikesh to Govindghat
The first and last day would mostly be spent in traveling. Today you will be travelling from Rishikesh to Govindghat which is a base from where the trek starts.
From wherever you are coming, make sure to reach Rishikesh by 4:30-5:00 am latest so that you can start early to reach Govindghat on time. The route from Rishikesh to Govindghat is mountainous and the area is prone to landslides. Therefore, it easily takes 11 – 13 hours to reach Govindghat based on the condition of roads.
The second reason to reach early is the availability of public transport. There are very limited buses which ply directly to Govindghat, otherwise, you can take a bus or shared taxis till Joshimath and then another shared taxi from Joshimath to Govindghat.
If you don’t get direct transport, you can follow the below route to reach your destination.
Rishikesh – Devprayag – Srinagar – Rudraprayag – Karnaprayag – Chamoli – Joshimath – Govindghat
Day 2 – Govindghat to Ghangaria
Govindghat is situated at the banks of river Alaknanda and is the starting point of the trek.
Today is the day when you will start your journey towards the magical and serene place, Valley of Flowers & Hemkund Sahib.
Start your day with a sumptuous breakfast to keep yourself full of energy. Govindghat Gurudwara can be your first stop, attend the prayers (Ardas) and then have langar. I bet this will be the tastiest food you can have in the whole Govindghat. Food can fill your stomach, but the love with which they serve food can fill your soul. We were served with Arhar Dal, Rice, Roti, and Dalia (porridge).
Your next stop will be Ghangaria which is a base village to trek Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib both. The total distance between Govindghat and Ghangaria is 14km, out of which 4km i.e. till Pulna village can be covered through shared taxi. You can get a taxi till Pulna from the backside of Gurudwara which will cost you Rs. 40.
Please note, you have to make an entry at the check post near the taxi stand and get it verified while returning. This is just for security reasons.
About the trek
The first half of the trek is normal with a mix of ascend and descend. The path is well paved with rocks and you can enjoy the mountain views on your right along with river and serenity of jungle on your left. Bhyunder is the midpoint of the trek from where the next 4km is a steep ascend. After that, the next 500 meters is again a normal walk with the last 500 meters steep ascend again.
Many eatery shops, natural water sources, and public toilets are available throughout the trek, so, you don’t have to carry a load of stuff during the trek.
The magnificent view of the valley can be seen 700 meters before Ghangria, which also has a Helipad. Sit back for some time and enjoy the beauty of Nature.
Other options to reach Ghangaria are:
- Price – Rs 1000 – 1500 (approx)
- Time – 2.5 hours (approx)
- Price – Rs 2700
- Time – 3.5 minutes
Time Required – We started from Pulna at 9 am and reached Ghangaria at 1:15 pm with 15 minutes break in between.
Day 3 – Valley of Flowers Trek
Gigantic mountains, lush green meadows, gleaming clouds, and frosted glacier blend together to create a heaven-like place called Valley of Flowers.
Valley of Flowers National Park is an Indian National Park, known for the meadows of flowers. Blessed with the variety of flora, VoF is like a bouquet gifted to the Himalayan ranges. At a height of approximately 11,000 ft, this valley is a part of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and attracts many trekkers, botanists every year.
The valley is stretched in the approximate area of 90 square km, measuring 8 km long and 2 km wide. It is covered with enormous and magnificent mountain ranges from all sides and 1 shining glacier at the end of it.
Hundreds of varieties of flowers bloom throughout the valley and the pleasant smell of those flowers can make you feel dreamy. The whole valley is covered in a thick layer of snow for the maximum time of a year. It is in full bloom during monsoon season i.e, July, August & September, which is also the best time to visit.
About the Trek
The Valley of Flowers’ altitude is approximately 11,000 feet. Trek starts from Ghangaria and is only 4 km long (one way). Trek to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib both starts with a common route for 1 km and then diverts, the straight route goes to Hemkund and left turn will take you to the Valley of Flowers.
VoF check post is situated at 150 meters from the diversion, where you have to pay an entry fee of Rs 150 for Indians and Rs 450 for Foreigners and get your details registered (don’t forget to carry your ID). Details are for security purposes only and you have to get it verified while returning.
Immediately after crossing the check post, you will realize that you have now disconnected from the materialistic world and entered into another magical world created by nature.
You will be welcomed with an amazing waterfall just after 500 meters, which you have to cross through a very thin iron sheet, causing a hike in your adrenaline rush. After that, it is a steep ascend for 2 km which passes through a dense forest. A variety of blooming flowers, the sound of singing insects and the roar of waterfalls can take you into another dimension.
A view of gigantic mountains, shining clouds, and snowy glacier can be seen 200 meters before the valley. At this viewpoint, you can witness around 10 water streams that flow down the mountains and merge into a single stream to create an enormous waterfall. I will suggest you sit there for some time, relax and sulk yourself in the beauty of nature and observe the fog playing hide-n-seek. Hiking further for 200 meters will take you to the entry point of VoF. You can see a board on your left which says “Valley starts from here”, exploring further is up to your stamina and will.
Further hike inside the valley is a normal walk with very little ascend or descend at places and passes through many water-streams. Carry packed lunch or protein bars along with you, as no eatery shops are available in the entire route.
Time Required – We started from Ghangaria at 8 am and reached VoF at 11 am after many photo breaks and 30 minutes break at the viewpoint. Then we spent around 3 hours in the valley and started ascending at 2 pm to reach Ghangaria at around 4 pm.
Day 4 – Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib
Hemkund Sahib, aka, Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib Ji, is a pilgrimage site of Sikhs. At an approximate height of 15,000 feet, it is the highest Gurudwara. Hemkund lake, by the side of Gurudwara, is surrounded by seven mountain peaks which appear to be a lake’s chaplet. There are numerous lakes in the Himalayan region of India, but the dramatic setting of this lake is a sight to behold. It feels like the place is made with the sole purpose of providing tranquility and serenity, where one can ruminate inner peace.
The place is covered in a thick blanket of snow during the winter season. It is in the month of June when many of the Sikh devotees along with the Punjab army clears the route and repair the damages. Mid-October is when it closes down, making June-September the only time to visit this place.
About the trek
In Short, it is a very steep and continuous ascend of 6 km. The route is well paved with rocks, which is slippery sometimes due to the rains and horse manure. You can come across many people hauling on horses as well because the trek is very difficult and not everyone can hike that much. Ascending is difficult but the slippery routes can make descending also very tricky sometimes.
The whole route is covered with gigantic mountains which can be seen and admired during a clear day. Most of the time it is either foggy or raining, therefore, I will advise you to always carry a rain-cover or a poncho.
Prayer sounds can be heard throughout the route which in itself is a motivation factor for people to continue hiking. Many eatery shops and public toilets are installed in the route for the convenience of people.
Once you reach Gurudwara, sip a cup of tea to get some warmth in that cold weather. Despite having chilling water, many people take a dip into the lake due to religious reasons and many just sit around to admire the view.
Attend the Ardās (prayers) in Gurudwara and take some time off to meditate and indulge in your inner peace. Post prayers, you can have a handful of delicious Kadawa Prasad (Halwa) made of desi ghee. Gurudwara also serves khichdi (a mixture of daal and rice) in langar which is the tastiest khichdi you will ever have.
Due to weather conditions, Gurudwara authorities start asking people to leave for Ghangaria at around 1:30 pm and everybody leaves the latest by 2 pm. Therefore, I will suggest you start your day a bit early so that you can spend some time in Gurudwara and around the lake.
Time Required – We started at 8 am and reached Hemkund by 11:30 am. Then, we spent around 2:30 hours in Gurudwara & lake and started descending back at 2 pm to reach Ghangaria by 4:30 pm.
Day 5 – Ghangaria to Govindghat
With all the beautiful memories, today you can ascend back to Govindghat.
If you are not planning to go any further and visit any other places like Badrinath, then I will suggest you start a bit late from Ghangaria, descend down to Govindghat and do a night stay in Joshimath. From Joshimath, you can get many transport options for Rishikesh.
Read further if you are planning to visit Badrinath and Mana, the last Indian village on India-Tibet border.
Easily accessible through a vehicle and only 25 km away from Govindghat, Badrinath resides in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Located between the mountains Nar and Narayan, Badrinath Temple or Badrinarayan Temple is a Hindu pilgrimage site dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
It is one of the four pilgrimage sites of Chota Char Dham and India Char Dham.
- Chota Char Dham comprises four pilgrimage sites of Uttrakhand i.e. Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
- India Char Dham consists of four pilgrimage sites of India i.e Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri, and Rameshwaram.
Badrinath, Uttrakhand is accessible for 6 months only i.e May to October and the rest of the year it is covered in snow. For devotees, temple gates are open from 8 am to 12 pm and then 3 pm to 8 pm. Hotels in Badrinath Dham are easily available.
Mana, The Last Indian Village
Just 3 km away, Mana is the last village of India on the India-Tibet border. The village is surrounded by Himalayan ranges and is situated on the banks of Saraswati River. This is a little cozy place with a very narrow road, where you will find all the backyards with some kind of vegetation and women in front yards knitting woolen clothes.
The most famous site to see here is Bheem Pul (Bridge). It is said that Bheem placed a big rock to form a bridge so that Draupadi can cross the river during their journey to Heaven.
Other places to visit are (you will find a board with all the route information):
- Ganesh Gufa
- Tapt Kund
- Vasudhara Falls
- Vyasa Gufa
You can find many tea spots near Bheem Pul saying “India’s last tea shop”. Sit back and have a cup of tea/coffee and enjoy the beauty of Himalayan ranges and the enormousness of the Saraswati river.
How to Plan
Start early from Ghangaria at about 8 am to reach Govindghat by 11-11:30 am. Take a shared or private taxi from Govindghat to Badrinath. Shared taxis can be availed from the starting point of Govindghat and you may have to wait for some time, whereas, a private taxi can be availed near the Govindghat Gurudwara.
Take a room in Badrinath, get freshen-up and have a much-needed lunch. Post lunch, you can hire a taxi for Mana which will cost you Rs 500. The taxi will wait for you in Mana for 2 hours and then will drop you back to Badrinath. After that, you can go for Badrinath darshan, have dinner and stay in Badrinath itself.
Please Note – If you going in a peak season then you may want to keep some time handy for darshan.
Day 6 – Badrinath to Rishikesh
Start your day very early as it is a very long ride from Badrinath to Rishikesh.
Best time to Visit
Gates of Hemkund Sahib opens from June to October, whereas, Flowers bloom from July to September in Valley of Flowers National Park and Badrinath is accessible from May to October. So, If you want to cover all the places, July-August would be the best time.
But, seeing the rains and landslides in those areas, I will suggest planning in September 1st week will be a good idea. Less crowded, less rain, low prices are some of the benefits you can get in September.
Many accommodation options are available in Joshimath, Govindghat, Ghangaria & Badrinath varying from Rs 500 to Rs 2000. Joshimath and Ghangaria have Garhwal Mandal guest houses as well which you can book online from the GMVN website.
I am not sure about the prices, but you can also get tents 700 meters before Ghangaria (near the helipad). Tents are well equipped with all the necessities.
Prices may go high during the peak season, i.e. June and July.
Very few buses and shared taxis ply directly from Rishikesh to Govindghat but you can get many options for Joshimath from where you can easily get shared taxis till Govindghat.
Catch early morning bus or taxi to reach Govindghat on time. Buses start early at 4:30 am and you can get them till 7:00 or 7:30 am only, whereas, shared taxis are available till 10:00 or 11:00 am.
Transportation cost from Rishikesh to Joshimath:
Bus – Rs. 300 (approx)
Shared Taxi – Rs. 600
Private Taxi – Rs. 6000
Transportation cost from Joshimath to Govindghat:
Shared Tax – Rs. 50
Food is not an issue here! You can get a variety of food at all the places. Gurudwara also serves langar the whole day which is top of the world.
Joshimath will have full networks with high-speed internet.
Only BSNL works in Govindghat and Ghangaria and no other networks, that too, you have to try a few times to connect a call. Various shop owners have installed a PCO kind of setup and you can utilize their phones to make a call at Rs 10 per minute.
Badrinath, on the other end, has good networks but again the internet will be very slow. Jio works well in Badrinath.
- Transportation Cost
- Delhi to Rishikesh (Volvo) = Rs 785
- Rishikesh to Joshimath (Shared Taxi) = Rs 600
- Joshimath to Govindghat (Shared Taxi) = Rs 50
- Govindghat to Badrinath (Private Taxi shared between 4) = Rs 150/head
- Badrinath to Mana (Private Taxi shared between 4) = Rs 125/head
- Badrinath to Joshimath (Shared + Private Taxi) = Rs. 175
- Joshimath to Rishikesh (Shared Taxi) = Rs 600
- Rishikesh to Delhi (General Bus) = Rs 300
Total Transportation Cost = Rs. 2785
- Accommodation Cost (Shared between 2)
- Govindghat – Rs 500 X 1 night = Rs 500
- Ghangaria – Rs 400 X 3 nights = Rs 1200
- Badrinath – Rs 500 X 1 night = Rs 500
- Joshimath – Rs 600 X 1 night = Rs 600
Total Accommodation Cost – Rs 2800/2 = Rs 1400/head
- Food and Miscellaneous = Rs 4000 (approx)
My Total Budget was Rs 8,000
So, this was all about my experience and how you can plan your itinerary to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund. Please let me know in the comments if you want any specific information.
Keep travelling and keep sharing experiences!