The Valley of Flowers Trek had been on my wishlist since my first Himalayan high altitude trek in 2018. There have been many stories floating around about trekkers falling unconscious because of the strong fragrance of Flowers in the Valley. A British mountaineer Frank Smythe stumbled upon this valley after climbing Mt Kamet and was amazed by the expanse of the Valley of Flowers.
Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek: A Quick Introduction
|Region||North Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India|
|Duration||4 Days Trek + 2 Days Road journey|
|Highest Altitude||14,107 Ft. (4,300 Mts.)|
|Best Time||July – Mid of September|
I planned for a 9 day Trip including the dream Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek. Uttarakhand is also known as Devbhoomi (Land of the Gods) in August 2019. I also wanted to visit the cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar which are a Gateway to most of the pilgrimages in this land.
Which route did I take?
Since I was travelling from Pune, this is route I opted for:
|Pune -> (Flight) -> New Delhi -> (UPSRTC AC Bus) -> Rishikesh -> Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek -> Haridwar -> (UPSRTC AC Bus) -> New Delhi -> (Flight) -> Pune|
How to get to the Valley of Flowers?
|Mode of Transport||Details|
|Flight||Nearest Airport: Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun|
Direct Flights from New Delhi Airport
|Train||Nearest Railway station: Rishikesh (2 Trains from Jammu Tawi and Ganganagar, Rajasthan)|
Most Convenient station: Haridwar Junction
Direct trains from all major cities – New Delhi, Kolkata, Bikaner, Dehradun, Muzaffarpur, Mussoorie, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Varanasi in addition to the above 2 trains going to Rishikesh
|Road||From Dehradun: Taxi to Rishikesh (46 km) |
From New Delhi:
1) Best Option – Direct AC buses of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand State Transport (6 – 7 hrs)
2) Private Vehicle
Exploring Rishikesh – The Yoga Capital of the World
Rishikesh, also known as the Yoga Capital of the World, is one of the holiest cities in India with thousands of temples. Lakhs of devotees from India and abroad visit this sacred city every year. In addition, Rishikesh has also become a hub for Adventure Sports in the country. If you want to experience the adrenaline rush, get set for activities like Bungee Jumping, High Speed River Rafting, Zipline, Cliff Jumping and many more.
Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek – Day 1: Ideally Reach Govindghat (6,300 ft.)
On the 3rd day, we started early at 7 AM towards the base village for the trek – Govindghat in a tempo traveller. Due to the news about extremely adverse weather conditions in the past couple of weeks, a few trekkers from the batch had already cancelled the trek. This left us with a smaller group of 11 brave hearted trekkers willing to take up the challenges head on. You will understand why I’m saying this in this narration. This was going to be a really long drive (12+ hours) along one of the most picturesque roads
The roads leading towards Govindghat are dangerously cut on mountains edges and at times, you only see the river flowing in the gorge deep below. the weather started showing its true colours. Our driver started narrating his previous experiences as we moved along the Badrinath Highway. Soon after we moved on post breakfast, the climate started showing its true colours. It started raining and got heavier within an hour. This triggered a lot of landslides all along the route which led to road blocks. We had to stop for half an hour for the JCB machines to clear off the roads for the vehicles to pass through. I can definitely say I saw more JCB machines on the roads that normal passenger vehicles.
Helpless at the Hands of Nature
As we moved higher, the rain got heavier. The driver was informed by one of his local friends that the road beyond Srinagar had been blocked and would take hours to clear up. He suggested a longer alternate route which turned out to be scarier with very less habitation. What happened next had our hearts in our mouth! There was a point where the road was washed away due to a huge waterfall. There were vehicles queuing up on either side of the waterfall which grew bigger with every passing minute. For the first time, we all doubted our decision of going ahead with the trek. After waiting for more than an hour, the waterfall seemed to be calming down and we breathed a sigh of relief.
We had a quick lunch in the evening and immediately set forward as we were still a long way from Govindghat. The beautiful valleys and rustling rivers were the solace on this horrific day. The driver kept joking saying Bhagwan Laddu Fek Rahe Hai (God is throwing Ladoos at us) looking at the falling stones and boulders. We were forced to halt at a place before Chamoli (still ~ 3 hours away from our stipulated destination) as the dusk had set in and driving was becoming highly risky.
Five Prayags Enroute Govindghat
Enroute Govindghat, we come across 5 Prayags (place of confluence of sacred rivers) in the Garhwal Himalayas which is a visual spectacle.
|Devprayag||Alaknanda, Saraswati (invisible as it is underground) and Bhagirathi where it become the sacred Ganga (Ganges river)|
|Rudraprayag||Alaknanda and Mandakini|
|Karnaprayag||Alaknanda and Pindar|
|Nandaprayag||Alaknanda and Nandakini|
|Vishnuprayag||Alaknanda and Dhauliganga|
Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek – Day 2: Govindghat (6,300 ft.) to Ghangaria (9,600 ft.)
Day 2 started on a pleasant note and we set off early at 5 AM to cover the lost time the previous day. After a quick stop at Garuda Ganga (Place where Lord Vishnu’s vehicle Garuda meditated), we finally reached Govindghat after 4 hours. Post breakfast, we were driven to Poolna which was the actual starting point of the trek. You will get porters to carry your luggage so that you can trek comfortably with a small backpack and a wooden stick for support. The no mobile network / internet zone began and we were all on our own for the next 4 days.
The Trek Begins!
We started the trek at around 11 AM and had to cover 9 km in one day which was a long way. The route is well carved and had thousands of people especially Sikh pilgrims walking up and down the trail. We kept trugging along with frequent water breaks to keep ourselves hydrated. The weather had been kind to us till we reached the halfway mark in 3 hours. However, this was short lived and we again had to bear with the mood swings of the climate. It was sunny with intermittent showers for the first half of the trek but changed dramatically in the 2nd half and became quite heavy.
There was a bridge built across the river which had been washed out a few days back by the forceful river. We had to cross over a temporary one. To add to this, we had to be vigilant while climbing in the dense forest and crossing the landslide prone areas. After a long 7 hour trek, even though I was completely drenched with numb limbs, seeing helicopters land at a height of nearly 10,000 feet was a pleasant sight. Yes, you read it right – there is a helipad at Ghangaria!
Can you Believe there are Electronic Massagers at 10,000 ft.?
After trekking for 7 hours and 9 km in heavy downpour, my legs had given way. To my surprise, there was a massage center at Ghangaria which served as a booster to the drained out trekkers and pilgrims. There were electronic massagers one can use at minimal charges to get back some strength in the tired body. They also provided hand driers on hourly basis which helped us greatly in drying out the soaked shoes and clothes. It was truly Unbelievable!
Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek – Day 3: Ghangaria (9,600 ft.) to Valley of Flowers (11,500 ft.) and Back
I got up the next day with a ray of hope as the sun was shining bright. We were all geared up to trek to the most awaited Valley of Flowers. After less than a kilometre, the trail splits in two paths – One takes you towards the Valley of Flowers while the other to Hemkund Sahib. A kilometer from the Forest Checkpoint entry gate, you will see a scenic bridge across a stream gushing below. It was astonishing to walk along the trail full of flowers of numerous species and colours – white, yellow, blue, pink, red. The Blue Poppy (a Japanese flower), Snake foil, White Leaf Hog Foot, Dog Flower are a few I remember.
Looking at the daunting mountains standing tall in front of your eyes feels spectacular. After a 4 km trek, crossing beautiful rivers, waterfalls and majestic mountains, we reached the actual Valley of Flowers which stretches across 5 km – 7 km until it ends in a glacier. It was a visual spectacle to see flower beds in all directions. There are nearly 500 varieties of flowers that bloom at different times from mid of June to mid of September every year. I was lucky to be able to see more than 50 of those.
We munched on our packed lunch and spent an hour capturing the mesmerizing views more in our Eyes than in our cameras. I climbed up on one of the boulders and tried to sense the expanse of the Valley. Even though I didn’t faint due to the strong fragrance of the flowers, it was still a moment to cherish! My heart didn’t want to leave but had to return to Ghangaria as the climate changes drastically.
Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek – Day 4: Ghangaria (9,600 ft.) to Hemkund Sahib (14,107 ft.) and Back
The 3th day was a trek to the holy Hemkund Lake (filled in by water flowing down from 7 surrounding glaciers) and Gurudwara (Sikh pilgrimage at a height of more than 14000 feet). It was 6 hour steep climb 4,500 ft covering 7 km each way. So we decided to hire a mule for the ascent and descend on foot. The path was flocked by Sikh devotees coming from far off places. As we moved closer to the Gurdwara, a familiar sight caught our eyes. Thousands of flowers some we saw the previous day while some new species welcomed us. The Himalayan Rose, popularly known as Brahma Kamal is found in abundance here.
We reached there in about an hour riding dangerously on the backs of these elegant mules that walked gently on the curved pathway. Even though it was freezing cold, the sight of the holy lake and the chanting prayers in the Gurdwara gives you a feeling of serenity equivalent to none. The vicinity of the Gurdwara and the lake are clean and well maintained in spite of the thousands of devotees. Make sure you taste the Khichadi and Piping Hot Tea that are served as Prasad at the Gurdwara Langar.
On the way back, the weather changed drastically and it started drizzling which later turned into a steady downpour. You should definitely enjoy a bowl of Maggie at one of the numerous Dhabas enroute.
Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek – Day 5: Ghangaria (9,600 ft.) to Govindghat (6,300 ft.)
The past 2 days of the trek had brought forward a completely different face of nature. It was time to head back. We were just hoping that our journey would be slightly less eventful but yet again mother nature had different plans. While returning, we saw a couple of huge mountains literally sliding down to debris making huge explosion like sounds. The scenes were awful and jaw-dropping. The rains refused to leave our backs until we reached the base village after nearly 6 hours. The feeling of getting to the Finish line was stupendous and we all thanked God for bringing us back safe.
A Special Vote of Thanks to the People of Ghangaria
It’s hard to believe that the livelihood of the natives of Ghangaria depends of just 4-5 months of pilgrimage / trekking. They all move their base to lower altitudes like Govindghat for the rest of the year due to extremely heavy snowfall and facilities. In spite of all these challenges, they try their best to provide us the best services and food. This is indeed – Survival of the Toughest!
Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek – Day 6: Back to Rishikesh
Can you believe it? It was raining cats and dogs for the past 5 days and here we are Day 6 – Bright and Sunny! It also gave us glimpses of the different shades of mountains which was not seen before. We finally reached Haridwar late evening and bid each other goodbye with a promise to be in touch thereafter as well.
This trip / trek to the Valley of Flowers was equally majestic and horrifying. Experiences like these make you wonder how small you are in front of the glory of this fascinating creation of God – Mother Nature!
How can end this one without a mention of my Fellow Trekkers, Trek Leaders and our driver Manmohan. They were more than family for the previous 6 days.
Pratibha, Sri, Sibi, Sahitya, Sritama, Tribhuvan Pratap a.k.a TP, Drashti, Pooja, Mamta and Pravin
Our Trek Leaders – Sandeep and Jaydeep