Valley of Flowers
These are some of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Himalayas. Dominated by the peak of Nanda Devi, which rises to over 7,800 m, Nanda Devi National Park has remained more or less intact because of its inaccessibility. It is the habitat of several endangered mammals, especially the snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer and bharal. The Valley of Flowers National Park is renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty, and is also home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. Together they encompass a unique transition zone between the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and Great Himalaya, praised by mountaineers and botanists for over a century and in Hindu mythology for much longer.
The Valley of Flowers is an outstandingly beautiful high-altitude Himalayan valley that has been acknowledged as such by renowned mountaineers and botanists in literature for over a century and in Hindu mythology for much longer. Its ‘gentle’ landscape, breath-takingly beautiful meadows of alpine flowers and ease of access complement the rugged, mountain wilderness for which the inner basin of Nanda Devi National Park is renowned.
Valley of flower is world heritage recognised by UNESCO.
The Valley of Flowers is internationally important on account of its diverse alpine flora, representative of the West Himalaya biogeographic zone. The rich diversity of species reflects the valley’s location within a transition zone between the Zaskar and Great Himalaya ranges to the north and south, respectively, and between the Eastern and Western Himalaya flora. A number of plant species are internationally threatened, several have not been recorded from elsewhere in Uttarakhand and two have not been recorded in Nanda Devi National Park. The diversity of threatened species of medicinal plants is higher than has been recorded in other Indian Himalayan protected areas. The entire Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve lies within the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA). Seven restricted-range bird species are endemic to this part of the EBA.
Valley of flowers is the name of the Himalayan area in Uttarakhand, India. In 1931 the English mountaineer Frank Smythe stumbled across the Bhyundar Valley, an 8 km long glacier corridor in Chamoli Garhwal. This area, surrounded by snow-capped mountains and carpeted with over 500 species of flowers, soon became a protected site.
It was declared a national park in 1982. The Valley of Flowers stretches over an expanse of 87.50 km˛. This part of Uttarakhand, in the upper reaches of Garhwal, is inaccessible through much of the year. The area lies on the Zanskar range of the Himalayas with the highest point in the national park being Gauri Parbat at 6,719 m above sea level.
Flowers mostly orchids, poppies, primulas, calendulas, daisies and anemones carpet the ground. Alpine forests of birch and rhododendron cover a part of the area, and are home to tahr, snow leopard, musk deer, red fox, common langur, bharal, serow, Himalayan black bear and a huge variety of butterflies.
There is no settlement in the national park and grazing in the area has been banned. The park is open only in summers between June and October, being covered by heavy snow during the rest of the year.
All visitors to the Valley of Flowers need to obtain an entry permit from the Forest Checkpost at the entrance to the park, beyond Ghangaria. The fee is a nominal one- at least for Indians, who pay significantly less than foreigners. The permit is valid for three days, and additional charges are levied for still cameras; video cameras are allowed only if you're carrying a special permit from the Chief Wildlife Warden in Lucknow. Visitors are allowed into the park only during the daytime.
How to go
Getting to the Valley of Flowers isn't exactly a cakewalk: getting here requires a trek of about 17 km. The nearest major town is Joshimath in Garhwal, which has convenient road connections from railheads such as Hardwar and Dehradun, both about 270 km from Joshimath. From Joshimath, a vehicle can be hired to take you to within 17 km of the park, to the settlement of Gobindghat. The route from Joshimath to the Valley of Flowers goes along the main road to Badrinath; roughly midway along this road, a minor road branches off to Gobindghat, the roadhead for the Valley. From Gobindghat, a trek of 14 km brings hikers to the tiny settlement of Ghangaria, beyond which the toll gate to the National Park is about 3 km.
Best time to visit
The Valley of Flowers is accessible only in the summer, between June and October. The rest of the year, heavy snows make passage impossible, and usually block off the trail leading up to the National Park. Although you can visit the park any time during the summer, it's best to go in August or September, when monsoon showers turn the valley into a mass of blooms.
Overnight stay at the Valley of Flowers is not permitted. so there are no facilities for accommodation within the park. There are state-run tourist resthouses at Joshimath and Ghangharia; both in addition, have several tourist lodges and resthouses. Accommodation tariffs along the way can range from anywhere between Rs 100 to 1000.