Trip to valley of flowers, Hemkund Sahib & Badrinath

By: Ankur Goel, LMB

I had been planning this trip to Valley of flowers ever since we came to know about it. The name itself had a magnetic effect on me and my travel buddies. A valley full of naturally grown flowers of around 500 varieties exclusive to this place. We heard so much about the beauty that we had to see for ourselves. Later on we added Shri Hemkunt Sahib and Badrinath also to this trip as they were close by.

About Valley of Flowers:
The Valley of Flowers is a high-altitude Himalayan valley that has long been acknowledged by renowned mountaineers, botanists, and in literature. It has been recognised internationally for over a century and is referenced in the Hindu religion. Local people have visited the valley since ancient times. Indian yogis are known to have visited the valley for meditation. The Valley of Flowers has many different colourful flowers, taking on various shades of colours as time progressed. The valley was declared a national park in 1982 and now it is a World Heritage Site.

State: Uttarakhand, District: Chamoli, Nearest towns: Ghangharia, Joshimath

The Journey:
We have been planning this trip for quite some time, but failed to do so for one reason or another. One of the reason was Kedarnath flood in 2013 which washed away a bridge connecting Ghangharia to the valley of flowers. Later on this bridge was reconstructed along with a new trekking path which made the trek a bit longer than earlier.

The best time to visit valley is from July to September. Rest of the year valley remains mostly covered in snow. We planned our trip during the extended weekend of Independence Day, so bus tickets to Rishikesh were booked well in advance. We started our journey from Kashmere gate ISBT to Rishikesh by bus at 9.30 pm. We reached Rishikesh early in the morning at 4.30 am. There are taxis available for hire at rishikesh which will take you to Govind ghat. These are mostly Tata Sumo or Mahindra Bolero SUVs. They take around Rs 600 per head and stuff 10 persons (at least) inside. One can hire the full vehicle by paying Rs 6000 and travel comfortably. You can also catch a bus from rishikesh (Going to Badrinath) and get down at Govind ghat. We hired a Bolero in sharing with a couple also travelling to valley of flowers. It is a 10 hours long journey to Govind ghat. There were many landslides along the way which are very common in rainy season all through Uttarakhand. We were lucky though to not come across any major landslides. Also there are a number of water falls on the way which make the journey quite pleasant. You can take a break and have a bath in cold and fresh water coming from the mountains (We did that) and let me tell you “It’s refreshing”.

That’s the advantage of hiring a vehicle and having it for yourself. We crossed Devaprayag, Srinagar (Garhwal), Rudraprayag and Joshimath on our way. We reached Govind ghat at 3.00 pm.
The 10km long trek to Ghangharia starts from Pulna which is 4 km away from Govind ghat. We decided to spend the night in Govind ghat as we didn’t want to trek in the dark due to threat of wild animals in the area. There are a lot of options available for accommodation in Govind ghat. One can stay in any of the hotels or Gurudwara is also a good option depending upon the availability.

We started from Govind ghat early morning at 6.00 am. There are taxis available which take Rs 35 per person and drop you to Pulna. The trek to Ghangharia starts from here. Mules are also available on fixed rates for Ghangharia. We started walking on this 10 km long trek. On the way you will find many tea shops and dhabas at regular intervals where you can have refreshments. Not to mention the natural beauty we enjoyed and captured.

We reached Ghangharia in the afternoon at about 1.00 pm and decided to take rest. Here also, number of hotels are available for accommodation. Actually the whole town is full of hotels and restaurants. We stayed in Dormitory of the Gurudwara at Ghangharia. It’s a neat and clean place to spend the night with warm beds and blankets. A lot of devotees were staying in the Gurudwara as this is also the season to visit the holy pilgrimage Shri Hemkunt sahib. It’s a 6 km steep trek to Hemkunt Sahib from Ghangharia, again Mules are available for convenience.

We started the assent early in the morning. It’s tiresome but really a beautiful trek filled with mesmerizing natural views while we walk through the clouds.

On the way, we happen to see blooming Brahma Kamal, found only at this place.

After reaching at the top, we took dip in holy sarovar at Hemkunt. Although it was cold but divinely refreshing.

We visited Shri Hemkunt Sahib and took Prasad. The hot Khichadi served at Guru ka Langar was awesome so I had few bowls. After spending some time at the holy place, we started the descent back to Ghangharia.

Now comes the most important day of our trip. Trek to Valley of flowers. After having breakfast (Maggi) at a local dhaba, we started for VOF. We reached the entry gate at 7.00 am and purchased tickets (Rs 150 per person). There is a map of location of flowers which is very useful in locating and identifying different varieties. Also there is a board with main varieties of flowers found exclusively in VOF.

As soon as we moved on, we started seeing many kinds of flowers on our way. The whole path is filled with colorful flowers.

We came across our first river crossing, the newly constructed bridge. The river was thunderous.

There was steep assent after the bridge which suddenly opened up in a valley. Yes, we had reach the Valley of flowers. We were walking in a garden. Garden is a very small word to describe this sea of flowers. Whole valley was covered in Pink, Green, White, Yellow, Violet flowers.

We came across many water streams and water falls on our way.

Finally we reached the memorial of Joan Margaret Legge. She arrived at the valley to study flowers and while traversing some rocky slopes to collect flowers, she slipped off and lost her life. Her sister later visited the valley and erected a memorial near the spot.

From here we proceeded towards Tipra kharak, 3 km from Legge’s grave. Glacier is further 10 km from there. As we didn’t had enough time or energy so we decided to head back towards Ghangharia because we had to reach there before dark.
We spent the night in Gurudwara dormitory planning our move towards Badrinath as we were unsure whether the road is open or not. Just one week earlier a major landslide had happened in Lambadgad which forced the road to Badrinath to close. Many pilgrims were stuck on both sides. Next day we started descending to Govind ghat early in the morning. Upon reaching Pulna taxi stand we came to know that the taxis also go to Badrinath and road is open for traffic. We hired a taxi for Rs 1500 and started moving towards Badrinath. On the way we encountered many landslides. Luckily the roads were cleared and we reached the holy place without any problems at 4.00 pm. We stayed in a hotel which was very cheap (Rs 600 for a 4-bed room) due to off season.

Next day morning we visited the Badrinath temple after taking bath in Tapt kund (Hot water spring). It was a divine experience to visit one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage.

After spending quality time at all these places our journey back to home started. There are Uttarakhand govt buses available in the morning at 5.30 am and 7.00 am for Haridwar or Rishikesh. We hired a cab from Badrinath for Rs 6000 and reached rishikesh around 8.00 pm. We spent the next day relaxing along the Ganges and later on visiting Manasa devi and Chandi devi in Haridwar. Finally we headed back towards Delhi and reached home next day early in the morning.

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