The trek to Valley of Flowers (VoF) and Hemkund starts a little beyond Joshimath, at a pilgrim hamlet called Govind Ghat. Leave Rishikesh /Dehradun early in the morning and travel along River Alakananda on the Badrinath highway. The roads are dangerously cut on mountains edges and at times, you only see the river flowing in the gorge deep below. Do not carry food with you as there are plenty of eateries on the way. As a trekker, there is no need to hire porters or mules on this trail but if you need one to carry your backpack, Govindghat is the place to hire a porter or mule. JIO network is no fully operational in Govindghat, so would request to Switch to the JIO network for this expedition of yours. But Beyond Any mobile network for 3 Days could be an issue
There is now a motorable road to Poolna. This reduces the distance trekked today to 9 km from the earlier 13 km. Start with a 4 km cab ride to Poolna. The trail is well-defined. It is usually full of Sikh pilgrims walking up and down. Notice the cleanliness on the trail despite hundreds treading upon it every day. It’s a heartening and motivating sight. All thanks to volunteers who sweep the trail every day.
The 9 km trek from Poolna to Ghangria goes all the way along the river. Stop by any roadside dhaba for a drink or a bite to eat. The trail is alternately sunny and shaded. At around the midpoint of the day’s trek, you cross the river and go to the other bank. After this, you no longer trek alongside the river.
The trek takes 5-6 hours and you approach a tabular land. This is when you know you are close to Ghangria. Ghangria has a helipad and some space for camping. Half a kilometre from the helipad is the one-street village of Ghangria, lined with hotels, restaurants and a Gurudwara. The Gurudwara offers free accommodation and food to all.
Leave Ghangria early (6.00 am) to give yourself the whole day to spend at Valley of Flowers. The trail splits in less than a kilometre. There is a gate to buy entry tickets to the valley. Walk inside and notice the small flowering plants springing up on either side. A kilometre into the gate, there is a scenic bridge across a stream gushing below.
Tall rocky mountains rise before you. Notice that the well-laid-out trail has now become a small footway along the side of the valley. The stream flows below you and there are small, hard snow patches by the side. On the trek inside Valley of Flowers, you see very few people around you. This may come across as a big and welcome contrast to the previous day’s trek, where there were hundreds. The scenery has also taken a drastic turn for the better and any direction you turn to looks picture-perfect. Trek along for a couple of kilometres on the flat path and to your right opens up the valley. Cross another rickety bridge and collect water to drink from below.
The entire valley is generally a carpet of colours – green, yellow, red, blue. It is surrounded by mountains with trees at lower levels, brown and grey soil in the middle and bright snow at the top. A bright sunny day will ensure deep blue skies completing the picture and taking it beyond your imagination. The valley is really a botanists’ dreamland! One can find flowers, leaves, buds of various shapes, sizes, colours, all growing together. Notice various types of bees and insects hovering on these strange flowers.
Walk further into the valley and you will be engulfed with an amazing scent, which unfortunately cannot be captured but can only be felt. The valley stretches 5-7 km further until it ends with a glacier visible at a distance. The stream flows all the way through the valley. Take off your shoes and dip your feet into it to experience the icy cold water.
The glacier where the valley ends. Picture by Sandhya U C
Prominent flowers that you will see in July-August include Meadow Geranium, Snake Foil, Hooked Stick Seed, Himalayan Rose, Blue Poppy, River Anemone, White Leaf Hog Foot and Dog Flower. Carry packed lunch from Ghangria on the Valley of Flowers trek day. There is no food available in the valley. Overnight camping isn’t allowed either. Plan your return along the same path by early afternoon. The afternoon sun falling on the valley from a different direction gives a whole new perspective to the same place you saw in the morning.
Start your day early. The weather can be impulsive in the afternoon and sudden cloud cover and rain can get you stranded if you do not get down on time. The thought of getting up before 5.00 am can be daunting but the Gurudwara makes it easy. Their day starts at 4.00 am with the singing of bhajans.
By 5.00 am, you hear people outside the gate of the Gurudwara chanting in the chorus and the horses being readied to go up to Hemkund Sahib. Get up and grab a hot drink of chai. A poncho (light rain coat) and a trekking pole can be handy on the trek to Hemkund. Pass the deviation to Valley of Flowers. Continue to trek up the steep path slowly but steadily. Spot a pretty waterfall on your right falling through the rock walls on the right. After about 2 hours of walking, you are higher than the tree line and the views begin to get better. Mark the route to Valley of Flowers on the mountain in front across the river gorge. After another hour of slow walking with numerous breaks, you begin to feel reduced oxygen levels in the air. A melting glacier lies on the way. Take generous breaks while climbing up the steep path. These breaks are important as going up very fast could only mean inviting altitude sickness. Do not sit down during these breaks. Sitting down causes your muscles to relax and getting back on track can be very difficult. An hour of stiff climbing brings you to Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara. The lake lies just behind it. The Hemkund Sahib lake remains frozen for six months. Warm yourself in the Gurudwara and have generous helpings of hot tea and khichdi.
Hemkund Lake with an emerald hue. Picture by Hemanth Prajwal
Walk around to the other side of the Hemkund Lake. It exudes an aura of peace and serenity. It’s crystal clear, undisturbed and reflects mountains the mountains surrounding it. The lake and the Gurudwara in this setting are a sight to watch. Around Hemkund, the Himalayan flower, Brahma Kamal grows abundantly. This flower grows only at heights of 10,000 ft to 15,000 ft. Leave Hemkund by early afternoon. The walk down can be strenuous on the knees and toes. It takes 4- 5 hours to walk down the 6 km.
The trail back to Ghangria. Picture by Thanashyam Raj
The trail back to Poolna is on the same path that you took on Day 1. Drive from Poolna to Govind Ghat. Start after breakfast and reach Govind Ghat by 2.00 pm.
We can post Lunch at Govindghat Drive to badrinath and also Visit MANA Village, which is the last village on Indian border.
Drive down to Rishikesh. Expect to reach Rishikesh between 6 pm and 7 pm.
Important note: Since Valley of Flowers is a monsoon trek, there are possibilities of roadblocks due to landslides. Account for this by adding a buffer day in your travel plan.
Package Cost Includes
Porters at extra cost to carry your luggage
Note - We serve three meals a day including snacks and soup. A variety of delectable and healthy food is provided. They are nutritious and keep you fit and healthy on the trek.
As mentioned in the itinerary