The Divine Paradise - Valley of flowers & Hemkund Sahib


Valley of Flowers

Located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, roughly at an altitude of 3500 meters above MSL, Valley of flowers is one of the must places to be visited . A tiring trekking of 15-17 Kms needs to be done to visit this place. Else spend some extra money, and you can cover 3/4th  this distance via helicopter then walk the remaining path which becomes little easy. However, for those who are fit enough, I strongly recommend  you to trek the entire distance. Valley of flowers is quite famous and draws many tourists every year, including foreigners. Ahead of this route is the famous “Hemkund Sahib” Gurudwara which is one among holy shrines and is the highest Gurudwara in world located at an altitde of 4600mts above MSL . And 25kms away is an important Chardham yatra site, the Badrinath shrine.

Confluence of Alaknanda and Pindar at Karnaprayag.
Valley of flowers is located inside national park. It is famous for alpine wild flowers which bloom naturally for 3-4 months of every year,  during summers. The flowers occur in various colour and types. The park also hosts variety of wild animals ranging from Musk deer, brown bear, Asiatic black bear, snow leopards, to name some. As the place is located inside national park, so you are allowed to visit it only during day time and there is absolutely no accommodation inside, and you need to come out within stipulated time. Also permission is a must to visit the place, which can be obtained at the entrance of park by paying nominal fees. It will be considered as tress passing if you are visiting the park without a proper permit. Hence follow rules and be safe.  

Valley of flowers, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath temple are open only during summer months. All these places are closed in winters due to heavy snow. People present here move down towards hospitable places and you cannot find anyone in these places during off season.

Map indicating Route.
Trekking to Valley of flowers starts from a small village called Govind Ghat, which is last place for vehicles. You can start trekking from Govind Ghat itself or you can travel in shared jeep for 4kms ahead  till village called Pulna.  From this place you trek till Ghangaria, which is the last village. There is a diversion in Ghangaria. One takes you to valley of flowers, and another route of 6 kms which involves very steep trek takes you to “Hemkund Sahib” Gurudwara. 
From Govind Ghat the Badrinath shrine is 25kms via road, the temple is located next to road. So reaching Badrinath temple isn’t a difficult task as it is easily accessible by road.

We were again a large group of 13 people who got together to visit the place this September. We booked a private tempo traveller for the journey throughout . Having a private vehicle is very convenient in mountains especially when you are travelling in such large groups.

Thus :
Day 1: The distance from Dehradun to Govind ghat is 315 Kms. We started from Dehradun at 4am via Rishikesh road. We parted flat roads from Rishikesh itself as mountainous zig zag road beings from here for the entire journey. The perilous mountain roads are always scenic. We traverse along the beautiful river Ganga throughout our journey. Since September being last leg of monsoons, we were struck in many traffic jams occurring due landslides, which is common during this part of year. Hence travel with buffer timings and avoid late evening and night journeys.  Now, after a tiresome journey of an entire day we reached Govind Ghat village which is  starting point of trekking to Valley of flowers, at 7pm. Accommodation is not a problem in Govind Ghat,  there are plenty of hotels and lodges for stay. We Checked in one of lodges and all of us were asleep at 10pm itself.  The entire day was spent in travelling to reach the initial point of trekking.

Day 2: Next day we started at 6 AM. Leaving behind our vehicle, that would remain parked in Govind Ghat for next 2 days, we started walking towards Ghangaria village which was our destination for the day. As I told earlier, you can hire a share cab till Pulna Village which is 4 km ahead, and trek from there. But we decided to walk from Govind Ghat itself. Ghangaria village till Govind ghat is around 14kms. For those who don’t wish to walk this path, you get Mules, Doli, and basket walals all along the route. And helicopter service is there from Govind Ghat to Ghangaria. We hired one mule till Ghangaria,, which would carry all our luggage, which we carried along for one night stay . Walking with bags is very tiresome, especially on this route which becomes steeper after 2 hours of walk. Initial walk is next to river which flows along to the route. It is bone chilling cold water flowing directly from mountains. I bet for someone who is not a localite, cannot dip hands in flowing water for more than 15-20 seconds, else fingers will become numb. Water availability isn’t a problem and is available throughout. 

     Initial Trek Route
Bridge from where trek becomes steep

Also there are many eating points along the route where you can have refreshments. But you get all things at an increased rate. So if you don’t want to spend extra money then carry eatables along. At certain point of trek there comes a place where you cross river via make Shift Bridge. Trekking till this bridge is very gradual without much ascend or descend. But once you cross this bridge, the real climbing begins. The path forward is treacherous as you have to continuously climb till Ghangaria. While we started as group of 13, but due to different walking speeds we broke up into various groups. While some went ahead quickly some were left behind. Since same route also goes to Hemkund Sahib, and you can find many people walking on this route either going up or coming down. So don’t worry about safety, it is very safe to go alone on this trek.
 With almost our complete energy drained, and post sweating profusely we all reached Ghangaria at 1 pm, almost 8 hours after beginning of our trek from Govind Ghat. There was sense of relief among everyone that climbing for the day is over.  In Ghangaria also you have many options to stay. We checked in one of hotels, dumped our luggage and had our afternoon lunch.

Steep climb to Hemkund Saheb 

Hemkund Saheb Gurdwara
Now, going to valley of flowers today was out of question because it was already late as park closes at 5pm and last entry time is 3 pm, also we had to trek further 2.5-3hrs to reach it. So we decided to go to Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara. However, the route from Ghangaria to Hemkund Sahib is very steep and it consumes a lot of energy and time, even for a seasoned trekker. Though some people walk all the way from Govindghat till Hemkund Sahib, we were drained off our energy to do this. Hence, from Ghangaria we all decided to visit Hemkund Sahib the same day by hiring Mules.  We arranged 12 mules, as one of our mates decided he would walk, and he did climb up and down by walking!! Hats off to him, we all were impressed by his fitness!!! Anyways, the mule ride was a bit of uncomfortable for many, as it was first time we all did this. But you will be surely impressed regarding training of mules in doing their task. At some places our heart come to our mouth, when the mules wandered too close to edge, a small slip and we would go down  tumbling thousands of feet into world of unknown!!! But the animals are well trained and manage their paths perfectly. Lack of guard rails at many places in the route is risky thing, as a small slip of leg here will cost anyone their life without an iota doubt. However, entire journey till Hemkund Sahib from Ghangaria is a feast to your eyes. With snow covered mountains at a distance, and fog playing hide and seek, it felt as if we are getting disconnected from materialistic world and travelling towards eternity. After many frightening edge rides by mules, the animal’s hoof slipping at some places and sometimes the scary running by animal so as to leave its partner behind, we finally reached the beautiful Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara at 4Pm after 2 hours travelling on Mule Back. It will take minimum 4 to reach this place via walk from Ghangaria, which would’ve become an impossible task for us had we chosen to walk. The Gurudwara was closing for the day, so we hurriedly went inside for blessings. Altitude sickness , nausea,  or headaches may be a common phenomenon for some of you visiting here, as it is at higher altitude. Inform Gurudwara people regarding same, if you experience it and they will help you out. Same thing happened with one of our team mates, we informed Gurudwara people there who helped her and she recovered very quickly without any issues. The Gurudwara is located next to a natural water body. The icy cold water body is surrounded by snow covered mountains. It is a place which everyone should visit. I was awestruck by the beauty of the place. Such a serene and silent place. One feels like spending as much as time in that place. We quickly had chai and roti which they served us and advised us to leave quickly as clouds started engulfing the place, sending signals of rains. Thus we quickly got on to our respective mules and hurriedly went down to Ghangaria to our stay. The silence and soberness of Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara is a feeling which I would personally never forget in life, I wish I could’ve got some more time to spend. So we reached our hotels at 6.30pm and next to our lodge was forest department office which showcases a small documentary of 30mins regarding valley of flowers, every day at fixed timings in their office premises. We all were lucky, because we got opportunity to view the documentary and it was last show of the day. If you get a chance please watch it, as it gives a very nice insight about the place. Thus the day was over and next day was for valley of flowers.

A special mention about climate. It is extremely cold. Please make sure you are warm. Temperatures lingers from below zero to 5 degrees, which is very cold especially at Hemkund Sahib.  Also another noticeable thing is regarding cleanliness of the entire place. The entire trek route right from Govind Ghat till Ghangaria and Hemkund Saheb is kept very clean and plastic free. There are cleanliness workers stationed at various places who collect garbage littered and also educate people not to litter. Unlike other crowded places where garbage/littering is common, the plastic menace is very less here. Complete credit to authorities for maintaining sanctity of the place. So it’s your and my responsibility to keep it same.

Panaroma of Hemkund Saheb, The pond behind the Gurudwara

Day 3: So again we started early at 6.30 from Ghangaria to Valley of flowers. It is about 3 hours of trek from Ghangaria. You can clearly see board indicating directions for valley of flowers, proceed in that direction as other goes to Hemkund Sahib.  
Towards Valley of Flowers
While walking towards Valley of flowers you encounter forest office, where you pay entry fees and obtain receipt for same. The guard in charge there, instructed us about do’s and don’t in the park and advised to return before noon as it is a national park and people aren’t allowed for longer time. And as I told earlier there is no staying facilities inside, and you cannot tent inside. It is illegal.  Thus, with permission and receipts issued we proceeded further. It is a gradual ascend, not much difficult as Hemkund Sahib. We were elated to see variety of butterflies, birds, spiders and ofcourse the tiny Pica Mouse which ran here and there, preparing itself for long winters a head. The place is open from June – October. Ideal season to visit the valley of flowers would be in month of July till mid of September when flowers are in full bloom. Since, we had been in September the flowers had already started dispersing their seeds. The place is so calm, undisturbed with lush green grass spread on earth like a hand woven carpet with colourful flower petals here and there. The valley is huddled in between mountains which had started covering themselves with snow from the top.  Being silent, all you can hear is the gushing sound of a waterfall, chirping of words and cool breeze which reverberates throughout your soul and body. And listening to silence in mountains is a divine experience in itself and you will yearn to have this experience again and again once you start enjoying it. You can walk around the place as much as you wish, ofcourse don’t venture too far. There is memorial grave of Joan Margearet Legge’s, who lost her life during an expedition inside the park. Thankfully the weather that day was pleasant and we all were able to explore the place. No doubt the place is called as paradise due to its undisturbed beauty, time literally stops here for the one who can observe. Words can hardly describe the magnificent sight of eyes. Your heart swells with pride that India is home to many such delightful creations on earth. One interesting thing to be observed here is the colour of flowers which change with every season, which is quiet impressive. It seems like a green carpet painted with different colours in different months. So after spending enough of time, we started walking back to Ghangaria. 

                                        The Valley of Flowers
          Flowers we sighted

Mountain Weasel 

It was our sheer luck we sighted mountain weasel on our way back. It was quick sight, as the weasel ran off immediately inside the burrow when it saw us. Thus we reached Ghangaria at 12.30pm, had our lunch. We vacated our room and started descending towards Govind Ghat, from where we had started our trek the previous day. Again a mule was hired to carry back our luggage. So stopping here and there for chai, Maggie and gossiping we reached down Govind Ghat at 7pm. It was already dark. Since we were large group, we managed to come down at this time. If you are travelling alone, make sure you reach down early. We checked in one of the hotel and ended our day very soon as everyone was tired.

Day 4: 
Badrinath Dham

The last day of our tour, today was visit to Badrinath temple and journey back to Dehradun. Again we started the day early at 6am. We sat in our tempo traveller and went to Badrinath temple which is at distance of 25kms from Govind Ghat. We reached temple early at 8am. The temple is located next to main road.  With the season coming to close, the crowd at temple was thin, and we came out within 2 hours of darshan. There is a small village called “Mana”, which is at distance of only 3km from Badrinath  temple and is the last revenue village on Indian Side.  This village is famous for being last Indian village. Though Indian Territory extends far beyond Mana till China border, there are no revenue villages after this.
There is Vyas Goofa/Cave in the village, and legend says that it is the place where Rishi vyas composed Mahabharata, also there is another Ganpati Goofa. A temple dedicated to River Saraswati, with  huge boulder called Bhim Pul or Bhim Bridge is present here. Again, legend says that the boulder was put in the place by Bhim of Pandavas, hence it is named after him. You can visit these places by walking as they are very close by. An interesting thing to be observed here is the name of tea stalls, almost all tea stalls in the village have written their boards as “Last tea shop of India”. You can decide at which “Last tea shop of India” to drink your tea ;-).

Thus, with Mana done, we sat in our vehicle and started our 350km long journey back to Dehradun. Retracing the tour today after many months, the first sight that comes to eyes is the astounding beauty of Valley of flowers landscape followed by fragile silence at Hemkund Saheb. As I always say, Nature always guides you in self-analysis, and it is important to do this analysis at regular intermissions of life.  

Our Group

Quick Checks:

1. Valley of flowers and Hemkund Saheb is located along same trek route.
2. Trekking starts from Govind Ghat till Ghangaria, Ghangaria is last village for accomodation.
3. Entire trekking distance is oddly 15-17 kilometers.
4. Permission is required, which can be obtained at the gate to visit Valley of flowers, and you cannot stay  inside. It is open from 8am to 5pm.
5. The places are closed in winters due to heavy snow.

                                                                                                                           ------x---THE END----x-----

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