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Valley of Flowers National Park
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Valley of Flowers is a National Park situated at a high altitude valley in the Garhwal region of the Western Himalayas, in the state of Uttarakhand in Northern India. Covering a vast expanse of 34 square miles, this picturesque valley is home to a large number of endangered animals and birds. Lying at an altitude of 10,997-11,050 feet, the Valley of Flowers is a part of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and has been declared to be a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
LocationNestled in the upper reaches of the Bhyundar Ganga, close to the small town of Joshimath in the Garhwal District, the Valley of Flowers is a part of the River Pushpawati Valley about 12 miles from Nanda Devi National Park. The whole area is a part of the Zanskar range of Jammu and Kashmir and the highest point in the park is the Gauri Parvat which has an altitude of 22,044 feet above the sea level.
HistoryThe valley finds some mention in Hindu religious texts and has been visited by local people and saints and yogis of India since antiquity. Local people always believed that the valley is inhabited by fairies. However a group of British mountaineers Eric Shipton, Frank S. Smythe and R.L. Holdsworth who on returning from an expedition from Mt. Kamet in 1931 lost their way and stumbled upon this valley full of flowers. It was they who popularized the valley and gave the valley its name. Joan Margaret Ledge a British botanist, who came to this valley in 1939, fell from a cliff and lost her life. A memorial for her was erected by her sister which still lies near the spot of the accident. Prof. Chandra Prakash Kala an Indian botanist enlisted more than 520 alpine plants found in this region and authored two books about the picturesque valley.
What to ExpectThe mystical valley with all its grandeur has enticed nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts from all over the world for the past few decades. Noted for its rich diversity of flora and fauna the valley is home to many rare species of animals likes the musk deer, snow leopard etc. and hundreds of rare medicinal plants and flowers of different botanical names. Perched on the high ranges of the Garhwal the visitor to the valley is sure to be enthralled by its mesmerizing beauty and breathtaking views. In the spring time when the flowers start to bloom, the valley unfurls all its colors and becomes a ground of unparalleled beauty- a heavenly paradise on this planet Earth.
Vegetation, flora and faunaThe lower ranges surrounding the valley are covered with dense vegetation and the Forest Research Institute has recorded nearly 600 different types of angiosperms and about 30 pteridophytes a few of which are extremely rare. The Himalayan maple and the Himalayan blue poppy or the Meconopsis betonicifolia are two flowers of exquisite beauty which are only found here. More than 45 species of herbs with medicinal values grow here and are collected by villagers both for personal use and for offering to goddesses like Sunanda Devi and Nanda Devi.
The ‘Saussurea obvallata ’, locally known as the Brahmakamal is often used in religious offerings by the local people. The sub alpine zone of the valley is covered with high altitude trees and is congenial to the survival of a large number of faunal and floral communities. Trees like the Himalayan fir, Himalayan maple, Himalayan white birch and Himalayan yew dominate the landscape of this part of the valley.
In 1987 the flora of the region was studied and inventoried by the Botanical Survey of India. Subsequently a nursery and a botanical bank for seeds, rhizome and tubers for cultivation of medicinal plants was built near the entrance of the valley at Musadhar. Arnebia benthamii, Aconitum heterophyllum and the Gymnadenia orchides are a few of the medical plants found in this area. The most commonly grown flowers of the valley include poppies, orchids, daisies, marigolds, primulas and the floor is carpeted with anemones. The sub-Alpine zone of the valley is covered with birch and rhododendrons.
Though the number of wild animals inhabiting the valley is not very high, most of the animals found here are either endangered or extremely rare. Some of the rare animals of the valley enlisted by CP Kala include the flying squirrel, grey langur, Himalayan weasel, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan musk deer, Himalayan yellow throated marten, Indian chevrotain, red fox, Himalayan goral and serow. The lower expanse of the valley is reportedly frequented by leopards and brown bears.
According to a survey done in 2004, suggests the presence of snow leopards in the valley. More than 114 different species of birds have been sighted in the valley which includes the Himalayan vulture, Koklass pheasant, Bearded vulture, Blue throated barbets, Yellow and red billed choughs, Snow pigeon, Spotted dove among others. The blooming flowers also attract many different species of butterflies all of which haven’t been listed yet.
How to get thereVisitors are not allowed to camp in the valley or spend a night here since it’s a World Heritage Site. One has to go to the small town of Govindghat by a bus or share car from Rishikesh to reach this hamlet township. From Govindghat one has to hike about 8 miles to reach the hamlet of Ghangaria . One can also arrange for porters or guides from Govindghat.
For night stay on this tour, one has to stay at Ghangaria which is the only village near the Valley which provides accommodation and food. From Ghangaria one needs to climb about 1km or so to reach the valley entrance.
The nearest railway head to reach Valley of Flowers is in Haridwar and the nearest airport to visit this location is the Indira Gandhi International Airport at New Delhi.
Important information for travelersThe flood of 2013 in Uttarakhand devastated this region so the valley is closed for tourists for the time being and in all probabilities won’t be opening until 2015, since reconstruction work of roads and bridges is not yet complete which heads for this location.
Best time to VisitThe Valley becomes accessible for trekkers from the end of May till the end of September. June is not the best time to go there since Ghangria is filled with tourists from Punjab who go for pilgrimage to Hemkund Sahib and the hotels become unreasonably expensive. The best time to visit the valley is between mid-July till mid-August when the flowers are in full bloom.
Similar places of interestTravelers to the Valley of Flowers will also be interested in visiting the scenic valleys of Kalpa and Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. The Nanda Devi National Park which is also a part of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve near the peak of the beautiful Nanda Devi is another interesting place nearby which will afford the traveler a lot of adventures. The Zanskar Valley of Ladakh is another remote yet picturesque place which is a must visit for any adventure enthusiast.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: May 19, 2015