Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib
Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib
Are you fond of trekking in the lap of nature?
Do you like visiting high altitude pilgrimages?
If yes, then here is the right trip for you, which you can enjoy within your budget, without spending too much money.
Yes, the most famous trekking tour in Uttarakhand, Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib provides visitor with a complete bundle of rejuvenation filled with adventure and pilgrimage.
Valley of Flowers which is a World Heritage Site is a paradise for trekkers and nature lovers.
If you like travelling in the mountains and if trekking is your all-time favorite, then this tour will be a perfect choice for you.
Valley of Flowers comes under the Nanda Devi Bio Reserve, which is the national park in the interiors of Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand. All the activities here are carefully monitored to preserve the valley in its unspoiled condition. The valley is blessed with the meadows of widespread alpine flowers and the variety of flora. It is also home to rare and endangered animals, including Asiatic black bear, brown bear, snow leopard, etc.
Hemkund Sahib on the other side is an important pilgrimage site for Sikhs. It is dedicated to Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru. Every year, many Sikh pilgrims from Punjab and other parts of India flock to Shri Hemkund Sahib Ji to get blessings from their Guru.
Best time to visit Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib
Flowers in the Valley start blooming in the month of August and some of them last till September. However, August is also the time of monsoons in India and the weather conditions in Uttarakhand sometimes get worsen as the state receives heavy rainfall during July-August. Sometimes, the roads also get blocked during this time.
Till the time September arrives, the monsoon clouds begin to wipe out slowly. However, it totally depends on year to year. This year, in 2019, the monsoon lasted till the first week of October in Uttarakhand.
The best time to visit Valley, I would suggest will be last week of August or first week of September. During this time, the rainfall starts getting less and due to monsoon season, there is a low rush on Hemkund Sahib route. So, you can visit Hemkund Sahib without any hassle of standing in long queues and you can easily avoid the crowd. This is the time, when the hotels/lodges rates are also low, as they have to get some business and since the tourist crowd is low so, to attract more guests they lower their prices.
How to get there?
Ghangaria is the base camp for both Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib. And, from Ghangaria, the nearest road head is in Pulna village which is 4 km off-route from Govindghat.
Govindghat lies on main Rishikesh – Badrinath road. It is 268 Kms from Rishikesh and 25 Km from Badrinath.
From Rishikesh, you can get Govt./Pvt. buses for Govindghat which will take around 11 hrs and the ticket price would cost you around Rs. 500-600 per person. Government bus (Uttarakhand Roadways) has 1 service a day on this route. This bus starts from Haridwar and goes till Badrinath. Apart from this, there are few private buses also (GMOULtd) which also starts from Haridwar/Rishikesh early in the morning and goes till Badrinath. So, you can board these buses to reach Govindghat.
You may also take shared jeeps till Joshimath and from there another one for further till Govindghat. Jeep would cost you around Rs. 600-700 per person.
Nearest Rail Head – Haridwar Railway Station (292 Kms)
Nearest Airport – Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun (285 Kms)
Once you reach Govindghat then next day you can take shared jeep till Pulna Village which is at a distance of 4 Km and from Pulna the 9 Km trek starts for Ghangaria. One can also take a pony ride from Pulna to Ghangaria that would cost around Rs. 1200-1500 per person.
From Ghangaria, Valley of Flowers starts after 5 Km trek. There is no pony ride option available in this trail, as the entrance of mules, sheep and shepherds are completely prohibited in this area. So, you have to trek only to reach the valley.
Hemkund Sahib is at a distance of 4 Km steep trek from Ghangaria. There is a steep climb and the oxygen level also decreases as you climb up and up. For Hemkund Sahib, pony ride option is available which costs around Rs. 700 per person.
Rishikesh and Haridwar – In Rishikesh and Haridwar, you can easily get a room in a guest house or lodge at around Rs. 500-600 per night. Both the cities are filled up with numerous Ashrams as well that provide room for the pilgrims and visitors. You can check these ashrams as well for your stay. The nominal charges range from Rs. 300 to Rs. 800 per night.
Govindghat – There are few lodges available in Govindghat, where you can take a night halt before starting the trek to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib. The price of these lodges varies from one month to another. If you are travelling during Aug-Sept., you can get a room at Rs. 600-700. Otherwise, if you are travelling during May-June, the cost goes on the higher side.
Apart from these lodges, there is a Gurudwara also available here where you can take a bed in a dormitory or can even take a room at a nominal price. If you are travelling in peak season, you will have to make an advance booking.
Ghangaria – There are many lodges, guest houses available in Ghangaria. Since it is the base of Hemkund and Valley, so, you can find plenty of options for your stay. The price of these lodges and guest houses ranges from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1500. Apart from these lodges, there is a government guest house by the name GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) where you get both options – Dormitory and Private Room. Although their price seems to be on the higher side but still if you are travelling with your family, you can make an advance booking here.
There is one Gurudwara also, where you can get a room or can even take a bed in a dormitory at a nominal price.
About the trek
The first day trek is from Pulna Village to Ghangaria. Start in the morning from Govindghat. Take a shared jeep near Govindghat Bridge to Pulna Village which is at a distance of 4 Km. Earlier, people had to start the hike from Govindghat itself as there was no motorable road available further. But, with the construction of road till Pulna, pilgrims and trekkers now can easily cover this distance in 15-20 min.
From Pulna, start the hike for Ghangaria. You can also take pony ride which will cost you around Rs. 1200-1500.
The first half of this stretch is bit easy. Once you Bhyundar and cross the bridge, the trek becomes a bit challenging.
Walking slowly and taking small breaks in between can take you comfortably to Ghangaria.
I recommend you to visit Hemkund Sahib first from Ghangaria rather than Valley of Flowers. Reason being, the trail to Hemkund Sahib is tough as compared to Valley. If you want to visit Hemkund on foot you can keep this one first in your list so that you complete the tough trail first. Also, as the Valley of flowers is spread in many kms so there you can set your limit to walk.
Start early in the morning ascending towards the World’s Highest Gurudwara, which is at an elevation of 4600 mtrs above sea level. The trek is tough and is recommended only for physically fit people. As you walk up, the oxygen level decreases a bit and you may start feeling hard to breathe while you are climbing up. Take breaks in between and keep on taking small sip of water.
The trekking distance to Hemkund Sahib from Ghangaria if of 4 km and it takes 4 or 5 hrs one way.
After the hard climb you reach the pious Gurudwara where you can offer your prayers to the Guru. Besides Gurudwara there is a holy lake also known as Lokpal Lake. Sikh pilgrims take a dip into this lake water, before entering the Gurudwara. Next to it is Laxman Temple also.
After having prasad and spending some time at Gurudwara, descend down to Ghangaria.
The third day you can keep for Valley of Flowers. Start in the morning hiking towards the forest department check post where you have to pay the entrance fee and register your name. The entry fee for Indians is around Rs. 150 and for foreigners it is Rs. 650.
You will trek through the forests and after a hike of around 3 Km you cross the tree line and reach the open area from where you start getting the glimpse of the Valley.
Once you reach inside the valley, you’ll have to trek for further 5-10 kilometres to see all the flowers. There are 300 different varieties of alpine flowers in this high altitude Himalayan valley, which appear as a bright carpet of color. The whole Valley of Flowers is spread over 87.5 square kilometers and it was declared as a national park in 1982.
By afternoon, start getting down to Ghangaria and stay overnight in your guesthouse at Ghangaria.
On the fourth day, trek down back to Pulna village and from Pulna take a shared jeep till Govindghat. If you reach Govindghat by afternoon, you can take a jeep/bus for Joshimath.
Joshimath is a beautiful place to spend a day. It offers majestic views of the snow covered Himalayan mountains and the other surrounding peaks. It is the place where one of the four ‘Maths’ were established in the 8th-century by the Adi Guru Shankaracharya. One also gets a chance here to witness the sacred Kalpvriksha, which is said to be 1200 years old.
In the whole route wherever you stay, you will easily get the local dhabas and restaurant to have your breakfast, lunch or dinner. You will mostly get vegetarian meals throughout your journey as it is a religious place.
In Govindghat and Joshimath, you will get your meals at a reasonable price at around Rs. 100-150 per meal. But, in Ghangaria you may have to pay extra for a normal meal as the grocery items are transported to Ghangaria from Govindghat on mules for which the dhabas and restaurant owners have to pay heavy amount.
Also, when you trek further from Ghangaria to Hemkund Sahib, the enroute food/tea joints charge even more than Ghangaria as the cost of transporting raw materials increases with the increase in altitude.
So, you can easily plan your trip to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib. You just need to be aware of the key points that will make your trip smooth and enjoyable.
Tips on how to travel on a particular budget – https://budgetescapes.in/tips-for-trips/
A complete guide on budget trip to Amritsar – https://budgetescapes.in/budget-trip-to-amritsar-amritsar-tour/