Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Details on Valley of Flowers (VOF) in Uttaranchal

What is Valley of Flowers (VOF) :

A Google search produced nearly 40 lakh results. Although all of them may not be referring to the VOF I am looking for, yet it gives an indication that the location is well documented. So I am not harping on them. Some well documented site are as under --
Flowers of India
Garhwal Tourism
UNESCO World Heritage Official Site

In few words, it is a gently inclined basin of some 1,000 hectares of alpine meadows located at an average altitude of 11500 in the Zanskar range of Himalayas in the state of Uttaranchal. With more than 600 species of flora, some of which are unique to it, the palce is a nature lover’s paradise. It was discovered in 1931 by British mountaineer, explorer and botanist Frank S. Smith. Miss Margarate Legge, a botanist deputed by the botanical gardens of Edinburgh in 1939 lost her life while doing research work in the valley and was laid to rest in the gardens of the valley.

It was declared as a National Park in 1982 and an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Can you go there :

It is 19 km climb / trek one way with an overnight break at Ghangaria. You will have to climb 5500 feet over these 19 km. So you need to ask : Am I fit enough ? Same is applicable to people accompanying you. I thought of going there 2 years back. But age of my daughter put paid to all such plans. She is 5 years now and can walk 2 kms or so easily. Thus I am going this year. But as part of my preparation I had started regular mild exercises like jogging to loosen up my body. I do not recall walking 14 km on a single day in my life. Now I am daring to do that going uphill!!!

The trek starts at Govindghat at 5996 feet. On day 1 you will trek to Ghangaria at 9997 feet, i.e., 4000 feet over 14 km. Day 2 will involve trekking to about 11500 feet over 5 km and then come back that 5 km.

If your body permits and God wills, then you can think of going the Sikh holy shrine of Hemkund Sahib which is located at about 14000 feet. This is 6 km stiff trek from Ghangaria. I am keeping my fingers crossed. But somewhere in the back of my mind an attempt to go to Hemkund is tinkering. But importatnly, I have started regular jogging / running for about half an hour to loosen up the stiffness.


How to reach :

Nearest motor head is Govindghat and the nearest town is Joshimath, located some 255 km from Rishikesh. Govindghat lies some 22 km on the Joshimath to Badrinath road. This is almost the end of the NH58. Badrinath is further 23 km from Govindghat. The road between Rishikesh and Joshimath is reasonably good. But between Joshimath and Govindghat (and also Badrinath), it is terrible.

One has following options for a trip to VOF :
a) Take a GMVN tour. Trip by buses starts from Rishikesh. Travelling by bus will be tiring. You can also opt to travel by car offered by GMVN by paying a good amount.

b) If you are 3 people, then you can hire a small car like Indica. I did a cost comparison and found that hiring a cab from Dehradun or Rishikesh will be cheaper by about 1000 rupees than hiring it from Delhi. So hiring from Delhi is not a bad option as you need to think about traveling to Dehradun or Rishikesh. Only difference is that if you hire from Rishikesh or Dehradun, you are assured of a driver who knows the hills.

c) If you are more than 3 people, then take a bigger vehicle like Qualis or Tavera from Delhi. Cost wise it is much cheaper than hiring it from Dehradun or Rishikesh. All you need to ensure is to get a driver from the hills. Many agencies offer such drivers.

d) The last option is to engage a travel agency. They will book hotels for you, take you there by car, will arrange porters and for meals. But the charges are very high. The quote I got for 4 persons is @8000/- per person ex-Dehradun, which is almost 40% higher than the cost I had worked out. Not recomended.


Accommodation :

If you are traveling from Delhi, you will need accommodation at following places –

1) Rishikesh / Dehradun / Haridwar : Depending on where you prefer to stay. Rishikesh is 34 km from both Dehradun and Haridwar. Accommodation is easily available at these places. No prior booking required.

2) Joshimath / Badrinath : These are overnight halts on this route. So hotels tend to egts filled in the afternoon and gets vacated early next morning. So if you reach Joshimath around 5 pm, you will easily get accommodation at bargain price. As time passes, you losses bargaining power and will have to pay more the same accommodation. Do not waste time on Rishikesh - Joshimath part of the trip. You can also book GMVN guest house online.

3) Ghangaria : The situation is same as that of Joshimath. People who catches the first gate at Joshimath in the morning reaches Govindghat at around 7 am. After breakfast etc. they set out for Govindghat. If you take too much time to climb, then you may not good decent accommodation for first night. Next morning you have lot options. If you do not want this headache, then try to book GMVN guest house accommodation. But they are very few and this should not deter you from traveling. (I will update the availaibility of accomodation and type of accomodation on my return).

3 comments:

N D said...

Coming to goa, read more about the news events and blogs on goa at http://goatoday.blogspot.com

Manish said...

Hi,

This is Manish from Mumabi. Looking forward to your trip details to VOF. Have a nice trip.

Ashley said...

Great information. I am hoping to travel to India soon. As it is such a large country, it is hard to determine what we should plan to do. This article is very helpful! Thanks!