A thick curtain of mist hangs in front of us. It felt like the mountains did not want us to see what lay ahead.
The rain fell slowly but steadily adding to the chill in the air. As we made our way up, towards the misty summit our breath quickened and our shoes were trying to grip the stony path.
The Valley of Flowers and Shri Hemkund Sahib gurudwara are located in close proximity to each other in the state of Uttrakhand. The Valley of Flowers is a popular trekking destination located at an altitude approx. 10,200 feet. It is a world heritage site located in the Western Himalayas. Shri Hemkund Sahib gurudwara (altitude approx. 14000 feet) is a holy place of worship for the Sikh community. Both destinations can usually be covered in 2 days.
Armed with are brand new Quechua trekking shoes my friends and me embarked on this very challenging and high altitude trek in August 2017.
After a never ending rocky climb, the vertical and narrow route gradually got flatter and easier on the feet. The rain however showed no mercy and fell heavily upon us. As we looked down at the valley we could see carpets of pink and white flowers bent low with rain drops.
A bunch of tiny Himalayan blue poppy peeped shyly from a huge rocky outcrop. As I looked ahead I could see a vast field of flowers spread across all around.
The journey up to the valley of flowers is as beautiful as the valley itself. There are several varieties of plants and flowers that give us a visual feast on the way up.
The road to the top is tough and not for someone who is afraid of heights. The path is rocky and almost vertical at some points.
The trek takes approx. 4 to 6 hours depending on the individual’s speed and stamina. The rain and cold make the walk tougher.
We knew there was no turning back once we began the trek, as there were no horses to take us up. There are human porters who will carry you up and down the mountains in baskets. For me that was not an option at all.
On reaching the valley the rain fell very heavily on us. It was not possible to venture deep into the valley due to the heavy mist and rain.
The valley itself is a vast expanse and needs almost 3 days to explore. Unfortunately we only had 1 day and the heavy rain was making it difficult for us. We decided to explore as much as we could and then began our descent down.
The route to Hemkund Sahib is in another direction from the valley of flowers. We were nervous about the high altitude and the trek from the previous day. So we hired horses to take us up.
The ride up was as beautiful, similar to the trek done the previous day. Along the way we saw several brahma kamals (mythical white lotus), a flower which is commonly found along the route to Hemkund Sahib.
A white lotus in bloom among the mountains, is how I would describe the gurudwara of Shri Hemkund Sahib. A small lake, as clear as a mirror welcomes us.
An elderly gentleman politely informs us to take off our shoes before we dip our feet into the icy water.
Sweet notes of hyms float out of the gurudwara as we walk inside. We spend a few peaceful moments inside reflecting on our journey of the last few days.
How to go:
Delhi – Haridwar – Govindghat – Ghangaria – Haridwar – Delhi
Our journey commenced from Haridwar. Since we were part of a trekking group, a bus was arranged from Haridwar to beautiful Auli where we spent one night.
Views from Auli
However you can skip Auli and go directly to Govindghat. From here begins an easy trek of around 14kms to Ghangaria village, which is the base camp for the valley of flowers trek.
Views from Govindghat to Ghangaria village
You can hire horses to carry your backpacks and even do the trek on horses if you think the walk could be difficult.
There is also the option of taking the helicopter to Ghangaria 🙂
The village of Ghangaria has decent and basic stay facilities. We cannot expect anything fancy at a height of 10,200 feet. Camping options are also available.
It is better for all bookings to be done in advance due to the high inflow of trekkers and groups.
Birds seen at Ghangaria village
Know before you go:
The valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib are high altitude treks. It is necessary to be physically fit and in good health.
Carry good trekking shoes and pack light. However carry warm clothes and rain gear.
When in Ghangaria drink plenty of water to prevent altitude sickness.
July to Sep is when the valley is in full bloom and is also peak trekking season. Hemkund Sahib is open from May to Oct. Plan your visit so you can cover both places.
The beauty of the flowers and the peace of the gurudwara will definitely be worth the pain and the effort.
For more trekking stories read HERE