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stdClass Object ( [ID] => 33522 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2014-10-15 08:43:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-10-15 08:43:44 [post_content] => THE Valley of Flowers is an alpine area in Uttarakhand, a mountainous part of north India where fields of flowers bloom through the summer and into October. The valley is every bit as beautiful as the name suggests as not only are there profusions of gorgeous flowers of various hues but also different berries and edible grasses, and the hillsides, for the keen eye, are dotted with tahr, musk deer and ibex while snow leopards and black bears can also be occasionally spotted. It's a delight for photographers, trekkers and nature lovers. [caption id="attachment_33526" align="aligncenter" width="654" caption="Photographing the delights of the Valley of Flowers. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com"][/caption] The only challenge with reaching the valley is the walk itself and the condition of the roads and the path. The nearest road access is in Govind Ghat, about 17km from the start of the Valley and about 200km from Rishikesh, the nearest railway station. The first section of the trek is the 13km from Govind Ghat to Ghangaria, climbing from 1828m to 3100m. This track is all uphill, and while the gradient is mostly reasonable there are some steeper areas and the higher altitudes will take its toll on even the fitter walkers unless you are reasonably acclimatized. Most reasonable walkers take 4-5 hours to cover this section. There are tea shops and rest houses along the way, and a mule service to carry weary trekkers if you feel you can't continue. [caption id="attachment_33528" align="alignnone" width="654" caption="Mules are used on the trails throughout the valley to transport goods and weary walkers. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com"][/caption] One of the wonderful things about this route is that there are plenty of good views and even flowers and you also share the track with friendly Sikh pilgrims heading to Hemkund Sahib, a Sikh temple high above Ghangaria. Most of these pilgrims will opt for the mules, however you will see some walking barefooted. The path itself is in good condition and mostly paved and there are no difficult sections to negotiate. Ghangaria has plentiful accommodation and restaurants. There is also a Sikh Gurdwara to accommodate those on religious pilgrimage. Prices are as low as Rs. 200-300 per room in low season and up to Rs. 3000 in high season (July-August). Hotels will provide packed lunches. The valley is still another 4-6km away so it is best to stay the night in Ghangaria and continue trekking the next day. The walk into the valley was closed in mid 2013 after heavy rain fall brought parts of the hillside down and wiped out an access bridge. The bridge has been repaired and a new path of 6km was completed in September 2014. The old path is 4km but may not yet be reopened. The condition of this lower path is reasonable but it does climb into the valley and the affects of altitude can be felt. Trekkers who are afraid of heights may not enjoy traipsing some of the landslide sections. Guides are available in Ghangaria if you feel you may need assistance. [caption id="attachment_33525" align="alignnone" width="654" caption="Trekking into the valley. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com"][/caption] The valley itself stretches for about 8km beyond this access track and leads to the base of a glacier. The valley is neither very narrow nor particularly broad but the path is easy, although it does continue to climb gently from 3342m to 3658m. From June-October different flowers bloom although July-August is the height of the season. You will still find clusters of flowers into September and October along with a beautiful change of colour in trees and grasses into the autumn months. Beyond October the valley is normally closed as snow falls start and temperatures drop. [caption id="attachment_33524" align="alignnone" width="654" caption="Just one of the many flowers you can find in the valley. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com"][/caption] A river runs through the base of the valley while grasses and trees cover the slopes above where tahr and ibex may be spotted (binoculars are handy for this). These animals tend to be come further down into the valley as the winter sets in and during the warmer months may not be as easy to spot. It's possible to explore beyond the glacier but you need to make sure you leave plenty of time to get back to Ghangaria in daylight. The majority of trekkers spend most of their time just in the first few kilometres of the valley wandering from one profusion of flowers to the next. An alpine picnic here amongst the flowers, or even a nap in the warmth of the sun, is an ideal way to break up your trek. For those with additional time on their hands, it's definitely worth spending a day to continue up to Hemkund Sahib with the rest of the pilgrims. This would require an additional day as the 6km climb from Ghangaria to Hemkund Sahib at 4300m takes about 2-3 hours for a good walker and it's worth spending a few hours at the top before the 1-2 hour trek down. There's a Sikh Gurdwara (temple) here that all are welcome to visit. Simply take your shoes off and cover your head. Dress warmly for your time on top as it can be very cold. There's also a lake where people bathe for religious purification although the water is freezing and it's a challenge for some. There's often a simple ceremony held by the lake shore you are welcome to watch and you can also walk around the lake where flowers grow by the shores or in the grassy areas above. Hot chai (tea) and even simple food is available for free in the building next to the Gurdwara. The trek back to Ghangaria takes a good 1-2 hours and from Ghangaria back to Govind Ghat is at least three hours. This could be undertaken in one day if your legs can handle the downhill onslaught. If you have the time it would be best to stay overnight in Ghangaria and leave early the next morning and undertake part of the road journey the first day. [caption id="attachment_33529" align="alignnone" width="654" caption="The beautiful Valley of Flowers. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com"][/caption] OTHER PRACTICALITIES As temperatures plummet in the mountains in the late afternoon / evening make sure you pack warmly, although day temperatures can be pleasant even into October. Transport to Govind Ghat is best undertaken by private vehicle. Taxis can be rented for the journey with the driver waiting for your return. Trains are available to Rishikesh and then buses do leave for Joshimath where jeeps can be hired to Govind Ghat. The condition of the road to Govind Ghat can vary and you may wish to check with a trekking agency first that operates in the valley that it is passable and the approximate time to cover the distance as this may affect your planning. When the road is good it can still take a good 12 hours to cover this distance as the route is mountainous and there are landslides to negotiate and other obstacles. Rajnish Singh Chauhan runs a photo shop in Ghanghria and is an excellent local trekking guide into the valley, to Hemkund Sahib or for expeditions further afield. [post_title] => Walking into paradise: Trekking in the Valley of Flowers [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => walking-into-paradise-trekking-into-the-valley-of-flowers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-10-15 09:42:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-10-15 09:42:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.travelwireasia.com/?p=33522 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )

Walking into paradise: Trekking in the Valley of Flowers

Walking into paradise: Trekking in the Valley of Flowers
October 15, 2014 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

THE Valley of Flowers is an alpine area in Uttarakhand, a mountainous part of north India where fields of flowers bloom through the summer and into October. The valley is every bit as beautiful as the name suggests as not only are there profusions of gorgeous flowers of various hues but also different berries and…>

On safari: Animal trips with a difference around Asia

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August 6, 2014 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

FOR a chance to travel to less touristy areas in Asia and encounter wildlife, nature and local life, an animal safari is an excellent option. Elephant, camel and horse safari operators exist in places as varied as the Inner Mongolian steppe, Thailand’s northern mountains and India’s desert sands and their itineraries provide the chance to…>

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July 28, 2014 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

THE art of pilgrimage is an age old tradition that is not lost in modern day Asia where it is still possible to follow routes with other pilgrims to holy places such as the source of the River Ganges in India, the holy mountain of Kailash in Tibet or Buddhist monasteries perched on clifftops in…>

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FOR a chance to really get off the beaten track, feel the wind in your hair and explore some of Asia’s most beautiful regions, a motorbike is really the vehicle of choice. With options to buy or rent in many countries, it’s also often a cost effective means of getting around and leaves you plenty…>

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April 9, 2014 - 0 Comments - Jo Lane

AFTER Everest and Annapurna, Langtang is Nepal’s third most popular trekking area but a world away from the busy teahouses and crowds on those routes. And thanks to its location north of Kathmandu towards the Chinese border it’s also very different culturally with a heavy Tibetan and Buddhist influence in the region.

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