There is dilemma regarding travelling to far off places in off season. The best time to visit the valley of flowers is monsoon when it comes alive with myriad shades. After September the valley starts preparing for harsh winters and slowly dry vegetation takes over. We went in October and that too two days prior to closing of the valley of flowers. I was skeptical about what would welcome us in the valley. When I reached the valley, the first glimpse was breath taking.I thank the weather Gods for dry weather , sunshine and the clear blue skies. It was looking like a painting with an overwhelming sweet smell. from a distance, the surface was looking like a carpet with patches of green, red and yellow. The snow clad mountains provide a splendid backdrop The numerous water streams originating from the glaciers, form water falls or merge together to form roaring water bodies coming down the slope. The spring water is sweet, refreshing and cold enough to numb limbs. The trek to the valley has something new to offer at every moment.There is sharp temperature drop in the shadowy regions and in the sunshine you sweat. It was fascinating to see the bhoj patra trees whose bark was used as paper in ancient times. I was told don’t waste your time going in the off season, sometimes it’s better not to listen as long as one takes safety precautions.
The trek to the valley starts from the base village Ghangharia which can be reached by trekking 15 Kms by foot from Govindghat. It is uphill climb but the trail is well laid out. It is advisable to start early morning and the whole trek can take between 4 to 6 hours depending on the weather and persons physical fitness. Ghangharia has basic lodging facilities and satellite phone connectivity. In monsoon season, the place is always wet and humid. September is a better time when the rains start to recede. This is also the base camp for hem kund sahib trek and most of the infrastructure in the village is developed as a result of it. Many pilgrims use ponies to reach ghangharia but this has resulted in filth all over the trekking path. The valley of flowers trek is pristine but can’t say the same about Govindghat to Ghangharia. You can reach Ghangharia same day if you start early from Rishikesh. Use mix of bus / taxi to reduce cost.
There are two treks from Ghangharia , Hemkund and VoF. Do not try to do both the treks same day. For VoF, it is advisable to start as early as possible and reach valley without taking breaks. This will give you more time to spend in the valley. You can do the mandatory photo sessions while coming back. Carry some food with you to the VoF as nothing is available in the valley . You are not allowed to camp inside the valley and need to return the same day. The Rs 150 ticket issued for the valley is valid for three days. The entry to the valley closes around 11 am. Try to tag along with a group for safety purposes. The weather is cold in this regions with frequent rains so better carry appropriate clothing.
There are other places of interest nearby. Badrinath temple has special place in Indian mythology. The temple has added attraction of hot water spring. It was very relaxing to take a dip in the hot water pond. Mana village is the last village on the Indian border. Its an interesting place and good place to buy hand knitted woolen garments. One can also visit Karnprayag, Devprayag while traveling to Govindghat.