mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

The Valley of Flowers National Park

In Eating Out, Ruminations and rants, Travel on September 17, 2006 at 11:20 pm

As I promised, this blog was going to be also about other stories..and the butterflies (along with the caterpillars) finally make their appearance.


Our group consisted of the husband and I, three of his college-mates from BKPS, Pune (Kiran-Anju, and Prasad) and Anagha, Prasad’s wife. Barring Anagha, we are all over 40 and strong believers in ‘life begins at 40’. You’ll agree once you get there. For the record, none of us felt a day over 25.The first day’s drive out of Delhi was the usual grime and noise of small UP towns and we reached Rishikesh in the evening. Next morning we drove leisurely through the Shivalik lower Himalayas to arrive in Joshimuth for the night halt. The following morning we parked the car at Govindghat and started our trek to Ghangria.

lazy villages on the way

Govindghat to Ghangria
What a crazy bunch we were (Kiran and Prasad more than the rest)! The only time we felt we were 40+ was when climbing the last bit of the 15km from Govindghat to Ghangria. There are no overnight halts on the way and the distance has to be covered at a stretch. It took us all of 8 hours! The locals do it in 3! But then we did stop often to eat and drink (and catch our breath!).

Maggie break on way to Ghangria

The last 3km stretch is the killer! It is steeper and with the day and your energy ebbing, you finally hit the wall. Anagha felt some high-altitude sickness and Anju tried to feign a heart-attack, but Prasad made them walk anyway! I would like to state here that I was walking ahead of the pack, with only Vijay and Kiran (on ponies) beating me to the ‘summit’.

The Valley of Flowers
The trek had begun…We were to visit the Valley of Flowers the next day, 6km up and 6km down! Anagha and Anju played safe and hired piththoos (porters with baskets to carry luggage or people!) this time. Ponies are not allowed inside the National Park area, and we were glad for that. Definitely more pleasant without the stink. I was the only one that made it to the memorial grave stone for Joan Margaret, a botanist who slipped and died in 1939, while collecting and researching the flora.

Piththoo carries Anju!

The narrow stone trail along the Pushpavati River which emerges from the glaciers here, was exhilarating. The sun was bright and we were lucky to see the snow-kissed peaks of Rataban. The flowers were at the end of their blooming season, and we saw the beauty in the seed-heads and the grasses turning golden as they go dormant for the approaching winter.


Two young girls (Kiran and Priya) were our informed guides. It gladdened me to see young rural girls working away from home. They were employees (four months every year) of the Eco Development Committee, Ghangria. The committee has done some very impressive work in cleaning up years of garbage from this area. The documentary at the interpretive centre in Ghangria presented a model of mobilising local participation. The entire trek route is clean. Garbage is collected regularly and transported down to Goving Ghat and out from there. The Valley of Flowers National Park has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO this year.

For a map of our travel area click here.

Next day we decided that we did not want this trip to be a test of endurance and stayed put at Ghangria, where there is, unfortunately, nothing to do. No one was up for the 5km hard trek to Hem Kund, ponies or no ponies. We missed out on a unique landscape.

Sikh pilgrims
Sikh pilgrims on way to Hem Kund Sahib

Our spirits were high for the 15km return to Govindghat next morning. We were amazed at the variety of flowers and butterflies we observed on our way down! All the ones we saw in the Valley and then some. Whatever were we preoccupied with on the way up?!!



This time we stopped to watch the butterflies and ended up taking a good 6 hours to climb down! By now our knees were giving way. We were glad to be in the car and on our way to Badrinath.

beans drying in the sun

Mana Village (near Badrinath)
It was late afternoon when we reached Badrinath and decided to visit Mana first, before the sun set. Mana is the last village to the border with China on this side. A quaint village that is fast changing into concrete ugliness. We spotted many kitchen gardens with cabbages, beans, mustard and potatoes. Flowers were blooming in the yards. One of the streets actually had a community mortar where you could get some housework done while chatting up your friend or just some people-watching to enliven daily chores!

Mana village


Bring your own pestle – mortar carved into a village path!

Vijay and I walked up to the natural bridge, the Bhim Pul, on a small gorge carved out by water and glaciers. The roar of the water hinted at the force of the gushing water. There are few trees at this elevation, primarily grasses, thorny rose shrubs, and tiny alpine herbs.


In Mana we found a small place that had a pay phone and doubled as the local grocery and chai adda. In its courtyard all of us made calls home (our cell phones had been out of range all this while) and downed cups of ginger tea. As the sun slipped behind the mountains, we walked back to the car.

After a quick shower at the hotel we went to get some dinner. By now we knew we weren’t going to get local food anywhere so happily settled for the Gujju thali at the restaurant with a view to the Badrinath shrine.

Badrinath at night


gujju thali
Gujju Thali at Badri: blackeyed bean usal, dal, kadhi, cabbage subzi, with ghee smeared rotis, rice,pickle and papad.

And we settled for the night knowing we didn’t need to be up too early to take positions at the mile-long queue up for a darshan of Badrinath. It was off season.

End of Part I.

Part II (Badrinath, Auli, and Har-ki-pauri)

  1. Thanks for sharing your lovely journey to the hills. Really nice pictures.

    I was curious to know if you did a lot of walking and whether it was tough?



    Hi Kamla.

    It was a beautiful trek. I found the Garhwal mountains to be very different from the others (Himachal) I have seen. The 15km hike to Ghangria is not easy, but we saw really old people (on way to Hem Kund Sahib) on the way. It can be hard in the rains but we were lucky with the weather. If you start early from Govindghat then you have all the time to take as many rest stops as you like. I rode a pony for only a couple of km. I would advise a porter or pony for the luggage though. The scenery is truly unique as you walk along the Pushpavati.

    The 4-8km (or more, upto you) walk into the Valley of flowers and the same return distance is much gentler. Since ponies are not allowed in the Park, the walking experience is even better! What really struck us was how spotlessly clean it was, not so common in our country. We saw just one candy wrapper which was promptly picked up by our guide. The locals seem to have realised that their own interests are at stake and have done an incredible job. Indian tourists/pilgrims, alas, still have a lot of learning to do.

    Our group had lost steam for Hem Kund otherwise Vijay and I would have definitely attempted. Ghangria to Hem Kund is an ascent of about 1200m in just 6 km! Ponies are available, but again, there were people of all ages (in all sizes as well!) calling out the Guru’s name and walking. I would say don’t miss Hem Kund if you come this way.

    If you are an active city dweller, you can do it. I am sure my older parents can do this easily (they are very fit). Also, there is a helipad at Ghangria and possibly, at Hem Kund!

    So my total tally:

    Day 1: 15km uphill from Govind Ghat to Ghangria

    Day 2: 4km to the grave memorial in th VOF and back

    Day 3: Break! Just the 2km to and from helipad area in Ghangria

    Day 4: 15km down to Govindghat

    Day 5: Walking around in Mana

  2. Hi Anita,
    The pictures look wonderful.. hope u guys had a good time.

  3. Thanks Anita for the exhaustive answer. Yes, I am a city dweller and walking uphill is a bit a of a challenge 🙂

    Sounds like it is time for me to revisit my roots in the hills…



  4. Hi ,
    it’s nice to read your VOF experiences…
    which month of the year you visited VOF?
    we went in Aug 2nd week there were no butterflies!
    your post reminded me our trip….

    We visited in Aug. We saw more butterflies on our way down!! 🙂

  5. Have u seen wild animals in Valley of flowers or was warned by forest officials. Is this sAfe to go bare handed in the forest.

    Not much of a forest really… A beautiful valley with flower meadows.

  6. Hello
    it’s nice to read your VOF experiences…
    which month of the year is the blooming season in VOF?

    My parents and in laws are above 50 Will they get doli till VOF?


    Aug is said to be the best time, though we were there in Sept. Yes, dolies and ponies are available (besides 50 not that old!)

  7. […] came across the thistle-like Morina longifolia in the Valley of Flowers. I was the lone one in the group to walk this far and take pictures of the spent flower heads and […]

  8. Loved this post! What a fabulous adventure + write up + pictures!! Mana brought back fond memories – someday, I hope to be back, in the meantime, I love vicariously 🙂

    Hi Smita, welcome to A Mad Tea Party! It was a fabulous trip! Must do it again! Soon.

  9. Where did you stay? Can you recommend some good hotels?

    Accommodation all along is very basic. Your best bet may be the Garhwal Tourism option. At Ghangria, we stayed near the Gurudwara – nothing fancy – basic but clean.

  10. Hi
    It is interesting to read your blog. However I would like to correct one mistake. The betterflies taht you have photographed are infact moths. There is a diffrence between butterflies and moths. Please read more about them.

    Yes you are right, but I didn’t say they were butterflies in the first place! 🙂 “…we had more time to spot butterflies on the way down!” Butterflies are not easy to photograph since they keep flitting about and rest with their wings closed

  11. Hi, nice reading your post on the VoF. I see that you went in Aug. What was the weather like? Do you remember the temperatures?

    We were therein Sept and the weather was beautiful – sunny! A medium-light jacket was all that we needed.

  12. Really nice read. We are planning a trip to both these places in August mid. Your post was really insightful.

    Good choice! And thanks for reading!

  13. well i am the native of mana village its been a pleasure to see your visit,but i feel u could hav written more about its places lik vasu dhara,vyas gufa,river saraswati etc but still ur work is good and i m feel proud aftr watchng urs work .thanx very much!!!!!!!

    Hi, Robin! I too wish we had had time to explore the village more. Next time we will plan on keeping one whole day for Mana. You are so lucky to have been brought up in such a beautiful place. Preserve the beauty, tell your neighbours too to do the same!
    Do you know of any places where we might get to try the local cuisine?

  14. wel th local cuisine hs not been commercialsd yet as far as i kno so i hv no knowledge abt a place whr u can taste it

  15. […] Kashmiri rajma is almost as well known as Kashmiri mirch is. These small red kidney beans are delicious and cook fast. Then there is the thool razma (egg-beans!) in Kashmir that cook up round and plump; vaarya muth (moo-th – ‘th’ as in Thames) or black beans. Beans and rice are a favourite meal all over the Himalayas and its foothills. On our way to the Valley of Flowers last year, I spotted beans drying outside many a village house. […]

  16. Hi,
    Really great to see my own villagr though your eys,Main yahan ka bashinda hoon.

  17. I’m from Mana.Upper Mana called Dhantoie near Vyas Gufa . The holy cave.Parmar surname people resides mostly their.Welcome whenever u people visit my village in future.
    MSP , Dr. Vinita n Master Naman Parmar.

    Thanks for the invite, MSP. We will be sure to ask about you!


  19. Hi,

    I’ve planned a trip to VoF and Hemkund in August this year and while browsing on the net, I reached your site. I enjoyed reading your experiences. Thank you for sharing.:)

    I have one question please. Is it necessary to do advance booking for lodges in Ghangria or is there plenty of place available without prior booking? Will appreciate a reply. Thanks.

  20. You never know when you come across such informative write ups. See it is almost after 2 years I have gone through your travelogue. You have explained it very well and can understand for missing certain details as pointed out by others. It happens as so many of thoughts occupy us at time of penning down the experiences.
    You were lucky to have good company. We with our two daughters have been twice to Badrinath, Kedarnath and Gangotri, but missed out on Yamnotri and Hemkund (VOF)treks.
    Yesterday only we were planning a trip to VOF in August but nothing concrete has been worked out because of work schedules etc. Your write up has given a definite direction for planning the trip. Thanks

  21. […] the gorgeous dunes of Jaisalmer.  Yes, it was the same group that did that arduous hike to the Valley of Flowers five years ago; a bit older, none the wiser.  It was a bit hectic and we have resolved that the […]

  22. […] hours later we were in Chinchwad, on the outskirts of Pune, where we had friends, Kiran and Anju (the VOF gang) awaiting our arrival; cameras and flowers on the ready!  It truly was no mean […]

  23. […] have been washed away in the flash floods.  Govindghat, the last motorable point for the Valley of Flowers trek, is unrecognizable in the rescue pictures.  There’s a lesson for us here if we will only […]

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