The Valley of Flowers, in Uttarakhand, is one of those few places in this world where you can actually see nature at her best. A literal flower bed which covers the valley with more than 500 species of wild flowers ranging in colours and sizes, the sheer sight of this beauty is mesmerizing. Naturally watered by the several fresh water streams and the river Pushpawat, this valley is a flower bed that captivates the interest of botanists, and the regular tourists. This valley is also home to some rare and endangered animals, such as the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. Mostly covered in snow due to the extreme cold, it’s best to visit this valley during July-August when the flowers are blooming.
To reach the Valley of Flowers, one has to trek from Govindghat, which is 18 kms from Joshimath and 460 kms from Delhi. From Govindghat, one has to trek 13 kms to Ghangharia which is the base camp for the Valley of Flowers. The Valley of Flowers is 3 km trek from Ghangharia. The entire stretch of the trek to Ghangharia is along the bank of river Laxmanganga (Hemganga).
The Valley is spread over an area of 87.5 sq kms, and has been conferred as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 2005. It is interesting to note that had it now been for the British mountaineer, explorer and botanist - Frank S. Smythe and his colleague R. L. Holdsworth who accidentally reached this valley after a successful expedition of Mount Kamet in 1931, this valley might have gone unnoticed for years to come. Enthralled by the beauty of this site, Frank S. Smythe returned to this area in 1937 and published a book "The Valley of Flowers” in 1938. However, according to Manmohan Sharma’s book on the Valley of Flowers published in 1985, Colonel Edmund Smythe, an explorer and Education Officer in the Indian Army had visited this valley much earlier in 1862.
The Valley is also replete with yet another legend, that of Ms. Margarete Legge, a botanist deputed by the botanical gardens of Edinburgh who arrived at the valley for further studies. The story says that while she was traversing some rocky slopes to collect flowers she had a fatal slip. A memorial was built on that spot by her sister. Almost all visitors pay their homage at the memorial.
Blessed with over 500 species of flowers, one can find the Brahmakamal, the Blue Poppy, daisies, holly, Himalayan edelweiss, and the Cobra Lily. Large stretches of Himalayan Balsam, which is the most predominant flower of the valley can be seen. The Himalayan Whorlflower also adds its own charm.