Valley of Flowers National Park is an Indian national park, located in West Himalaya, in the state of Uttarakhand and is known for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and the variety of flora. This richly diverse area is also home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, musk deer, brown bear, red fox, and blue sheep. Birds found include Himalayan Monal Pheasant and other high altitude birds. At 3600 meters above sea level,(3352 to 3658 meters) the gentle landscape of the Valley of Flowers National Park complements the rugged mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi National Park to the east. Together they encompass a unique transition zone between the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and Great Himalaya. The park stretches over an expanse of 87.50 km² and it is about 8 k.m. long and 2 k.m. wide. Both parks are encompassed in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (223,674 ha) which is further surrounded by a buffer zone (5,148.57 km²). This Reserve is in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2004.
State: Uttarakhand, India District: chamoli Nearest town: Joshimath
The Valley of Flowers is a high-altitude Himalayan valley that has been acknowledged by renowned mountaineers and botanists in literature for over a century and in Hindu religion for much longer. Local people knew about the valley from ancient times and yogis from India used to meditate in the valley. The Valley of Flowers has many colorful different flowers, taking on various shades of colours as time progressed. The valley was declared a national park in 1982 and now it is a World Heritage Site.
The Valley of Flowers has gained importance on account of its diverse alpine flora, representative of the Western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows ecoregion. The rich diversity of species reflects the valley's location within a transition zone between the Zanskar and Great Himalayas ranges to the north and south, respectively, and between the Eastern Himalaya and Western Himalaya flora. A number of plant species are threatened, several have not been recorded from elsewhere in Uttarakhand and two have not been recorded in Nanda Devi National Park. The diversity of threatened species of medicinal plants is higher than has been recorded in other Indian Himalayan protected areas. The entire Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve lies within the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA). The Valley of Flowers National Park is the second core zone of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Seven restricted-range bird species are endemic to this part of the EBA.
The Valley of Flowers is nestled in the upper expanses of Bhyundar Ganga near Joshimath in Gharwal region. The lower reaches of Bhyundar Ganga near Gobindghat are known as Bhyundar Valley. The Valley of Flowers is in the Pushpawati valley 23 km north-northwest of Nanda Devi Park, It lies between 30° 41' to 30° 48'N and 79° 33' to 79° 46'E. The Valley is 20 km northwest of Nanda Devi National Park across the wide valley of the Bhyundar Ganga. It is one of two hanging valleys lying at the head of the Bhyundar valley, the other being the shorter Hemkund valley which runs parallel some 10 km south. It runs east-west approximately 15 km by an average of 6 km wide, in the basin of the Pushpawati river, a small tributary flowing from the Tipra glacier which descends from Gauri Parbat in the east. The Valley of Flowers was declared a national park in 1982. The area lies on the Zanskar range of the Himalayas with the highest point in the national park being Gauri Parbat at 6,719 m above sea level.
Getting to the Valley of Flowers requires a trek of about 17 km (10.5 mi). The nearest major town is Joshimath in Garhwal, which has convenient road connections from Haridwar and Dehradun, both about 270 km (168 mi) from Joshimath. From Delhi, one can take the train to Haridwar and then travel by bus to Govindghat via Rishikesh. Govindghat is approximately 16 km before another important destination of Badrinath. It is also possible to drive from Delhi to Govindghat, a distance of about 500 km.
Govindghat is a small place close to Joshimath (around one hour distance), where the trek begins. From Gobindghat, a trek of 14 km (8.6 mi) brings trekkers to the Ghangaria, a small settlement located about 3 km (about 2 mi) from the valley. The trek from Gobindghat to Ghangaria is common to the Sikh Temple at Hemkund and a trekker is likely to find many Sikh pilgrims on the route. As one nears Ghangaria one is greeted by fields of perfumed wild flowers, wild rose bushes and wild strawberries by the sides of the path. The visitors to Valley of Flowers need to get a permit from Forest Department, at Ghangaria and the permit is valid for three days and visiting and trekking is allowed only during day time. As visitors are not allowed to stay inside the National park, accommodation can be obtained at Gangaria. Best time to visit is August and September, when the valley is full of flowers, just after the outbreak of monsoon.
Being an inner Himalayan valley, the Nanda Devi Basin has a distinctive microclimate. Conditions are generally dry with low annual precipitation, but there is heavy monsoon rainfall from late June to early September. Prevailing mist and low cloud during the monsoon keeps the soil moist, hence the vegetation is lusher than is usual in the drier inner Himalayan valleys. From mid April to June temperatures are moderate to cool (19°C maximum). The Valley of Flowers also has the microclimate of an enclosed inner Himalayan valley, and is shielded from the full impact of the southwest summer monsoon by the Greater Himalaya range to its south. There is often dense fog and rain especially during the late summer monsoon. Both Basin and Valley are usually snow-bound for six to seven months between late October and late March, the snow accumulating deeper and at lower altitudes on the shadowed southern than on the northern side of the valleys.
The density of wild animals in the valley is not high, but all the animals found are rare or endangered. A total 13 species of mammals are recorded for the Park by CP Kala and its vicinity although only he sighted 9 species directly: northern plains gray langur Semnopithecus entellus, flying squirrel Petaurista petaurista, Himalayan black bear Ursus thibetanus (VU), red fox Vulpes vulpes, Himalayan weasel Mustela sibirica, and Himalayan yellow-throated marten Martes flavigula, Himalayan goral Naemorhedus goral, Himalayan musk deer Moschus leucogaster, Indian chevrotain Moschiola indica, Himalayan thar Hemitragus jemlahicus (VU) and serow Capricornis sumatraensis (VU). The tahr is common, the serow, goral, musk deer and bharal, blue sheep are rare. The common leopard Panthera pardus is reported from lower parts of the valley closer to the villages. Local people have also reported evidence of brown bear Ursus arctos and bharal or blue sheep Pseudois nayaur . A recent faunal survey in October 2004 has established the presence of snow leopard Panthera uncia (EN) in the National Park. The area is within the West Himalayan Endemic Bird Area but there have been no surveys specific to the Valley. 114 species were seen in 1993 in Nanda Devi Park. Species frequently seen in the valley include lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus, Himalayan vulture Gyps himalayensis, yellow billed and red billed choughs Pyrrhocorax graculus and P. pyrrhocorax, koklass pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha, the nationally listed Himalayan monal pheasant Lophophorus impejanus, found in rhododendron thickets, scaly-bellied and yellow-nape woodpeckers Picus squamatus and P. flavinucha, great and bluethroated barbets Megalaima virens and M. asiatica, snow pigeon Columba leuconota and spotted dove Stigmatopelia chinensis. The area is relatively poor in reptiles: most often seen are the high altitude lizard Agama tuberculata, Himalayan ground skink Leiolopisma himalayana and Himalayan pit viper Gloydius himalayanus. Along with the flowers are wild bees and many species of butterfly which need to be more researched. A few of the more evident species are lime butterfly Papilio demoleus demoleus, common yellow swallowtail Papilio machaon, common mormon Papilio polytes romulus, spangle Papilio protenor protenor and common blue apollo Parnassius hardwickei.
The flora was surveyed and inventoried in 1987 by the Botanical Survey of India, in 1992 by the Forest Research Institute and in 1997 by the Wildlife Institute of India which found five species new to science. A research nursery and seed/rhizome/tuber bank for propagating rare plants and valuable medicinal herbs has been created at Musadhar near the entrance of the site. Rare and valuable medicinal plants are the subject of special programs. These include Aconitum heterophyllum, A. falconeri, Arnebia benthamii, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Gymnadenia orchides, Megacarpaea polyandra, Picrorhiza kurrooa, Podophyllum haxandrum and Taxus wallichiana. Research plots have been set up to determine the best way to control the spread of the tall Himalayan knotweed Polygonum polystachium without damaging other plants or the surface of the soil. A first annual survey was conducted in 2004 and will be repeated annually.
Flowers mostly orchids, poppies, primulas, marigold, daisies and anemones carpet the ground. Sub-alpine forests of birch and rhododendron cover parts of the park's area. A decade long study of Prof. C.P. Kala from 1993 onwards concludes that the Valley of Flowers endows with 520 species of higher plants (angiosperms, gymnosperms and pteridophytes), of these 498 are flowering plants. The park has many species of medicinal plants including Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Picrorhiza kurrooa, Aconitum violaceum, Polygonatum multiflorum, Fritillaria roylei and Podophyllum hexandrum.