With the extended lockdown until May 3rd, things are getting tougher for everyone indoors, but I think it’s a much-required move to keep everyone safe.
I thought let’s not brood on COVID anymore. Let’s talk about the mountains instead. 🙂
Today, I want to share some secrets about the Valley of Flowers that nobody will tell you. This kind of insight comes only if you spend months, year after year in the Valley of Flowers, like our Trek Leaders do.
I was talking about the Valley of Flowers trek with our Slope Manager, Gourab Nandy. Gourab is one of our most charismatic slope managers. You may have met him, he’s hard to miss!
I asked him what was the right time to see the best of the flowers at Valley of Flowers. This is the top question of every trekker who emails me.
Gourab gave me some info that even most Trek Experts don’t know! I thought it was a treasure of information! I’m sharing it with you today.
│So what is the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers?
Gourab spent three months in 2018 leading trekkers on the Valley of Flowers trek. “I saw the valley transform week after week, not just in terms of the bloom, but also in terms of the crowd and intensity of rain,” he says.
Gourab shared these secrets with me. I’m breaking it up for you here.
│Our top recommendation – Visit the Valley of Flowers In August, it is the best time
“I would recommend any close friend of mine to visit Valley of Flowers during the first 15 days of August. Not July. Not even in the last week of August and not even in the first week of September,” he says.
I was quite taken aback by what he said. Because common knowledge says the valley is gorgeous in the entire months of July, August and until the mid of September.
He explained to me like a keen professor.
‣ Flowers in August
“In my observations during my time there, the first 15 days of August see a huge number of flowers — the most I’ve seen in the three-month period. By the last week of August, I have seen flowers wilt and shed their petals. Trekkers will still see lots of flowers, so they won’t be disappointed. But ask any Trek Leader and they’ll tell you what the Valley of Flowers is like in the first few weeks of August,” he says.
If you want to see the valley in full bloom, August is the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers and do the trek.
‣ Rains in August
“Expect a good amount of precipitation, but it’s fun to trek in the rain,” says Gourab. Then he adds a zinger, “Though I have noticed a good amount of rain at Govindghat, at higher altitudes, it’s not always heavy. You might experience a good drizzle, and your rainwear can easily protect you in these drizzles.” Now, that was something I didn’t expect to hear!
‣ Crowds in August
“The crowd in the valley is still not too heavy in the first weeks of August. You may see larger crowds around weekends, but if you time your trek during weekdays, then you don’t have to worry about crowds,” he says. I ticked off a mental checklist.
August is the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers. But what if you can’t in August? Don’t worry, we’ve got that covered as well.
Bonus of trekking in August: “This is not related to the trek, but the Badrinath temple is near-empty during this time. Though the road beyond Govindghat is unpredictable because of the Lambagad landslide zone, the Badrinath temple is near empty. You can spend more than an hour in the main part of the temple in front of the deity. You can see the aarti without disturbance. Usually, when there’s a crowd, you can hardly stand there even for a minute,” shares Gourab.
│So, what about Valley of Flowers in July?
July has traditionally been when the Valley of Flowers opens up to trekkers, tourists, and pilgrims.
“In the beginning of July, it’s extremely pretty to see the lush green valley. There aren’t too many flowers yet, but if you ask me, the valley itself is extremely beautiful,” says Gourab.
To this, our co-founder, Sandhya UC adds, “July is also the time to experience a little bit of snow, walk on snow bridges, see melting snow patches. Since the trek climbs to such a high altitude (~14,000 ft), it retains snow even in July. Only later in July, the rain washes off the snow.”
‣ Flowers in July
“There aren’t too many flowers until mid-July. But the greenery in the valley won’t make you feel like you’re missing out. The flowers start to bloom in abundance from mid-July onwards. The valley turns extremely colourful after that,” says Gourab.
‣ Rains in July
July is when the monsoon is just about beginning in our country. “The first half of July doesn’t see much rain. So it’s a very pleasant experience trekking in the valley,” shares Gourab. But after mid-July, expect rain, much like August.
‣ Crowds in July
“A good thing about trekking in July is that the valley is least crowded in this month. Tourists and trekkers usually spill in from the end of August. So in July, you don’t see too many other people. It’s a big bonus on such a popular trek,” says Gourab. In case you didn’t know, Valley of Flowers is one of our most crowded treks.
│What if I wanted to do the Valley of Flowers in September?
“This would be my last recommendation,” says Gourab. And our co-founder, Sandhya seems to agree. “That’s why,” Sandhya adds, “we never run the trek after the second week of September.”
‣ Flowers in September
“There’s no quality in the flowers in September,” frowns Gourab. “Most of the flowers have wilted away and there are very few left. Again, trekkers will not be very disappointed because the valley itself is picturesque and lush, but if they are coming just to see the flowers, then September is definitely not the time,” says Gourab.
September is not the best time to do the Valley of Flowers trek if you want to see flowers on the trail. But there’s something else, that is uniqute about the trail in September.
‣ Rains in September
“It rains a lot less in September. The monsoons are retreating and almost die down by mid-September. So that’s a bonus of trekking to Valley of Flowers in September,” says Gourab. Ironically, as rain disappears, it takes away the flowers with it too.
‣ Crowds in September
“The valley becomes a lot more crowded, especially because pilgrims come in large numbers to visit the gurdwara at Hemkund Sahib in September. This is more pronounced over the weekends. If you’re going to the mountains to get away from crowds and have some alone time, then again, September is not the time,” says Gourab.
│Does the best time to trek to Valley of Flowers change with change in climate?
I caught up with our Trek Leader Akshay Upreti, who spent three months in the valley in 2019. His observations were very similar to Gourab’s.
“In 2019, I observed that the last week of July and until around the August 15th mark, the valley was abundant with flowers. After that, the flowers started slowly wilting and reducing in number,” says Akshay. So he stands by all the observations I’ve shared with you earlier.
│Another common misconception about the Valley Of Flowers trek
As I was speaking to Akshay, he brought about another misconception that trekkers have.
“It’s well known that in the Valley of Flowers, there are more than 500 varieties of flowers. Many a time, trekkers come expecting to see all 500 varieties of flowers. They are often crest-fallen when they don’t see that many flowers,” he says.
“It is true that there are around 500 varieties of flowers in the Valley of Flowers. But they don’t bloom at the same time. These flowers bloom in the valley throughout the year at different times, not necessarily in July, August or September. So when trekkers come in these months, they can expect many varieties, but not all. Yet, this season is when the valley is at its best, in full bloom,” he clarifies.
So there you are, some inside information about the Valley of Flowers that no one will tell you about.
To sum it up, if you really want to see lots of flowers, time your trek from the last week of July to the middle of August. Expect quite a bit of rain during this period, but it’s nothing you cannot manage without these expert monsoon trekking tips.
On the other hand July and September give you a lush valley, there are still flowers but not as many. But it’s a good time to trek with lesser rainfall. Of the two, July is better than September.
│Back to my COVID-19 update
Despite the extended lockdowns, we are hoping to start running our treks by July. We have opened up dates for the Valley of Flowers trek. You’ll find all the information and dates of the Valley of Flowers trek on this page.
You will also find the list of our monsoon treks, post-monsoon treks, autumn treks and winter treks here. A lot of our trekkers are already planning for them already, because they want to keep a long distance between the Coronavirus and the treks.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep bringing you such tidbits of information from the trekking world every week. I hope even in these COVID times, they help keep you in touch with the mountains. 🙂