Valley of Flowers, Nainital
As evident by its name, the Valley of Flowers is known for its vast diversity of alpine flowering shrubs located in the western Himalayas. The place is a part of the larger Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Nainital, Uttarakhand. The valley is covered with snow from October till March, but as the summer arrives, the valley is turned into a palette of colorful flowers that covers the entire landscape.
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 in the park include Himalayan monal pheasant and other high altitude birds. At 3352 to 3658 meters above sea level, 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 km long and 2 km 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.
Once upon a time, in the year 1862, a group of wanderer and nature lover British army officers lost their way to a place in the foothills of current days Uttranchal. The valley was blooming with a number of exotic and Indian flowering plants, with the aroma spread everywhere, the valley looked like a dreamland. The inaccessible valley from the outer world could not be explored earlier by anyone so the credit to discover the valley of flowers goes to the group of people.
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The Forest Research Institute in 1992 recorded 600 species of angiosperms and 30 pteridophytes in the valley and surroundings, discovering 58 new records for the valley of which 4 were new for Himalayan state. Of these plants, 5 out of 6 species globally threatened are not found in Nanda Devi National Park or elsewhere in Uttarakhand. Aconitum falconeri, A. balfouri, Himalayan maple (Acer caesium), the blue Himalayan poppy (Meconopsis aculeata) and Saussurea atkinsoni. Kala classified 31 species of rare and endangered categories within the national park in 1998. Further studies report that the dominant family in Valley of Flowers is Asteraceae with 62 species 45 medicinal plants are used by local villagers and several species, such as Saussurea obvallata (brahmakamal) are collected as religious offerings to goddesses Nanda Devi and Sunanda Devi. The site is designated a Centre of Plant Diversity.
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.
How to Reach
To reach Valley of Flowers, physical fitness of the person is the prime requirement because it needs a trekking of about 17 kilometers to reach the location from the road. The valley is located at about 300 kilometers north of Rishikesh. Josimath is the last place, accessible by road and the rest journey needs to be covered. In between you can also cover the pilgrimage of Sikhs, hemkund Sahib. The tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Govind Singhji mediated at Hemkund Sahib for years. The word Hemkund literally suggests ‘Lake of snow’ and the immaculate water of this lake is as cold as snow. Hemkund Saheb is located at an elevation of 4,329mts above sea level amidst several snow capped peaks, which are collectively called Hemkund Parvat.