The Valley of Flowers National Park is an Indian National Park located in West Himalayan range of Uttarakhand and is known for its meadows of native 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. 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 Himalaya. The valley was declared a national park in 1982 and now it is a World Heritage Site.
The place was little known to outside world earlier. In 1931, Frank S. Smythe, Eric Shipton and R.L. Holdsworth, all British mountaineers, lost their way while returning from a successful expedition to Mt.Kamet and happened upon the valley, which was full of flowers. They were attracted to the beauty of the area and named it the "Valley of Flowers." Frank Smythe later authored a book of the same name.
The Valley of Flowers has gained importance as a region containing a diversity of alpine flora, representative of the Western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows eco-region. A number of plant species are considered threatened. Several have not been recorded outside of Uttarakhand. 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.
Alpine shrub-lands, dominated by rhododendrons, predominate at lower elevations close to the tree line. Above the shrub-lands are alpine meadows, known as bugyals or bughiyals, which support a variety of herbaceous plants. In the spring and summer, the alpine meadows are covered with brightly colored flowers.
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.