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Valley of Flowers National Park : UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

Nestled in the upper expanses of the Garhwal region in Uttarakhand is the Valley of flowers. The inland of the region comprises Nanda Devi Biosphere reserve along with the flower valley. This region is blessed by a rich flora and fauna which covers a vast area of 87.50 sq kms of alpine flowers. Mesmerized by its virgin beauty, the Valley of Flowers was declared as a National Park of India in 1982. At present, the valley enjoys the privileges of a UNESCO world heritage site.

Valley of Flowers National Park : UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India
Valley of Flowers – National Park in Himalaya, Uttarakhand
Being situated in the Himalayan region, the valley of flowers national park hones a varied lineup of cold habitat animals. This includes the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, musk deer and blue sheep. Although the valley do not flaunt a huge density of wild animals, it has some of the rarest species.

Apart from the exotic animal species, the Valley of Flowers National Park has a luxury of around 114 west Himalayan endemic species of birds. High altitude birds like Himalayan monal pheasant, blue throated Barbets, yellow-nape woodpeckers, Himalayan vulture and western tragopan can be easily spotted while trekking in the region.

History of Valley of Flowers

In the texts of mythology, the Valley of Flowers is associated with ‘Gandhamadan’, a place from where Hanuman of Ramayana collected ‘Sanjeevani’ herb for Lakshmana. In the modern world, the place was left unexplored until the 1930s. Although the locals were quite aware of the location of the Valley of Flowers, they feared not to wander the area owing to a superstitious belief of the fairies. Well a little known to the outsiders, the valley of flowers was first discovered by Frank S. Smythe, Eric Shipton and RL Holdsworth in the year 1931. The three mountaineers lost their way while coming back from an expedition to Mount Kamet which later on culminated them to this valley. Fascinated by the beauty, they decided to name the area as the valley of flowers.

Decades later botanist Prof. Chandra Prakash Kala, deputed by the Wildlife Institute of India carried down a research on the conservation of the valley. In his research study, he made an inventory of 520 alpine plants that grows in the valley. Following this, the botanist authored two important books- ‘The valley of flowers-Myth and Reality’ and ‘Ecology and conservation of the Valley of Flowers National Park, Garhwal Himalaya’. The immensely spread flora of the valley were surveyed in 1987 by the Botanical Survey of India. In order to keep the facts updated, the survey of the Valley of Flowers was again carried on. First by the Forest Research Institute in 1997 and later on by the Wildlife Institute of India in the year 1997.

How to reach the Valley of Flowers

Tourists travelling to the Valley of Flowers National Park can start their journey from a drive to Rishikesh, which is around 24 kms from the city of Haridwar in Uttarakhand. From there, one can easily drive to Joshimath and call it a day to start trekking from the next day. The town of Joshimath has several accommodation options which offer the tourists with all the comfort facilities.

Trek to Valley of Flowers

The trek to the mesmerizing Valley of Flowers is divided into several pit stops or breaks. These are different settlements in the Himalayas, which are entitled as:-

A. Ghangaria

After a trek of 14 km from Govindghat comes Ghangaria which is a small location on the way to the valley. The village of Ghangaria is located in the northern Himalayan ranges at the confluence of the rivers Bhyundar Ganga and Pushpawati.

Being the last human habitation in the Bhyundar region, the village is often used by travelers as a base camp to visit the beautiful Valley of Flowers. One can easily get a hint of the completion of the trek as the region near Ghangaria is filled with fields of wild flowers which includes rose bushes and strawberries.    

B. Hemkund

It is very likely for the trekkers to bump into many Sikh pilgrims on the route. One such pilgrim is the Sikh temple at Hemkund. Devoted to the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, this temple is commonly referred as Hemkund Sahib.

Located at an altitude of around 4000 meters above sea level, the Hemkund Sahib is inaccessible from October to April due to heavy snow settling on the path.

C. Govindghat

A small place close to the town of Joshimath is where the trek to the Valley of Flowers begins. Apart from the journey to the Valley of Flowers, the region near Joshimath also serves as a gateway  for several other Himalayan expeditions as well.

[ You may also check-out here 20 Trekking Destinations in Uttarakhand ]

Best Time to Visit the Valley of Flowers

While trekking to the Valley of Flowers, one needs to get a permit from the Forest Department at Ghangaria which is valid for three days. To experience the Valley of Flowers in its full form, it is advised that the region is to be visited in the month of July and August, just after the monsoon outbreak.

As snow starts melting by the end of May, new plants start germinating. This results in the blooming of a lot of flowers by mid-July. Some of the prominent species of flower that bloom in the valley are Braham Kamal, Anemone, Geranium, Marsh Marigold, Prinula, Lillium, Morina, Pedicularis, Arisaema and Sibbaldia.  A total of almost 650 varieties of flowers can be found while exploring the Valley of Flowers National Park.  

Nature’s Paradise

The Valley of Flowers in general is divided into three sub-alpine vegetation. This division has been brought down by the pristine water of Pushpawati river which flows across the valley. With the habitat divided into valley bottom, river beds, small forests, meadows, plateaus and many more, the National Park is breathtaking to every traveler. The Snow clad mountain peak of Ratban Parvat welcomes the trekkers right at the entrance of the valley. Separating the Badrinath region from the valley is the Nar Parvat which lies in the left. Covering the region on the right is the dense Birch forest.

Dense Birch Forest

Unspoiled by human invasions, the Valley of Flowers National Park mostly lay under the snow sheet in the winter months. The exotic flora of the valley starts to take shape at the onset of summers and its flowering face emerges right after the showers of monsoon. Post monsoon the entire valley seems like a colorful carpet of flowers, giving an effect of a fairyland.

Valley of Flower’s Entry Fee

The entry fee to the beautiful Valley of Flowers is Rs 600 for for foreigners and Rs 150 for tourists of Indian descent. This fee is entitled for a three day tour of the valley. If one wishes to extend his trip, he needs to pay an additional sum of Rs 50 per each extra day (Indian) and Rs 250 (Foreigner).

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Kailash Mansarovar Travel Guide

Well renowned religious journey, Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is the most difficult treks of Asia. Pilgrims from all parts of globe participate in this journey of spiritual significance to Mount Kailash.

Every year certain number of batches go with a lot of pilgrims. Between June and September pilgrims undertake this pilgrimage for customary circumambulation (Parikrama).

Mount Kailash and the Mansarovar Lake altogether are regarded as one of the sacred pilgrimage destinations in Himalayas and it is considered to be of great religious importance in Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. It’s a must thing for pilgrims to be physically fit as this journey involves trekking up to a height of 19,500 feet in an extremely cold weather.

A Complete Travel Guide to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
Holy Mount Kailash

Religious Significance of Mount Kailash

Mount Kailash is the striking peak standing in the remote south west corner of Tibet in the Himalayan Mountains. It is known as one of the most sacred mountains and has become important pilgrimage for four faiths: Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Tibetan religion of bon.

It is believed that visiting Kailash and following this tradition will bring in good fortune and washes away sins of one’s lifetime. Also, Mansarovar Lake, located at the southern foot of mount Kailash has exceptional beauty that varies from crystal clear blue water near the shores and a deep emerald green color at the centre.

As per Hindu mythology, it is believed that the Lake was formed by Lord Brahma. The best time to visit Mansarovar Lake is during springs.  The yatra also includes circumambulation (Parikrama) of Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake.

Best Time to Visit Mount Kailash

Summers (May-August) - The climate is moderate and pleasant with an average temperature of 15 degree Celsius then climate is ideal for outdoor activities. Around May and June, Saga Dawa, a huge religious festival is celebrated at Mount Kailash.

Monsoons (September-November) – Along with the drop in temperature to 10 Degree Celsius, little rainfall is experienced. Only professional trekkers can embark on this tour in monsoons as the way becomes slippery and the region is prone to landslides.

Winters (December-April) – With the minimum temperature of 5 Degree Celsius, the days become chilly. Snowfall is often witnessed during winters and the temperature scales between 0 to -15 Degree Celsius. Also, only trekking professionals with full experience are only advised to take the journey as the entire route is covered by snow.

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra Cost

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra by road starts from INR 1, 05,000/ person for 12 nights and 13 days and the helicopter yatra cost starts from INR 1,60,000/ person for  9 nights and 10 days. The itinerary covers the following destinations -Kathmandu, Nyalam, Dongba/Paryang, Mansarovar, Darchen, Diraphuk and Zulthulphuk.

The cost is exclusive of service tax of about 3.09% of the total bill. Along with these, airfares from home - Kathmandu - home, photography, beverages, telephone call, clients travel insurance, extra cost in the event of landslide for hiring additional transportation, expenses of personal urgent visa fee, etc   are some of the exclusions from the cost of the package. Horse/yak riding for Kailash Parikrama is also an additional expense. The cost is directly payable to the horse/yak rider.

Kailash Yatra Package Inclusions

Some of the inclusions are arrival and departure transportation, accommodation in descent hotels, guide, first aid kits, permits and sightseeing tour of Budhanikantha and Pashupatinath

Accommodation Facilities for Pilgrimage

For the accommodation of yatris the arrangements are done in descent hotels. The rooms of these hotels are well-equipped with all modern amenities to ensure a high level comfort. Also, there are campsites, where camps are arranged and these campsites are facilitated with all the basic amenities such as hot/cold water, washroom, heater  and other comfortable facilities for pilgrims. Moreover only vegetarian food like dal, chawal, roti, khichadi, papad, kheer, juice, fruits, mineral water, tea, coffee, bread, milk, cornflakes and more is served at guest houses and campsites. Additionally, pilgrims are suggested to carry sufficient snacks to add a little variety to their meals.

Nathula Pass : A New Route for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
Nathula Pass : A New Route for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

Alternative Route for Kailash Mansarovar

Now Indian pilgrims would be able to visit Kailash Mansarovar in the Tibetan autonomous region of China through the new route of Nathula in Sikkim from next year, announced by state tourism department officials. Work is in good progress and the Sikkim government is aiming at the first batch of pilgrims visiting Kailash Mansarovar using this new route in June,2015.

More than 1600 pilgrims, moving in ten batches are expected to take the Nathula Pass route to Kailash Mansarovar next year.  The tour is expected to provide them with an even better understanding of the feasibility and further requirements of this pilgrimage.

Facilities for proper weights and measures, warehouses, inspection posts, rest houses, improved transportation facilities, proper roadway and better opportunities for tourists need to still be provided for further growth.

FAQ For Kailash Mansarovar Yatra (frequently asked questions)

1.  How can one travel to Kailash Mansarovar?

Mentioned below the various mode of travel to mount Kailash :

a. Kailsah Mansarovar Yatra by Road
One can fly to Kathmandu as there are various connecting flights from cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Varanasi, and from Kathmandu there are roads connecting to Kailash Mansarovar Lake.

b. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra by Helicopter
Those who don’t have time, helicopter yatra is the best option for them. The itinerary includes flight from Nepalgunj and thereafter connecting to Simikot. Further it flies to Hilsa and finally reaches Mansarovar. The entire pilgrimage is completed in 10 days.

c. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via Lhasa
After reaching Kathmandu, fly to Lhasa (China visa is required by both Indian and foreign traveler). Therefore, to reach Mansarover one needs to travel Tibet towns namely Gyantse, Shigatse, Prayang, Lhatse, etc.

Returning Options:
  • Drive to Lhasa and then fly back to Kathmandu.
  • Drive to Hilsa and then fly back to Kathmandu.
  • Drive back to Kathmandu via Kodari border.

2.  Things to do in Kailash Mansarovar

The most religious thing to do during the Yatra is circumambulation (Parikrama) of Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake. Also, one can attend Saga Dawa, a huge religious festival which celebrates the three life events of Buddha’s life- Birth, Nirvana, Parinirvana; that is celebrated at Mount Kailash.

3.  Kailash Mansarovar Yatra during Full Moon?

Full Moon days are considered auspicious in Hindu religion so it becomes more crowded. But special arrangements are prepared to manage the crowd.

4.  Do we need to carry our Passports?

Yes, valid passports should be carried during the yatra.

5.  How important fitness is to undergo this expedition?

It’s a must thing for pilgrims to be physically fit as this journey involves trekking up to a height up to 19,500 feet in an extremely cold weather. People suffering from asthma or dust allergy are forewarned and suggested to carry mask. Also, people with back problems should avoid yatra, as long journey over bumpy roads might be a problem.

6.  Does Indian mobiles work over there?

Yes, Indian mobiles work here, but don’t forget to take international roaming from your service provider. There might be unavailability of networks on the day of Parikrama.

7.  Are there any specific clothing guidelines?

Descent and comfortable clothing is required as the yatra is strenuous.

Note : Are you willing to know more about pilgrimages? Must read about the 5 Famous Hindu Yatra in india

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Nathula Pass : A New Route for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra

Nathula Pass, A New Gateway to Kailash Mansarovar
Nathula Pass, A New Gateway to Kailash Mansarovar
India and China have signed a bilateral agreement regarding the access of Nathula route; this will be an alternate route for the existing Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.

It is expected that more than 1600 pilgrims, in ten batches will be taking Kailash Mansarovar yatra through Nathula Pass, Sikkim route by June next year.

For this purpose, two senior officials of Ministry of External Affairs have inspected whether all the plans have been efficiently implemented or not.

The new route eradicates the hardships of the pilgrims and aims at providing ease especially to the senior citizens. 17th Mile and Sherathang have been finalized as acclimatization centers for the pilgrims. As per the proposal, pilgrims will be required to halt for at least two days in Gangtok and then head to 17th Mile and Sherathang for further acclimatization before getting into thinner air of Tibet.

Also, the pilgrims can now drive through this route to reach Kailash Mansarovar. For this, they will be starting from Gangtok (Sikkim) to Shigatse (Tibet). And from Shigatse they can hire a van or board a bus in order to reach Mansarovar and Kailash.

Talking about Nepal route, it takes about ten days to cover the journey. Uttarakhand route takes twenty-seven days. And the Nathula Pass route takes eight days. Nathula Route is open from March to November, while Lipulekh route is open from June to September.

[ If interested? Check out the list of Packages for Kailash Mansarovar ]

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Khajuraho Temples: A Catalogue of Desire

Khajuraho Group of Monuments better known as Khajuraho Temples consists of 20 temples; Hindu temples and Jain Temples. Off course their erotic ornamentation has played a significant role in making Khajuraho an important tourist site, but there are more to these magnificent temples than those sculptures carved on the exteriors of the structures.

Precision in the carvings and legendary tale of these temples are captivating. UNESCO has listed Khajuraho Group of Monuments as a World Heritage Site. Get to know more about Khajuraho group of temples as you read forth.

View of Kandariya Mahadev Temple in Khajuraho
View of Kandariya Mahadev Temple in Khajuraho

What is the history of Khajuraho Temples

The temples are sculpted in the Nagara Style of architecture and date back to 950 AD, during the reign of Chandela dynasty. According to the records, by the 12th century Khajuraho had about 80 temples, out of which only 20 have survived. The temples roughly cover an area of 6 km sq. Out of these 20, Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is considered the best of all. Kandariya Mahadeva Temple is the largest and grandest of all, and is believed to have been built by King Ganda. The temple of Vishnu (aka Temple of Lakshmana) was built by Yasovarman and his successor indulged in the making of the temple of Parsvanatha, Visvanatha and Vaidyanatha. Read further and know more about Khajuraho.

Where is Khajuraho Temple Located

Khajuraho Group of Temples have been divided into three groups as per their locations: Eastern Group, Western Group and Southern Group. Khajuraho is located in Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh, India. 

What is the Entry Fee to visit Khajuraho Temples

Price of the tickets varies between INR 20 (daily) and 600 (seasonal). Ticket worth Rs 600 is meant for the people who plan to attend all the events all throughout the week. While in the INR 20 ticket, you can attend one or two performances in one day. There are separate charges for the camera (RS 100), on per day basis.

Sound and Light Show

Khajuraho Light and Sound Show is conducted the tourism department. As dusk starts to set in, the gardens of western group of Khajuraho Temples start to glimmer with different shades of light. This show reflects the lifestyle during the Chandela Dynasty, informing about the construction, significance and history of these temple (In English and Hindi). The stories are narrated in the voice of Amitabh Bachchan.  Timings of the show are- English: 6:30 Pm to 7:25 Pm, Hindi: 7:40 Pm, to 8:35 Pm.

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments

The Khajuraho Group of Temples has Hindu as well as Jain Temple. All of them are built similarly, and it is said that the temples intended to create a harmony between these two religions. You can find most eminent temples in the western zones like Varaha, Lakshmana, Matangeshwara, Mahadeva, Kandariya, Chopra Tank, Chitragupta, Prvati, Vishwanath and Nandi.

While in the eastern and southern groups, don’t forget to visit Ghantai, Adinath, Parshvanath, Shantinath, Chaturbhuj and Dulhadeo. The temple of Vishnu (aka Temple of Lakshmana) was built by Yasovarman and his successor indulged in the making of the temple of Parsvanatha, Visvanatha and Vaidyanath. Listed down are the best temples of the group, and you must not miss them.

1. Eastern Group of Temple

These are divided in two parts- Jain Temple and Hindu Temples. Some of the best temples in eastern side are Hanuman Temple, Vamana Temple, Parsvanath Temple, Adinath Temple, Ghantai Temple and Brahma Temple.

2. Southern Group of Temples

Dulha Deo Temple and Chaturbhuja Temple are the two very important temples. Dulha Deo is dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built somewhere around 1100 AD and 1150 AD.

3. Western Group of Temples

This group is mainly comprised of Hindu Temples like Kandariya Mahadeo, Chaunsat Yogini Temple, Chitragupta Temple, Varaha Temple, Lakshmana Temple, Vishwanath Temple and Matangeshwara Temple.

Archeological Museum

The museum was established in 1967 and exhibits a collection of archeological findings and artifacts. This is an open-air museum and is located near the Matangeshwar Temple of the western group of temples.

Festivals in Khajuraho

Khajuraho Dance Festival

Khajuraho Dance Festival

The festival is organized by Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad. It is a weeklong festival that falls in the month of February. People gather in this spectacular venue, in an open air auditorium and behold the performances of various Indian classic dance forms like Kathakali, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam and others.  Usually the gathering takes place in Chandragupta Temple, Surya Temple or Vishwanatha Temple.

How to reach Khajurao

By Air

Khajuraho has its own airport called Khajuraho Airport. It is connected to Delhi, Agra and Varanasi, with the services of Jet Airways, Air India and SpiceJet.

By Train

Nearest railway station from Khajuraho is Mahoba, at a distance of about 77 Km. Mahoba railway station is a broad-gauged railway station connected to different cities of the country. You can further opt to take a train for Khajuraho or hire a taxi.

By Road

Khajuraho is an important city wherein there is ease of transportation. From bus services to private cabs, you have many options for commuting in and around Khajuraho.

Best time to visit Khajuraho

Khajuraho in summer - From April till July

Summers are recommended to be avoided, as the weather gets really hot and uncomfortable. May and June are the hottest months of the season and the temperature may rise up to 47 degrees Celsius.
Khajuraho in Monsoon - From July till September

Monsoon season brings life to Khajuraho. This is a brilliant tune to visit Khajuraho, as it gets refreshing and pleasant during this season. 

Khajuraho in winter - From October till March

Winter is the best time to visit Khajuraho. In the coldest months December and January, temperature dips to 4 degrees Celsius. Visit Khajuraho in February and don’t forget to be a part of Khajuraho Dance Festival.
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First Winter Chardham Yatra Starts From Mukhba

First Winter Chardham Yatra Starts From Mukhba Village
The winter Char Dham Yatra has officially been commenced from 16th November from Mukhba. Mukhba is a village located 25 kilometer ahead of Gangotri. Congress MLA Vijay Pal Singh left for the yatra as administration, temple officials and Army assisted him. 

"For now, the winter Chardham yatra has begun in Mukhba but soon it will begin in Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath." He said. According to the MLA, arrangements are being made to offer comfort and ease to the pilgrims

The state government pleaded the temple committees to temporarily place the deities somewhere else in the winters. This proposal was approved after the temple officials held a meeting with Chief Minister Harish Rawat on 14th October. 

The deities have hence been relocated from Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri to lower regions. Earlier the routes to the original seats of the deities used to get blocked because of the snow. Now, it would be easier for the pilgrims. 

[ If Interested? Book your Chardham yatra Tour Packages
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