By- Shrabasti Anindita Mallik
The first shower of the monsoon brings with it not just respite from the scorching heat but also breathes life to nature's lush foliage. The season is also one of the best times of the year to experience the vibrant culture and traditions of the mountains, especially those of Uttarakhand because it is during this period that the state celebrates some of its most beautiful festivals – be it the Shivaratri festivities in Kangra and Chamba, the Harela festival that marks the beginning of the monsoon or the Nandashtami festival that is celebrated by the indigenous Bhotiya community residing in the northern parts of the state. Here are 5 picturesque trekking routes that offer the best of both nature and local culture during the rainy season.
Valley of Flowers
Surrounded by mountains, dotted with gurgling streams, strewn with flowers and offering a much-travelled-on path – the Valley of Flowers is one of India's most popular treks. More so during the monsoon as the flowers appear most vibrant during the rains. More than 500 varieties of flowers bloom during the monsoon season, including the rare Himalayan Brahmakamal (state flower). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the valley is also one of India's oldest trekking routes. Unlike other treks, this one has longer trekking days, including a steep and challenging climb to Hemkund Sahib. It is on the way to Hemkund Sahib that you enter the alpine zone and get a bird's-eye view of Ghangaria and the Valley of Flowers.
The valley, perched 3,600 m above sea level, acquaints you with a different variety of flowers every 10 steps, surrounds you with calm at the Hemkund Sahib and fills you with wonder and faith about nature's creation and the incredible journey that man undertakes to experience it.
Duration: 7 days
Nanda Devi National Park Trek
Along with the Valley of Flowers National Park, the Nanda Devi National Park forms the core area of the greater Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Although peak monsoon might not be the ideal time to embark on a trekking expedition to this beautiful region in the Himalayas that is punctuated with the heavenly presence of rhododendron, birch and juniper forests. Late August to early September, when the downpour is less intensified, is the golden period to embark on an adventure here. And if you are lucky, you might also spot musk deer, black bear and blue sheep. The area is home to the elusive snow leopard as well. But the pièce de résistance of this trek is the route itself that albeit moderately difficult, offers unmatched sights of the surrounding peaks – Bethartoli, Dunagiri, Changabang, Trishul, Nanda Devi East and Nanda Devi West.
Duration: 6 days
Nag Tibba Trek
One of the quickest yet most rewarding treks that the Garhwal Himalayas can offer, the Nag Tibba trek, simply put, is irresistible during monsoon. The route turns scenic and the surrounding foliage springs to life. Resting at around 3022 m, the summit of this trek is the highest in the Nag Tibba range. An easy-moderate trek, it is ideal for beginners and is one of the few treks where you can witness stunning sunsets. If you are fortunate, you might sight the towering snow-capped peaks of Swargarohini, Bandarpoonch, Kalanag, Srikanth and Gangotri.
Duration: 2 days
One of the most rewarding monsoon treks in Uttarakhand is the one to Chopta and then upwards to Chandrashila. Located at an elevation of 2,680 m, Chopta is surrounded by an imposing forest of Oak, deodar and rhododendron that appear mystical during and after the rain. The first leg of the journey will take you from Chopta to Tungnath, one of the Panch Kedar shrines, which is also the highest Lord Shiva temple in the world. From here, another leg of the accent leads to Chandrashila Peak. You will be treated to spellbinding peaks of the Himalayas from the summit, including Chaukhamba and Janhukut.
Duration: 6-7 days
Dayara Bugyal Trek
Popular as the most beautiful meadow in India, Dayara Bugyal (meadow) is a stunning expanse of rolling greens. It stretches almost infinitely, and a trek across it unravels a secret at every dip and rise. An easy trek that can be attempted even by beginners, it's an all-season route but in monsoon, it offers a glorious view of nature. Expect fresh landscape of every shade of green, carpeted with bursts of vibrant wild flowers and the entire emerald oasis surrounded by snow-capped peaks of Mt Banderpoonch, Mt Srikanth, Draupadi Ka Danda and Mt Jaunli. It's a memorable experience as the towering peaks suddenly seem to pop out of the undulating green meadow.
Duration: 6-7 days