Valley of Flowers National Park is an Indian national park, located at a height in West Himalaya. It is renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and the variety of flora found there. It is located in Uttarakhand state. This richly diverse area is also home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. 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. 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. The Valley of Flowers is a high-altitude Himalayan valley that has been acknowledged by renowned mountaineers and botanists in literature for over a century and in Hindu religion for much longer.The Valley of Flowers has many colorful different flowers, taking on various shades of colours as time progressed. The valley was declared a national park in 1982 and now it is a World Heritage Site.
The locals believed that it was inhabited by fairies.The valley is home to many flowers like the Brahmakamal, the Blue Poppy and the Cobra Lily. It is a much sought after haunt for flower-lovers, botanists and trekkers. The Valley of Flowers is internationally important on account of its diverse alpine flora, representative of the Western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows ecoregion. The rich diversity of species reflects the valley's location within a transition zone between the Zaskar and Great Himalayas ranges to the north and south, respectively, and between the Eastern Himalaya and Western Himalaya flora. A number of plant species are internationally threatened, several have not been recorded from elsewhere in Uttarakhand and 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. Seven restricted-range bird species are endemic to this part of the EBA. The Valley of Flowers was declared a national park in 1982. It is part of Uttarakhand, in the upper reaches of Garhwal, is inaccessible for most of the year. The area lies on the Zanskar range of the Himalayas with the highest point in the national park being Gauri Parbat at 6,719 m above sea level.
Being an inner Himalayan valley, the Nanda Devi Basin has a distinctive microclimate. Conditions are generally dry with low annual precipitation, but there is heavy monsoon rainfall from late June to early September. Prevailing mist and low cloud during the monsoon keeps the soil moist, hence the vegetation is lusher than is usual in the drier inner Himalayan valleys. From mid April to June temperatures are moderate to cool (19°C maximum). The Valley of Flowers also has the microclimate of an enclosed inner Himalayan valley, and is shielded from the full impact of the southwest summer monsoon by the Greater Himalaya range to its south. There is often dense fog and rain especially during the late summer monsoon. Both Basin and Valley are usually snow-bound for six to seven months between late October and late March, the snow accumulating deeper and at lower altitudes on the shadowed southern than on the northern side of the valleys.
Getting to the Valley of Flowers requires a trek of about 17 km (10.5 mt). The nearest major town is Joshimath in Garhwal, which has convenient road connections from Haridwar and Dehradun, both about 270 km (168 mt) 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 mt) brings trekkers to the Ghangaria, a small settlement located about 3 km (about 2 mt) from the valley.
The density of wild animals in the Valley is not high but all the animals found are nationally rare or endangered. A total 13 species of mammals are recorded for the Park by CP Kala and its vicinity although only he sighted 9 species directly: northern plains gray langur Semnopithecus entellus, flying squirrel Petaurista petaurista, Himalayan black bear Ursus thibetanus (VU), red fox Vulpes vulpes, Himalayan weasel Mustela sibirica, and Himalayan yellow-throated marten Martes flavigula, Himalayan goral Naemorhedus goral, Himalayan musk deer Moschus leucogaster, Indian chevrotain Moschiola indica, Himalayan thar Hemitragus jemlahicus (VU) and serow Capricornis sumatraensis (VU). The tahr is common, the serow, goral, musk deer and bharal, blue sheep are rare.
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. These include Aconitum heterophyllum, A. falconeri, Arnebia benthamii, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Gymnadenia orchides, Megacarpaea polyandra, Picrorhiza kurrooa, Podophyllum haxandrum and Taxus wallichiana. Research plots have been set up to determine the best way to control the spread of the tall Himalayan knotweed Polygonum polystachium without damaging other plants or the surface of the soil. A first annual survey was conducted in 2004 and will be repeated annually.