JOSHIMATH: Tourists put bitter memories of the 2013 Uttarakhand floods behind them to descend on the Valley of Flowers, a world heritage site in the hill state, on Wednesday. The area will remain open to tourists till October.
The Valley of Flowers, spread over 87.5 sq km at a height of 3,658 metres, attracts tourists with its expanse of colourful endemic alpine flowers. It keeps changing its appearance, with over 300 species of flowers.
Nanda Devi National Park officials are also expecting a large number of tourists this year because the Chardham Yatra mountain trail has been fully restored.
The valley was rendered inaccessible in the disaster, after flash floods damaged the pedestrian trail from Ghangaria to the Valley of Flowers as well as the bridge over the Pushpavati river in 2013. Though they were later restored, only five foreign and 134 Indian tourists visited the valley the next year. The numbers improved in 2015, with over 6,666 tourists dropping by.
Nanda Devi National Park divisional forest officer Chandra Shekhar Joshi said more visitors were expected this year. Through August and September, tourists from Germany, Japan, Mexico, France, Thailand and the US visit the valley to see rare flowers like potentilla, geranium, anemone, lily and the blue Himalayan poppy in full bloom. This, in turn, provides for the livelihoods of local hoteliers, dhabawalas, horse owners, porters and guides.
Vi jen der Sing hand Raghuvir Chauhan, two hoteliers from Ghangaria, say the rush expected this year will sweep away their past losses.