The snow on the Himalayas is melting fast, seeping into the ground to nudge awake hidden life. Before you know it, snow-draped hills will transform into lush green meadows, covered with flowers in all the colours of the palette. This makes it the best time for a high-altitude trek across the tree line to explore an alpine meadow or two.
The high-altitude alpine meadows, located above 10,000 feet, are known as bugyals and are popular trekking destinations at this time of the year.
"The area that you see covered with snow in winter actually has sprawling fields that are home to more than 500 species of flora," says Abhay Ghanekar, founder of Foliage Outdoors, an adventure travel company. The multicoloured landscape, he believes, makes hill spotting and hopping that much more fun.
The magic of a bugyal, says Milind Bhire, director of Countryside Adventures, is that it gives you a fantastic view of the valleys below and the snow-clad mountains above at the same time. The kind of vegetation depends on the temperature and the altitude of the surrounding landmass. Towards summer, the meadows assume a red hue because of a spurt in rhododendrons. Assorted varieties of geranium, potentilla, and the more common orchids are seen amid rare, equally colourful flowers. The flowers are at their best from June to September.
Some of the most popular bugyal treks take place in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, whose Kumaon and Garhwal ranges abound in perfect spots. Here's our list of six spectacular treks you can pick from for this summer.
At a height of 12,000 feet above sea level, Dayara Bugyal is one of the most beautiful meadows in Uttarakhand. A popular ski slope in the winter, it dons the avatar of a trekking hotspot during summer. Trekkers usually camp by the picturesque Barnala Tal.
Route: Rishikesh - Uttarkashi - Barsu - Barnala Tal - Dayara Bugyal.
When to go: April - August.
One of the largest meadows in Uttarakhand, Bedni Bugyal has acres of green meadows that are a treat for the senses. The bugyal also offers clear views of the Gangotri range and the famous Trishul trio of mountains in the Himalayas. The meadow has a rich variety of flora, including the rarely flowering Brahma Kamal.
Route: Haridwar - Karnaprayag-Mundoli - Wan village - Bedni Bugyal.
When to go: May - September.
Ali bugyal is a popular halt enroute the trek up to Roop Kund Lake. The place has beautiful rolling meadows that look even prettier when they are packed with rhododendrons in the spring.
Route: Rishikesh - Lohajung - Wan - Bedni bugyal - Ali bugyal.
When to go: April - September.
Sikkim is not a popular trekking destination, but the fact that this route in the eastern Himalayas is dotted with alpine meadows, makes it a memorable one for bugyal lovers. Most of this region doesn't have trees. There are only grassy meadows mingling with rocky hills. "If you are lucky, you can get a clear view of Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga," says Prateek Deo, founder of Life Away From Life Adventures.
Route: Gangtok - Uttarey - Chiwa - Dhor - Tikip Chu - Dzongri - Goecha La - Thangshing - Bagdogra.
When to go: March - May.
The Gorson Bugyal is a group of bugyals that you encounter on the trek up to Kuari Pass from Auli, a popular skiing destination in Uttarakhand. Above the bugyals, you can spot the entire Nanda Devi range while a peek below will show you the Alaknanda River.
Route: Rishikesh - Auli - Chitrakanta - Gorson Bugyal.
When to go: April - September.
Valley of Flowers
This spot in Uttarakhand is a mecca for bugyal trekkers, though the flowers here bloom a little later in the season, from July to September. "The Valley of Flowers gradually changes colour from June to September. Flowers wither and newer ones take their place, so the area always looks new," says Pinakin Karve, founder of Trekdi Adventures.