Spring is a season that drives away the winter and brings the summer. The blooms in nature are harbingers of spring. Among such gorgeous blooms of this season is a variety of Rhododendrons which are mostly found in the Himalayan belt in India. They paint the hills crimson, scarlet, pink, purple, white, and yellow. Rhododendrons are locally called ‘Guras'. In India, the North Eastern Himalayas and Uttarakhand are well known for these rhododendrons and rhododendron treks. While the Uttarakhand experience blooms mostly in March, the Eastern Himalaya experience in April. Here is a list of the 5 most popular Rhododendron treks in India.
Goecha La Trek, Sikkim
Even though trekkers are not allowed till the Goecha Pass, this trek is a dream come true for adventurers. It is one of the most beautiful Rhododendron treks in India together with the most majestic view of Mount Kanchenjunga. The Kanchenjunga National Park with its unique and large biodiversity is another attraction. Bird lovers call this paradise and often yaks are seen here and there. Then there is the Samiti Lake with a view of Mount Pandim. This trek in Sikkim is a tough and long trek of 90 kilometers ascending to 13000 feet and it takes about 10 to 12 days, starting from Yuksom Village.
Hilley – Barsey Trek, Sikkim
Rhododendron Niveum is the state tree of Sikkim and rhododendrons are in abundance during the bloom season. So Sikkim also offers extremely easy options for Rhododendron treks in India where no training or guide is required. One such route is the Hilley Barsey (also called Varsey) Trek. Even though the trek ascends to 10000 feet, it is no sweat trek, rather a hike of 4 to 5 kilometers, amidst a riot of colors, with the grand Kanchenjunga in view. The trail is through the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary and so you can understand what the trekkers behold as they proceed. It is also a part of Singalila National Park. The trek ends at ‘Guras Kunj', a tourist bungalow at Barsey top, with a provision for a night stay, however, one can easily get down on the same day as the ascend can be completed in 2 hours only.
Sandakphu – Phalut Trek, west bengal
Rhododendrons and the view of some of the world's largest peaks make this a magical trek. Among Rhododendron treks in India, this one is in Bengal. World's highest peak, Everest, and fourth and fifth highest peaks, Lhotse and Makalu, respectively can be seen. Then there is the view of sacred Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, together with the ‘Sleeping Buddha'. The favorite of the trekkers is the Singalila National Park's magnificent bamboo and rhododendron forests. The bamboo forests form a canopy, walking under which is a unique experience, and in the spring bloom the heavenly rhododendrons. It is an easy trek of 15 kilometers at an altitude of 12000 feet which will take around 15 to 16 hours.
Picture Courtesy: Sanjana Ganguly
Deoriatal – Chopta – Chandrashila Trek, Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand has some of the best Rhododendron treks in India. This Deoriatal – Chandrashila trek starts from Suri village and has various parts to it. One may just do the short trek to Deoriatal and come back to Suri in 4 to 5 hours or reach Chopta via Rohini Bugyal. The trekker may or may not continue further. If she continues then she proceeds from Chopta to Chandrashila via Tunganath. Of course, the best and the complete route is the one which starts from Suri to Deoriatal and then to Chopta and finally ends at Chopta after completion of Chandrashila via Tunganath. The whole trek takes around 3 to 4 days to complete. Deoriatal is serene and the view of Chawkhamba from there is breathtaking.
The Chopta forests and Rohini Bugyal, situated inside Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, are where one is mesmerized by the rhododendrons. Before reaching Tunganath, the entire valley is full of purple rhododendron trees. When in bloom, the valley looks mauve. Tunganath Temple, which remains closed in March and early April, is the World's highest Shiva Temple and one of the Pancha Kedar Temples. It is a long trek but a moderate one. The 1-kilometer ascend from Tunganath to Chandrashila is extremely steep.
Reaching Chandrashila is worth all the effort for the panoramic view. The Greater Himalayan Range is clearly visible with 30 plus peaks, the most significant peaks being Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nanda Ghunti, Kedarnath, and many more. The highest ascend in this route is above 12000 feet.
Picture Courtesy: Nupur Saha
Brahmatal Trek, Uttarakhand
The state tree of Uttarakhand is Rhododendron Arboretum. Rhododendrons are abundant in Uttarakhand and so are on the trail of Brahmatal Trek. This is a moderate trek route ascending to a height of more than 12000 feet and can be completed in 4 to 5 days. It is one of the most scenic Rhododendron treks in India with dense rhododendron forests of vivid blooms all over and an almost constant view of Trishul and Nanda Ghunti peaks all along the trail. Brahmatal top's 360-degree view is to be etched in the mind forever and finally, the lake, Brahmatal, is a reward. This trek is out of this world.
Things to Remember for a Rhododendron Trek
First, Dress up in layers as the weather is highly unpredictable in the upper Himalayas during March and April. Carry sunglasses and caps, both summer caps and woolen caps. Have jackets, raincoats, and gloves. Even in these post-winter treks, there could be rain and snow anytime.
Secondly carry water, dry fruits and nuts, and energy bars. Have the medical kit handy.
Third, please use proper trekking gear and it is essential that one takes a guided trek if she/he is not a pro at trekking. It is suggested that a doctor is consulted a month or two before the trek is planned.
Last but not the least, if you are on any of these Rhododendron treks in India, try rhododendron juice or wine, made from extracts of these beautiful flowers.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.