The Hemis High Altitude National Park that extends over 600 sq. km. is named after the famous monastery, Hemis gompa that is situated 40 km. southeast of Leh. Located on the west bank of the Indus River, it comprises the catchments of Markha, Rumbak and Sumdah nalas. It is known for some rare species like the bharal and the snow leopard. Hemis has in fact been identified as a snow leopard reserve.
Located in the eastern part of Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir in north India, Hemis National Park has the distinction of being the largest national park in South Asia.
Hemis National Park also has the distinction of being among the largest contiguous protected region, second only to Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Spread over 4400 sq km, the park is home to 16 species of mammals and 73 of birds. The park is protected home for endangered mammals like leopards, Asiatic ibex, Tibetan wolf, the Eurasian brown bear and the red fox.
The park boasts of 200 leopards and is the only habitat of Shapu or the Ladakhi Urial in India. It is also home to small mammals like Himalayan marmot, mountain weasel and Himalayan mouse hare.
For bird watchers, it’s a dream destination. Besides golden eagle, Lammergeier vulture and the Himalayan griffon vulture, the park is home to Brown Accentor, Robin Accentor, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler, Streaked Rosefinch, Tibetan Snowfinch, Chukar, Fork-tailed Swift, Red-billed Chough, Himalayan Snowcock, and the Fire-fronted Serin. Pollution free environment and noise free surroundings make birding a joyful experience.
Six villages exist within the confines of the park. The villages –Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling – are home to about 16oo people. Several gompas and chortens are also located within the park.
The 400-year-old Hemis Monastery is also located within the park. Revered as the largest monastic institution in Ladakh, a trip to the monastery is a thrilling experience. Camping and trekking are other popular activities that can be indulged in the park.
The national park is also known for its scenic beauty. Lofty mountains and alpine forests of juniper and subalpine dry birch make it a treat for the eyes. The Stok Kangri peak is situated withing the park. The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers acts as the park’s boundary and is a treat for the eyes. It also includes the catchment area of Markha, Sumdah and Rumbak, and some portion of the Zanskar Range.
No hotels are available in or near Hemis National Park. There are six villages in the Hemis National Park where homestay facilities are available. The villages are Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling. In addition, Hemis Monastery also offers rooms for visitors to stay.
Options to eat are limited. It is advisable to carry food. Hemis Monastery does provide food to visitors. It also follows the tradition of offering butter tea to the visitors. Locals do also provide meals.
The best time to visit Hemis is between May and September, when the weather is pleasant. Most of the trekking routes and passage to jeep safari are closed after November due to heavy snowfall.
The climate is extreme and shows high fluctuations both on a daily and seasonal basis. Precipitation is quite low, averaging at 160.5 mm. In winter, temperatures are close to freezing point during the day. The Zanskar River and its tributaries are frozen and temperatures drop to as low as -150C to -200C at night. Since the winters are very harsh, so it's best to plan a trip during the summer. April to June and September to December are the best seasons for bird-watching. For animal viewing, September to June is suitable.
Hemis is mainly visited by trekkers. There are no facilities for pucca accommodation but dormitories and tents may be used for an overnight halt. The East West guesthouse is a long walk from the Hemis gompa, where one can get a double room at Rs. 150. Places around the gompa allow camping. You can either set up your own tent for Rs. 35 or use the pre-set tents for two at Rs. 50.
From June to September, one can fly to Leh from Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar or Jammu. Indian Airlines is the only airline with flights to Leh. In winter, however, proceeding by road is a safer option.
Approachable by road from Leh, this national park contains several camping sites. The area is barren and rocky, covered only sparsely with vegetation. There is a daily bus service from Leh to Hemis.
On foot: The route from the Spituk Gompa just below Leh, through Jingchen valley onto Gandu La and the Markha valley, proceeding to Hemis via Kongmaru La is a fabled trek that the adventurous would be happy to experience
The entry fees for Hemis national park is mentioned below. We have listed the entry fees for Indians, the entry fees for foreigners, camera fees and other charges if applicable.
Domestic Adult: 20