Hemis National Park, Jammu and Kashmir

Hemis National Park or the Hemis High Altitude National Park comes under the eastern Ladakh Region of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the largest National Park in India as well as the South Asian continent with a combined area of 4,400 square kilometers including Rumbak, Markha and Sumdah and some parts of the Zanskar Range. Amongst all national parks in India, Hemis National Park is the only one which is to the North of the great Himalayas and has largest protected area.

Photo by Karunakar Rayker, CC BY 2.0 

The park falls under the Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau—an alpine steppe eco-region with dense pine forests, alpine shrubs and vast meadows. With The Indus River bordering the park on the north, the panoramic vistas are unequalled in their stark and almost untouched beauty. Hemis National Park is the country’s only notified area inside the Palearctic ecological zone. It was first notified in 1981 under which the Rumbak and Markha catchments of 600 square kilometers were protected. In 1988, neighboring areas were added, making it about 3,350 square kilometers. By 1990, the total area under the park became 4,400 square kilometers.

Within the park, is the famous 400-year old Hemis Buddhist Monastry which draws a large number of pilgrims who visit the park during Hemis Tsechu Festival. Hemis was a halting point for traders in the Silk route and about 2,000 people still live inside the park. The inhabitants raise poultry, goats and other cattle that are left to graze, causing conflict between wildlife and the people. Predators like the highly endangered snow leopards prey on their livestock and are in turn hunted down by the owners.

Climatic Conditions

Owing to its location and high altitude, Hemis National Park is a place of extreme and biting cold. Temperatures can drop to -20 degrees C in the winter months and rises to a maximum of 30 degrees C in the peak of summer. The average annual rainfall recorded at Leh is 160.5 mm.

Best Time to Visit

Although the park is open throughout the year, one should check with the authorities before making plans to visit. Winter months are best to spot the elusive and highly endangered snow leopard. June to October is considered the most favorable time to visit as the high mountain passes are mostly open.

Wildlife at Hemis National Park

Birds: This Park is ideal to observe and study rare avian life like the Golden Eagle, the Himalayan Griffon Vulture and the Lammergeier Vulture—the park’s birds of prey. The patient birdwatcher can spot rare birds like the Tibetan Snow Finch, the Brown and the Robin Accentor. Other rare birds include the Tickell’s and Streaked-leaf Warbler, Fork-tailed Swift, Fire-Fronter Serin and the Himalayan Snowcock.

Mammals: Snow Leopard, Argali or Great Tibetan Sheep, Bharal or Blue Sheep, Asiatic Ibex, Shapu or Ladakhi Urial, the Tibetan Wolf, Red Fox, Eurasian Brown Bear, Himalayan Marmot, Mountain Weasel and the Mountain Mouse Hare.

Distance from Major Cities

Leh– 10 kilometers
Chandigarh-339 kilometers
Delhi– 571 kilometers
Indore-1234 kilometers
Ahmedabad-1278 kilometers
Kolkata-1648 kilometers
Mumbai-1689 kilometers
Hyderabad-1823 kilometers
Bengaluru-2310 kilometers
Chennai– 2317 kilometers

Nearest Airport

The nearest airport link is the Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport which is about 5 kilometers away.

Nearest Railway station

The nearest railway station is Jammu Tavi Railway Station, 21 kilometers away.

Road Accessibility

Hemis can be approached by road via Leh from either the scenic Srinagar-Kargil route or the Manali-Sarchu-Dharchu route on the Manali-Leh highway. It is best to ascertain the viability of travel before setting out as the routes are sometimes closed down due to landslides. Being close to the Pakistan occupied Kashmir border, the route is sometimes closed down by the Indian Army. Regular bus and taxi services are available to Leh. Taxis can be taken up to Hemis.

Accommodation Facilities

The Hemis Monastery provides accommodation to travelers. Food choice is limited so it is advisable to carry your own. One can stay at the villages inside as guests or opt to stay at seasonal back-country camps.

Nearby Leh has many resorts and hotels to suit your budget.

Entry Fees

Special permission is required from the Wildlife department in order to visit this fragile ecosystem.

INR 20 per person of Indian nationality.

INR 100 per person for foreign nationals.

Useful Contacts for Bookings and Accommodation

Hotel Dragon, Leh
Hotel Eco-Poplar Resort
Shenam Fort Road

Chief Conservator of Forests

About Rohit

An architect by profession, Rohit Agarwal is a curious traveller, seeking out the minutest detail about the places he travels to, and that’s what one will find in his writings. His writings have appeared in various blogs, he’s currently trying to bring forth as many different places a traveller who shares the same level of curiosity like him would like to visit through his writings.

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