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Hemis National Park – In the Lap of Himalayas

 
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The snow leopard (Uncia uncia), the gray ghost of the snows haunts the Himalays from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh. As it can neither roar nor purr, it is called an intermediate big-cat.
The snow leopard prefers higher altitudes. Only in summer is it best sighted, when it frequents the fringes of the snowline & high pasture areas. Perhaps the most beautiful & elusive of cats, it is sadly, endangered today.

| Snow Leopard in the park | Wildlife in Hemis | Places to see | Getting There |
| Accommodation |

Such is the beauty and appeal of the Hemis National Park that despite it being remotely located in the high altitude area of Ladakh region, it is quite popular among discerning travellers. The park is located in the Ladakh division of Jammu & Kashmir. Hemis National Park is situated 40 km southeast of Leh, and is named after the famous Buddhist Gompa (Hemis Monastery).

Hemis National Park

The park lies at the bank of river Indus and includes the catchments areas of Markha, Sumdah, and Rumbak streams. A high altitude protected area, the Hemis National Park was created in 1981 for the conservation and protection of its unique flora and fauna, and since then it has been a major attraction for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers from around the globe. It covers an area of 3,350 sq. The terrain of the park is rocky and the thin soil cover supports a poor vegetative growth. Dry alpine pastures are present in sheltered locations and the grass growth is relatively rapid during the summer season after the snow melts.

Though the park remains open throughout the year, however the best time to visit is from mid-June to mid-October. This is also the ideal time for trekking and forest walks. But if your interest lies in the spotting some rare animals, winter is the best time when animals like the snow leopard come down to the valleys.

Cycling in Hemis National Park

Wildlife spotting is just not the only interesting thing that one can enjoy here but the park also offers diverse options, which include visiting monasteries and trekking. Cycling is another exciting way to explore the area. The days are pleasant during summer while nights get colder. During winters, the area in virtually inaccessible and the temperatures dips as low as minus 30 degrees.

There are four entry points to the Hemis National Park. Martselang is 45 km from Leh, Chilling located to the north-west of the park is 60 km from Leh, Stok and Zingchan (at a distance of 13 & 25 km respectively) are located in north of the park.

Snow Leopard in the Park
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Hemis National Park is from May to October.

Hemis National Park is widely known as the home to snow leopard, which is one of the rare species on earth. Spotting a snow leopard in the Hemis National Park is not a cakewalk. This beautiful beast with its thick gray-coating and whitish tinges in lower portion of the body remains in high altitude areas of the park. The best area, however to spot the snow leopard is in the Shang Valley, where its density is believed to be the highest. According to a survey the total population of this rare specie ranges approximately from 30 to 50.


Wildlife in Hemis National Park
Hemis National Park

Besides snow leopard, the park is home to a number of exotic animal and bird species. Over 16 mammal and 73 bird species have been recorded in the park. Prominent among the animals found in the park include the Himalayan wolf, red fox, Pallas's cat, wild dog, bharal (Blue Sheep), Ibex, Tibetan argali, Ladakh urial, long-tailed marmot and Himalayan mouse hare.

Hemis National Park also has a sizeable population of birds like Himalayan snow-cock, Tibetan partridge, chukar, snow pigeon, red-billed chough, horned lark, hill pigeon, yellow-billed chough, black-billed magpie, white-tailed ruby-throat, common raven, blue-throat, mountain cliiffchaff, grey wagtail, robin accentor, alpine accentor,  and rock bunting.


Places to see
Homestays at Hemis National Park

Hemis Gompa: Situated 49 km south of Leh, the Hemis Gompa is the biggest and one of the most important monasteries in Ladakh. The monastery was built in the 17th century by Chapgon Gyalshas. The monastery has a library and also houses an excellent collection of rare artifacts. In summer, the two-day Hemis Festival is held here to celebrate the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism.

Leh: The center of Tibet-Buddhist culture since ages, Leh is popular for its colorful gompas that have attracted the devout Buddhists and tourists from all over the globe. The main attractions in Leh are the Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa, Victory Tower, Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, Shankar Gompa, and Soma Gompa.

Places to stay in Hemis National Park
Homestays are best to stay on your trip of Hemis National Park. Snow Leopard Conservancy, an NGO with support from Unseco has introduced homestays in the region. The main aim of developing homestays is to preserve wildlife by involving local population. One night in these homestays may cost you anything between Rs. 400 – 700. Other than homestays, there are not many options to stay, though you can carry your own tents.
For more information on homestays; Check Himalayan-homestays.com or snowleopardconservancy.org

Hemis Monastery also offers clean and basic rooms.
For bookings contact: Manager, Hemis Spiritual Retreat (01982-249079, 249073)
Hotels in Hemis National Park


Reaching Hemis National Park

By Air: The nearest airport is Leh, which is connected by Indian Airlines to Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar and Jammu.

By Rail: The nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi (734 km away).

By Road:Leh is well connected by road with the major nearby cities. You can get to Leh from Manali (473 km) via Keylong or from Srinagar by Kargil. Himachal Roadways (Contact: 01902-252323) run twice a day bus service from mid-June to September with a night halt at Keylong.


About Hemis National Park: Hemis National Park Information & Fact File
Altitude  3300-6000 meters
Temp
Summer 21 (Max) & 4 (Min) Degrees Celsius
Winter 29 (Max) & 5 (Min) Degrees Celsius
Best time to Go May – October
Monsoon No defined Monsoon season due to trans-Himalayan location
Summer May – August
Winter November – March
Clothes Woolens in summer and very-heavy woolens in winter
Nearest Airport Leh, 30 km
Nearest Railway Station Udhampur – 580 km
Bus Station Leh – Direct buses from Srinagar, Manali.
Hospital & Doctor

Leh (30 km) is the nearest town with Medical Centres equipped to handle emergencies.

Places to see Hemis Gompa, Leh…more
   
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