Hemis High Altitude National Park was created in 1981.India's first national park to be established in the north of the main Himalaya Range. Hemis High-Altitude National Park is the largest high-altitude reserve in India. Very close to Leh, in the area of Rumbak and Markha Valleys, the area in general is rocky and sparsely covered. The park comes under Ladakh district and represents the Trans-Himalayan ecosystem. The park was established to preserve the dwindling population of wildlife in Ladakh region with an area of 600 sq km. The park has been marked as one of the snow leopard reserves under a central government project to conserve the species, its prey population, and fragile mountain habitat. It takes its name from the world famous Gompa Buddhist situated here. The park stretches from 33°15' to 34°20' North latitude and from 76°50' to 77°45'E longitude with an altitudinal range of 3,300 m at the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers in the northwest to the 6,400 m Kang Yisay massif in the northeast.
The Hemis Altitude National Park
About 1,650 people live within the Park's boundaries. They grow barley and selected vegetables and own more than 4,000 head of livestock (sheep, goats and yaks). Besides Ladakh's beautiful scenery and rich culture from the monasteries to village life, the Hemis Park offers many wildlife viewing opportunities.
Hemis national park is home for a number of exotic animals and bird species. Over 17 mammal and 74 bird species have been found in the park so far. Many of these are only found in the Himalayan region and considered to be highly endangered i.e on the verge of extinction. Prominent among the animals found in this park include the Himalayan Wolf, Snow Leopard, Red Fox, Bharal (Blue Sheep), Wild Dog, Pallas's Cat, Tibetan Argali, Long-tailed Marmot, Ibex, Ladakh Urial and Himalayan Mouse Hare. Besides these rare animals, wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers are also presented with a life time opportunity of spotting birds that are unique to the area and are not spotted anywhere in the lower altitudinal regions. The avifauna includes the Lammergeier, Little Owl, Golden Eagle, Common Kestrel and Himalayan Griffon among other variety of birds.
Trekking is the best way to explore this area and get up close with the wild residents of this altitude park. Some of the popular trekking routes in the park include Skyu-Kaya to Markha Valley, the trek from Spituk to Markha and Martselang to Shang. The treks range from the easy to difficult ones and thus require some acclimatization to the climate.
Other sites to look for:
It is the biggest and one of the most important monasteries in the district of Ladakh. It is situated around 49 km south to Leh. The monastery was built during the 17th century by Chapgon Gyalshas. A library is provided at the monastery. It has an excellent collection of rare artefacts.
A trek through the Markha Valley is specially rewarding which offers visitors mesmerizing views of the amazing natural beauty of the Ladakh. The trek ranges from the difficult seven to eight day to the easy four to five day treks.
How to get there?
- By Air: The nearest airport is Leh, which is connected by many airlines to Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar, and Jammu.
- By Rail: The nearest railhead is Jammu railway station, situated at a distance of around 700 kms. Jammu is connected to all parts of India by train.
- By Road: The Leh-Srinagar National Highway officially opens from 15th of May to 15th November every year (depending on weather condition). The distances of some important destinations from Leh city by road are, Manali 497 kms, Srinagar, 434 km; Kargil 230 kms and Keylong, 380 km.
Where to stay?
There are many small hotels which provide you rooms in Leh. 2-3 big hotels have just started in Leh.
Best time to visit:
Best time to visit is from May to August.
Travel Tips/Important Information:
- The visitors must have a permit from the wildlife office in Leh, for visiting the park between November to May
- There are four main entry points to the park, Chilling (north-west/60 km from Leh), Martselang (south-east/45 km from Leh), Zingchan (north/25 km from Leh) and Stok (north/13 km from Leh)
- There are various trekking routes in the park. Choose the trek that is best suited to your physical state. Some of them are very tough. The trek to Rumbak is especially rewarding. This trek begins from Spituk and passes via Zingchan and ends at Rumbak
- Entry fee to the park is Rs. 20 for Indians and Rs. 150 for foreigners
The Hemis Altitude National Park is the highest of all the parks in altitude as far as India is concerned and is one of the very few high altitude national parks throughout the world. It surely gives you an exclusive experience which you cannot get in any of the other national parks.