Monday, July 15, 2024

Tourism      Wildlife      National Parks      Jammu and Kashmir     Ladakh    

Hemis High Altitude National Park




Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir

Main attraction


Shapu, Bharal, Snow Leopard

Best time to visit


June to October

Nearest town



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Named after the famous monastery Hemis Gompa, the national park spread out over 600 sq. Km, is situated at Ladakh in J&K. The park known as the Snow leopard capital of India has an altitudinal range of 3,300 to 6,000 m, and hosts a remarkable variety of wildlife. Hemis was established as a national park on 4th February 1981. This national park offers the tourists an abundant treasure of natural beauty with mountains of various shapes and sizes, mixed with vast flatlands, deserts and bordered by the fast flowing river Indus.

Hemis occupies much of the catchments of the lower Zanskar River, from its confluence with the Markha river to its meeting with the Indus. The smaller northern sector consists of Sumdah Valley which runs south-east until it meets the main Zanskar Valley. In the southern sector is the beautiful Markha Valley, also a tributary of the Zanskar Valley, and the Rumbak Valley which runs eastwards directly into the Indus Valley.

The area of this cold desert is rocky and the thin soil cover supports a poor vegetative growth. Grass growth is relatively rapid during the summer season after the melting of the snow. The Markha and Rumbak valleys are high altitude deserts charecterised by sparse grasslands and herbaceous vegetation on mountain slopes. These areas consists of trees and plants like Junipers, Myricaria, Poplar, Salix, Birch, Astragalus, Taraxacum, Leortopodium, Ephedra and many sparse grasslands.

The National park is famous for its population of the rare Snow Leopards and the Ibex. The other main species recorded in the National park are Palla's cat, srapu, bharal, red fox, rhesus macaque, Hanuman languor, wolf, marmot, Tibetan argali and Ladakh urial etc. The bharal and urial are seen in large numbers. The park has been earmarked as one of the snow leopard reserves under a central government project to conserve the species.

Over 70 varieties of birds are seen in this area. The common birds are snow cock, chukor, magpie, Himalayan whistling thrush, snow partridge, golden oriole etc. Some of the less commonly seen birds are Great Grey Shrike, the Red Mantled Rose Finch, the Black Throated Thrush, the Robin Accentor, the Spotted Flycatcher, various migrant Teal, the Red Flanked Blue Tail and the Great Nose Finch.

The climatic conditions vary from sub-arctic to arctic. Summers are short and mild, rainfall is low and it snows most of the time. In winter, the temperature drops to far below the freezing point and the area receives very heavy snowfall, which remains on the ground for several months at a stretch. 

It is advisable to only venture into the park with a good guide and also a rugged vehicle, preferably a 4-wheel drive or a motor cycle. Camping and trekking are allowed within the park boundaries. The trek through the beautiful Markha valley with its numerous small villages, shepherds, camps and passes overshadowed by Kanyatse and other groups of Peaks is an experience to cherish. Trekkers must be prepared for extremely cold conditions at all times of the year. It is sensible not to spend too much time at the mountain passes as excess altitude can cause medical problems to some people because of lack of oxygen. In winter, the area is quite inaccessible as the temperature drops down to below zero. Vehicles are available on hire from local operators in Leh and Manali. Due to lack of proper infrastructure being prevalent in the park, it is necessary to make all required arrangements regarding food, water etc. beforehand.

Foreign tourist must check about the latest government regulations before setting out on this journey.