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Hemis National Park
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Himalayan Mountains in the north of India has given a plethora of locations that are really worth a visit. From the high-altitude passes to the alpine peaks, the Himalayas are paradisaical for any nature lover.
Most of the Himalayan regions are desolate because of the altitude and location which restricts travelers from visiting many remote regions easily. However, for an adventurer, reaching these remote locations is a challenge as they take every preparation to confront the obstacles to see the myriad beauty of nature on all corners of the world.
One of the fascinating aspects of the Himalayan range is the number of national parks and sanctuaries that are present in this region. The vast plateau and the greenery have built a major concentration of wild animals and rare species on these mountain nature parks. One such sanctuary, which deserves special mention, is the Hemis National Park.
History and DemographicsHemis National Park is located in the east of Ladakh region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This high-altitude national park is set on a sprawling 600 sq km of land which is by the west bank of the Indus River, in the catchments of Sumdah nalas, Markha, and Rumbak.
Hemis National Park has its reputation as one of the best parks to locate the elusive snow leopard and the endangered Eurasian brown bear. The Forest Department of Jammu and Kashmir has marked this park as the snow leopard reserve in an effort to find the best possible ways to conserve this rare species. Hemis National Park is also considered to be the largest national park of India.
The word ‘Hemis’ has been derived from the 400 years old Hemis Monastery. Besides, there are numerous small chortens and gompas in and around the region. The park is also the house of local Tibetan villagers. As of now, their population in the park is around 1,600. The Tibetans are mainly pastoralists, raising domestic animals like sheep and goats. However, this co-habitation of people and wild animals has created a major conflict in this region as the wild predators often get into the village in search of an easy prey.
Wild Life and HabitatHemis National Park is home to varieties of rare mammals and species. Bharal, snow leopard and Eurasian brown bear are the major attraction. Other animals and birds include Tibetan argali, Ladakh urial, Pallas’ cat, wolf, ibex, Himalayan snowcock, Himalayan griffon, golden eagle, red-flanked bluetail, red-mantled spotted forktail, chukar partridge, white and crown throated dipper, lammergeier, and streaked rosefinch.
Flora and FaunaThe elevation of Hemis National Park extended from 3,500 meters to 6,933 meters for which the nature of flora and fauna varies within the region. The vegetation is generally alpine in lower regions which constitute around 10% of the total land and on the higher altitude are the steppes. The vast meadow of the valley is marked by sedges. The scrubs grow at a length of 5 - 10 meters. Shrub roses are common at the elevation of 3,500 meters in this place. You will also find populus trees at the bottom of the valley where the soil is moist. Juniper is another common tree that is found from 3,300 to 3,700 meters. It also grows well in the lower altitude, especially in the lower Khrunak Chu area.
The entire region is also marked by barren and rugged valleys, giant rock boulders and peaks which are as high as 5,000 to 6,000 meters in their altitudes.
Festival in HemisEvery year, Hemis celebrates a grand two-day festival during the month of July. The festival is organized to showcase the cultural and historical significance of the region. Symbolically, the celebration takes place to mark the victory of good over evil. People from different parts of the world gather here specifically for this festival. The Hemis festival also holds the birth anniversary of Buddhist spiritual guru, Padmasambhava, and it takes place in the Hemis Gompa. Traditional dances, songs and a variety of people wearing colorful clothes simply change the solitary status of Hemis for two days. The fairs also have a number of stalls from where you can buy souvenirs that are made locally by the people of this region.
Other Places to SeeBesides Hemis, there are some other locations in and around the region which you can consider in your itinerary.
Stok KangriIt is the highest peak in Ladakh region with an elevation of 6,151 meter. The peak is popular for trekking and is located within the Hemis National Park. Stok Kangri is a tough climb and few people manage to make it to the summit.
LadakhThe Ladakh region is a traveler hot spot. Every year, visitors from all over the world visit this secluded zone to enjoy the stunning beauty of this region. From Ladakh, you can cover Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake, Tsomoriri, Padum Valley, and Sham Valley.
How to ReachIn order to reach Hemis National Park, you first need to reach Ladakh. There are regular flight services from New Delhi to connect to Ladakh. During winter, if you plan to visit Ladakh, flight is the only option.
You can also reach Ladakh by car or bus from Kashmir or Himachal Pradesh. From Ladakh, take a local bus or hire a car to reach Hemis.
Another great option for an avid trekker is to reach Hemis by foot. You need to take the route through Jingchen valley towards Gandu La and Markha valley. The trek route via Kongamru La is stunning and as a trekker, this route is probably the best.
Best Season to VisitDue to high-altitude, the weather in Hemis region fluctuates on daily or periodic basis. During winter, it is freezing cold as the temperature dips below -15°C to -20°C at night. It is , for this reason, best to visit the national park during the summer season. The months of April till June or September until December is the best time to visit the Hemis National Park.
Where to StayHemis is a desolate zone and is mainly for trekkers. There are no such facilities for proper accommodation except camping. There is one guesthouse called East West Guesthouse, but that is located quite far from the region where a double room is charged at ₨ 150 ($2.40). The best option is to camp near the gompa where they charge ₨ 35 ($0.56) or you can also live in the pre-set tents which cost ₨ 50 ($0.80).
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Dec 11, 2014