The Hemis High Altitude National Park that extends over 600 sq. km. is named after the famous monastery, Hemis gompa that is situated 40 km. southeast of Leh. Located on the west bank of the Indus River, it comprises the catchments of Markha, Rumbak and Sumdah nalas. It is known for some rare species like the bharal and the snow leopard. Hemis has in fact been identified as a snow leopard reserve under a project launched by the Central Government aimed at conserving the species, its prey base and its fragile mountainous home.
The climate is extreme and shows high fluctuations both on a daily and seasonal basis. Precipitation is quite low, averaging at 160.5 mm. In winter, temperatures are close to freezing point during the day. The Zanskar River and its tributaries are frozen and temperatures drop to as low as -150C to -200C at night. Since the winters are very harsh, so it’s best to plan a trip during the summer. April to June and September to December are the best seasons for bird-watching. For animal viewing, September to June is suitable.
- By Air: From June to September, one can fly to Leh from Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar or Jammu. Indian Airlines is the only airline with flights to Leh. In winter, however, proceeding by road is a safer option.
- By Road: Approachable by road from Leh, this national park contains several camping sites. The area is barren and rocky, covered only sparsely with vegetation. There is a daily bus service from Leh to Hemis.
- On foot: The route from the Spituk Gompa just below Leh, through Jingchen valley onto Gandu La and the Markha valley, proceeding to Hemis via Kongmaru La is a fabled trek that the adventurous would be happy to experience.
Things to do
- Enjoy birdwatching in the Rumbak Valley
- Spot the snow leopards by trekking in the park.
- Travelers can also try the Markha Valley Trek which goes inside Hemis.