The Hemis High Altitude National Park is the only Indian national park that is situated north of the Himalayan Mountain Range. It is in the Ladakh District in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also one of the largest national parks in the subcontinent. Hemis National Park is part of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve and is inside the Palearctic ecozone. It is bordered by the Indus River and a portion of the Zanskar Mountain Range.

The Hemis High Altitude National Park was first established in 1981 with the intention of protecting the catchment areas of Rumbak and Markha. Seven years later, in 1988, it was extended and again in 1990. Today, it covers a total area of about 4400 square kilometres.

This national park comprises Alpine Meadow, Alpine Tundra, pine forests and Alpine Shrublands as part of its varied ecosystem. These different types of vegetation flourish under drier conditions as the park lies within the rain shadow of the Himalayan Mountains. These diverse and abundant environments create the ideal habitats for a number of different animal species. In addition to its wildlife and flora, the park has also been home to Tibetan monks, and one of its most popular tourist attractions is the Hemis Monastery, which dates back some 400+ years. Today, local tribes remain within the park’s borders, living off the land and implementing their deeply-entrenched cultures and customs into their daily lives. This is also a frequented area for pilgrims, who visit during the festival of Hemis Tsechu.

Some of the intriguing and exquisite animal species that can be seen roaming these plains and exploring the forests
Image of Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica sibirica). Also known as Asiatic Ibex.
Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica sibirica). Also known as Asiatic Ibex.
include the Red Fox, Eurasian Brown Bear, Blue Sheep, Ladakhi Urial, Asiatic Ibex, Tibetan Wolf, Himalayan Mouse Hare and Himalayan Marmot. The Ladakhi Urial is rare and Hemis is the only reserve for it in all of India. The Eurasian Brown Bear is an endangered species, promising a very rewarding experience for visitors who spot it. In addition to these terrestrial animals, there are also a number of fascinating bird species, including the Lammergeier Vulture, Golden Eagle, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Brown Accentor, Streaked Rosefinch, Fire-fronted Serin, Fork-tailed Swift, and Himalayan Snowcock. The endangered Snow Leopard is another of the Hemis High Altitude National Park’s treasures, and it has implemented projects and programmes to ensure the preservation and protection of this elusive species.

Another one of its projects involves allowing tourists access into the local villages and houses so that they are educated and aware of the challenges and merits of such rural folk as well as to allow the locals to earn some revenue from the tourism industry in Jammu and Kashmir. Other initiatives include training unemployed youths to be nature guides, enabling local women to run the café and sell arts and crafts, limiting the grazing area of domestic livestock to create more room for wild animals, reinforcing the livestock pens so that predators cannot access them and so on.

The closest airport is the Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, which is only about five to ten kilometres from the Hemis High Altitude National Park. Jammu is about 735 kilometres away and Srinagar is 300 kilometres away.

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