Home to a variety of fauna such as snow leopards, blue sheep and many Himalayan birds, Hemis National Park – a high altitude national park, is one of the major attractions of Ladakh that draws adventurists and animal lovers from all over the world. It is popular for being the best place to see a snow leopard in the wild, and also the largest national park of India.One great way of seeing the snow leopard is to do the Snow Leopard Trek. This seven to eight day trek takes your through trails that serve as abodes for several endangered animal species such as argali (great Tibetan sheep), bharal (blue sheep), shapu (Ladakhi urial), Asiatic ibex, the Tibetan wolf, the Eurasian brown bear (endangered in India), the red fox, Himalayan marmot, mountain weasel, Himalayan mouse hare and birds such as golden eagle, the lammergeier vulture, the Himalayan griffon vulture and many more animals.
The largest national park of India, Hemis National Park, gets its name from the 400-year-old Hemis Monastery, which is situated inside the park. The monastery, and area around it, are mentioned in texts documenting the passage of the Silk Route. The few people who live inside the park are Buddhists who have been calling the place home for centuries.The Hemis National Park has the highest density of Snow Leopards in the world. People from around the world spend weeks, months and even years for a sight of the 'Ghost Cat'. The national park is home to several other endangered animals, such as the Ladakhi Urial, Asiatic Ibex, Tibetan wolf, Eurasian Brown Bear and the Red Fox.
17. Hemis National Park, Jammu & Kashmir – The snow leopard's playgroundThe Eastern Ladakh region houses the Hemis National Park whose undiputed superstar is the now endangered Snow Leopard. About 200-600 are still said to be roaming around the higher regions of the park. If you ever happen to that part of the country, make sure you catch a glimpse before the elusive animal (and the park by extension) ceases to exist. Rough terrain, yes, but well worth it.
Spotting the notoriously elusive snow leopardThe trek to the interiors of the Hemis National Park to hunt for the endangered snow leopard is, however, a different ball game altogether. There is no accommodation there apart from the village homestays, unless you are looking to camp out.Some trek organisers arrange the camping trek. Google up ‘Snow leopard trek Ladakh’ and you will find them. The trek may cost you anything between Rs 186,700 ($2,780 / EUR 2,524) per head and Rs 25,000 ($372 / EUR 338), depending on the number of days and the group size (1–8 pax). Very few organize fixed-departure treks. Most of the tours involve at least five days of hiking.Remember, however, that there is no guarantee of a sighting. If you have read books like ‘The Snow Leopard’ by Peter Matthiessen, you would know how intelligent and elusive an animal it is. Though Hemis National Park is believed to have the highest density of snow leopards among all the protected areas, a sighting would depend mostly on luck.
It is a high altitude national park nestled in the Ladakhi mountains and also the best place in the world to see a Snow Leopard!