Spotting snow leopard around Leh

June 21, 2011

I have heard that there is a national park or wildlife park around where you have a chance to spot Snow Leopards. Can you give me more details about the same. How far is the park from Leh? Entrance fee, opening hours etc

World  •  India  •  Leh  •  Jammu and Kashmir
June 21, 2011


Great to hear about your trip.

Snow leopards can be spotted at Hemis National Park near Leh and i will give you all the information about the park in terms of its distance from Leh, Opening and closing time and the cost.

So here we go on the trail for the snow cats.

Before I give you information about the park let me give you a little insight into the ever so elusive snow leopards.

Lone (Source: Praveen) 

Snow Leopards

Snow leopards are found in the high reaches of the Himalayan mountains and on the Tibetan plateau. Their range stretches from eastern Afghanistan in the west, through Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan to Mongolia and Siberia in the east, and from China in the north down through the Himalayan mountains to Nepal and India in the south. The best place to see snow leopards in India is in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the district of Ladakh, a land north of the main Himalayan range.

The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is a big cat weighing between 27 to 55 kg . Usually a solitary beast, snow leopards only travel in pairs during the late winter mating season. Their main prey in their Indian range is the bharal (Himalayan blue sheep) that also frequent the high mountain passes of Ladakh. Various estimates put the world-wide snow leopard population in the wild between 4,000 and 7,000,

Their mountainous habitat, secretive nature, and perfect camouflage make sightings rare.

(Source: OS X Snow Leopard Wallpaper - Snow Leopard) 

However your best chance of spotting a snow leopard is at the Hemis National Park

Hemis National Park

Hemis National Park is situated at in remote and high altitude of Ladakh region.It is after the famous Buddhist Gompa (Hemis Monastery).The place was built in 1981 under a central government project to conserve the species and its population.

Here is a quick snippet:

It covers an area of 600 sq.kms in the valleys of Markha and Rumbak. This high altitude protected area was created in 1981 for the conservation and protection of it's unique flora and fauna. The terrain surrounding the Park is generally rocky with thin soil cover supporting a poor vegetation growth. Streams and Rivers have laid a thick deposit of sand along their banks. The climate of the area is sub-arctic to arctic with less rainfall during summers and heavy snowfall during winters and temperature dropping to much below freezing point. Summers are short and mild. There are many rare and endangered animal species found in this cold desert, amongst these are the elusive Snow Leopard, Ibex, Tibetan Antelope, Blue Sheep, Shapo, Marmot, Tibetan Hare etc. Among the avi fauna population found are the Snow Patridge, Golden Oriole, Snow Cock, Golden Eagle, Horned Lark, Red Billed Chuff etc.

(Source: Snowleopard Trek in Ladakh)

(Source: Karunakar Rayker) 

A traveler has written about his trip to the park, read it here.

Spotting the Snow Leopard

The Hemis national park is one of the few places which is home to the Snow leopards.

 (Source: Thomas) 

However it is not easy  to spot them. 

This beautiful beast with its thick gray-coating and whitish tinges in lower portion of the body remains in high altitude areas of the park. The best area, however to spot the snow leopard is in the Shang Valley, where its density is believed to be the highest.

 (Source: Hemis National Park - k, Leh Ladakh India:) 

Here is some useful information on how to spot them.

It is advisable to take assistance of a local guide in order to spot them as they are well aware of the habitats and moving patterns of the animal.

There are a lot of guided tours conducted to the park,. For complete details and booking see here.

Other Wildlife
Besides snow leopard, the park is home to a number of exotic animal and bird species. Over 16 mammal and 73 bird species have been recorded in the park. Prominent among the animals found in the park include the Himalayan wolf, red fox, Pallas's cat, wild dog, bharal (Blue Sheep), Ibex, Tibetan argali, Ladakh urial, long-tailed marmot and Himalayan mouse hare.

Hemis National Park also has a sizeable population of birds like Himalayan snow-cock, Tibetan partridge, chukar, snow pigeon, red-billed chough, horned lark, hill pigeon, yellow-billed chough, black-billed magpie, white-tailed ruby-throat, common raven, blue-throat, mountain cliiffchaff, grey wagtail, robin accentor, alpine accentor, and rock bunting.

(Source: Hemis National Park - Hemis Tour Guide, ) 

 (Source: Keven Law) 

Practical Information

Altitude: 3,500 to 6,930 m above sea level

Entry fee : Rs. 20

There are no opening or closing hours as such. You can go any time of the day

Reaching Hemis National Park:

By Air: The nearest airport is Leh, which is connected by Indian Airlines to Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar and Jammu.

By Rail: The nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi (734 km away).

By Road:Leh is well connected by road with the major nearby cities. You can get to Leh from Manali (473 km) via Keylong or from Srinagar by Kargil. Himachal Roadways (Contact: 01902-252323) run twice a day bus service from mid-June to September with a night halt at Keylong.

 (Source: Hemis National Park - Hemis Tour Guide,  ) 

The Distance from Leh to Hemis National Park is 55 km.and drive from Leh to Hemis National Park takes about 1 hours by car.

See driving directions from Leh here.

Some more useful information:

1. The visitors require a permit from the wildlife office in Leh, to visit the park between the months of November and May.
2. There are four main entry points to the park, Martselang (south-east/45 km from Leh), Chilling (north-west/60 km from Leh), Stok (north/13 km from Leh) and Zingchan (north/25 km from Leh).
There are various trekking routes in the park. Choose the one that is best suited to your physical state. The trek to Rumbak is especially rewarding, which begins from Spituk and passes via Zingchan to Rumbak.

 (Source: Hemis National Park India, Ladakh India,) 


You have chosen a perfect month to visit the park as from May to October are the most suitable months to come here.

Here is a little about the weather:

The climate varies from year to year and is unpredictable due to the presence of Himalayan ranges.Rainfall is very low and snowfall is heavy especially in winters.The summers are short and very mild.

For day to day weather conditions, see here.

Hope I have been able to give you a fairly good idea of the Hemis National Park.

If you need any more assistance such as accommodation or flights, feel free to write to us and we will be happy to help you.

Best of luck with spotting the snow leopard.



Answered by I am adventurous and love to travel. Mountains, nature and beaches really excite me. Music, photography are my other hobbies Vinod Lal

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