Hemis Travel Guide: Things to Do and Places to See in Hemis in the Leh District of Ladakh (2023)
Hemis, also spelled Hamis, is a village in the Leh district of Ladakh, India. It is located in the Kharu tehsil which is around 40 km southeast of Leh town. There are many famous monasteries and gompas in the area. This is a place famous for the gompas that have historical importance and one must visit this beautiful place to calm their soles and quench your adrenaline if you are a nature lover and travel junkie. Hemis is well known for the Hemis monastery that was established in 1672 AD by king Sengge Namgyal. The place is famous for the colorful festival held in July that is visited by tourists. The festival is celebrated to honor Padmasambhava. The major attraction during the festival is the unfurling of the huge thangka during the Hemis Festival. It is one of the largest thangkas in Ladakh that is unfurled in front of a large crowd that increase the importance of this place and is visited by many people around the world. Hemis Monastery is ranked as one of the wealthiest monasteries in India.
Hemis Monastery houses a spectacular copper statue of Lord Buddha along with stupas made of gold and silver, thangkas, and murals. Thangka is a painting on cotton or silk that represents a Buddhist deity. All four sides of the monastery are decorated with colorful prayer flags which flutter in the breeze and are said to be sending out prayers to Lord Buddha. The chanting of the monks in this beautiful location and weather is awe-inspiring. The place has a spiritual feeling to it and is soul-quenching. It is a beautiful place for tourists to reignite the spiritual being in them and get addicted to this beautiful place. One can never get enough of this beautiful place. You will not feel like coming back from this place. It is very beautiful and bewitching.
Things to Do and Places to See in Hemis
Hemis is most visited during the annual Hemis Festival held here each year in June. To Know more, read the articles:
1. Hemis National Park
Hemis National Park is a high-altitude national park located in Ladakh in India. The place is especially famous for snow leopards and is visited by thousands of tourists in India. the highest density of snow leopard is found in Hemis in the entire world. It is a place worth exploring once in a lifetime and getting to see a snow leopard is bliss. The Hemis National Park is located at an altitude ranging between 3,300 and 6,000 meters above sea level. Hemis National Park is the largest national park in South Asia. The park was founded in 1981 and is famous for its unique mountains and the animals that can be sopped here. Hemis National Park is also home to six villages that are residing inside the national park and houses over 1600 residents. Some of which are great camping sites. The park also cites the four-hundred-year-old Hemis Monastery. This national park is also well-known for trekking and hiking options. Other sought-after animal species in the national park are Shapu, Wild Sheeps, Ibex, and Goats. Hemis National Park is a natural habitat for many species of animals. It has over 17 mammals and 70 bird species. The national park also has an interesting variety of vegetation.
Some of the unique ones include Anemone, Veronica, Delphinium, Gentiana, Lloydia, and Kobresia. Hemis National Park is also home to a variety of birds and also migratory birds during various seasons. Some of the birds are the Great Grey Shrike, Red Mantled Rose Finch, Black-Throated Thrush, the Robin Acceptor, Spotted Flycatcher, Himalayan Whistling Thrush, White Rumped Shama, etc. Some of the most endangered animal species that reside here are Ladakh Urial, Tibetan Argali, Bharal, Tibetan Wild Ass, Dholes, etc. The best way to see this place is by jeep safaris that are easily available by many local agents and transport services in the area. The best time to visit the park is from May to October.
2. Hemis Monastery
Hemis Monastery is a Himalayan Buddhist monastery which is also known as a gompa of the Drukpa Lineage, in Hemis, Ladakh, India. It is located at a distance of 5 km from Leh and is a popular tourist spot in the area. The monastery is visited by thousands of tourists around the year. Hemis Monastery is a 17th-century Buddhist shrine and was re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. It is a popular tourist attraction and an annual Hemis festival honoring Padmasambhava is held there in early June which is visited by many tourists around this time. The major attraction during the festival is the unfurling of the huge thangka. Thangka is a religious painting in Tibetan.
Every 12 years, during the Hemis Festival, one of the largest thangkas in Ladakh is unfurled in front of a large crowd. The gompa near Leh has a museum that houses a wide collection of Tibetan books, Thangkas, gold statues, and Stupas embedded with precious stones, weapons, carriers, and even a stuffed vulture pup.
The legend says that the monastery existed before the 11th century. The monastery of Hemis is connected with Naropa, the pupil of the yogi Tilopa, and teacher of the translator Marpa. It is believed that Naropa and yogi Tilopa met at Hemis and together from here they proceeded to the ancient kingdom of Magadha. Naropa was the founding father of the Kagyu-lineage of the Himalayan esoteric Buddhism. Hemis Monastery is considered the main seat of the Kagyu lineage of Buddhism. The monastery is constructed in an ancient Tibetan style of architecture. The main building of Hemis Monastery has white walls. The entrance to the Hemis Monastery complex is through a giant gate that opens to a large courtyard. There are two big assembly halls on the northern side and the guardian deities, and the Wheel of Life is situated here. The monastery also has a library on its premises where the monks go and read.
3. Gotsang Gompa
Gompa is also known as Ling. These are Buddhist centers of learning, lineage, and prayers. A gompa is a meditation room where practitioners meditate and listen to teachings. ‘Gompa’ is an imprecise term used by westerners traveling in Tibetan regions to refer to a variety of religious buildings, generally correlating to what might be described as a church but including small temple buildings and other places of worship or religious learning. This Gompa is located in a secluded area and no road leads to this Gompa. Gotsang Gompa is very attractive and has two main temple buildings. The main shrine is the mountain cave in which Tantric master Gyalwang Gotsang who lived between 1189–1258 meditated. It is also known as Gotsangapa and he was the enlightened Tibetan lama who took his first pilgrim path around Mount Kailash. Ladakh’s Drukpa Buddhists came to him later to cast back their lineage and the current Gyalwang Drukpa is considered to be his 12th incarnation.
The cave-in now blackened over time and is now hidden within the monastic building to the left as you climb up from Hemis Gompa. The entrance of the Gompa is very attractive and colorful with beautiful murals on it and there is a cave behind the entryway. There is a stone above the door that is believed to be imprinted with the base of Gotsangapa’s begging bowl. The easiest way to reach Gotsang Gompa is to trek from Hemis Gompa. It takes about one hour to hike uphill to reach Gompa and 30 minutes back to Hemis. You can also get a room here to spend the night if you are interested.
4. Stakna Gompa
Stakna Monastery or Stakna Gompa is a Buddhist monastery of the Drugpa sect in Stakna, Leh district, Ladakh, northern India. It is also known as Tiger’s Nose and it is a famous tourist spot in the area and also holds an important place in history. It is located at a distance of around 25 km from Leh and located on the left bank of the Indus river. It was founded in the late 16th century by a Bhutanese scholar and saint, Chosje Modzin. It is called Tiger’s nose because it was built on a hill shaped like a tiger’s nose. There is a statue of Arya Avalokitesvara from Kamrup, Assam which is very attractive and enhances the beauty of this place. Stakna has a residence of approximately 30 monks and is visited by thousands of tourists every year both from India and abroad.
5. Shang Gompa
The Shang Gompa is another Buddhist monastery in the historical hinterland. The monastery is located in n midst of the snow-peaked mountains and wrinkled terrains of Leh and Ladakh. Shang Gompa is considered to be a symbol of composure and tranquility. You can hear the chanting of the monks which is very satisfying and calming. It is a place to rediscover yourself. The chanting of the monks is almost hypnotizing. The place is very peaceful, and you can spend hours here and you will feel like staying here forever. You can reach this monastery by any two or four-wheeler or you can also decide to walk to this place. There is no entry fee in the monastery and there are no stay arrangements inside the monastery. One needs to arrange a stay around the area themselves.
6. Shopping in Hemis
There are a few places to go and shop at this beautiful place. You will be intrigued and excited to buy many things from this beautiful place. You can find traditional Buddhist paintings, handicrafts, and other souvenirs that you can bring back or your friends and family from this beautiful place. There is a beautiful and unique museum shop at the Hemis Gompa. This shop has a collection of everything Buddhist. You can many things to decorate your home with and many Tibetan artifacts. You can also buy books on Tibetan and Buddhist history at this place. You can buy paintings, wooden dragon statues, Curios, postcards, and many more things. You will also find a few more similar small shops around the area, where one can get your hands on these beautiful Buddhist handicrafts.
Best Time to Visit Hemis
The best time to visit Hemis is during the Annual Hemis festival at the end of June and July when the Thangka is unfurled in the presence of a large crowd. Many tourists are visiting Hemis during this time. Summer is a nice time for the tourists to get around and to enjoy the wilderness in the surrounding areas. The weather is pleasantly cold and is considered a good time to spend in Hemis. The best time to visit this beautiful place and enjoy every bit of the adventure it has to offer is between the summer months which are short from June to September. The temperature in Hemis goes down to almost minus 5 degrees Celsius.
Winters start in October and last up to May. It is comparatively colder than many other hill stations in Himachal. Winters in Hemis are long and freezing. The temperature during winters drops to extreme levels and becomes intolerable for people not accustomed to living in extreme weather conditions. It is not inadvisable to go during winters, but it becomes a little difficult for tourists going from warm areas to stay in cold. The road leading to Hemis sometimes gets blocked when the temperatures drop below zero degrees and there is snow around. At the end of April or at the beginning of May is the best time to visit Hemis. You can choose the best time for your visit depending on your choice to enjoy the summer sun or winter snow.
How to Reach Hemis?
Hemis is well connected to the rest of India by road through Leh. Leh is the gateway to this land of Gompas that is Hemis. There are two that you can take to reach Hemis. The first route is via Srinagar Leh highway or the Leh Manali highway. Both these roads close from October/November to May because of heavy snowfall in the area. There are regular bus services that also ply to and from Hemis connecting it to Leh and other nearby areas. There is no direct flight or rail connectivity to Hemis.
Air Travel to Hemis: The Nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rinpoche airport at Leh at a distance of approximately 42 km from Hemis. It is connected to most of the major cities in India. The local airlines and carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo, Spice Jet, and others have direct flights from Delhi. You can take a taxi to Hemis or jeeps are also available for hire at the airport. To reach Leh, you can also take connecting flights from other local airports in India if a direct flight is not available from your nearest airport. You can hire a taxi from the airport to reach go to your destination in Hemis or the nearby cities if you are planning to go anywhere else.
Rail Travel to Hemis: The Nearest railway stations are the Jammu railway station which is around 227 km from Hemis. If you are coming from different and farther areas of the country or outside, you can reach Jammu Station and hire a taxi from here. The railhead is connected to most of the major cities in India. Jammu railway station is directly connected to prime cities of the country, including Delhi, Bhatinda, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, and Jodhpur via several superfast, express, and mail trains. You can take a taxi or take a shared cab from outside the railway station to reach your destination.
The Road Travels to Hemis: Hemis is connected via road to all places. Frequent buses are plying on this route. There are regular buses from cities like Udhampur, Jammu, Srinagar, and Leh. You can also hire a taxi from these destinations. Generally, tourists reach Leh via public transport like planes, buses, etc., and hire a taxi from Leh to reach Hemis. Bus services also ply to and from the city of Hemis from nearby places like Jammu Tawi, Srinagar, Leh. However, there are no regular buses that travel on this route and it is very risky to rely on public transport.
Places to Stay in Hemis
Hemis is located in one of the farther parts of the country. There are limited options to stay in the area. People generally come here to visit for the day and make stay arrangements around nearby places in Hemis. One of the options is to stay at the nearby monasteries if a room is available. You need to go and check if there is accommodation available. It is located in a remote area and you will not find many let alone fancy places to stay during your visit. Often known as the cold desert of India, you will see brown mountains without any vegetation and majestic views of the valleys you have ever seen. There are only a few guest houses or homestays to stay at Hemis that are run by locals and you can choose a place based on your budget. You can also choose from several homestays at this place that you will enjoy which will give you a comfortable vibe and homely feeling. Make sure you book the place before visiting during the season because it gets really difficult to find accommodation if you land in the town without any arrangement to stay in summer. You will also find places a little far from the main town so be careful and check all the details and confirm when booking the accommodation.
Things to Eat in Hemis
Hemis is most visited during the annual festival and closed for tourists half of the year during the winters. There are no fancy places to eat in the area, but you can find good local food to quench your senses. Most of the places here serve local Tibetan food or North Indian food with limited options and snacks are available all day. A few eating joints in the main town are serving lip-smacking food in the area. Most of the guesthouses and homestays have their in-house kitchens where they prepare food and serve it to their guests. You can always try local food which in this area are majorly small stalls with Maggi and other quick snacks for you to munch on. If you are going for hikes in the nearby areas, it is advisable to carry food on your journey here so that so you can eat something when you feel hungry during your treks in the area. There are also few street vendors offering some of the best Tibetan dishes for you to enjoy. If you do not worry about eating outside local food is a must-try. Many small places are serving Thukpa, Momos, and meat.