The Historical Hinterland.
Hemis is a small village located in the Leh tehsil, 40 kilometres southeast of the Leh town, in the Land of high passes, Ladakh. Famous for the Hemis Monastery and the Hemis National Park, this village is a must visit, if you are planning a vacation to Ladakh. Inhabited by approximately three hundred people, the place is quite secluded and some what peaceful as well as relaxing. Three other Gompas, or monasteries situated here are the Gotsang Gompa, Shang Gompa and the Stakna Gompa. This tiny village, also known by the name Hamis, is a fairly historical place of attraction. Tourists flood this ancient beauty to visit the years old monasteries as well as to soak in the breathtaking landscapes. One can spot some rare species of Snow Leopards while visiting the largest national park in Jammu and Kashmir, that is the Hemis High Altitude National Park. Talking about escapes from the complexities of life and enjoying a few moments of peace and isolation, the place proves every single word of it. If you are in the dire need of a rejuvinating and refreshing getaway from life, as well as some fun and adventure, then Hemis is the place for you. The place also promises awe-inspiring pictures for your Instagram and an amazing refill of your mind, body and soul.
Hemis, or Hamis is a historical hinterland. The popular Hemis Monastery was constituted in the 1672 AD by the King Senge Nampar Gyalva and is believed to have existed even before the 11th century. Naropa, the pupil of a tantric master Tilopa, and the founding father of the Kagyu-Lineage of the Himalayan esoteric Buddhism, was attached with the monastery, thus making Hemis, the main seat of the Kagyu lineae of buddhism.
The well known festival in Leh, the Hemis festival takes place every year on the 10th day of the Tse-Chu, that is the Lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. It basically takes place around the first or second week of July, every year at Ladakh's biggest Buddhist Monastery. It is celebrated in the honour of Lord Padmasambhava's birth anniversary and goes on for two days. During this time, the Hemis monastery is decorated beautifully and the locals wear traditional attires, taking part in different rituals, including a dance performance. The Lamas dressed in vibrant dresses perform masked dances, also called 'Chham Dance', sacred plays and 'Devil Dance'. The festival comes to an end by destroying a sculpture made up of dough, which represents evil powers, by the head of the Black Hat Dancers. The broken pieces are then thrown in four different directions, signifying the warding off evil spirits as well as purification of soul after death. Apart from this, 'Chhang', a local liquor is served during the festival,drums, cymbals and long horns are played, as well as beautiful handicrafts are showcased in the courtyard of the Hemis Monastery.
How to reach
Hemis is well connected by road with most of India. The nearest Airport is the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport at Leh, 40 kilometres from Hemis, which can take an hour's drive to reach. The nearest Railway station is the one at Srinagar, at 481 kilometres from Hemis. Other than this, many private as well as government buses, run by the J&K Road Transport Corporation travel daily to Hemis from many prominent places like Srinagar, Leh, Jammu, etc. Cab/Taxi and rental car services are also available from the airport and the station to help reach Hemis.
How to Reach by Flight
Hemis does not have any airport of it's own, but the nearest one is at Leh, the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport. It is about an hour's drive from Hemis and can be covered by regular prying government/private buses, taxis, cabs or rental cars.
How to Reach by Train
The nearest railway network is the Srinagar Railway Station at a distance of 481 kilometres, to be covered via flight to Leh or by road. The other important nearby railway station is the Jammu Tawi Railway Station at a distance of 742 kilometre. From there you could travel via flight to Leh or cover the whole distance via road, that is by bus, taxi, cab or rental cars.
How to Reach by Bus
Hemis is well connected by buses, both private as well as government. Buses of the Jammu and Kashmir Road Transport Corporation pry regularly to and from Hemis. You can cover the extra miles to your Hotel via taxi or best, by foot.
How to Reach by Road
By road through Leh, is the best possible way to reach the historical village, Hemis. The Manali-Leh highway is perhaps the best route via road, since the other highway, the Srinagar-Leh highway is often closed by the army due to it's close proximity to the Pakistan border. The only disadvantage travelling via road is that both the roads remain open only from June to October because of landslides and tricky mountain passes. But, apart from that travelling by road is a pretty easy and scenic option.
How to travel within
Hemis is a very small village, so the most suitable option to travel within is by foot. Although, you can also opt for taxi, cab or rental cars.
Many Hotels are available in and around the Hemis Monastery. Prices range from 800 INR a night, to 10000 INR a night. Most of them are very close to the Hemis Monastery, which is quite helpful if one plans on visiting the monastery everyday.
There are quite a lot of lip-smacking foods for you to try out while visiting Hemis. The first and the most notable being Thukpa, which is noodles, vegetables and sometimes chicken with sizzling hot soup, for you to keep yourself warm in the extreme cold temperatures. Chhang, a local liquor is prepared by fermenting miller with yeast and topped with warm water. Butter tea, another famous drink is prepared by adding butter and salt to the milk tea. Two other traditional dishes are Skyu, a small sized dough cooked with water and served with meat and vegetables; and Khambir, the customary bread of Ladakh, pan shaped and served with butter tea. Although available all around the world, you must give a try to the one of a kind momos in the region, often seved with Thukpa.
Spend your first day visiting what Hemis is mostly famous for, i.e. the historical Hemis Monastery. You can also cover the Gotsang Gompa in the same day.
Visit the world famous Hemis Wildlife Sanctuary in your second day for a wonderful time spotting rare and beautiful species of plants, animals and birds. If you still have a little bit of time left, spend it by going for a walk around the village. You may be able to hear interesting stories from the lamas and capture spectacular sceneries.
Visit the Shang Gompa and th Stakna Gompa on your third and final day.