Great Himalayan National Park
Hemmed in on three sides by the towering peaks of the Himalayas, Himachal
Pradesh's Great Himalayan National Park is undoubtedly the place to go for
a rendezvous with the wildlife of these mountains. Here, amidst dense forests
of blue pine and cedar, in high alpine meadows and mountain slopes which
remain covered with snow throughout the year, lives one of the densest and
most impressive populations of Himalayan wildlife.
Created in 1984, the Great Himalayan National Park (officially known
as the Jawaharlal Nehru Great Himalayan National Park) includes, in a
wide swathe of land covering 765 sq km, the previously-established Tirthan
Adjacent to the park are two more important protected areas- the Pin Valley
National Park and the Rupi Bhabha Sanctuary- a vast expanse of land sheltering
many of the species, both animal and plant, endemic to the Himalayas.
The Great Himalayan National Park lies in Seraj Forest Division (in Kullu
District), in the upper catchment areas of the Jiwa, Sainj and Tirthan
rivers. A park where the altitude varies from 1,500 mt to about 6,000
mt, encompassing within it snowcapped mountains, river valleys, and steep
cliffs. The diversity of terrain and altitude is reflected in a corresponding
diversity of vegetation. Deciduous broadleaved forests of oak and bamboo
alternate with pine and deodar woods, while grasses and colourful wildflowers
crowd alpine meadows in the upper reaches.
Inhabiting this stretch of land is a dazzling array of animals and birds.
Among the most prominent mammals are leopards, Himalayan black bears,
brown bears, langurs, rhesus macaques, and wild sheep such as the Himalayan
thar, bharal and the ibex. Rarer animals like the highly endangered musk
deer are also found in the park, and there have been reports of snow leopard
sightings. The Great Himalayan National Park is unsurpassed in its bird
life, with almost 68 resident species and close to 50 migrant species
being sighted here. Pheasants, such as the gloriously beautiful monal,
the kaleej and the Western tragopan, are among its many attractions.
Special permits are required by visitors to the Great Himalayan National
Park. These permits can be collected, for a nominal fee of Rs 2 (for Indians)
or Rs 4 (for foreigners) from the office of the Park Director at Shamsi,
or the range officers at Larji, Sairopa and Sainj. Charges for guides
(who are provided by the park authorities, and are mandatory for anybody
visiting the park) are extra, as are fees for cameras.
Visits to the Great Himalayan National Park are allowed only between
sunrise and sunset.
Best time to visit
The Great Himalayan National Park is best visited in early summer or autumn
- April to June and September to November are the times when the weather's
at its best. Beyond November, and right up to April, heavy snowfall can
block roads and trails, besides making it a little too cold for comfort!
Rainfall hits the park between July and September, sometimes resulting in
landslides and muddy trails.