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Highlights of Ladakh, Kashmir and Zanskar Region Tour

Improtant Facts

Duration: 15 Days
Pace: Relaxed
Destinations: Fly from New Delhi to Srinagar (Kashmir) / Gulmarg / Panikhar via Sonamarg & Kargil / Padum via Rangdum / Sani Monastery / Thongde Monastery / Kargil / Lamayuru Monastery / Wanla / Photoksar / Lingshed / Alchi Monastery / Likir Gompa / Leh / Hemis Monastery / Thiksey Monastery / Leh Palace / Shanti Stupa / Namgyal Tsemo / Lake Pangong / Fly from Leh to New Delhi
  • Journey through Alpine Landscapes, and Discover Traditional Buddhist Communities in Tibet, Meet Drokpas (the last Aryans), Witness spectacular Sani Monastery
  • Take a once-in-a-lifetime journey through the far-flung regions of the majestic Western Himalaya Mountains, and uncover the secrets of Ladakh, Zanskarand Kashmir on this exclusive three-part trip.

Srinagar (Kashmir)

“If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this”. These are the words the famous 13th-century Indian scholar and poet, Amir Khusro used to try and express the beauty of the Kashmir region. During the months of July through August, the weather is similar to that of Southern France, the rest of the year it is more like Switzerland. However, as you travel through different altitudes, not only does the weather conditions change, also the vegetation varies; the mountain reveals itself to the traveler in different pictures every 100 feet. This is paradise indeed; you will travel through magical meadows, past magnificent peaks covered in snow, marvel at the beauty of beautiful valleys with winding rivers and calm lakes, and admire romantic gardens, proudly showing off the abundance and pure beauty of nature.

Long ago Srinagar offered the Moghuls and British rulers asylum from the summer heat. Its location on the banks of the Jhelum River with its well-known green enclosures, lakes, houseboats, and waterways offers dazzling beauty to enjoy on your vacation to India.

Go on an exploration of this delightful area which overflows with history and unique culture, and overnight in an unconventional houseboat on Dal Lake for two nights. Spend time meandering through the other-worldly Mughal Gardens, and the stunning Shahi Hamdan dargah, with a shikhara ride on Lake Dal, and a day trip into the mountains.

 

The Zanskar Valley, Ladakh

During the next part of our journey, we leave most of the vestiges of civilization behind and cross high mountain passes to remote, immaculate valleys nestled amongst snow-white peaks.

Ladakh is a land of opposites; it has been blessed but also cursed. To a large degree, it is still cut off from the modern world; the many benefits of modernity have not yet made its way here, and up-to-date communication systems are still absent to a large extent. However, the blessings bestowed on these parts are manifold. This cold, remote desert in the northern part of India is blessed with breath-taking mountain passes, clear rivers, and lakes, snow-covered peaks, sand dunes, and unsurpassed scenery, enough to make everyone feel humble. Here it is not the individual who rules; the mountains are king, they reign over the opening and closing of roads, and the movement of glaciers and people. This is a once in a lifetime experience; it will strip you of all your everyday hassles and put all the unnecessary worries into perspective. This is a different world altogether, and soon into the trip, you will ask yourself why you do not stay here for the rest of your life.

Until not too long ago, the western Himalayan region of Zanskar was accessible only on foot, following a trekking route. Today there is an existing road, although, in poor condition, that links the valley to the rest of the country, but only during the warmer summer months. Heavy snowfall during the winter again isolates the Zanskar Valley and the road becomes impassable. This might be one of the reasons why the inhabitants of the region still adhere to their ancient customs and traditions. Tibetan monks still uphold the same Buddhist rites of centuries ago in their monasteries. The scenic beauty of the valley is spectacular; the deep gorges between towering mountain peaks, plateaus, and high passes offer unsurpassable panoramic views.

 

Sani Monastery Festival

This festival is the cultural highlight of the Zanskar region. Here you will witness numerous religious Buddhist activities, like the wonderful dances performed by the monks, and receive colorful traditional costumes and masks.

 

Visit the Remote Villages of Dah, Garkone, and Hanu

In central Ladakh, there is a tribe of people whose physical appearance differs substantially from the Mongolian-Tibetan features of the Ladakh locals. Not only that, their culture and language also varies from the rest of the inhabitants of this region. What is most notable, is the elaborate headdresses of the women, uniquely decorated with pearls, coins, and colorful flowers.

 

Ladakh

The third and last part of our tour consists of a road trip and a visit to Ladakh’s capital, Leh. Also known as ‘Little Tibet’ its importance lies in the ancient monasteries and cultural attractions. Ladakh draws many tourists from all around the world, and here the Tibetan culture and heritage live on, just as the exiled Dalai Lama does.

Whatever your preference, spiritual, architectural, or cultural, Ladakh has it all. From the ancient Thikse and Hemis Monasteries perching steadfastly on high hilltops, the haunting sounds of horns moving over the valleys, it all assist to transport the visitor back to the times of centuries past.

 

Summary and what is included:

  • A 14-day tour of Zanskar, and Ladakh, as well as Sonmarg, Srinagar, and Gulmarg in Kashmir, situated in the higher regions of the Himalayan Mountains
  • Guaranteed unbelievable views of Pahalgam, Gulmarg, and Srinagar
  • Shikara boat trip on Lake Dal with views of the glorious surrounding Himalayan peaks
  • In Gulmarg, a ride in the world’s highest cable car, with sweeping panoramas of the beautiful Himalayan valley
  • Private vehicle with air conditioning and an experienced chauffeur, transport includes pick-ups and drop-offs at hotels
  • Through the narrow valleys of Zanskar and across mountain passes you will be transported in a dependable Toyota Innova SUV
  • Experience and admire the interesting Tibetan cultural
  • Visit far-off, ancient monasteries of the remote, near-isolated Zanskar region
  • Unique cultural gems and mountain landscapes to dazzling you
  • If your visit is scheduled for June or July, it coincides with Hemis’ traditional masks dances, and/or festivals at Phyang and Takthok Monasteries
  • A visit to Ladakh to enjoy the views of nature and observe the traditions of Buddhist communities
  • An experienced English guide will accompany you for the duration of the tour. Other languages like Spanish, German and Italian can also be accommodated
  • Domestic flights between New Delhi, Srinagar, and between Leh and New Delhi are included
Show Full Travel Program

The sounds of horns honking and cars, tuk-tuks and scooters crowding the streets often disguise the fact that Delhi has lots more to offer than the usual chaos seen in its bustling streets. Architectural masterpieces, sometimes hidden underneath Delhi’s urban sprawl, fill this city.

Ancient Mughal treasures, including Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort, are supplemented by later additions to Delhi’s architectural legacy, for example, the staggering Lotus and Akshardham Temples.

Delhi is a pleasant mix of the old and the modern. Contemporary Delhi flourishes in Connaught Place, where the Presidential Palace is located, and the most westernized part of the city is found. The evidence of globalization is real here, with brand names sprinkled all over international storefronts.

Note: If you have already visited Delhi before, sightseeing in the city will be skipped and we will fly directly to Srinagar in Kashmir.

First on the list is a visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial, situated inside the Raj Ghat on the banks of the Yamuna River. The site of his assassination and subsequent cremation is a peaceful, quiet area amidst the noise of the city. An everlasting flame burns at the top of the black marble slab, which is constantly covered in colorful flowers. Cremation spots for several other noteworthy leaders can be found in the vicinity of Raj Ghat.

Take a bike rickshaw to old Delhi and step off at the Jama Masjid, India’s biggest and most well-known mosque. This magnificent 16th-century mosque was constructed with the original Mughal mix of red sandstone and white marble. Two magnificent 131 feet/40-meter-high minarets stand on both sides of the mosque and the immense courtyard can accommodate up to 25,000 worshippers.

From here we make our way to the Red Fort, the former main palace and residence of the Mughal Empire. The fort was constructed by Shah Jahan in 1638 after he decided to move his capital from Agra to Delhi. The complex is protected by massive red sandstone walls and includes various magnificent palaces, pavilions, and beautiful gardens. Its main entryway, Lahore Gate, is adjacent to Chandni Chowk, also called Moonlight Square, one of the country’s oldest and busiest shopping areas with winding paths, little avenues and crowded bazaars. It originated as a market for the imperial household, where they bought silk, jewelry and other items. Today there is almost nothing under the sun that cannot be found here, from food to clothing, from mementos and electronics to exquisite gold and silver jewelry. Peeking through a colonnade you might just see a barber shaving his customer, spices being weighed, or trophies and shields being inspected.

Then proceed to explore the gigantic India Gate, formerly called the All India War Memorial, in honor of the 170,000 soldiers who perished during the First World War. The circular Parliament House is next on the agenda. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker and another British architect and constructed in 1912 to 1913, the building has 144 columns on the outside and is surrounded by large gardens.

For many years the Mughals and later the British travelled from lower lying areas to this 5249-feet high valley with its moderate climate, to escape the hot, humid monsoon weather down below. The valley offered other attractions as well; the air is dry and clean, the forest vegetation lush and green, the lakes beautiful and of course, the scenery is unsurpassed.

On arrival at Srinagar Airport, you are welcomed by your guide and transported to your accommodation on Lake Dal. Traditional long, thin boats of the region, called shikaras, await us on the shore to take us to our floating houseboat on the lake, where we will spend the next two nights. After a short siesta, a leisurely boat trip takes us around the lake to explore the surroundings. Dinner is served on the houseboat while savoring views of the lake and all its activities.
 

What to expect during the Shikara Ride on Dal Lake?

In the afternoon you will embark on a leisurely shikara ride. It will take you through winding waterways covered with water lilies and lotus flowers. We stop at the floating market where you can bargain with the sellers who sell their traditional crafts from their shikaras.

Savor the experience of watching the sunset over the lake against a background of the Hari Parbat Fort and snow-topped Pir Panjal Mountains.

Despite the fact that Lakes Dal and Nagin appear as two separate water bodies on the map, they are joined with waterways through a maze of islands, mostly reclaimed areas, where local people live and grow their crops. Similar to Venice, water taxis are the main means of transport, and venturing to any part of the backwaters, you will see shikaras conveying kids to class, men to the market, and women to their friends’ houses.

As soon as the sun raises its head, we board our shikaras and set off for the lake’s floating market. It is already a hive of activity; boats from all around, filled to the brim with a variety of vegetables, fruit and handcrafts float on the clear blue water, while the locals trade the latest news and gossip.

We return to our houseboat for a sumptuous breakfast, after which it is time to explore Srinagar. First on the agenda is the seventeenth-century Mughal Gardens, next to Lake Nagina and Lake Dal. They consist of three famous gardens built between 1619 and 1632, of which the celebrated Shalimar Bagh or Abode of Love, commissioned by the emperor Jahangir for his beloved queen, is the largest. Nishat Bagh, or Garden of Joy, is set beautifully against the blue mountains and has eight terraces with canals leading down to Lake Dal. Chashme Shahi, or Royal Spring, is the smallest and was built around a natural spring in the Zabarwan Range, by Shah Jahan for his eldest son. Not only do the gardens demonstrate the exceptional engineering skills of the Mughals, their flawless design, reminiscent of the Islamic architectural style, creates an attractive fusion of pools, canals, fountains, flower beds and terraced lawns.

Proceed to the Heritage Walk, beginning at the Shah-e-Hamdan Sufi Sanctuary in Old Srinagar. This beautifully decorated wooden shrine dates back to 1400. From here, you go on an exploration of the old city, strolling through narrow alleys, stopping at local markets, notable historic structures and simply enjoy and immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. In the backstreet workshops, you will notice that many artistic traditions are still very much alive; there are artisans weaving carpets, woodcarvers hard at work and many more.

We wind up at the city’s Grand Mosque, famous for its 370 wonderful wooden columns. Hazrathbal Mosque is a popular pilgrimage site for Kashmir Muslims who come to honor the relic of strands of Mohammed’s hair kept inside the shrine.
From the mosque, we go on to the old wooden pedestrian bridge that traverses the River Jhelum. Also called Zero Bridge, it was constructed in the 1950s and gets its unusual name from the fact that it actually precedes the first bridge built across the river. Beautiful old houses in the traditional style, built by the elite of the city when the waterways were still the primary method of transportation, sit on the banks of the river.

Late afternoon we proceed to Shankaracharya Temple on top of the hill with the same name, on the Zabarwan Range. The temple dates back to the 9th century and was built on solid rock. Between two walls, the 243 stone steps lead up to the temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. From here we have a brilliant sunset view of Dal Lake on one side, and the River Jhelum with the city of Srinagar on the other side.

We return to the city to dine on the delicious regional delicacies of Kashmir.

We set out into the mountains to the pine-bordered town of Gulmarg at 8,500 feet/2591 meters above sea level. The name Gulmarg means ‘Valley of Flowers’, and was given to this settlement by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who often visited the site with his beloved queen in the 1500’s. The Mughal emperor Jahangir collected 21 different species of flowers from this area for his gardens in Gulmarg, previously known as Gauri Marg. Located in the midst of highland pastures, the lush greenness of this town during the summertime is something special to behold, while the pristine white winter landscapes have their own charm and attraction. Go on an easy trek into the Himalayan foothills, and later sit down for a picnic whilst enjoying in the crisp mountain air and breathtaking views.

During the winter months, Gulmarg doubles as a ski resort, and during summer the 18-hole golf course is open for patrons. This is probably one of the highest golf courses in the world, if not the highest.

You are set to go even higher, so prepare yourself to take the world’s second longest and second highest Gondola or cable car ride up Mount Kongdoori to a height of 12,293 feet/3747 meters. The ascend takes place in two phases, passing over dense green pine forests and lush hilly terrain with stunning panoramic views. The ticket office is located at the foot of Mount Apharwat. After your descend, it is time to return to the hotel in Srinagar.

Today we have a seven-hour drive ahead of us. It may sound like a long trip, but the sights and sounds of the spectacular scenery along the way will make the hours fly by, and before you know it, we arrive at our destination.

We head east, following the Srinagar-Leh Highway through the narrow Sind Valley. Initially, we pass through rice fields, orchards and soft green meadows. Then we enter the canyon. Over a period of thousands of years, the Sind River’s freezing glacial waters have created a long, narrow gorge. Solid rock walls tower on both sides. Then slowly the landscape changes again; the valley opens up and becomes wider, and finally, we arrive at Sonamarg, 9,200 ft./2,800m above sea level. This scenic little village, surrounded by snow covered peaks up to 16,400 ft./5,000m high, was once an important gateway on the silk road. We take our time to explore the little settlement and its surroundings before we start our ascend up the Zoji La Pass.

Note: It is worthwhile spending one night in Sonamarg to enjoy the beautiful setting.

The 11,500 ft./3,500m pass forms a vital link between the Kashmir Valley and the Dras, Suru and Indus Valleys. For seven to eight months of the year, the road is inaccessible due to heavy snowfalls and the danger of avalanches. The drive alone is an adventure; a single-lane dirt road winds around the curves of the mountainside, and snakes along hairpin bends, with unsurpassed views all the way.

Our next pit stop is at Dras, at 10,400 ft./3,180m, also referred to as the gateway to Ladakh, located in the center of the Dras Valley. This is considered the second coldest inhabited place on earth with average winter temperatures of -20˚C/-4˚F. The reason for this is the relatively low altitude of the mountain ranges which fail to keep cold, humid air from Kashmir out. This results in very heavy snowfalls, starting from November, and it is not uncommon for temperatures to fall to -40˚C/˚40 F.

From here on we stay close to the Dras River, all the way until it joins the Suru just before Kargil, where we stop for lunch. Re-energized, we are ready for the final leg of our road trip to Panikhar. We enter the beautiful Suru Valley with the massive, snow-covered Himalayan behemoths glittering in the afternoon sun. On a clear day there are photo opportunities galore; preserve this unique experience in your memory forever. We should reach Panikhar before nightfall. Our accommodation in Panikhar is simple but adequate. The guesthouse has shared bathrooms and showers.

Today we undertake a 93mile/170km-long journey, so we set out at the crack of dawn. Our trip becomes more and more adventurous; the roads are inaccessible, the mountain pass higher, the scenery even more spectacular than yesterday. Brace yourself for more excitement as we travel from one stunning view to the next. Parkachik lies just 12.5 miles/20 km from Panikhar and is also known as the last Baltic village. The twin peaks Kun at 23,408ft./7,135m and Nun at 23,218ft. /7,077m guard the village and stand ready to give us the best welcome ever. They are still included in the Indian section of Karakoram, and from their slopes the massive Parkachik Glacier slowly moves down to the Suru River.

The road continues to climb steadily, while the valley slowly narrows. As we near Rangdum Plateau, 11,810ft. /3,600m above sea level, prayer flags, chorten or Buddhist shrines, and mani stone walls carved with Buddhist prayers and texts, announce our arrival in Buddhist country.

We continue to climb uphill, and with every meter, the beauty of our surroundings become more amazing. After 15 miles/25km, we cross Pensi Pass, 14,436ft./ 4,400m above sea level, and soon the immense moving mass of ice and snow of Durung Drung, also called Drang Drung, catches our eye. This glacier is the largest in the Indian part of the Himalayas. The unfortunate effect of global warming is evident even here, in this remote part of the world; previously the ice reached the road, but now have retreated down the valley. However, this does not deter from the beauty of the scenery at all.

We stay on the winding road, always in sight of the Stod River, pass a deserted plateau until finally, the signs of small inhabited Buddhist settlements begin to appear. Our destination is close by and not long after we drive into Padum. It is still daylight, and we have time to explore the little village and browse through the bazaars along the roads before we retire to our hotel.

Note: If your trip coincides with the monastery festivals in Ladakh and Zanskar, it is best to spend an additional day here in Padum, and enjoy the spectacular Sani Festival.
 

Sani Naro Nasjal/Sani Monastery Festival, July 23,24 2021

Sani village, 6miles/10km outside Padum, attracts hundreds of Zanskaris from all over the region every year, who gather to celebrate the religious Monastery Festival. The village is an old settlement, and the festival has been taking place for many years. It is a joyous, colorful event with traditional costumes, extravagant masks and monks performing their ritual dances. People-watching alone will fill many interesting hours, not to mention the abundance of perfect pictures you can take.

We will spend one more day visiting villages and monasteries in the vicinity, and get to know the friendly locals.

Karsha is the largest village in the valley, except for Padum, with around 70 families. Karsha Monastery dates back to the eleventh century and is of great importance in the region. Ninety monks reside in this large Gompa, which is also quite affluent due to the large stretches of land it owns and leases out to farmers. From here, the views of Zanskar Valley are stunning.

Our next port of call is the Bardan Gompa, so we drive south and leave Zanskar Valley behind. This important monastery perches on its rocky peak high above the River Tsarap.

In Sani, you step back in time. The village is amongst the oldest settlements in Zanskar, and the traditional Tibetan houses date from the nineteenth century. As we enter the village, we are confronted with a legendary monastery. This is a holy place for devotees, with an interesting myth concerning its construction; Kanishka, a second-century Buddhist king, used his special magical powers to create many holy buildings during the course of just one night, and this old Sani chorten was one of them. An inscription tells us that the Kanishka choir houses a relic of the Buddha, one of only 54 religious buildings where such relics are found.

Sani’s crystal clear lake abounds with freshwater fish, mostly Himalayan trout. As the local community considers the lake sacred, fishing is not allowed, but the location is serenely beautiful. Spending some time on the lakeshore will feed the soul and the beauty of nature leaves you happy and contented.

At Thongde Monastery we stop to admire the stone statue of Buddha with its wonderful rock reliefs, and then continue up to Pibiting Gompa, sitting on a hilltop. The views from here are a blessing for any photographer.

The previous two days have been filled with interesting visits and eventful activities, but now it is time to start our journey back to Kargil. We will follow the same 143mile/230km road back, making regular stops for sightseeing as we travel through this stunning Himalayan region. Now the scenery is from another viewpoint and the mountains even more spectacular. We cross Pensi La Pass and reach Rangdum during the late afternoon. Finally, we arrive back at our hotel in Kargil before nightfall and spend what is left of this magnificent day at leisure.

We say farewell to the Kashmir region today, and our travels take us on to the region of Ladakh. The difference in culture between the two areas is evident in the landscape, food and language.

We will not be traveling along the usual Sri Leh Highway, but rather follow the scenic route north via Batalik, across Hamboting La Pass at 13,307ft./4,056m above sea level, and then continue through the almost untouched Indus Valley. Special permits are required for this trip, but they have been granted without fail the last couple of years.
The tarred Kargil-Batalik Road leads us to the pass. However, this trip is not for the faint-hearted or anyone suffering from car sickness; one dizzying hairpin bend follows the next one, with sheer drops down the abyss all the way. If you find this too uncomfortable, we will rather take the usual road Kargil – Mulbekh – Namika La – Fotu La – Lamayuru/Kargil to Leh.

The mighty Indus River is our companion down below in its deep, narrow gorge until we finally join it in the widening valley. The ancient Dropka tribe, recognized by their interesting traditional hair decorations, live around the Hanu and Dah region.

As we pass through the wonderful landscape, we cannot believe how it manages to vary all the time; despite the aridness of the mountains, we notice a wide display of magnificent colors and textures. Six or seven hours later, in a strange lunar landscape, the Lamayuru Monastery (11,520ft./3,510m) comes into view, sitting precariously on its throne of rock. We stop to explore the Gompa, one of the oldest and largest in Ladakh, where 150 monks reside permanently and enjoy the views of the mountains and the little village down below. A simple but comfortable guest house is our accommodation for the night.
 

Excursion to the Drokpas

The members of this unique tribe are descendants of the Indo-Aryan Dards, the 1st pre-Christian arrivals from the West. Drokpa means ‘Dwellers of Pastures’, a reference to their original nomadic life. They settled in the northern Ladakh region, close to the Pakistan border and eventually lead quite well-off lives. During the mild summer months, the farmers grow walnuts, grapes and apricots, and are able to produce two harvests annually, due to the relatively low altitude (9,500ft./ 2,900m).

The Drokpas are easily recognizable by their elaborate traditional headgear. The women’s hair is skillfully braided into many plaits, and wool threads are used to extend them past the waist. A cap, lavishly decorated with pearls, flowers and coins, is then worn on the head. Even the male members of the tribe adorn their hair.

Read more on our blog on the Drokpas, or Brokpas, the last Aryans

Today we have a six-hour drive ahead of us, with many interesting stops, so we follow the road coming down from Fotu La Pass, then cross a plateau with magnificent views of the strange towers made of sandstone of the so-called ‘Moonland’, and the deep gorge below. But first, we take a southerly detour along the new road to Photoksar.

The road makes its winding way down the pass before it turns south. Reaching the Wanla Valley, we tour the mountain slope monastery and feast our eyes on the scenery, before continuing on the recently constructed tarred road. It follows the former great Zanskar trekking route, passing through spectacular Hanupatta Gorge, and across Sisir La Pass at 15,748ft./4,800m, before reaching Photoksar, a gem amongst the villages of the region.

We spend some time in a family guesthouse, enjoying the company of the locals, and then the road takes us to the opposite slopes of the beautiful valley. The views of the little village offer many perfect photo opportunities. Slowly we start our ascent up to Singge La Pass at 16,732ft./5,100m. The weather can be treacherous, which might render the road impassable, but we hope to reach the Lingshed Gompa on the summit from where we will have sweeping views of the mountains.
 

Optional: Trek from Lamayuru to Wanla

The hike is 8.5 miles/14km long and takes between five to six hours, so after a hearty breakfast, we are off. Hiking is the best way to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery from close up. Arriving at Lamayuru Monastery, our route takes us down the slope to the little village. From here on we hug the river, walking on a footpath through sweeping fields and old farmhouses. We leave the river and slowly make our winding way up to Prinkiti La Pass, 12,303ft./3,750m high. As we reach the summit and see the wondrous views, all the weariness of the climb leaves us; it was worth every step. After a few deep breaths of clean mountain air, we take the first steps on the winding path that leads down to Wanla (10,334ft./3,150m), and Shila, two quaint little villages. Here our SUV awaits us, and we drive to the local monastery for a peek around before the last stretch of the journey to Photoksar.

Our final destination today is Leh. Along the way, there are opportunities to look around both Alchi and Likir Monasteries.

Alchi Gompa, one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh, is famous for its unique wood carvings, frescoes and huge Buddha statues. The complex was constructed during the eleventh century and is a treasure chest of the earlier Buddhist Kashmir-style art and workmanship. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it differs from the Tibetan art and craftsmanship found in other regional monasteries. It is believed that Rinchen Zangpo was responsible for constructing 108 monuments in the Ladakh region, assuring the revival of Buddhism at the time. Today it is a museum.

A 13mile/21km drive takes us to Likir Gompa. A remarkable seated figure of the Buddha, clad in gold, is the very first thing one notices. This is the largest outdoor figure in Ladakh and sits on a colorful throne next to the monastery building. Inside there are a number of interesting wall paintings and cultural objects, and the top floor museum exhibits ancient everyday items like clothes, coins, etc.

Arriving in Leh, we book into our hotel and admire the mountain views from the room.

Long ago Leh was an important stopover on various trade routes and has maintained its mixture of cultures since then. This capital’s fascinating history is visible in the old part, and as we stroll through the streets, we cannot help but notice how apparently conflicting things exist side by side; a mosque is a neighbor to a Buddhist monastery, monks riding mopeds, an internet café on an ancient square, its fountain sprouting clean water. Many of the residents of Leh are still fetching water from outside the home; running tap water is not supplied to all households.

Take a peaceful walk outside the city through green fields and stop at the picturesque little Shankar Monastery. If you feel like some shopping, many interesting shops line the busy streets of Leh, selling exquisite Tibetan art, jewelry and carpets. The market has pashmina shawls and many other typical Tibetan crafts. Find a cozy spot in one of the many restaurants for a delicious Ladakhi dinner, starting with typical Tibetan noodle soup, or Thukpa. Then make your way to an outdoor café, order something to drink, and lose yourself in the infinite expanse of the star-studded, dark sky.

This day is dedicated to some of the remarkable Buddhist monasteries of the region.

Hemis Monastery continued to maintain good relations with the ruling kings through its long existence since the 11th century, and because of its remote location did not fall prey to looting. These are two of the reasons for its great wealth. The complex dazzles the visitor with a confusion of temples and chapels, and a priceless collections of cultural objects.

Thiksey Monastery, dating back to the fifteenth century, closely resembles Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, the former official seat of the Dalai Lama. Beautifully painted in ochre, red and white, the Gompa reaches 12 stories high up the slopes of the hill. Not only is it the largest of its kind in Ladakh, it is also the busiest and most active in India. The complex houses 60 lamas, and we will observe the young monks at their activities.

Our final destination for today is Shey. The village used to be the capital city of the Ladakh kings during their dynasty which lasted until the nineteenth century. We will visit the prayer room, and castle ruins; the palace has been restored, but it not yet open to the public.

Back in Leh, we have been invited for tea by a local family, and suitably refreshed, we walk to Leh Palace. Back at our hotel, we take a short siesta, and then end the day on a high note with a visit to two spectacular viewpoints, Shanti Stupa and Namgyal Tsemo.

A 99 mile/160km drive awaits us, so set off early morning with packed breakfasts. The trip will last around 8 hours, there and back. We head east, across the 17,388ft. /5,300m high Chang La to Changtang, the nomad region closest to Tibet, up to where foreigners are allowed to go.

Shortly after we leave Leh, the road becomes magical, with towering mountain walls on both sides. There is hardly any traffic on this stretch, and those we encounter, are just as mesmerized as we are, cruising along slowly to admire the scenery. We pass bike riders and wave to each other in solidarity.

Once at the lake, we relax, enjoy the splendid scenery, go hiking and if luck is on our side, we meet nomads herding their yaks.
On the way back, we stop at the tiny village of Tangtse for lunch and reach Leh before nightfall.

Tip: Although we are not allowed to row on the lake, probably because of our proximity to the Tibetan border, nothing stands in your way to roll up your pants and cool off in the icy waters of the lake. Very few spots on earth come close to this in perfection.

Important Information: Our excursion to the lake will be a day trip, as no-one is allowed to overnight in this area as from 2019.

This morning we depart from Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport for New Delhi.

In Delhi you will have two options: You can spend your day at leisure in the city, or embark on a tour of Agra. (Book this beforehand.) Included in this excursion are visits to the fascinating Red Fort and the iconic Taj Mahal, both World Heritage Sites. We will arrive back at the hotel at sunset, and depending on your time of departure, you will be transported to the airport late evening or the next day in time for your flight.

Tip: Make sure to book a window seat; this is the perfect opportunity to drink in the unbelievable beauty of the Himalayan Mountains from above. During the flight, the pilot will even fly the airplane between two massive peaks. Nothing comes close to this infinite canvass of clear blue skies, and snow-white mountain ranges.

India your way, your route, your style

Price based on two persons in a double room
Prices are in USD not Excluding international flights
Do you prefer to travel alone or would you like to come to India with a group of friends? We will be happy to tailor-made your tour program that meets all your wishes and needs

 
Travel Period PRICE PER PERSON  
Apr 1, 2020 – Mar 31, 2021 ab $xxxx (Budget) INQUIRE NOW
Apr 1, 2020 – Mar 31, 2021 ab $xxxx (Deluxe) INQUIRE NOW
Apr 1, 2019 – Mar 31, 2020 ab $xxxx (Luxury) INQUIRE NOW

Would you like to have the trip tailored to your wishes?

Our itineraries are always an example and can be changed individually. For example, it can be shortened or extended with additional destinations or monuments, the hotels can be a mix of 4 and 5 star etc. (info@vacationindia.com or +1-1800-109-1468). Let us know your personal wishes so that we can adapt the trip to your wishes. Within 24 hours at the most you will receive your personal travel proposal without obligation. Together with the travel request we will send you the hotel list so that you can get a picture of the hotels selected on the internet. We always choose hotels that have a charming character, are centrally located and 100% safe for tourists!
info@vacationindia.com

What are included on your Kashmir, Ladakh and Zanskar Tour:

  • A 15-day trip with a Toyota Innova Car
  • All accommodation, a mixture of 3 and 4 star deluxe campsites, and guesthouses/hotels
  • Three meals a day
  • 4 x 4 transport, non-air-conditioned in Ladakh
  • English-speaking guide for the duration of the trip, German and Spanish guides are also available
  • Private vehicles for transportation in the places we visit
  • A rickshaw ride through the streets of Delhi
  • All excursions and sightseeing
  • All domestic flights
  • Transfers to and from Delhi International Airport
  • All expenses applicable, including service charge
  • Two bottles of water per person per day
  • Entrance fees to monasteries and other places of interest, camel ride charges, and area permit for Zanskar Region and Lake Pangong (all fees paid once only)
  • All fuel charges, interstate taxes, driver allowances, parking and toll taxes

Exclusions:

  • International Flights
  • Visa for India
  • Insurance: travel, baggage, medical and personal
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, snacks between meals, soft drinks
  • Tips for local staff
  • Video and camera fees
  • Laundry, medical expenses, tips, any other personnel expenses, photography-related items, and everything not mentioned in the Included List above.

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