Day 1 – Arrive Delhi
Arrive in Delhi, the capital of India, where you are met and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 2 – Delhi – Fly to Leh
Transfer to the airport for a flight to Leh in the remote region of Ladakh. Depending on flight times on arrival there should be some leisure time and we will also take a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
Day 3 – Leh
This morning you will visit the bustling food market as part of a short city tour. Your route takes you along the main street where strikingly-clad Buddhist women, wearing tall, velvet traditional Ladakhi headgear chatter exuberantly whilst selling their wares. Next on your itinerary is a visit to Shey, a few miles outside the city, the oldest of the monasteries and no longer in regular use. The monastery contains a magnificent statue of the Buddha seated in meditation which is 12 metres high and contained within three floors of the building. There will also be time to head 12 miles east of Leh to see the 800-year-old Thikse Gompa. Standing above the valley at 3,600 metres, this is an ideal place to witness Buddhist ceremonies: the lulling sensation of monks chanting their prayers is set to a more cacophonous backdrop of bells, clashing cymbals and eerie horn-blowing, making for an overwhelming experience.
Day 4 – Hemis Festival
The Hemis Gompa (monastery) is the largest, wealthiest monastery in Ladakh and the centre of the Kagyu lineage of Buddhism. The main courtyard provides the setting for the famous 'Hemis' festival that marks the birthday of the celebrated Guru Padmasambhava, builder of the first, 8th century Buddhist monastery in Tibet at Samye. This vibrant two-day spectacle takes place the 10th day (Tse-Chu) of the fifth Tibetan lunar month. Local people arrive in droves for the occasion, adorned in their very finest traditional garb and perform acts of devotion under the canopy of countless streamers of prayer flags.
Day 5 – Cross the Wari La to the Nubra Valley
After early breakfast you will meet guide and driver and leave for another visit to Hemis monastery to watch festival activities for couple of hours before heading to Nubra Valley via Sakti and crossing over the spectacular Wari La pass (5,342 m) one of the world’s highest motorable mountain passes situated in the North –East of the Ladakh valley.
Day 6 – Hundar – Excursion to Turtuk
Today we start early to take a full-day excursion to Turtuk which is about as close as you can get to Pakistan in India, physically and culturally. This delightful village is crunched into the narrowing Shyok River valley in the furthest corner of India, right at the top of the country’s map. Only when the Indo-Pakistan war ended in 1971, was Turtuk (together with 5 other Balti villages) then included within the Indian line of border control. It remained off-limits until only a couple of years ago, keeping it well off the beaten track. Turtuk is in every sense a pioneering treat – culturally intact, untainted by tourism and simply delightful.
Day 7 – Hundar – Kyagar
Hundar, capital of the erstwhile 17th century Nubra kingdom, is home to the simply jaw-droppingly beautiful ruins of Chamba Gompa. In nearby Diskit you will visit the 14th century Monastery, set amidst the mild climate of ‘The Orchard of Ladakh’, and the prize possession of a succession of Ladakh kings who developed it and poured favour and finance upon it. The chief and oldest monastery in the Nubra, its rooms are bursting with thangka paintings, statues and effigies of the Buddha. From Hundar your route crosses the Shyok River and heads north to the Samstanling Gompa, set in the serene green meadows of Sumur village and boasting a restored 19th-century monastery. After lunch you continue to Panamik, a foremost halt on the caravan trade route, and celebrated for its medicinal hot springs.. Our final stop for the day is the village of Terith. As the sun sets if time allows, take time to explore the village which very few foreign tourists have been privileged to see. Here the welcoming local Ladakhi people are always delighted to see visitors.
Day 8 – Kyagar (Terith) – Leh – Alchi
After breakfast, start a spectacular drive from Nubra to Leh and Alchi, Initially road conditions are good before crossing the vertiginous and spectacular Khardong La (5,602m), feasibly one of the world's highest motorable mountain pass. From the col, the magnificent views afford you a panorama from the Khardongla top where you can enjoy the magnificent view of peaks and ridges of the Zanskar range, and north to the giants of the Saser massif, the highest of which, Saser Kangri I stands at 7,672 metres (25,171 ft.). Descending from the pass, road conditions are quite poor so be prepared for a bumpy ride. Head into South Pulu and continue the drive to Alchi, passing through Leh city.
Day 9 – Alchi – Lamayuru – Themisgaam
The road from Leh to Srinagar negotiates high passes and fragile mountainsides. There are dramatic scenic and cultural changes as you make the dramatic transition from Buddhist, ascetic Ladakh, to Muslim, verdant Kashmir. Still in Ladakh, you travel as far west as Lamayuru, one of the most famous and spectacular gompas in Ladakh, perched on a steep cliff overlooking a strange and alien land formation called the 'moon landscape'. The first Lamayuru monastery was built at the end of the 10th century: in its heyday up to 400 monks were resident here, but today only 20 to 30 remain. You visit the newly renovated prayer hall. Returning east to Themisgaam, the richest valley of Ladakh, you will encounter a real bounty of horticulture here: apricots, apples and nuts are plentiful, and you will also visit a beautiful village with its gompa. You stay overnight at a hotel run by a Ladakhi family. The hotel is sprawled over a vast area of apricot and apple groves proffering a relaxed and rejuvenating atmosphere.
Day 10 – Themisgaam – Leh
After breakfast explore Themisgaam. Start with a steep climb uphill (most of the way we can drive if the road allows) to a local nunnery overlooking the fertile valley. Continuing uphill you reach the monastery of Themisgaam with its opulent and ornate interiors. Built in the 15th century, the once thriving foundation is now run by a single monk-on-duty. Each year, the monk is changed, unusually the duties being shared between the yellow cap southern order and the red cap order of Tibetan Buddhism. Alongside stands the impressive Tingmosgang castle, sentinel over the Indus valley and all its trade influences, and palace of the kings of Ladakh before they moved their court to Leh. This afternoon, drive back to Leh.
Day 11 – Leh – Delhi
This morning transfer to the airport for your flight back to Delhi (15kg checked bag allowance and 7kg hand baggage). End of services on arrival in Delhi.(B)
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