I14 Lavish Ladakh TOUR

SEARCH TOUR

With the Home of the Dalai Lama & Amritsar

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Friendly locals; Gompas & Palaces; Himalayan scenery; Colourful Hemis Festival (Summer date); Khardung La Pass - highest vehicular pass in the world; McLeod Ganj: home of the Dalai Lama; Golden Temple at Amritsar

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Thu 10 Sep 2015Tue 22 Sep 2015 $2590
Sun 19 Jun 2016Fri 01 Jul 2016 $2590
Thu 08 Sep 2016Tue 20 Sep 2016 $2590

Optional Single Supplement: $790 (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


This wonderfully remote and culturally distinct region in Northern India features breathtakingly situated ancient capitals, temples and monasteries, and some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the world. It is often thought of as a smaller version of Tibet. Our 13-day trip includes the many highlights of Leh and the colours and sounds of the annual Hemis Festival, where monks and laymen wearing spectacular costumes and masks perform elaborate traditional dances. A jeep excursion takes us to the dizzying heights of the Khardung La Pass, at 5470m / 18,400 feet, the highest drivable pass in the world. The tour continues McLeod Ganj, the home of the Dalai Lama in exile, and stops at Amritsar. This is a very special travel experience offered only once a year; booking early is essential as extremely limited local flights and hotel space sells out well in advance.

Regions visited: South Asia
Countries visited: India


Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrive in Delhi
Arrive in Delhi, India. Transfer to our hotel.

Overnight in Delhi.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Delhi - Leh: Area Tour
Early this morning we transfer to the domestic terminal of the airport for the flight up to Leh. This surely is one of the most sensational scheduled flights in the world, taking you right over the top of the Greater Himalaya before dropping down to land at the small airport at Leh. We will be met on arrival and transfer to our hotel. Due to the effects of high altitude, the balance of the day is at leisure. A leisurely afternoon orientation walking tour will be arranged by your Tour Leader.

The Royal Palace which dominates the town is very reminiscent of the Potala in Lhasa and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, large chortens, prayer flags and mud brick houses with flat roofs are a dramatic culture change from the hot, teeming frenetic rush of Delhi.

Overnight in Leh (3500 m / 10,500 feet).

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 3 Leh Area: Gompas & Palaces
Today we will have a guided tour, visiting many of the important sites around town.

Leh is the ancient capital of Ladakh and its kings once commanded a huge civilisation stretching from Baltistan in the west, almost as far as Lhasa in Tibet. The old town is a maze of narrow streets, temples and bazaars and is a great place to explore.

We start our day with a visit to the Sankar Gompa (monastery), the one nearest to Leh town. This gompa belongs to the Gelukpa order and houses a beautiful impression of the Buddhist deity, Avolokiteshwara Padmahari with a thousand arms and heads. The hill offers excellent views of Leh, parts of the Indus River Valley and the imposing 6100m (20,100 ft) high peak of Stok Kangri that overlooks Leh.

We also visit the Leh Palace. This captivating building rises from the edge of a hill overlooking the town. Built in the 17th C, Leh Palace was occupied by the Ladakhi royal family until the 1830's. Today the palace is deserted and is being restored by UNESCO.

After a break for lunch, our sightseeing will begin with a stop at Shey Palace, the old 'summer palace' of the kings of Ladakh, built about 550 years ago by the first king of Ladakh. It stands next to the remains of a larger construction on the east side of a hill, which runs southeast towards the Indus. From the palace you can see over the fertile Indus plain northeast to Tikse Gompa and over the Indus to the Zanskar mountain range.

From Shey we continue to Thikse Gompa. This 500-year-old monastery, perched on a hill high above the Indus, has the largest contingent of monks in Ladakh. On the right of the entrance to the main courtyard a new chapel houses an enormous 15 m (50 foot) high-seated Buddha figure. About 100 yellow-cap monks belong to the gompa.

Overnight in Leh.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 4 Leh - Alchi - Leh
A drive west on the arid and high plateau will take us to Alchi, one of the largest ancient monastic complexes and important Buddhist centre in all of Ladakh. Founded in the 11th century by Rinchen Zhangpo, one of the early Tibetan preachers who spread Lamaistic Buddhism to this part of the world, Alchi has recently undergone major restoration work under UN sponsorship. The 1000-year-old paintings inside the main temple are some of the oldest of their kind and quite distinct from the murals present in the later built gompas.

On our return to Leh we will stop to see the location where the grey waters of the Indus meet the blue waters of the Zanskar River flowing from the remote Zanskar region of the Greater Himalaya. We will also visit Likir Gompa set on an isolated ridge. This magnificent gompa, overlooing the village of Likir, was founded in the 14th century and belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect. The head lama here is the younger brother of the Dalai Lama.

Overnight in Leh.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 5 Khardung La Pass
Today we feature a half-day jeep tour up the hairpins of the Nubra Valley road to the Khardung La Pass (5470 m / 18,400 feet) -- the highest vehicular accessible pass in the world. The views of the Zanskar Range and the Indus Valley on the way up are amazing as are occasional sightings of yaks on the high pastures below the pass. For most tour participants, this will perhaps be the highest point that they would have travelled to in their lifetime.

The road to the pass that crosses the Ladakh Range and provides access to the Nubra Valley and the Karakoram region was built at great human and financial cost by the Indian Army following frequent incursions into the area by the Chinese Army following the occupation of Tibet in the late 1950's. We will return to our hotel for lunch and free time to explore Leh on your own. This evening we will attend a cultural performance at the Leh Palace.

Overnight in Leh.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 6 Leh - Hemis Festival (Summer)
Early this morning we head east along the Indus Valley toward Hemis.

Hemis Gompa is dramatically hidden in a cleft the mountains. Here we find a gigantic thangka, one of the largest in the world, and the largest and one of the most important in Ladakh. It was founded about 350 years ago by Stagtshang Rinchen, who was invited to Ladakh by King Singe Namgyal, founded it about 350 years ago.

Our summer departure coincides with the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month, celebrated as the birthday of Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche), the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The Hemis Monastery celebrates this event in the form of a festival during which the resident Lamas perform sacred masked dances. The festival in Ladakh showcases the best of cultural heritage of the region. Splendid masked dances are performed to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and long horns. A colourful fair, displaying some beautiful handicrafts, is the special highlight of the festival.

Our September trip still travels to Hemis and also visits Stok Gompa, dating back to the 14th century. As we enter the verandah of the monastery, we come across bright friezes depicting the Guardians of the Four Directions. The Dukhang of the monastery displays a rich collection of banners and thangkas. One of the major attractions of the Stok Monastery its library, which boasts a complete set of the Kandshur, the 108 volumes of the Buddha's teachings.

Return to Leh late afternoon.

Overnight in Leh.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Leh - Jammu - Dharamsala
Early this morning we fly from Leh to Jammu and continue by road to Dharamsala (1500 m / 4,800 ft), arriving in the afternoon.

Dharamsala lies on the spur of the Dhauladhar range and commands majestic views of the main range and the Kanga Valley below. After a late lunch upon arrival at the hotel we will have a tour of the Norbulinka Institute, a registered trust functioning under the Chairmanship of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan People. It is dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture in both its literary and artistic forms. Landmarks include the Seat of Happiness Temple and the Losel Doll Museum. During our visit we will witness statue making, applique needlework, woodcarving and carpentry.

Overnight in Dharamsala.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Dharamsala - McLeod Ganj
We have a morning visit to Kangra Fort and Temple Complex, built by Bhuma Chand the founder of the Katoch Dynasty. The fort is situated on a precipitous cliff overhanging the Ban Ganga and Manjhi rivers and still dominates the Kangra Valley. A saying goes, "He who holds the fort, holds the Kangra" that is why many invaders sacked it. It once used to be the seat of power of Katoch Rajas. Inaccessible cliffs surround the fort on three sides. In its highest part were the residences and temples of the old Katoch Kings.

This afternoon we take a trip to a tea estate outside of McLeod Ganj. We also visit the nearby Tibetan Children's Village. At this boarding school orphans are provided with a Tibetan education, clothes, food, and healthcare. Classes are conducted for students from kindergarten to grade 10. In India there are over 10,000 children under the care of the TCV (Tibetan Children's Village), and many of the students are those who have escaped from Tibet.

From here we continue to McLeod Ganj, stopping along the way to visit the Kangra Art Museum, a treasure trove of the Kangra Valley's arts and crafts.

Late afternoon arrival in McLeod Ganj.

Overnight in McLeod Ganj.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 McLeod Ganj Area
Today we visit the Dalai Lama's Palace and Tsuglakhang Buddhist Temple.

With the backdrop of the snow-draped Dhauladhar mountains, a sub-system of the Himalaya, the town is surrounded by woods of pine and deodar. Originally home of the seminomadic Gaddi tribe, McLeod Ganj is today the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This mid 19th century place was developed as a British Garrison. The place was an important administrative point for the whole Kangra Valley. Today McLeod Ganj has developed as headquarters of the exiled Tibetan Government.

The large Tibetan population of the region and the presence of traditional architectural designs have enhanced the area. But the most important example of the Tibetan architecture is the Tsuglagkhang or the Dalai Lama's temple. The magnificent images -- a gilt statue of Shakyamuni; then facing Tibet is the Tibetan deity of compassion, Avalokitesvara and that of Padmasambhava who introduced Buddhism and tantric teachings to Tibet in 8th century. The house also has a collection of scared text called the Khagyur based on the teachings of Buddha. Also included in the temple is a collection of works on art, philosophy, literature, astrology and medicine.

We will also visit the Tibetan Medical Institute and Museum and Tibetan Library.

Overnight in McLeod Ganj.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 McLeod Ganj Area
Today we will start with a visit to the Tibetan Museum, established with the aim of presenting Tibet's history and visions for the future through texts, photographs and videos. Afterwards we will visit St John's Church in the Wilderness. This charming stone church is home to the memorial for the British Viceroy, Lord Elgin, who died at Dharamsala in 1863.

In the afternoon we can drive along the ridge above McLeod Ganj for views of the Naddi Valley and surrounding environment. Nearby is another Tibetan Children's Village where we may be able to make a short visit. Time permitting, we finish with Bhagsu Nag waterfall and Shiva Temple.

Return to McLeod Ganj.

Overnight in McLeod Ganj.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 McLeod Ganj - Amritsar
We have an early departure for our drive to Amritsar, located in the northwest part of India in the state of Punjab. The city is dominated by the history of the Sikhs and many of their sacred shrines are found in and around the city. Amritsar is one of the most ancient and legendary sites in the Punjab, and is known for its Golden Temple, the most sacred shrine of the Sikhs.

In British India, before Independence, Amritsar was home to a large Muslim population of Kashmiri origin. Most of them migrated to Pakistan in 1947. Amritsar derives its name from Amrit-sarovar, literally meaning "Pool of Nectar", referring to the pool constructed at the sacred site of the Golden Temple in the 16th century.

Overnight in Amritsar.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Amritsar: The Golden Temple
The highlight of today's sightseeing will be our visit to the Golden Temple. This is the most sacred temple of the Sikhs, built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Sikh devotees, for whom the temple is a symbol of freedom and spiritual independence, come to the temple from all over the world to enjoy its environs and offer their prayers.

A 15-minute walk from the Golden Temple, through the narrow alleys of the old city, brings us to the Hindu temple known as Durgiani. This small temple, dedicated to the goddess Durga, dates back to the 16th century. A larger temple, built like the Golden Temple in the centre of a lake, is dedicated to the Hindu deities Laxmi and Narayan. There are a number of mosques in the old city, including the mosque of Muhammad Jan with three white domes and slender minarets.

We will also visit Ram Bag, a beautiful garden consisting of the amazing summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. There is a beautiful museum exhibiting unique oil paintings, miniatures, coins, weapons, and objects relating to the Sikh period.

Overnight in Amritsar.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Amritsar - Delhi - Depart
This morning we fly to Delhi.

On arrival we will embark on some sightseeing of Delhi. The exact content of today's program depends on our morning flight time, but we hope to drive north into Old Delhi, passing along the Rajpath (King's Way) and stopping for photos at the India Gate. The 42m high India Gate, an "Arc-de'Triomphe" like archway in the middle of a crossroad, commemorates the Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during WWI. This landmark also bears the names of British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern frontier in the Afghan War of 1919.

Next we will make a visit to the Jamma Mosque. Located in the heart of Old Delhi, the largest mosque in India can accommodate as many as twenty-thousand worshippers. This imposing architectural monument, with it's three gateways and two minarets, took fourteen years to complete (1644-58). Time permitting we will enter to have a brief look inside.

After a stop for lunch we will continue with our sightseeing this afternoon. We will visit Humayan's Tomb, an excellent example of Mughal architecture, predating the Taj Mahal by almost 100 years. Persian in style, this is a beautiful red sandstone building inlaid with black and white marble. From here we will drive on to visit a recent architectural marvel, the Delhi Bahai Temple. Shaped like a half-opened lotus flower, this temple is mostly made of marble, and represents the youngest of the world's independent religions.

We will finish our day with a visit to the Qutub Minar. Few other monuments are as closely identified with Delhi as the Qutub Minar. This first monument of Muslim rule in India heralded the beginning of a new style of art and architecture which came to be know as the Indo-Islamic style.

Later we transfer to the airport for our international departures from Delhi.

NOTE: Most international flights tend to depart Delhi late in the evening. If you are booking your own flights, please pay attention to your departure time as you must take into account your arrival from Amritsar and Delhi City Tour.

BON VOYAGE!!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Hotel Crowne Plaza Okhla

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Delhi
Country: India

Crowne Plaza New Delhi Okhla is an ideal abode for a comfortable and affordable stay. Rated as five-star hotel, it
... an integral part of prestigious hotel group called Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts. The hotel is beautifully nestled at the capital city with amidst of commercial and entertainment hubs of South Delhi. As the travel vacationer, you won't have any difficulty in reaching out at this wonderful property as it is not so far from national and international airports. You will be welcomed here with typical Indian hospitality by the courteous staff.


Read More.

Spic N Span Hotel

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Leh
Country: India

The Spic n Span is a new hotel constructed with traditional Ladakhi architecture with all modern facilities. It is located
... the heart of Leh town easily accessible to main market. Rooms: 35 well-furnished double rooms with attached bath with hot and cold shower.


Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner are included daily. Evening meals on tour will be taken mostly at hotels. In India, most restaurants of an international standard are associated with hotels. In some locales we endeavour to break up the buffet dinners with a meal at a local restaurant but, overall, the imperatives of hygiene and quality dictate hotel meals. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees are included for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for drivers, restaurant staff, porters, local guides. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), domestic and international (if applicable) air taxes, visa fees, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals, visas.

Seasonality and Weather

Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 2750 m / 9,000 ft at Kargil to 7672 m / 25,170 ft at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Thus summer (July / August) temperatures rarely exceed 27 C (84 F) in the shade, while in winter they may plummet to -20 C, even in Leh. September will be slightly cooler than summer. The thin air makes the heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes; it is said that only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke and frostbite at the same time!

YOU WILL EXPERIENCE TEMPERATURE EXTREMES ON THIS TOUR. BE PREPARED FOR INTENSE SUN AND SOME VERY CHILLY CONDITIONS.

SEASONAL FESTIVALS: Our summer date is set to coincide with the annual Hemis Festival which showcases the best of cultural heritage of the region. Splendid masked dances are performed to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and long horns. A colourful fair, displaying some beautiful handicrafts, is the special highlight of the festival.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transportation is via private bus or Land Cruiser type vehicle depending on group size and / or conditions. Air conditioning / heat in vehicles are generally not available in this part of the world. Road conditions are generally quite poor and can be bumpy, and as with all mountain roads the occasional delay can occur due to landslides or adverse weather conditions. The roads are also quite twisty on the mountain sections; if you suffer from travel sickness you should bring your usual remedy.

You must be in good health to undertake this tour; we visit remote, high altitude areas (up to 5470 m / 18,400 ft on day trips - not overnight) with little to no medical facilities. Internal flights via scheduled carriers. The tour is not physically strenuous though it is busy; you must be prepared for some early starts, be steady on your feet, and be able to endure some heat and long days. We have numerous walking tours and visit several sites that are LARGE with steps and uneven surfaces. Porters are available at hotels but you must be able to manage with your baggage at airports.

Accommodation

We will be staying in hotels with private bathrooms, and there will be hot water, though this is usually only available in the morning and evening. None of the hotels are centrally heated, although coal fires can sometimes be provided in the bedrooms at a small extra cost. Generally hotels are comfortable and often spectacularly located, though simple with quirks that can range from charming to frustrating. Our accommodation in Delhi cannot be considered "central" in a conventional sense. Delhi is a huge sprawling city with many districts and centres of interest / business. Single rooms are limited and possibly smaller than twins. Porters are generally available (see 'Inclusions').

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, local drivers, local guides at various locations.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)