Day 01: Arrival / LehOn arrival the advice is to lie down for a day, until your body catches up with the altitude.
Day free for leisure & independent activities
Later in the afternoon, you may gently stroll out to visit Leh's wide street bazaar that runs east-west. Together with the labyrinth of adjoining side streets and alleys, the bazaar is the center of business and shopping -- particularly for visitors who find the plethora of antiques (and not-antiques) shops worth checking out. The bazaar is an incredible example of traditional Ladakhi lifestyles. Watch out for the pavement vegetable sellers and the traditional homes that exist on top of the stores which sell only the very basic provisions
Day 02: Leh / Shey / Thiksey / Hemis / LehThis morning we proceed on a guided tour of Shey, which is a small town in comparison to Leh. Shey Palace was built in early 17th century AD by Deldan Namgyal as a memorial for his father, Singay Namgyal. The palace houses a three storey copper statue of Buddha Shakyamuni. Overlooking the Shey palace are the ruins of the fort built by the first king of Ladakh, Lhachen Spalgigon. Shey also has a very large scattering of stupas all across its landscape.
From here we drive to Thiksey Gompa (monastery), it is located 17 km on the main highway from Leh in the direction of Manali. The present day monastery founded by Paldan Sherab, overlooking the village below, was not the original location. It was originally built at Stakmo. This monastery hosts the festival of Thiksey Gustor.
Later we drive to Hemis Gompa (monastery) which is the most important and the richest Gompa in the whole of Ladakh and is dedicated to Guru Padama Sambhava the great Indian teacher & philosopher. This monastery located among the beautiful landscape of the Hemis National Park was founded in 1630 AD. It is located at a distance of 45km from Leh and is one of the most popular monasteries visited by travelers. It is also famous across the world for the Hemis Festival hosted by it.
Day 03: Leh / Likir / UletokpoFollowing a leisurely breakfast we drive to Uletokpo Visiting the Likir Monastery on the way. The journey itself through spell bounding scenes of natural beauty is worth the effort. Snow capped Himalayas dot the background while craggy dusty mountain ranges and the swiftly flowing Indus river as well as patches of farm make up for the fascinating foreground.
At Nimu we witness the magical confluence of the two main rivers of the region - Indus & Zanskar.
Another interesting aspect of our journey would be the opportunity to travel past several Ladakhi Villages where time has stood still. We will walk into these villages and experience traditional Ladakhi Villages, lifestyles and occupations.
We make a brief stop at the Likir Monastery that houses many gigantic clay statue of Buddha in various forms. The primary attraction is, however, their 1000-year old wall painting which make a visit more than worthwhile.
Upon arrival at lunchtime we check into tented accommodation at Uleytokpo. This place is heaven on earth! The accommodation here is lovely fixed camps run by a Ladakhi family. The tents have attached toilets and beds, and are set amidst apricot orchards. The place is right in the lap of nature and you would very much enjoy the feel of the breeze, the scent of flowers, delightful nature walks, views of the snow capped Himalayas and the gentling rolling sound of the Indus river. If you are a bird lover there are great possibilities of viewing a variety of birds.
Just 4 kms away is Ridzong, the most isolated monastery of all the monastery of Ladakh. One can still find the small caves where Lamas used to meditate for years cutting themselves from the rest of the world except for an one feet square outlet window from where they accept the one time meal of the day. Also close by is a nunnery. Food and clothing besides shelter is provided to the Nuns. There are a few very old retired Nuns. A visit here shows us the day to day living of the Nuns, as well as the trainings they receive here and also an opportunity to witness the performance of the evening prayerss
Day 08: Hunder / Panamik / HunderThis morning we will spend some time exploring the village. Hunder is a quaint and beautiful village, maze-like in its formation, winding paths bathed in dappled sunlight, branches forming tunnels. The Ladakhi people are creative in the way they devise for water to enter homes and fields in turn, with tenderly cared for gardens and fruit orchards. The houses are thatched, built with mud-dried.
The people are so hospitable and look on curiously, smiling. They radiate joy, with their rosy sun burnt cheeks, wide smiles and eyes speaking volumes about the depth of character and humane goodness they exude. They are humble, joyous and childlike, with a palpable dignity. It would hit you to realize how material culture and luxury do not provide happiness.
Today we continue to explore the Nubra Valley and the quaint villages that dot the landscape. Sumur is one such village where we interact with the people and also visit the citadel of their faith - The Samtanling Gompa which is definitely worth a visit, and houses a fine collection of idols, frescos and tangkhas (painted and embroidered scrolls).
Continue a short way away to Panamik which used to be a busy centre being the last major settlement before the caravans entered into the mountains of Karakoram. Today, Panamik is a sleepy village, its inhabitants quietly going about their work in the fields. On the mountainside above the village, hot water bubbles out of the earth in thermal springs, reputed to have therapeutic qualities. Across the river, clinging to the mountains, are a few trees rooted among the rocks surrounding the tiny Ensa gompa.
Day 09: Hunder / Leh Morning we retreat back to Leh
Upon arrival transfer to your Hotel Spic n Span
Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities. This is the day to catch up on your shopping. Think about people who are in your thoughts and who 'deserve' souvenirs from this magical destination.
Day 10: Leh / Departure Transfer to the airport to connect your onward flight.
Day 06: Leh / Pangong / Leh (290 Kms)This journey takes us past picturesque villages of Shey and Thikse, and turns off the Indus valley by the side-valley of Chemrey and Sakti. The Ladakh range is crossed by the Chang-la (18,000 feet / 5,475 m), which despite its great elevation is one of the easier, passes, remaining open for much of the year even in winter, apart from periods of actual snowfall. Tangse, just beyond the foot of the pass, has an ancient temple.
But the main attraction of this circuit is the Pangong Lake, situated at 14,000 feet (4,267 m). A long narrow basin of inland drainage, hardly six to seven kilometer at its widest point and over 130km long, it is bisected by the international border between India and China. This is a breathtaking scene of natural beauty. Spectacular views are to be had of the mountains of the Changchenmo range to the north. Their reflections shimmering in the ever-changing blues and greens of the lake's brackish waters. At an altitude can be seen glaciers and snowcapped peaks of the Pangong range. There are also a scattering of tiny villages along the lake's southern shore are the summer homes of a scanty population of the nomadic herds people of Tibet and southeast Ladakh. The nomads cultivate sparse crops of barley and peas in summer.
Day 07: Leh / Khardung La / Deskit / HunderToday we travel north from Leh over the highest motorable road and the Khardungla Pass (5570m), to the Nubra Valley which is little visited, as it is inaccessible for all but a couple of months in the year, its high passes closed by the winter snows. In comparison to the Indus valley which is cooler the Nubra is a comparatively warm valley where walnut, apricot, apple and mulberry trees grow and yak, sheep and goats graze in small forests and along the river Shyok. The journey brings us excellent view of great Karakoram Range.
In the ancient times the fertile Nubra Valley formed a part of the overland route between Tibet and Turkestan. Once dotted with garlands of camel and yak caravans, this Silk Route glen is also known as the 'Valley of Flowers' of Ladakh, and is amongst the greenest valleys in the region. During early summer, Nubra is clad in endless bushes of yellow and pink wild roses, and once the valley is through with the season of roses around August, a carpet of wild lavender lies gently on it.
On our way we visit the Diskit Village which is amongst the larger villages in the region, and home to the 350 year-old Diskit Gompa - the oldest, and the largest monastery in the Nubra Valley . We will also find time to walk along the Nubra village. The people are amazingly friendly inspite of their lack of material disposition. Their traditional lifestyles and homes give you the feel of a Living Museum.
We reach Hunder Village through a gorgeous stretch of sand dunes. This is where we will camp tonight. The main attractions in this area are the Bactarian Double Humped Camels. This is the ancient Silk route and these animals were abandoned by the traders. Successive generations have procreated over centuries. This evening we enjoy camel ride over the Sand Dunes.
Day 04: Uletokpo / Lamayuru / UletokpoA half day excursion through paradise as we visit Lamayuru. Every twist and turn brings to you new vistas of natural beauty. But, wait till you get to the 'Lamayuru Moonland'. We look down on this landscape which appears to be a dusty surface of the Moon itself with craters & hills . The snow rising in the backdrop of this sandy script reminds you that you are in Ladakh.
The landscape around Lamayuru monastery is one of most spectacular things one could see on earth.
Lamayuru monastery popularly known as, "Yangdrung Gomp" is situated 126 km west of Leh, on the Leh - Srinagar highway. In ancient times there was a huge lake in this place. The great saint Nyimagung, made a prophesy saying: " May a monastery be founded in this place" and he then offered a votive water offering to all the naga serpent spirits who were the guardians of that place. The grains of that corn that formed part of this offering were carried by the waves of different places along the cliff side by the edge of the lake and when they had become mixed with the earth they sprouted forth as corn in the shape of a swastika. At the time when a monastery was later founded there it was called Yangdrung "swastika". In the 11th century the mahasiddha Naropa came to this place and the cave where he resided and meditated is still to be seen today. Then Rinchen Zangpo, the Translator came and built many temples and stupas and so the teachings of the Kadampa School came to flourish greatly there. Thereafter, for many years the monastery was administered by the Red Hats order of the Tibetan Buddhism., but later it was taken over by Digungpa order. Then the rituals and observances of the Digung Kargud School were introduced and the monastery received the name of Yangdrung Tharpaling.
Afternoon is at leisure for nature walks . Alternatively, your 24x7 guide would be happy to walk you to the neighbouring Mangyu village (3hrs). This would be another opportunity to witness traditional Ladakhi country life unchanged from time immemorial. We will interact with locals and also learn more about Ladakhi living.
Day 05: Uletokpo / Alchi / LehAfter breakfast we drive back to Leh Visiting Alchi on the way.
The village of Alchi in lower Ladakh is to be considered one of the most important cultural sites throughout the Himalayas. Consisting of four separate hamlets, the village contains numerous historic monuments of different ages and in various states of repair, the oldest and most famousof which is a monastic complex. The 1,000-year-old three-storied Himalayan temple, with its unique murals and iconography, is a fragile wooden structure. Confirmed a World Heritage site by UNESCO, this is one of only four surviving monasteries of the 108 founded by the Great Translator, Lotsava Rinchen bZangpo in the later 10 th and early 11 th century. The temple preserves some of the finest examples of Kashmiri art of the period
Following the tour of Alchi, we continue drive to Leh and get there by lunchtime. Upon arrival, transfer to your Hotel Spic n Span.