Duration: 16 days
Transportation: Airplane, Jeep, Train
Areas visited: Leh, Manali, Mandi, Dharamsala and Amritsar
Best time: May to October
This tour takes you all the way from the capital of India to the mountainous abode of Ladakh, and through Hindu, Sikh, Tibetan, and Ladakhi cultures. You start out with a brief overnight stop in Delhi before heading straight to Ladakh on an early morning flight. Ladakh lies embedded in a world of mountains, with the Karakoram range in the north-west, the Himalaya in the south-west and the Trans-Himalaya at its core. As well as the spectacular surroundings, the rich culture of the Ladakhis is also a highlight and as your route weaves its way across the Himalaya you will see monasteries majestically perched on high spurs. Head off the main route to explore little-visited areas, and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of a genuinely untouched land. From Ladakh you wind your way down towards Manali, a beautiful hill station, before heading to Dharamsala, famous as the residence of the Dalai Lama and as the headquarters of Tibetan government in exile. From Dharamsala, you head to Amritsar where you will visit the stunning Golden Temple, the center of Sikh worship. Finally, jump onto a train and watch the world go by as you cross the verdant countryside of the Punjab, India’s fertile breadbasket, and make your way back to Delhi.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN DELHI.
Arrive in Delhi, meet and greet at the airport and transfer to the hotel for an overnight at Hotel
DAY 2: FLY TO LEH
This morning you will have an early transfer to the domestic airport for the flight up to Leh. This is surely one of the most sensational scheduled flights in the world, taking you right over the top of the Greater Himalaya before dropping down in a series of steep turns, to land at the small military airport in Leh. Flight time is about 1 hour. You will be met on arrival and driven through Leh to check into your hotel. Leh is at an altitude of (3448m/11,500 ft) and therefore we recommend that the rest of the day is spent resting as it will be necessary to adjust to the altitude. Overnight at Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 3: FULL DAY SIGHTSEEING IN THE INDUS VALLEY
Today you will spend a full day visiting many of the important places in the wide Indus valley. This will certainly include Shey (the Palace of the old Ladakhi kings), Thikse (a large monastery which contains a three-storey-high statue of Chamba, the Buddha of the future), and Hemis (the largest monastery in Ladakh). At the latter, ask to see the temple in the rear, which houses the Buddhas that have ‘spoken’ in the past. Overnight in Leh.
SHEY PALACE (15 km from Leh)
The old summer palace of the kings of Ladakh was built about 550 years ago by Lhachen Palgyigon, the first king of Ladakh. It stands next to the remains of a larger construction on the east side of a hill which runs south-east towards the Indus. From the palace you can see over the fertile Indus plain north-east to Tikse Gompa and over the Indus to the Zanskar mountain range. The old Shey palace has the largest golden Buddha statue in Ladakh in its gompa. The statue is worked out of gold and gilded copper sheets, stands 12 meters high and has blue hair. It was erected by King Dalden Namgyal in the middle of the 17th century. The most important moment in the construction of such a figure is when the eyes are painted in and the statue can 'see'. No artist or monk would dare to look the Buddha in the eye so the pupils are painted over the artist's shoulder, with his back to the idol.
THIKSE GOMPA (17 km from Leh)
The 500-year-old Thikse 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 meter high seated Buddha figure. About 100 yellow-cap monks belong to the gompa. If you get there by 6.30am you can witness the daily morning prayers, but there are also prayers closer to noon, preceded by long, mournful sounds from the horns on the roof.
HEMIS GOMPA (45 km from Leh)
Hemis Gompa is famous far beyond the borders of Ladakh for its festival. This takes place every year with mask dances on the 9th to 11th day of the fifth Tibetan month. Hemis also has a gigantic thangka painting, one of the largest in the world, which is only displayed to the public every 12 years at the festival. Hemis Gompa is the largest and one of the most important in Ladakh, quite apart from its annual festival. It was founded about 350 years ago by Stagtshang Raschen, who was invited to Ladakh by King Singe Namgyal.
Overnight at Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 4: DRIVE TO TEMISGAM
After breakfast, we start our drive to Alchi, 70 kms west of Leh. Alchi Monastery was built by Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo in the 11th century and is regarded as one of the most important Buddhist centres in Ladakh. After exploring Alchi, we drive to Temisgam, one of our favorite villages in Ladakh. In the evening, take a climb up to explore the monastery and old palace. A night here at 10,000' elevation will aid in your altitude acclimatization. The trip continues to become more remarkable for the cultural experience that unfolds. You have the sense that your long journey to Asia, over the Himalayas and onto the Tibetan Plateau has taken you to a place so beautiful, remote and pure, that the effort has been worth it. Overnight at Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5: LAMAYURU
Today we make the exciting trip to the ancient Lamayuru Monastery and spend time exploring the extensive buildings of this ancient Buddhist sanctuary. This extraordinary gompa is perched on top of a beautifully eroded crag, complete with rock pinnacles and caves above the Indus. Return to Temisgam for the night at Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 6: LIKIR TO LEH
Today we head back to Leh, and on the way stop at Likir Gopma, which contains some beautiful murals and is guarded by a ten meter high golden Buddha (please note: some may find this walk strenuous). There is also a small museum of religious artifacts here. In the afternoon, we drive back to Leh, with the remainder of the afternoon left free. You may opt to walk to the Shankar Gompa, a small but interesting monastery housing an impressive Dukar figure (Avalokiteshvara), complete with 1000 arms (all holding weapons) and 11 heads. There may also be time to visit the ruined 17th century Old Palace, which hangs tier by tier on the hillside above the town. Overnight at Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 7: DRIVE TO SARCHU
We set off for the long, all day drive to Sarchu which includes the Tanglang Pass at 5328m – the highest point of our journey. We descend onto the highest plateau on earth (4511m) and then go down the Gata loops, an amazing series of 21 hair-pin bends. The Leh to Manali highway is only open for several months each year. We spend the night at a tented camp erected each summer to cater for travelers. The large pre-erected tents are fully equipped with beds and bedding and have ensuite toilet facilities. Overnight at Camp (B,L,D)
DAY 8: DRIVE TO JESPA
Today we drive to Jespa by climbing up the Baralacha pass (4891m). We are once again treated to spellbinding views of the Himalayan range, before threading our way down the mountain side towards our nights stop at Jespa, a small settlement in an area known as Lahaul. The air starts to feel ‘thicker’ here as the oxygen content increases, with increased vegetation on the mountain slopes and small cultivated areas, marking a return to a more hospitable landscape. Overnight at Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 9: DRIVE TO MANALI
Our full day's drive today takes us over the Rohtang Pass (3977m) today – the last of the high passes before descending down to the Kulu Valley and the picturesque town of Manali, surrounded by forests and mountains. Overnight at Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 10: MANALI
The day is free to explore the town and the many picturesque villages nearby. Take the time to walk to some of the traditional villages to the north of Manali. Alternatively you can also visit the Hadimba Devi Temple or Vashisht village on the other side of the river Beas. Later perhaps you may bargain for colorful souvenirs in the local bazaar. Overnight at Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 11: DRIVE TO MANDI
Today we follow the Beas River south through the lovely Kulu Valley the lush alpine landscape of Himachal Pradesh. A slight detour takes us up to the quirky Naggar Castle, which overlooks the valley. We then continue on to Mandi, once an important town on the salt route to Tibet. It is a small temple town held very sacred by both Hindus and Buddhists. On arrival we walk to see some of the 81 temples in the town, many of which are huddled on the banks of the Beas River. Overnight at Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 12: DRIVE TO DHARAMSALA
Leaving Mandi, our all day drive takes us back into the mountains as we make our way up to the old British hill station of Dharamsala. Until 1959 this was a quiet, unassuming town, but that all changed when the Dalai Lama settled here after fleeing Tibet at the time of the Chinese invasion in October of that year. McLeodganj is the upper part of the town situated 500m above Dharamsala, and is the area with the greatest Tibetan influence. It is also where we base ourselves for our visit to the area. On arrival, an orientation walk is organized which will include the Church of St John in the Wilderness, the Buddhist Namgyal Monastery, known locally as Little Lhasa,, and the Kalachakra Temple. Overnight Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 13: DHARAMSALA
We spend this morning in McLeodganj. If the Dalai Lama is giving one of his occasional public audiences we may be lucky enough to be granted permission to attend. This afternoon is left free for further personal exploration in the town. Alternatively you may wish to walk out to one of the temples in the surrounding hills, the closest being the Bhagsunath Temple with its small pool, attractive waterfall and spectacular views. Overnight Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 14: DRIVE TO AMRITSAR
Today’s drive sees us descending to the plains and crossing into the Punjab. We arrive in Amritsar, the Sikh’s holiest city, in time to visit their main shrine, the stunning Golden Temple. Shoes must be removed, feet washed and heads covered before we can enter (please bring a headscarf with you or buy one outside). The Golden Temple itself is a surprisingly small building surrounded almost entirely by tanks of holy water in which the Sikh pilgrims bathe. The atmosphere is one of incredible calm with devotees taking their turn to pass through the main shrine where there is a continuous and melodic recital (known as the Akhand Path) from the Guru Granth Sahib, their holy book. We also visit the nearby Jalianwala Gardens, site of the notorious massacre under General Dyer in 1919, which led to 379 Sikhs being shot at point blank range by British troops. Overnight Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 15: AMRITSAR TO DELHI
We take the comfortable Shantabodhi Express train to Delhi. On arrival transfer to hotel.
DAY 16: FLY HOME
Departure transfer to the international airport and fly home
LAND COST: on request
- All accomodations in Delhi, Leh, Manali, Mandi, Dharamsala, and Amristar with breakfast and dinner.
- All monastery entrance fees and wild life fees.
- English-speaking guide in monasteries.
- Transportation from Delhi to Leh by plane. Leh to Manali, Dharamsala and Amritsar by taxi, Amtistar to Delhi by train.
What’s not included:
- Medical and evacuation insurance
- Miscellaneous expenses and tipping to the staff
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and food in Leh and Delhi.
- International Air ticket to and from Delhi.
- A single supplement.
- Laundry and other services not mentioned in the package. If you need any arrangement, please let us know.
IMPORTAN TREK NOTES:
Whilst every effort is made to keep to the above itinerary, clients will hopefully appreciate that this is Adventure Travel in a remote mountain region. There will quite likely be changes to the itinerary in terms of anything from on-the-spot choice of campsite to when a rest day is taken. Weather conditions, road conditions, vehicle breakdowns off the beaten track, local availability of horses or yaks, can contribute to the need for changes. The Trek guide will do everything in his power to see that you are inconvenienced as little as possible in such circumstances. Timings are approximate.
© Yama Adventures, 2022.