MAGNIFICENT MONASTERIES, MAJESTIC MOUNTAINS
Situated in the far north, on the ancient silk route, Ladakh is famous for its Tibetan Buddhist culture and traditions that have remain unchanged and hidden for centuries. Age-old monasteries and villages lie nestled in its unique lunar landscape of arid mountains, high passes, plateaus and deep valleys making for unexpected and striking encounters.
We begin with a spectacular flight over the Himalayas to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. We spend the first two days acclimatizing to the high altitude (3,500mabove sea level), with gentle sightseeing in and around Leh before heading out to the spectacular 11th century Alchi monastery. Next is an exhilarating hike to Mangyu Monastery through the stunningly scenic Western Tibetan Plateau before travelling to feast on the ethereal beauty of Pangong Tso, a sapphire lake with a surreal palette of vivid blues. On the way back, we visit Hemis Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The tour involves extensive driving and some hiking, including trips into the remote and sublimely beautiful Nubra Valley after crossing Khardung La (5,359m), the highest motorable pass in the world with fabulous panoramic views of the Himalayas. A visit to Agra to see the magnificent Taj Mahal provides a fitting finale to this tour.
- The dramatic Ladakh landscape
- Alchi monastery the oldest in the region
- Nubra valley – the valley of flowers
- Stunning Pangong Lake
- Khardung La, the world’s highest motorable pass
- Tibetan culture in and around Leh
- Magnificent Taj Mahal in its full glory
Day 2 - 3Fly to Leh
Delhi - Leh
In the early morning flight from Delhi, the plane flies over the Himalayan Range providing amazing overhead view of the whole mountain range with gigantic glaciers and glaring peaks before it brings us to Leh, a fertile valley just to the north of the mighty Indus River (this flight is subject to appropriate weather and perfect flying conditions). Upon arrival, we transfer to the hotel.
The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatize to the altitude (3,500m). Late afternoon there is a gentle orientation walk in Leh and its bazaars. In the olden days Leh was an important trading center along the old Silk Route from China. The town is dominated by the nine- story Namgyal Palace whose faded grandeur has been likened to a mini version of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
Today we start our day with a visit of Sankar Gompa, an affiliate of the Spituk Gompa. From Sankar Gompa we drive to a recently built Shanti Stupa. It was constructed by a Japanese Buddhist organization and inaugurated by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. The magnificent white domed structure, the Shanti Stupa, offers spectacular views over Leh bazaar and Stok Kangri Range. We finish today's excursion with a visit of Leh Palace situated above Leh on the Namgyal Hill. The palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in 17th century but was later abandoned when Dogra forces took control of Ladakh in the mid-19th century. The majestic palace overlooks the Namgyal Hill.
Day 4 - 5Visit of monastries
After the breakfast, we leave Leh behind and drive to Alchi, en-route we visit famous monastery of Rizong and Alchi. Founded by Lama Tsultim Nima in 1831. Rizong is a Yellow Hat sect Gompa and is spectacularly situated on a Cliffside overlooking the Indus Valley. The monastery holds special significance for Tibetan Buddhists as it belongs to Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. We drive back towards Alchi Gompa, which is the largest and most famous of all of them, and is noted for its massive Buddha statues and lavish woodcarvings and artwork. The foundation of the monastery was laid by Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo in the middle of 12th century. It has three main structures known as Du-khang, Sum-tsek and the temple of Manjushri.
This morning hike to Mangyu Monastery, built in the village of Mangyu, begins our day. It is one of the earliest monasteries in Ladakh region and believed to be contemporaneous to Alchi Monastery and Sumda Chun. The earliest structures are supposed to be dating to the late 12th to early 13th century CE, but as per the oral history and local belief the monasteries were established by Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo. Later we return to Alchi.
Day 6Drive back to Leh and visit of Likir Village
Driving back to Leh today we visit Likir Village first. Located in Indus Valley it is believed to be among the oldest villages of India. The monastery of Likir is believed to have been in existence since 11th century. It belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect & is also known for the 75-feet statue of Buddha. From Likir we drive past Basgo Monastery where a visit to the monastery gives us further insight into Buddhist religion. Also known as Basgo or Bazgo Gompa, this place is approximately 40 km from Leh. Although the monastery was built for the Namgyal rulers in 1680, Bazgo itself was embedded in the early days of Ladakh and is frequently mentioned in The Ladakh Chronicles when it was a political and cultural center. The monastery is situated on top of the hill towering over the ruins of the ancient town and is noted for its Buddha statue and murals. In the 15th century, a palace was built in Basgo.
Day 7 - 8Local Exploration:
Leh - Pangong Tso Lake
Today we drive to Pangong Tso Lake. On our way to the lake, we visit Tak Tak and Sakti villages to get some insight into the lives of the locals who inhabit this sequestered land.
Today we have a free day for local exploration of Pangong Tso, a lake of crystal blue water that is one of the most beautiful of all high altitude lakes. Due to its saline water there is little micro-vegetation. Nor does the lake have any fish or other aquatic life. This lake is not only a tourist’s paradise, but also geologist’s domain and nearby places.
Day 9Back to Leh en route visiting Thiksey and Hemis
Today, we drive back to Leh. En route we visit two major gompas or monasteries, Hemis and Thikse. While Thikse Monastery belongs to Gelukpa order (Yellow hat), Hemis Monastery belongs to Drukpa order (Red hat). We first visit Thikse. Perched on top of a hill, Thiksey's red and white buildings can be seen from miles. A recently built temple within this complex contains a magnificent image of the Future Buddha. Next we visit Hemis Gompa that holds the distinction not only of being the biggest and the wealthiest monastery of Ladakh but also for very rich collection of ancient relics, the rare 17th century murals and the painted stone reliefs adorning the courtyard gallery, making it a true UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 10Gateway to Nubra Valley
Leh - Hundar (3300m)
Today we drive to Nubra Valley, also known as Ldumra (the valley of flowers) that is situated in the north of Leh. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 ft. above the sea level. The main attraction in this area is the Bactarian Camels (Shaggy double hump Camel) around Sand Dunes, Diskit and Samstanling monasteries. To reach this wonder on earth we have to wind our way over Khardung La pass (5,602 meters), the highest motorable road in the world. On arrival, we make ourself confortable in the camp at Hunder.
Day 11Another day in the laps of Nubra Valley
Hundar (3300m) - Sumur
Today, we head for Sumur enroute visiting Diskit monastery. It is a 14th century monastery, the largest and oldest monastery in Nubra valley. After the visit, we resume our journey to Sumur. On arrival, installation in Camp.
Visit of Samstanling monasteries, founded by Lama Tsultim Nima, only around 140 years ago and located in Sumlur village. We can also enjoy an optional camel ride across the sand dunes.
Day 13Fly to Delhi and drive to Agra
Leh - Delhi
This morning we have an early morning flight to Delhi.
Day 14Visit of Agra and drive back to Delhi
Agra - Delhi
Today is the day to strike off the Taj from our bucket list. We rise early to visit this astonishing wonder in white marble. Taj Mahal, a symbol of eternal love, stands on the southern bank of River Yamuna. It was built by the 5th Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in the 16th century CE. The charisma of the amazing Taj Mahal never fails to leave a first time visitor spellbound.
visit the Agra Red Fort, a historical fort in the city of Agra and its walls are richly adorned with red sandstone. Till 1638, this fort was main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty. Thereafter the capital of Mughal was shifted from Agra to Red Fort in Delhi.
Later we leave by surface to Delhi. In Delhi our evening is free to do some more shopping. Late in the evening we are transferred to the international airport to catch our flights to our respective destinations.