Travel to Leh, the main town of Ladakh lies on Silk route. Discover its Himalayan deserts, Lakes and lovely monasteries dotted all over.
Upon arrival you will be transferred to your hotel. You would take a little time to settle in and acclimatize since you have gone from a relatively low elevation in New Delhi to over 11,000 feet! Stay overnight at hotel.
The morning is at leisure to acclimatize to the rarefied air. You may choose to stroll along the main bazaar – observing the varied crowds. Looking into curio shops is an engaging experience. A particularly attractive sight is the line of women from nearby villages sitting along the edge of the footpath with baskets of fresh vegetables brought for sale.
When tired of strolling, one can step into any of the several restaurants; some of them located in gardens or on the sidewalks and serve local Tibetan, Indian and Continental cuisine.
Also walk to the Leh Palace & Shankar Gompa, which belongs to Gelukspa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This small Gompa is a branch of Spituk Gompa, founded by the first incarnation of Skyabje Bakula (head monk of Spituk monastery). Stay overnight at hotel.
You begin the day by visiting Thiksey Monastery, which is one of the most vibrant and active monasteries in the region. It dates back to the 16th century and is part of the Gelug-pa Sect. It is headed by successive reincarnations of the Khanpo Rimpoche.
Continue your drive on a well mettled broad road traveling upstream along the Indus River to Hemis Gompa, crossing over the Indus at the village of Karu. The most famous of Ladakh’s monasteries, Hemis or Changchub Samstanling (The love palace of the compassionate person), dates back to the 17th century and was built over a period of 40 years (1602 – 1642 A.D.). Today Hemis is well known for its festival or Hemis Tsechu commemorating the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava.
Later drive to Stok Palace, which is the present residence of the former royal family of Ladakh. King Teswang Thondup Namgyal built the palace in 1825. The last king of Ladakh died here in 1974. The main palace is five storeys high. The palace museum displays the collections of the royal family. In the queen’s chamber can be seen royal ornaments such as the beautifully crafted turquoise studded perak (head dress), the queen’s crown as well as the necklace of the Balti Princess, Gyal Khatun. Within the king’s room are displayed exquisite thangkas, most significant of which is the set of 35 thangkas depicting the stories relating to the former lives of Buddha. Other artifacts include silver chortens, the king’s crown and a 7th century image of Avalokitesvara as well as jade cups, fine porcelain and ritual objects. Stay overnight at hotel.
In the morning after having breakfast, drive downstream along the River Indus. Just before Saspul a road to the right takes you for your visit to the Likir Monastery, which is situated at the head of the village by the same name. The name Likir derives from the word Lukhgil (coiled snake) as the site appears to be encircled by two great serpent spirits – Nanda and Taksako. The gompa is believed to date back to the 11th century. In the 15th century Lama Lhawag Lhotos established the Gelug-pa order here. Likir is one of the most active monasteries in the region.
After you visit you commence your trek on a jeep track as it winds down to the river, over a bridge and up to the Pobe La (3,550), leaving behind all the greenery and entering an arid moonscape. From here you can either continue on the jeep track or, to avoid its twists and turns, take the steep, slippery short cuts down to the next section of the road.
The green fields and trees of Sumda (3,470 m) soon come into view. As you come parallel to the village, leave the jeep track and take the path leading down to the river on the left. This path junction is clearly marked by prayer flags and a cairn. Cross Saspol Tokpo on a wooden bridge and walk up through a lush pasture beneath the village. The trail heads uphill to a chorten and prayer flags, and then skirts around the left side of the village to begin the ascent of s dry barren valley. It is a long climb (45 – 60 mins) among desolate surroundings, but eventually you join a jeep track leading to the top of Charatse La (3,650 m).
Thereafter the jeep track descends gradually to the prosperous looking village of Yangtang. Here you have wonderful southerly views over the village to the Zanskar Range beyond. Stay overight at hotel.
Day 05: Yangtang – Hemis shukpachan (3,600 m / 11,810 ft) – trek / approx 3 hrs walking time
In the morning after having breakfast, Yangtang the route descends to the tree-lined Wuleh Tokpo, crosses it on a bridge and then, between stonewalls, climbs the other side of the valley. You soon leave all signs of the village behind as you begin to ascend. As it climbs, the route keeps cutting across the corners of the jeep track to which you re running parallel. This is an alternative route for those who find the climb too steep, but it is much longer. This brings you to Sermanchan La (3,750 m).
There are views down to the beautiful village of Hemis Shukpachan from the Pass. The trail enters the village through the fields, drops steeple down to cross the Akheur Tokpo and emerges above the Gompa overlooking beautiful pastures. Hemis Shukpachan is a wonderful tranquil village with a small Gompa overlooking beautiful pasture. Stay overnight at hotel.
In the morning after having breakfast, Hemis Shukpachan the trail rises gently over arid ground until you reach a small Pass (3,710 m). The path drops steeply away in front of you and you look across the valley at the pink and mauve coloured mountains ahead; the trail can just be made out as it zigzags up the steep mountainside in the distance. Head right from the Pass and drop down to the stream bed where you pick up a path heading off to the right, rather than the one that goes straight down the valley. Traverse across the slope to the base of a short but steep climb. The path winds up the precipitous mountainside to Meptek La (3,750 m).
Walk along the ridge on your left for magnificent views across to the south side of the Indus Valley. The trail descends steadily along a dry stream bed to the village of Ang (3,200 m). The village gets more prosperous and fertile the further west you travel along this route. Ang is a fine example, with its beautiful fields and trees. The trail crosses the river on a bridge and then turns downstream along the right bank. Follow this down the valley where it soon becomes a more substantial jeep track which takes you all the way to the large spread out village of Tingmosgang (3,200 m).
Temisgam is the largest most prosperous village on this trek. Set amongst fertile fields and spreading orchards there are some fine examples of large, whitewashed Ladakhi homes. As a result of the division of Ladakh in the 14th – 15th centuries, the lower kingdom was controlled from Basgo and Temisgam. Little remains of its glorious past; the castle is in ruins but there are still two temples, which can be visited, on the hill behind the village. Stay overnight at hotel.
In the morning after having breakfast, Tingmosgang served as one of the capitals of Ladakh in the 15th century. Though most of the castle is in ruins, three temples remain and continue to be in use. On the day marking the three important events in the life of Buddha i.e. birth, enlightenment and parinirvana, people from all over Ladakh including Zanskar gather here making offerings of butter for the lamps, incense and flowers. Your drive from Tingmosgang descends to Nurla from where you turn right for Lamayuru along the main highway.
After checking in to your accommodation you proceed to visit the 11th century Lamayuru Monastery, which is spectacularly located along the valley plain and surrounded by mountains on all sides. According to legend, the arhat Madhyantika, a disciple of Buddha offered “torma’ (sacred food) and water to the spirits inhabiting the site to satisfy them. A handful of rain spilled on the soil which caused barley plants to sprout in the shape of Yung-drung (swastika), hence its name Yung-Drung. The great yogi Naropa meditated in a cave, which today forms part of the monastery. The monastery has gradually expanded over the years and newer structures have been built around a large courtyard. The antiquity of this site is evident from the large number of chortens, similar to those at Alchi. Stay overnight at hotel.
On your return to Leh from Lamayuru you will take a short bifurcation to the right just before reaching Saspool. Crossing the Indus River you drive uphill to Alchi to visit the Alchi Monastery. It is complex of temples located within the village is the most celebrated of Ladakh’s monasteries and dates back to the 11th century. The complex consists of a group of five temples as well as a number of chortens scattered around the complex. The Dukhang and the three-tiered Sumstek are the most significant. It is the seat of the Ngri Rimpoche, an incarnation at present embodied in the younger brother of the Dalai Lama. Alchi Gompa is the only monastery, built on flat ground. It is very famous for its paintings and architecture, which has an Indian and Kashmiri influence in them. After lunch you will proceed to Leh, reaching there by the evening. Stay overnight at hotel.
Day 09: Leh – Delhi – by flight
On time transfer to the Leh airport to board your flight back to Delhi.