Featuring Hemis or Thikse Festival
Photograph the startling contrast between the arid, almost lunar landscapes of Ladakh's Himalayan ranges with the lush green valleys and forests of Dharamsala. The change in landscape is paralleled by an equally intriguing cultural comparison from exiled Tibetans now living in Hindu Garhwal mountains and the native Ladakhi practicing Tibetan Buddhism.
We begin this photo-journey in Leh, Ladakh the last stronghold of Tibetan Buddhism. A drive along the scenic Leh-Srinagar Highway takes us to Lamayuru, a 10th century Tibetan monastery that has, to this day, remained active and powerful. In the 13th century, it was the main contender against the Sakya Monastery for acknowledged supremacy throughout Tibet. We will also visit the mural wonderland at Alchi and the hidden gompa of Rizong before joining in the festivities at either Hemis or Thiske Tsechu — the annual Buddhist festival at the monastery.
The festival includes two days of masked dancing and prayer ceremonies. A colorful bazaar springs to life as locals set up their booths and stalls outside the courtyards. Hundreds of people, clad in their traditional Ladakhi dress, come from every corner of Ladakh to pay homage to the deities and to participate in the festival.
We continue our exploration of Buddhist culture by traveling to Dharamsala, the present home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Here we will meet high Lamas and have the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Kuten La, the Tibet State Oracle.
Day 1: Depart USA
Day 2: En route to Delhi.
Day 3: Most international flights arrive in Delhi very early in the morning. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel for a leisurely day in which to get over jet-lag. In the evening, we'll enjoy a traditional Indian “Welcome” dinner.
Day 4: Early this morning we fly from Delhi to the ancient Ladakhi capital of Leh. Weather permitting, we will have panoramic views of the high Himalayas. We'll enjoy a day of relaxation in which to acclimatize ourselves to Leh's 11,400 ft. altitude.
Day 5: The day is spent in this ancient and mesmerizing city with its winding streets, bazaar and hundreds of little shops. A 400-year-old Leh Palace and surrounding buildings, as well as Buddhist gompas, stupas and cloisters, dominate the city.
Day 6: Today we will raft the Indus River (class 2, 3 rapids) to Likir Monastery and then drive onward to Alchi Gompa, which dates back to the 6th century. An option for non-rafters will be available.
Day 7: The day is spent exploring the famous 10th century Lamayuru monastery.
Day 8: Returning to Leh we have the afternoon free to shop or further explore Leh.
Day 9 & 10: These two days are spent partaking in the festivities surrounding the Hemis Monastery Festival. Hemis is one of the largest and best endowed monasteries in Ladakh.
Day 11: A day excursion to visit Stok Village and its Palace. For those who are interested, we also have the option to take in the beautiful views on an afternoon hike through Stok Canyon.
Day 12: Today we will fly to Jammu and then drive to Dharamsala, the present home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Days 13-16: We have four days to explore and photograph Dharamsala. We will tour Namgyal, the monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to watch the Nechung monks making embroidered thangkhas, visit the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) and dine with the Tibet State Oracle.
Day 17: Departing early this morning, we will drive to Jammu for our flight to Delhi. After a sumptuous farewell dinner we depart for Delhi airport and our flight back to the USA.
Day 18: Arrive USA
Please visit our slide show page to see a sample of images from Ladakh.
Other itineraries featuring Ladakh:
QuickEscapes – North India
Explore the Imperial Cities of India – Delhi, Agra & Jaipur. These were the capitals of the Rajput, the Mughal and the British, the three major influences on India in the last 500 years.
Call us toll free at 1-800 MY INDIA (1-800-694-6342) or email us to request a detailed day-to-day itinerary.
A true highlight of the trip was the charm, warmth and amazing hospitality of the Ladakhi people. Their friendliness produced a photographer's paradise.
- Debra Levine, CA
Protector deity, Lamayuru
Hemis Monastery festival
Leh, Delhi, Dharamsala
Medical & evacuation insurance
All hotels, meals, ground transportation,
local guides and entrance fees
Fully escorted trip
July 2 to 19, 2008
Oct. 18 - Nov. 4, 2008
From: $4785 per person
Masked dancer, Hemis
Monastery above Leh
Perak - Ladakhi women's formal headdress