Day 1: Arrive Delhi. You will be assisted on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Morning is at leisure. In the afternoon drive to visit Humayun’s Tomb built in the Indo Persian style and a predecessor to The Taj Mahal in Agra; India Gate - A War Memorial Arch. Also drive past the President's House called Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House, Government Secretariat buildings and Connaught Place - the heart of New Delhi and a busy shopping center. Overnight in a hotel.
Day 2: Delhi - Leh. After an early breakfast you are transferred to the domestic airport for your flight to Ladakh. This must be one of the most sensational flights in the world. On a clear day from one side of the aircraft can be seen in the distance the peaks of K2, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum and on the other side of the aircraft, so close that you feel you could reach out and touch it, is the Nun Kun massif.
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! During the afternoon, you can walk through the old town, beneath the Leh Palace, to allow you to get oriented to this fascinating city. Overnight in a hotel.
Day 3: In Leh – Visit Saboo Gompa and SOS Village (Choglamsar). 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. Behind the main bazaar, Chang Gali is less bustling but has interesting little shops selling curios and jewelery. Further on are the labyrinthine alleyways and piled-up houses of the old town, clustering around the foot of the Palace Hill. In the other direction, down the bazaar, are the Tibetan markets where one can bargain for pearls, turquoise, coral, lapis lazuli and many other kinds of semi-precious stones and jewelery, as well as carved yak-horn boxes, quaint brass locks, china or metal bowls, or any of a whole array of curios.
When tired of strolling, one can step into any of several restaurants, some of them located in gardens or on the sidewalks and serve local Tibetan, Indian and Continental cuisine. In the afternoon you will drive to SABOO - 8 km from Leh, standing majestically on top of a hillock overlooking the Indus Valley. It is a less frequented gompa in Leh. On your drive back to Leh, you visit SOS Village (Choglamsar). Choglamsar is an important center for the study of Tibetan Culture and History. There is the "Central Institute of Buddhist Studies", a Tibetan library, medical center, shops selling handicrafts, books and plenty of restaurants. It abounds in greenery with Poplar and Willow trees dotting the landscape. There is a golf course, horticulture nurseries and a polo ground as well.
Day 4: In Leh - Visit Takthok - Chemrey - Hemis Monastries. The days’ tour of monasteries begins with a visit to Takthok Gompa in the morning. In the 8th century, the great propagator of Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava set out from India to journey across many lands en route to Tibet. Along the way, legends speak of numerous halts one of which was at a cave at Takthok (“a ceiling made of rock”) where he meditated. Takthok monastery developed around this cave. In the 16th century a learned monk, Tsewang Norbu arrived from the Kham region of Tibet, mediated in this cave and laid the foundations of the monastic order. Within the dark interiors of the cave, the slow dripping of sacred water or Dhukchhu from the rocky roof can be heard. The wall paintings can barely be seen obscured by layers of soot from the constant burning of butter lamps. Some fine butter sculptures made by the head lama of the gompa can be seen at the Udgyan Photsang. The monastery belongs to the Nyingma-pa Sect.
Returning from Takthok, the CHEMREY GOMPA rises majestically on a hill with the residences of the lamas spilling along its contours. Though most of the books, including the Ladakh Chronicle, tell us that the great lama Stag-tsang-ras-pa, under the patronage of Sengge Namgyal, founded it, but Professor Luciano Petech has shown that it was actually founded after Sengge's death as a funeral act of merit for him. The building was started in March 1644 A.D. and completed in 1645 / 1646 A.D. Overlooking fields and houses, the monastery is perched picturesquely atop a small hill, down one side of which spill the monks' dwellings. The main du-khang, a large rather bare temple, has images of Stag-tsang-ras-pa and other Drug-pa lamas, together with a fine silver chorten about fifty years old made at Chiling. The murals are mainly manifestations of Sakyamuni, as is common in Drug-pa temples; there are also fine mandalas of Kalchakra and Akshobya. Twenty-nine volumes of the scriptures have title pages whose lettering is in solid silver of exquisite craftsmanship, the text is pure gold. A smaller temple upstairs houses a nondescript collection of images of Drug-pa lamas.
Continue your drive to HEMIS GOMPA, crossing over the Indus River 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. In the year of the Monkey (every 12 years) a giant thangka depicting Guru Padmasambhava is unfurled from the terrace draping the five-storey facade. Delicately wrought in pearls and appliqué, it is one of the most famous art treasures of Ladakh. The central courtyard forms the focus for the masked dances held every year in summer. In the dukhang, remnants of the original 17th century murals can be seen. The gompa boasts of an excellent library, well preserved frescoes and murals, silver gilt chortens and a Kashmiri lacquered wood throne. By the evening drive back to your hotel for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 5: Leh – Phyang – Basgo - Alchi. After breakfast you will be driving to ALCHI. En-route you would be taking a short diversion to visit Phyang Gompa, which is located on the right of the main highway to Alchi. Built on a large mound, with the village below, the setting is one of the prettiest in Ladakh with groves of Popular trees along the road leading up to the monastery. The founder of the Namgyal Dynasty built it. According to popular legend, he placed a flagpole at a spot from where the monastery is first visible and anyone guilty of a crime could seek pardon if he reached this spot. The gompa has an exquisite collection of pre-4th century Kashmiri bronze statues, thangkas and manuscripts. During July, a temple festival is held in the beautiful setting of the temple courtyard and ritual masked dances are staged here.
After visiting Phyang you come to Basgo, which lies astride the road to Alchi. The jagged skyline of the ruins of the 15th century capital of Ladakh dominates the village of Basgo. It was an important center in the old days, having been the capital of lower Ladakh when the kingdom was divided in the 15th & 16th centuries, and the seat of that branch of the dynasty, which eventually unified Ladakh and took the surname Namgyal. As with the other royal residences at Leh and Shey, the palace at Basgo also incorporates places of worship. The largest of the three shrines, all of which are dedicated to Maitreya, has been described as ‘after Alchi perhaps the most beautifully painted temple in Ladakh’.
You will arrive in time for lunch at Alchi resort.
In the afternoon visit the Alchi Gompa. The 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. Dinner and an overnight stay at Alchi Resorts.
Day 6: Alchi – Ridzong - Lamayuru. After setting out from Alchi en-route to Lamayuru, you take a diversion to visit the Ridzong Gompa, which is one of the less frequented monasteries of Ladakh. Hidden at the end of a steep valley, the first view of the gompa is dramatic. Relatively new (1840), it is beautifully set in a valley, deep inside a gorge and is the most isolated monastery in Ladakh. Lama Tsultim Nima founded this Gompa and a monastic community was introduced with strict rules and regulations. There are beautiful wall paintings of scenes from the life of Sakyamuni Buddha as well as some fine silver chortens containing the relics of its founder and his son. Also visit the Chulichan Nunnery around one & half km further ahead from the Ridzong Gompa. Around 20 nuns reside at Chulichan; they provide food and clothes to the monks.
After this visit you proceed to 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. You spend the night at Lamayuru.
Day 7: Lamayuru - Leh. Finally, you drive back to Leh in time for lunch at the hotel. The afternoon is free to explore the town on your own. Leh is very Tibetan: the national dress, ‘stove-pipe’ hats and felt boots with turned-up toes are much in evidence. The 16th century Royal Palace, which dominates the town, is very reminiscent of the Potala in Lhasa and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, large chortens, prayer flags and mud brick houses with flat roofs have a dramatic effect on the landscape.
Day 8: Leh - Delhi. In time transfer to the Leh airport to board your flight back to Delhi. You are met upon arrival at Delhi airport and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon you have the option to relax after your stay in high altitude or pursue an independent activity. Overnight in your hotel.
Day 9: Departure Delhi. In time transfer to the international airport to board your flight back home.
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