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Zanskar and Ladakh Trek

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 28 day(s)
Group Size: 2 - 8 people
Destination(s): India  
Specialty Categories: Hiking & Trekking   Cultural Journey  
Season: July
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 2800 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 2800 US Dollar (USD)

Overview: Come join us and our friendly staff for one of the ultimate, high–altitude Himalayan adventures! We travel through rugged alpine scenery that you will never forget.

For the hardy individual, this classic trip offers the opportunity to enjoy unspoiled Tibetan culture and magnificent, rough–hewn scenery. This trek is strenuous and appropriate for experienced hikers in good health. There is exposure on the trails and on some bridge crossings — places where there are steep drop-offs. Ponies carry gear while our staff erect tents and prepare meals, so you just carry a small day pack with your personal items. But, prepare to "rough it," as conditions are variable.

Also be prepared for weather changes, rustic toilet facilities and the possibility of sickness. In addition, landslides or weather conditions may cause detours, delays or turning back. The high altitude combined with the trek length and remoteness of the area make it a true, satisfying challenge. With a positive attitude you will relish this breathtaking trip, create many fond memories and capture many astonishing pictures. It could be the experience of your lifetime!

Leadership: Our Trek Leader is Gary Loth. With lengthy experience, Gary is an avid backpacker and climber with training in first aid. In addition to the Ladakh region of India, his trekking experience includes the Annapurna, Langtang and Everest regions of Nepal, as well as Sikkim and Tibet. Previous groups are amazed with his extensive knowledge of Buddhism, which comes from years spent as a monk studying Buddhism in the Tibetan tradition.

His popularity with our staff and the monks in the local monasteries centers on his warm personality, organized leadership and command of the Tibetan language. Gary is supported by our local guide, Kaljaung (K.G.) Bodh, and a professional staff (cook, helper and horsemen) to make your trip a complete success.

Tour Itinerary

Pre Trip Days: Fly to New Delhi. Remember, people in the Americas 'lose' one day crossing the international date line. If you arrive early we can arrange a transfer and extra hotel nights for you on request

Day 1: Our driver will wait for you outside the secured area of the New Delhi Airport. From the airport it's just a five minute ride to our comfortable air conditioned hotel. You will be greeted and briefed on hygiene or other health and safety precaution.

Day 2: A day filled with adventure! We start with an early morning transfer to the domestic airport for our flight from Delhi to Leh (11,496 feet). The flight takes one hour and fifteen minutes and breakfast will be served (you're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy). It is truly a flight spectacular — transporting us over the main Himalayan range and onto the Tibetan plateau. As soon as you land you will know the difference.

The air is clear and cool and people are relaxed. You'll hear the friendly all purpose Ladaki greeting, "Julay! Julay!" You'll transfer by car to your comfortable guest house in the Changspa neighborhood, on the outskirts of the city. Leh (population 20,000) was once a main stopping point on the Asian silk route and one of the most exotic bazaars of Asia. Today, with a closed Tibet border, it is an important military base for India as well as a major attraction for tourists.

It is very important that this afternoon be spent resting. It will also aid acclimatization if you drink lots and lots of water. Fortunately the guest house has a well and provides good, clean drinking water in your room and in the dining room. Never drink water from the tap or shower. A short and leisurely welcome walk before dinner would be nice too.

The neighborhood around the guest house is fascinating. Farms are surrounded by stone–lined walks that follow small streams that are fun to wander. You will see Mani Walls, made up of hundreds of stones, each inscribed with a mantra such as "om mani padme hum."

Close by are a few small Chortens and a view of Shanti Gompa on the hill. Chortens are the Tibetan equivalent of Indian stupas and are basic symbols of the Buddhist religion. Be sure to always walk around both stupas and mani walls in a clockwise direction if at all possible. This is an important sign of respect. Views are good everywhere at sunset but especially from the rooms — our guest house has a prime vantage point for observing the Leh palace. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 3: We start by sightseeing in Shey (old capital of Ladakh), and onward to Thiksey Monastery (architecturally impressive), and Stok Palace Museum. Ladakh or "La-Dags" means "land of the high passes". It is one of the last strongholds of Mahayana Buddhism — the principal religion of Ladakh for the last thousand years.

Buddhism has been brutally repressed in Tibet for the last forty years by the Chinese. Ladakh became a part of India with independence in 1948, following the first of three wars fought between India and Pakistan. China annexed a large portion of Ladakh in a war fought with India in 1962.

This border zone was so sensitive that it only opened to foreign tourists in 1974. It is the best place to see and experience traditional Tibetan Buddhism. The first independent kingdom was established in the ninth century. Encouraged by royal patronage, the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Buddhism established many of the monasteries in the region around the thirteenth century.

Around 1639 a new capital was founded and palace at Leh built as well as another string of monasteries including the well known Hemis. This time allegiance was to the more recently arrived Drugpa (Red Hat) sect.

It's a good idea to take a nap or afternoon rest. Don't underestimate the effects of jet lag combined with altitude. You may not feel it yet, but if you rest and drink as much as you can now, you will save yourself from having problems adjusting to the higher altitudes later on. You can also get sunburned very easily at this altitude! (Breakfast, Dinner)

Day 4: Drive to Wanla, visiting Alchi along the way. We continue an hour or so to reach the Chos-khor or "religious enclave" at Alchi. Containing some of the finest examples of Kashmiri style Buddhist murals, it is one of the few monasteries of its era to escape destruction by Muslims.

Bring your flashlight as the lighting is dim. It is also a pleasant place to eat lunch. Continue by road to our camp below the monastery at Wanla (10,500 feet). If time allows, we will also visit Lamayuru Monastery enroute to Wanla, where we will greet our local trekking staff. You won't be the same after you have seen their dedication and warm hospitality! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 5: Trek to Hanupata (12,560 feet). Breathtaking scenery awaits as we trek through a narrow canyon. Camp after we pass Hanupata. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 6: Steep, hard climb over the Sirsir La at 15,750 feet. Descend and trek to Photoksar at 13,550 feet. Camp. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 7: Easy trek across Bumiktse La Pass (13,750 feet). Walk through a broad valley rich with a variety of wild flowers. Camp before Senge La Pass at about 14,500 feet. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 8: Cross Senge La Pass (17,060 feet). Known as the Lion Pass this is a hard long ascent. Camp before Kiupa La Pass. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 9: Cross and descend the Kiupa La Pass (14,650 feet). Camp at Skyumpata. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 10: Easy trek over Murgum La Pass (13,500 feet). Visit Lingshed Monastery. Lingshot Gompa has 60 monks and is famous for its school of painting. Hike beyond Lingshed to camp before Hanuma Pass. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 11: Cross the Hanuma La Pass (15,400 feet). Camp near river at base of Parfi La Pass. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 12: Cross the Parfi La Pass(12,800 feet). Camp at Hanumil (11,410 feet). (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 13: Trek to Pishu (11,310 feet), camp before village in grassy area near the river. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 14: Trek to Karsha. Karsha is the largest and most important monastery in Zanskar. It is home to about 150 lamas of the Gelupas sect. The chapel of the monastery has places for 35 lamas. Behind the seat of the Dalai Lama's brother (he controls the monastery) is a figure of Lhaso Cho Rimpoche with a golden crown.

It was brought to Karsha from Lhasa in the early 1960s. Karsha Village has a Tsampa mill where we can supplement our food supplies with Tsampa flour, good when eaten as a porridge or when stirred into a cup of local Chai. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 15: Trek to Padam (11,640 feet) for lunch. The capital of Zanskar, Padam is situated on what is its largest area of flat tillable land. Padum has a link with the outside world via a jeep track that connects with the Beacon Highway in Northern Kashmir. It is a tenuous link, as the road is seldom passable more than two months a year. Padum also has a ceremonial monarch who resides in Zangla. Continue hiking to camp across from Shila. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 16: Trek to Reru. Visit Bardon Gompa on way. Camp at pond at Reru. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 17: Rest day at Reru. A chance to wash and do laundry. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 18: Trek along the Tsarap Chu to camp at Tsetan. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 19: Continue along the Tsarap Chu to camp at Purne. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 20: Day hike to Phuktal Gompa (12,500 feet). We follow the Nira Chu East towards its source. Nestled against the mountain and consisting of caves and 500-year-old buildings built into the rock, Phuktal Monastery is a fairy-tale sight.

Deep in the main cave's mouth is a pure spring said to have healing properties. About 60 monks of the Gelupa sect live here. The monastery was originally founded by Naropa, the Indian teacher of the Tibetan Buddhist saint.

Day 21: Camp at Kargiak (13,780 feet). (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 22: Trek past the towering face of Gumburanjon, a mountain whose name means "Natural Gompa." Camp tonight at Lakong Sumdo (15,420 feet). (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 23: Cross lofty Shingo La Pass at 16,750 feet). Camp at lower Chumik Nakpo (about 14,000 feet). (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 24: Trek to Zanskar Sumdo (13,120 feet). (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 25: Hot and exposed hike with possible river crossing to Darcha (11,150 feet). Travel by road to Manali to stay at this well-deserved resort. A group Dinner is included today. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 26: Free day to explore Manali and visit Vashist — a picturesque village with a natural sulfur spring. Overnight again at our Manali hotel. Lunch and Dinner on your own today. (Breakfast)

Day 27: Bus to Chandrigar. Train to Delhi. Stay at our comfortable air-conditioned hotel. Lunch and Dinner on your own today. (Breakfast)

Day 28: Free day to explore Delhi. Check out of hotel. Transfer to airport for an evening check-in. Lunch and Dinner are on your own today. (Breakfast)

Post Trip Departure: Return travel home. Those in the Americas typically arrive home the same day with the reverse travel across the International Date Line.

Important Note: This is meant only as a general guide to the schedule of our days. Changes may be made as we go along. These depend upon local conditions, our acclimatization and health or other factors. It should be noted that this is a difficult, high–altitude trek.

Good health, a high level of fitness, and a positive attitude are a "must" to make it enjoyable. Sturdy vehicles will be provided to and from the road heads. However, this kind of travel is not for those who are prone to car sickness or who are afraid of heights. All of the areas to be visited are remote and there are no reliable sources of medical care outside of Delhi.

Travel Details: We will automatically send you an air itinerary after we receive your application form and passport photo copy.

For most westerners this will mean air travel starting from your home country two days before the meeting date in New Delhi. Crossing the International Date Line will make it seem as if you 'lose' a day flying to India. On your return home you may arrive on the same day, often just hours later than the local time of your departure from Delhi.

You are welcome to travel early or stay for extra days at the end. We can arrange additional nights at any of our hotels or guest houses for you. The cost starts at approximately $35 per night (single) or $25 per night (sharing a double room) with comfortable deluxe rooms with attached bathrooms, telephones, room service, laundry service, a free safety deposit box and ample luggage storage.

There are convenient, inexpensive internet cafes within a leisurely walk from our city hotels. There are many sightseeing options in India. These include a sightseeing tour to the Taj Mahal or going to Leh. Airport pickup for early arrivals is $20 per person. For late departures you can take a cab to the airport or have us arrange an airport transfer for $20 one way ($40 for round trip).

The cost for this trip is $2,800 for the land (trek) portion plus an additional in–trip flight estimated at a cost of $185. This internal flight will be booked separately through our local agent. Other additional travel-related expenses include your flight from home to the trip starting point of New Delhi, India, $40-60 for your India Visa, about $20 for meals on arrival and departure days and the cost of your personal expenses.

We also recommend that you purchase travel insurance (at an approximate cost of $250, which includes coverage for trip cancellation and emergency evacuation). We offer many other levels of trip insurance starting at $50.

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

- Trip Deposit: $250 USD
- Trip Price (Land Cost As Described): $2800 USD
- In-Trip (Round-Trip) Airfare Estimate: $185 USD (Delhi – Leh)
- Trip Difficulty Rating: Strenuous
- Maximum Group Size: 8.