Shivalik To Zanskar (18 Days)
Day 1: Arrival at Delhi
On arrival at Delhi international airport, you will be received by our office representative with the placard/paging board showing your name and our company name. There could be few reasons that you might require your airport transfer representative's help even before you meet him, so we will mail you the mobile telephone number and name of your rep so that you can contact him any time. He will assist you to the hotel and take care of your smooth check-in. He will again join you back the next morning and help you board the train for Amritsar- the holy land for Indians, especially the Sikh community. Your representative will hand over the tickets and hotel vouchers in the morning.
Day 2: Train to Amritsar
A journey by train to Amritsar is time-saving and comfortable. You board the SHATABDI Express, one of the fastest trains in India. All meals, tea/ coffee/ mineral water/snacks, etc., will be served inside the train as well as daily newspapers. It leaves Delhi at 0720 and reaches Amritsar at 1320. We are sure that you will have an enjoyable and comfortable journey. Inside the train, you have the facility for international calls, but it should only be used in an emergency. Upon arrival at Amritsar, you will find your local guide with the placard, who will help you check-in at one of Amritsar's best hotels. After registration, you will be taken for the local sightseeing of this historic city by the guide and car driver. This driver is going to be with you till Leh.
Golden Temple Amritsar- The Golden Temple or Durbar Sahib, situated in Amritsar, Punjab, is the most sacred temple for Sikhs. It is a symbol of the magnificence and strength of the Sikh people all over the world. In the evolution of the Durbar Sahib, is entwined the history and ideology of Sikhism. In its architecture are included, symbols associated with other places of worship. This is an example of the spirit of tolerance and acceptance that the Sikh philosophy propounds.
The history of the Durbar Sahib starts with Guru Amar Das, who took the first steps towards building a shrine. Around the Golden Temple, the holy city of Amritsar came into being. His successor, Guru Ram Das, came to live near this tranquil and peaceful site and started building the pilgrimage center around the small pool, (later to become the Sarovar) which had initially drawn Guru Amar Das. By the time of Guru Ram Das' death, the pre-eminence of the Durbar Sahib among the Sikh devotees was unquestionable. The Harmandir Sahib, or the sanctum, was envisioned by Guru Arjan Dev. He conceived this to reflect the resoluteness, clarity, and simplicity of the Sikh religion.
The Harmandir Sahib today stands as the sacred symbol of the indestructibility of the Sikh faith. He designed it to have four doors, one on each side. The Golden Temple would thus be open to all four castes-Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Shudras, and Vaisyas. The gilding, marble, mirror, and inlay work on the Harmandir Sahib came much later. It was the nineteenth century during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh that the proud people of Punjab lavished their wealth on their shrine in Amritsar. The Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, was installed in the Harmandir Sahib in 1604, three years after its completion. The location of the Granth Sahib here adds to the sanctity and reverence of the Harmandir Sahib. Here lies the heart of Sikhism. Every Sikh holds this symbol of abiding faith and tolerance in high esteem. And this is the place that every Sikh dreams of visiting.
Day 3: Drive to Dharamsala 200 km
Morning temple visit in Amritsar and the drive to Dharamsala. Amritsar to Dharamsala is 200 km drive through the various Punjab towns until you reach the boundaries of Himachal Pradesh-the mountain state. Once you enter Himachal, you will have small green fields, farmers, small shops, and towering Dhauladhar Mountains, indicating that you are reaching Dharamsala shortly. Your accommodation is booked at McLeod Ganj, the home of HH, the Dalai Lama in India, and the head office of the Tibetan Government in exile.
Day 4: Dharamsala
This is the Tibetan Kingdom in exile with the residence of HH The Dalai Lama. McLeod Ganj is a beautiful Tibetan town at the top of Dharamsala, blessed equally by nature and religion. The home of HH Dalai Lama, Namgyal monastery, Tibetan Parliament, Tibetan Library, Tibetan medical center, Tibetan handicraft center, Tibetan children village, Church of St. Elgin in the wilderness, and a market of Tibetan goods will be visited with your guide. A visit to Norbulingka Institute run under Tibetan administration would be very interesting to understand the real Tibetan system in exile. Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 5: Drive to Manali (260 km)
A drive of 260 Kms is amazingly beautiful. It moves from the Buddhist center to gaddi (shepherd's) areas to tea gardens to the city of temples - Kashi of Himalayas and valley of gods- Kullu. Driving under the shining mountains through the tea gardens of Palampur, we take you to Baijnath for a short visit of the ancient temple of Lord Shiva, an architectural masterpiece of the Pagoda family. Another temple on the itinerary is the Triloknath temple of Mandi. Driving further on the banks of River Beas, we reach Kullu, 42 km from Manali, the beautiful hill station, and gateway to Ladakh and Spiti. Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 6: Manali
Manali is a small but charming town in the western Himalayas. There are a lot of places to visit here. You will be guided to Hadimba temple and then to Manu temple in the morning and later to Nagar Castle and Roerich Art gallery. You will be surprised to see the old Manali village, which has mythical values in Indian culture and religion. The houses are years old, made of wood and stone hundreds of years back, and capable of feeding a family in all seasons with ample store of food grains, cattle, firewood, and weaving system. The evening is free to visit the market in the town and relax.
Day 7: Manali to Keylong/ 115 km
Drive over majestic Kunzam La pass. Kaza (3600 m) to Chota Dara (3960M) is 120 km, which takes about 6 hours with a short halt at Kunzam Pass (4551m). The road gives an experience of several small Himalayan villages where women often are seen with a full cloth on their faces to avoid cold, harsh wind coming down from the high passes. As you move up, the toughness of local living increases at the same pace. The village monasteries, togetherness, celebrations, and festivals are the only escape during winters here. The mountains at Tackche, some 12 km before Kunzam La will fascinate you. They change colors in a day, and it is because of different shining shrubs on it. Reach Kunzam La, a mountain pass with some chorten and a temple of goddess Kunzam, check here if you are god-fearing, the goddess accepts your coin by catching it on a stone. Batal, the base is just 12 km down, and from Kunzam, we do the beautiful Chander Tal lake trekking. We are moving under the CB ranges of mountains. The Chandra river, which originates from Chander Tal lake, remains with us towards Chota Dara. From Chota Dara, we reach Chatru after 16 km and Gramphug after another 16 km.
Here you have to show your passports, which would take not more than 10 minutes for all four travelers and then drive into Lahoul Valley and reach Keylong. This would be a little longer day, but evening you can see the 15th August- Indian Independence day program at Keylong. Overnight stay at the hotel
Day 8: Keylong to Sarchu camp (115 km)/Camp
We can afford a late start. The morning after breakfast, we can walk up to Kardang Monastery and then drive towards Sarchu. The highly revered Kardang Gompa is 5km from Keylong and has an extensive library of Buddhist Kangyur and Tangyur scriptures. It is believed to be built in the 12th century. Kardang village was once the capital of Lahoul. Kardang is the largest gompa famous throughout the region. It was in ruins up till 1912 when 'Lama Norbu' of Kardang renovated it. With colorful frescoes and murals, it has an enormous prayer drum containing strips of paper upon which the sacred mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' is inscribed a million times. Nuns and Lamas enjoy equality. Lamas can marry, and generally, they stay with their families during summer and work in fields only to return in winter. The store here has an extensive collection of musical instruments, dresses, and other articles. Clay images of various Buddhist lamas can be seen arranged in almirahs.
We leave the gompa and go back to our jeeps at 1100 hours and drive for our day's destination. On the way, we can stop at Jespa village and, if possible, can meet the Tibetan lady doctors who run a small hospital with Tibetan medicines here. It is 25 km from Keylong, and after 5 km we reach Darcha, the last village on the road towards Sarchu. From here, we can start a trek to Padum and Lamayuru. The Indian Government is constructing a road from here to Nimu in Ladakh over Shingo La pass. Once it is ready, it would be the shortest road to Leh with only one high pass, Shingo La. We need to deposit one copy of the group's naming list here and register ourselves again. We can have fresh but simple lunch here in any wayside Dhaba and leave Darcha at 1300 hours. Further is Patseo Ground - the place which used to be the meeting place of ancient traders till 1966.
We start gradually climbing the Baralacha La Pass. Before the pass, we see a vast lake Suraj Tal which is the origin of the Bhaga River. The zig-zag road takes us to Baralacha La, which has witnessed the kings moving towards Spiti and Lahoul ages back both for marriages and aggressive reasons. You can still find the old trek routes, and finally, we climb down to Sarchu by around 1800 hours, we check into our camp. This is the first luxurious resort on the world's highest motorable roads set by
Adventure India. You will have Swiss cottages here with a separate restaurant of 30 covers, attached toilets and hot water showers. From Baralacha and Sarchu, there are many trekking routes commence to Spiti and Zanskar. Sarchu is based on a flat ground that gets good winds during morning hours. The altitude is 3900 m, and it is the final stop in Himachal on the way to Ladakh
Day 9: Sarchu to Tsokar/ tents ( 97 Kms)
The morning we leave the camp at 0800 hours and drive to Tsokar - the meaning of Tsokar is Salt lake. The drive after Sarchu is extremely different where we see the shining high mountain peaks of different colors, barren areas, and it takes us to another high pass Lachung La of 5056 m. After a few kilometers of Sarchu, we reach Brandy Nallah and, ahead of it, start the region of Gata lopes. There are 21 hairpin road bends, and we will find trucks loaded and waiting. The drive from the top of the Gata lopes till Lachung la pass is generally metalled with a few unmetalled tracks in between. We proceed to the double-humped pass called Lachung La (5060 m), where your escort will serve you a hot bowl of soup in the running vehicle.
It is all downhill with unmetalled roads and rocks until we hit Pang (4630 m). You will see some awe-inspiring scenery today. Pang is located in a gorge like a feature with habitation of an army cantonment and some tents offering meals, tea, and beds. Ascend uphill to proceed further, and we get out of the gorge of Pang, and then it is a drive into the plateau area of Morey Plains- a straight road of 45 km. Just short of Dibring, at Mangzul, we proceed on the southeastern axis and reach in the heart of the famous Ruphsu valley known for Tso Kar and Tso Moriri. In olden times the salt lake was responsible for the supply of salt to the inhabited Ladakh valley. Our camp team will be waiting at Tsokar, where we join them at about 1500 hours. The rest of the day is free to explore the surroundings. Tsokar: It is 110 km from Sarchu and 86 km before Tsemoriri Lake. It has a small Gompa in the village of Thukse- a collection of solid stone huts set up for dramatic winters.
Day 10: Tsokar to Leh
Tsokar is the salt Lake region with picturesque landscape just in between of Himachal and Rupshu valley. We drive towards Leh from our campsite in the morning, and it is about 08- 09 hours' drive to reach Leh.
Day 11: Leh - Pangong Lake & back
Full day excursion to Pangong Lake 135 km one of the biggest natural brackish lakes in Asia. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the lakeside. Back to Leh by evening and spend time relaxing. Dinner and overnight stay at the hotel in Leh.
Day 12: Sightseeing of Leh
This day we start a little early to reach Thikse Monastery and join the Lamas in morning prayer. The exact time of this prayer will be informed to you on the previous evening. This monastery lies on a hilltop and provokes Potala's memories in Lhasa, though it is tiny in comparison. This gompa was built some 600 years ago and consisted of 12 levels ascending a hillside, culminating in the Lama's private apartments at the summit. The gompa contains ten temples; below the monastery, itself are chapels and "houses" of monks stretching down the hillside. There are about 100 monks of the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism living here. A 15 m tall Buddha was constructed in 1970 to commemorate a visit to Thikse by the Dalai Lama. This statue is the most significant Buddha figure in Ladakh and took four years to build. It is made of clay and covered with gold paint. Inside, the statue is filled with holy books; the translated word of Buddha, called the Kangyur and the translated commentary compiled by the religious teacher Bu-Stun (1290-1364 AD), called the Tangyur - a 225-volume commentary on the Kangyur.
The statue was made entirely by local craftsmen and represents Maitreya ("compassion" in Sanskrit) - the Buddha of the Future. It is believed that the world will be undergoing such chaos that the future Buddha will teach compassion to the people. Located directly above is a small narrow room used as a schoolroom for local boys. Here the lamas instruct the children, and some are later selected to become lamas. Traditionally, Ladakhi families donated one son to become a lama. The wheel of life unfolds the reality of life in incredible manor. There are many hand-written or painted books inside the gompa. Recent editions are done by block printing, as was previously done in Tibet. This procedure is still used for printing the holy books. Wooden painting plates are made for each page and pressed by hand. Older and more critical editions are not printed with black ink on white paper, as is usual, but with gold ink on black lacquered paper decorated with Buddha figures. Shey Palace & Gompa: The palace was built in 1645 by King Deldan Namgyal as a summer residence for the kings of Ladakh.
It is the oldest palace in Ladakh, and above the palace is an even older ruined fortress. From the palace, the view ranges from the south to the Thikse Gompa and west to the Zanskar range. Hundreds of chortens of all shapes and sizes stand below the palace and gompa. These chortens demonstrate the interest of Shey by the Ladakhi kings and queens who succeeded Shey's builder. In 1655, in memory of his father, this king built the two-story gompa adjacent to the palace. He installed a two-story-high image of the seated Buddha. After entering the central courtyard located on the second story of the gompa, the 12 m high image of the Buddha is found in the room. The Buddha is decorated with copper sheets gilded with gold. This is the biggest metal statue in the region and was the largest Buddha statue of any type in Ladakh until Thikse installed a 15 m tall Buddha made of clay in 1970. Shey's Buddha statue was created in 1655 by a Nepalese sculptor who was assisted by three Ladakhi craftsmen.
The castings of the statue were made in Leh while the statue's copper was collected in Zanskar and hammered into plates on big rocks. More than 5 kg of gold was then used to plate the copper. The statue was built in parts in the Zanstil Palace ("Zans" means copper and "til" means to hammer) in Leh and then transported to Shey, where it was assembled and installed. Sacrificial offerings such as grain or jewels, holy signs, and mantras are contained inside the figure. The most crucial moment in the construction of the Buddha figure is when the eyes are painted on, for this is when the statue can "see." Thus, the artist or monk will paint in Buddha's pupils over his shoulder, with his back to the idol, for none would dare to look the Buddha in the eye.
In front of Buddha's statue, to the right, is a statue of a blue horseman, Paldan Lamo, and to the left is a statue of the red horseman of Chakmen, representing the king of Ladakh. In front of the Buddha, is a large bowl of wax with a central flame. It burns for one year before being replaced. This flame represents divinity and purity and is present in front of all Buddha statues in the Ladakh region. Hemis Monastery: The Hemis Monastery is situated in the South of Leh, at a distance of 43 km on the south bank of the Indus river. It belongs to the "BKA BRGYUDPA "School of Tibetan Buddhism - one of the four primary schools. Hemis is a religious institute of one of the schools. The Hemis Gompa was founded 350 years ago and is one of the wealthiest monasteries in Ladakh. Hemis belongs to the Kagupa Brugpa sect of Buddhism, the sect dominant in Bhutan.
Day 13: Leh - Uletopko (68 Kms)/ Uley Ethnic Resort
The distance from Leh to Uletopko is just 68 km, and so we have the liberty to little relax and start at 0900 hours after breakfast. On the way, we visit Likir, Chulichen nunnery, and Rizong monasteries. The route gives us a lovely view of Zanskar and Indus River confluence. We reach Likir Gompa at about 1100 hours and can spend one hour here. Likir Gompa is situated on an isolated ridge a few kilometers north to Saspol, which is on our way. Likir was established around the 15th century and early in its history, became responsible for the oversight of Alchi Gompa, to which it has posted lamas up to the present day. Likir belongs to the yellow-hat sect and currently houses about 120 lamas. There is a school inside the gompa with 30-40 students who learn Buddhism. They spend most of their time in the monastery if they want to become lamas.
Once we climb to the monastery, it is a beautiful sight. Indeed, we reach into the central courtyard, and immediately on the right is the main Dukhang or assembly hall. On the right veranda wall is a Wheel of Life mandala held by Yama- the divinity that decides a person's future fate after death. Chulichen nunnery/gompa: This Gompa is a nunnery, and it is located about 2 km before Rezong gompa. The nuns here are friendly. They will show you their gompa and invite you for tea. All over the monastery, you may find apricots laid out under the sun to dry, while in other parts, they have stocked almonds which they pressed to obtain massage oil. Rizong Gompa is located on the Indus River's left bank, about 75 kilometers west of Leh. To get there, take the right turn after Uletopko. This gompa was built in the 19th century by Tsulrim Nyima, a monk from nearby Saspol. There's a chorten with his ashes somewhere in the monastery. About 50 Gelugpa monks live in the complex, and they are very friendly.
Day 14: Uletopko to Lamayaro (60 km) and back to Leh
The day will start at 0900 hours after breakfast. You don't need to pack up as we return to the same rooms in the evening. Only the day sac is required, including your camera and film rolls. The drive from our resort to Lamayuru is 55 km, and the same distance we drive back in the evening. We reach Lamayuru at 1130 hours and explore the land with a beautiful monastery and civilization. After exploring the area, we drive back to Leh, and on the way, we explore Alchi Monastery and Likir. Lamayuru Monastery: The Gompa is situated 15 km east of the Fotu La on the Srinagar- Leh highway in a medieval village at a rocky hillside. The monastery belongs to the red-hat sect of Buddhism, and in the past, it housed about 400 lamas. Presently, there are about 50 lamas in the main gompa and perform their duties in various other monasteries of the same line in nearby villages. There is an interesting legend about this monastery. At the time of Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha, Lamayaro was a clear lake area with nags - the holy serpents which lie in the neck of Lord Shiva.
It was foretold that the lake will disappear one day, and a monastery will come up in its place. In the 11th century, Naropa - renowned Indian Buddhist scholar reached here and started meditating near the lake in a cave, which still can be seen in the Dukhang. Naropa then found a split in the surrounding hillside, and the lake started getting empty through this opening. In the empty place, Naropa found a dead lion, and afterward, at the same site, he built the first temple -the SINGHE GHANG. (Lion mound). There is one another story saying that in the 10th century, King of Ladakh ordered the making of Lamayaro and asked Rinchen Zangpo for its supervision. In the 16th century, the king of that period, Jamyang Namgyal, was cured by a Lama from Tibet. Thus, he presented the Lamayaro Gompa as a gesture of gratitude to this Lama. He ordered not to collect any tax from this area. The surrounding area of the monastery was declared as a sanctuary where none could be arrested. That's the reasonLamayaro is also known as "Tharpa Ling- the place of freedom." In the wall on the right side of the Dukhang is a small cave known as Naropa's cave, where he is supposed to have meditated for several years. This cave contains a statue of Naropa as well as statues of Marpa (Naropa's student who became a translator of religious texts and famous poet) and Mila Re-pa (Marpa's student and a spiritual head of the red-hat sect of Buddhism, famous for his asceticism).
The place Alchi is one of the larger villages in Lower Ladakh and is located on the southern bank of the River Indus at an altitude of 3,250 m, and from Leh, it is at 70 km of distance. The village of four hamlets contains numerous historic monuments of different ages, and in various states of repair. The oldest and most famous of which is a monastic compound today under the jurisdiction of Likir monastery. The monastic compound of Alchi accommodates some of the fascinating Buddhist monuments in the Himalayas Alchi monastery. Of the legendary 108 monasteries made by King Yeshe and Rinchen Zangpo during the second diffusion of Buddhism, the best preserved is Alchi in Ladakh. The three-storied temple of Alchi is a classic Kashmiri structure made by Kashmiri artists who were invited. Alchi is an oasis of beauty and color amid the vast and barren landscape of Ladakh. Inside the temple, the worshipper stands close to the grand statues of the Bodhisattvas that is over 14 feet tall. The dhoti of the Avalokitesvara statue has gorgeous paintings.
We see here the only surviving visual representations of the culture and architecture of ancient Kashmir. These paintings are especially valuable, as the paintings of Kashmir of that period have been lost. The walls of Alchi are resplendent with figures made in the most luminous colors painted anywhere. It speaks for the development of the ancient techniques and materials that these colors still appear fresh, a thousand years after they were painted. One of the masterpieces of the Alchi paintings is the Green Tara. We are reminded of Ajanta in the manner of shading with a gradual lightening and deepening of color, which creates a sense of volume and roundedness of form. The painting also follows pan-Indian medieval norms of art, such as the protruding farther eye, which extends beyond the line of the face. This is a convention in Indian painting, particularly in the Jain paintings of Western India. We take our lunch at Alchi and drive back wholly mesmerized with the history and present of Alchi Monastery and reach Leh around 1600 hours. Plenty of time to explore the local market for necessary things.
Day 15: Drive to Nubra Valley (120 km)/ Camp
Early morning drive from Leh to Nubra-a beautiful valley lies in the north of Leh over the Khardung-La (18,380 ft), the highest motorable road in the world. The valley was a trade route from Leh and Khasgar via Saser and Karakoram passes. Apart from unparalleled trekking opportunities, the valley has several Buddhist monasteries, namely Sumur, Tiger, and 350 years old Diskit monastery famous for its murals. From Khardung-la drive to Khardung village through starkly beautiful countryside to the Traffic Check Post (TCP) at Khalsar, where permits have to be registered and checked. One has to turn to the left side from the Shayok River and drive for 24 km over a narrow, steep road to Diskit. We move to Hunder for an overnight stay at the Deluxe Camp.
Day 16: Drive back to Leh (120 km)
Morning visit to Samstanling Monastery and drive back to Leh. Evening at leisure on your own to walk along the Leh market streets and to buy some souvenirs for your family & friends. Overnight stay at the hotel.
Day 17: Leh to Delhi
Your transfer rep will take you in time to the airport, and on arrival at Delhi, you will meet your Delhi assistant for a drive to the hotel.
Day 18: Fly Home
Our office representative will assist you to the International airport for your flight home.