Ladakh and Kashmir- The Hemis Festival


Ladakh and Kashmir - The Hemis Festival

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrive Delhi

Arrive in Delhi, the capital of India, which is divided into two parts; the crumbling city of Old Delhi and the orderly well-planned New Delhi. Overnight at Florence Inn or similar

Day 2 – Delhi – Fly to Leh

Transfer to the airport for a flight to Leh in the remote region of Ladakh. On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Overnight at Hotel Kang-la-chen or similar (B)

Day 3 – Leh

This morning we visit the market on a short city tour. Along the main street the Buddhist women with their tall hats chatter freely as they sell vegetables. Narrow lanes veer up and wind their way through the old city. We pass old dwellings clustered together visit the 16th century Leh Khar Palace and its gompa, the Temple of the Guardian Deities perched on top of the hill. Though ruined and austere for ages, Leh Palace still makes an unforgettable backdrop to the mud city. We then visit Shey, the oldest of the monasteries and not in regular use. The monastery contains a two story high statue of the Buddha seated in meditation. We also visit the twelve storey 800-year-old Thikse Gompa. This is a good place to witness religious ceremonies. It's a magical moment when the monks say their prayers amidst mystical chanting, the ringing of bells, the clashing of cymbals, and the blowing of horns. Overnight at Hotel Kang-la-chen or similar (B) 

Day 4 – Hemis Festival

The Hemis monastery is the biggest and wealthiest monastery in Ladakh.  Colourful flags flutter in the breeze from the four pillars in the courtyard. This is the stage for the famous 'Hemis' festival that celebrates the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava. The colourful two-day pageant falls on the 10th day (Tse-Chu) of the Tibetan lunar month. The local people dress up in their finest traditional garb for the occasion. Lamas called 'chhams' perform splendid masked dances and sacred plays to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and long horns. The head lama presides over the function. Overnight at Hotel Kang-la-chen or similar (B) 

Day 5 – Cross the Khardong La to the Nubra Valley

After breakfast meet your guide and driver and begin your spectacular drive from Leh to the Nubra Valley, crossing the Khardong La (5,602m), possibly the world's highest motorable mountain pass. From the pass, one can see all the way south over the Indus valley to the seemingly endless peaks and ridges of the Zanskar range, and north to the giants of the Saser massif. After crossing the Khardong La Pass, you descend to the villages of Nubra, which were important stops for rations along the Silk Road to Central Asia. Here we can find the rare double-humped Bactrian camels once used for transport on the Silk Road. You will have an opportunity to ride on one of these camels amidst the sand dunes of this high altitude desert with snow-capped mountains on the horizon. You stay overnight in a pleasantly located hotel in Hundar. The hotel has a lovely garden where you can relax and enjoy evening tea. Overnight at Karma Inn or similar (BLD)

Day 6 – Hundar - Excursion to Turtuk

Today we take a full day excursion to Turtuk (approximately 3 hours’ drive from Hundar). Turtuk is about as close as you can get to Pakistan in India, physically and literally. This delightful village is crunched into the narrowing Shyok River valley in the furthest corner of India, right at the top of the map. Only when the Indo-Pakistan war ended in 1971, Turtuk (together with 5 other Balti villages) was then included within the Indian line of border control. It remained off limits until a couple of years ago and keeping it well off the beaten track. Turtuk is in every sense a treat – culturally intact, untainted by tourism and simply delightful. The Muslim Balti inhabitants are exceptionally friendly, and this area offers excellent opportunities for photography of unusual people in beautiful surroundings. Overnight at Karma Inn or similar (BLD)

Day 7- The Samstanling Gompa and the sacred Yarab Tso Lake

Hundar was the capital of the erstwhile Nubra kingdom in the 17th century, and is home to the ruined Chamba Gompa. In nearby Diskit we visit the 15th century Monastery. This is the most important monastery in the Nubra Valley, and the various rooms are full of thangkas, statues and effigies of the Buddha, and old mural paintings. From Hundar we cross the Shyok River and head further north to the Samstanling Gompa, in a peaceful location overlooking the green fields of Sumur village. Parts of the 19th-century monastery have been recently restored, and feature impressive images. Next is the sacred Yarab Tso, which is popularly known as the hidden lake. From the road we take a short 15 minute walk to the shore of the lake. The lake is very beautiful and a great place for a picnic lunch. We continue to Panamik. This was a major halt on the caravan trade route, and is now well known for its medicinal hot springs. Tonight we stay in a family-run hotel at the edge of Kyagar village. A late afternoon stroll through the village and the surrounding greenery is a fascinating and restful experience. As the Nubra Valley opened to foreign tourists only relatively recently, the friendly local Ladakhi people are always pleased to see visitors. Overnight at Rimo Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 8 – Kyagar – Leh - Alchi

Today we cross the Khardong La again to return to Leh and continue to Alchi where we stay the night in a traditional hotel close to Alchi Monastery. Overnight at Zimskhang Hotel or similar (BD)  

Day 9 – Travel to Lamayuru - Themisgaam

The road from Leh to Srinagar negotiates high passes and fragile mountainsides. There are dramatic scenic and cultural changes as you go from Buddhist, ascetic Ladakh, to Muslim, verdant Kashmir. Still in Ladakh, we travel as far west as Lamayuru, one of the most famous and spectacular gompas in Ladakh, perched on a steep cliff overlooking a strange and alien land formation called the 'moon landscape'. The first Lamayuru monastery was built at the end of the 10th century. In its heyday up to 400 monks lived in the monastery but today there are only 20 to 30 left. We visit the newly renovated prayer hall. We return east to Themisgaam, the richest valley of Ladakh. Apricots, apples and nuts are plentiful here, and we will visit a beautiful village with its gompa. You stay overnight at a hotel run by a Ladakhi family. The hotel is sprawled over a vast area of apricot and apple groves rendering a relaxed and rejuvenating atmosphere. Overnight at Namra Hotel or similar (BD)

Day 10 – Return to Leh

This morning we explore Themisham. We have a steep climb uphill to a local nunnery overlooking the fertile valley. Continuing uphill you reach the two monasteries of Themisgam, one belonging to the yellow cap order and the other to the red cap order of Tibetan Buddhism. One of the monasteries was the palace of the kings of Ladakh before they moved to Leh. This afternoon we drive back to Leh. Overnight Hotel Kang-la-Chen or similar (B)

Day 11 – Fly to Srinagar

This morning we transfer to the airport for your short flight to Srinagar. On arrival in Srinagar we transfer to houseboats at Nagin Lake where will stay for 3 nights on a full board basis. The Kashmir Houseboats generally have three bedrooms and a common dining and living area and a veranda bordering the lake. Overnight in a houseboat on Nagin Lake (BLD) 

Day 12 – Moghul Gardens

This morning you visit the gardens for which Srinagar is famous for. The Mughal emperors created terraced hillside gardens designed around fountains and water courses, which were formed by natural springs or streams. There are three gardens within easy reach of Srinagar, on the eastern side of the Dal Lake - Chashmashahi, Nishat and Shalimar Gardens. There is also the Pari Mahal from where there are fabulous views of Dal Lake and the snowy ridge of the Pir Panjal Range. This afternoon there is the option to enjoy a relaxing ride by shikara (a roofed little boat, with plush pillows to lie on) for a tour of the lake. You'll see floating gardens, fishermen, floating markets, more off beautiful houseboats and the amazing reflections of the mountains and clouds on the clear, quiet lake. Overnight on the houseboat (BLD)

Day 13 – Srinagar

Spend the day relaxing on the front deck of the boat and soaking up the Kashmiri atmosphere. There's nothing quite like Srinagar in the evening: the air fills with prayers from the numerous mosques around the city and the different coloured lights of the houseboats give the lake an evocative feel. Overnight on the houseboat (BLD)

Day 14 - Return to Delhi

Transfer to Srinagar airport to connect with your onward flight to Delhi. On arrival at Delhi airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight at Florence Inn or similar (B)

Day 15 - Departure

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight (B)


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