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Ladakh forms one of the most elevated areas of the world – the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas towering over the patchwork of green village fields fed by glacial snow melt. Ladakh is also one of the last places where Tibetan Buddhism continues to be practiced as a living religion, as it has been for a thousand years. This tour provides a wonderful introduction to the region. We visit a number of Buddhist monasteries, traditional homes, and villages as we trek into the remote and beautiful Markha valley.

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 01: Delhi
You are met at the airport in Delhi and transferred to your hotel. The day includes a sightseeing tour of Sir Edward Lutyens' New Delhi, the garden city built in 1911 by the British. We also visit the Birla Mandir (Lakshminarayan Temple), the President's House, Humayun's Tomb (the forerunner of the Taj Mahal), and India Gate.

Day 02-05: Leh
Today we travel by air over the gorgeous snow-covered Himalayan peaks to Leh (3521m) -- the capital of Ladakh. Leh is a bustling little town that is dominated by the ruins of the ancient castle perched above the main bazaar. People are friendly and are quick to say "Julley!" (hello). From the women selling vegetables in the main bazaar to the laneways studded with stupas and the green agricultural fields above the town – Leh is a lovely place for walking and exploring. After taking a day to acclimatize to the altitude we do just that! Some of the Buddhist Gompas (monasteries) we visit include Sankar, Spituk and Phyang. The Gompas are all different and all fascinating. You will see the lamas (monks) both young and old as they go about their daily rituals and prayers. We also visit a traditional Ladakhi home where you will get a chance to sample the local barley beer called "chang", the staple food "tsampa" a roasted barley flour, and the famous butter tea made with butter and salt! You will also get a chance to see the traditional local architecture, dress, and jewelry up close. In order to get fit for our trek we hike up to the Ladakh Palace and also climb the many stairs up to Shanti Stupa – the "peace" stupa overlooking Leh. In Leh we stay in a simple but charming local hotel.

Day 06–16: Markha Valley Trek
Our trek begins at the Spituk bridge where we meet our pack ponies and load up for the tour. The beginning stage of the trek is dry and flat as we make our way to the Zingchen River where we camp for the first night. Throughout the tour you will be woken up in the morning with tea or coffee delivered to you in your tent. You get three hot meals a day – specially prepared by our cooks that we believe are the best in the business! From Zingchen we continue upwards to the village of Rumbak and the base camp at Yurutse until we reach the first pass -- Gandala at 4850 meters. From Gandala, weather permitting, we have a fantastic view over the Himalayan peaks. After crossing the pass we descend into the Markha valley proper, through a stunning rocky ravine filled with wild rosebushes and trickling mountain streams. We pass a few villagers as they go about their daily life, often spinning a small prayer wheel or chanting Buddhist mantras. The next few days we follow the Markha River, camping along her banks and visiting the small villages scattered through the valley. We begin to ascend again towards our second major pass – Kangmurla (5150m). We spend a rest day in the shepherd camp just before the pass. Here those who are interested can trek up to the base camp of Kangyazi peak (5300 m) or to the beginnings of the glacier. Others are free to rest at the camp and observe the lifestyle of the nomadic shepherds with their hundreds of goats and sheep. Once we reach Kangmurla and enjoy the spectacular views it is all downhill from there! We make our way down the rocky terrain stopping to camp on the way. The last day of trekking brings us to Hemis.

Day 17-18: Leh
In the morning we break our camp and visit the Hemis Gompa. We are picked up at the camp by jeeps for the journey back to Leh, visiting Thiksey gompa enroute. In Leh, we return to our hotel. We have the following day in Leh for individual activities. Depending on individual interests, people can visit the fantastic monastery in Alchi, the Tibetan refugee camp in Choglamsar, or simply explore the bazaar for interesting trinkets and gifts.

Day 19-20: Agra
We return to Delhi by early morning flight. We are met at the airport by our deluxe coach and continue by road to the Mughal splendor of Agra. Agra is, of course, home to the unforgettable Taj Mahal as well as the majestic Red Fort. The Taj Mahal is one of the wonders of the world. It was built in 1652 by Emperor Shah Jahan. It took 22 years and 20,000 skilled artisans to complete. The Agra Fort lies across the river Jamuna. It was here that Aurangzeb, the third son of Shah Jahan, kept his father under house arrest. One can get a fantastic view of the Taj from the little octagonal tower in the Fort.

Day 21: Delhi
Today we drive back to Delhi visiting Govardhan en-route. This site, near where Krishna is said to have been born, is significant as according to legend Krishna lifted the Govardhan hill on the tip of his finger to shelter the inhabitants of Braj from a deluge. The entire hill is circumambulated by thousands of pilgrims every year. The tanks where devote Hindus come to bathe are said to have been manifested for Krishna's cleansing after he killed the demon bull Arishta. It's a fascinating place to visit. Back in Delhi we visit the Old City, where we take a bicycle rickshaw ride through the narrow laneways to the Jama Masjid – the largest mosque in India.

Day 22: Delhi
Our tour finishes with breakfast and transfer to the airport for your international departure.

 

 

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