“If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here!”. These were the words of the besotted Mughal emperor Jehangir 400 years ago and they sound true even today. A fertile, verdant region enclosed by snow-capped mountains, Kashmir valley’s beauty has been praised for centuries. Ladakh’s mesmerizing beauty, amazing history, and fascinating heritage make it a popular and much-loved travel destination in India and one sure to take your breath away!
Ladakh has often been called Little Tibet because of its historical connection with Lhasa and its predominantly Tibetan Buddhist culture. Its awe-inspiring landscape has been modified and sculpted into its spectacular shape by wind and water over the millennia. The moon-like scenery is extraordinary: stark and barren but interspersed with isolated settlements of green oases full of swaying poplar trees, apricot orchards, and cultivated farmland.
Despite the rugged terrain and high altitude, the people of Ladakh exhibit a natural exhilaration and their customs and lifestyle are a continuum from the past; these friendly and gentle people. We hope you will join us on this photo tour that shall prove to be fascinating and memorable!
Day 1: (July 16)
Arrive Leh, you’ll be transferred to the hotel. Enjoy lunch at the hotel and relax as you acclimate to the high altitude. At 6:00 pm we’ll meet in the hotel lobby for our orientation meeting followed by a group dinner at the hotel. Overnight in Leh.
Day 2: (July 17)
This morning we’re up early for a 5:00 am departure for Thiksey Monastery. The monastery is famous for its architecture and its location. The 12-story monastery has 10 temples, an assembly hall, and is home to 120 monks and nunnery. We’ll see and photograph Morning Prayer, followed by breakfast. Next, we’ll drive a short distance to Hemis Monastery. Re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal, the Hemis Monastery now has more than 200 branches with more than 1000 monks. We’ll see one of the largest statues of Lord Buddha covered with gilded gold.
Later we drive to Gyab Thago Heritage traditional home. This beautifully preserved traditional house has been in the same family for six generations. Used until 2001, it remains almost fully furnished, with antique kitchen, barley-flour store, dung room, underfloor granary and a little museum room of artifacts. We’ll photograph the various articles and activities in the home as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Lunch will be at Cafe Cloud.
This afternoon we hope to have the opportunity to meet the director of “Shepherdess of the Glacier” (depending on his schedule) and view his award-winning, remarkable film about his sister, one of the last shepherdesses who still lives with her flock in the heights of the Gya-Miru valley in Ladakh. Overnight Leh.
Day 3: (July 18)
Today we visit Old Leh City and the fort and monastery, Namgyal Tsemo Temple. The Tsemo Fort or the Victory Fort lies on the Tsemo hill and is a significant landmark which is visible from everywhere in Leh. It is a living example of beauty in ruins. The red brick structure is the fantastic place for a person with a photographic eye as it provides the panoramic view of the whole city. Later we’ll explore the bazaar and have the opportunity to photograph local life, including bread makers and shopkeepers. We’ll take our lunch at German Bakery, then visit an artisan craft village to photograph weavers and other workers. Afterward, we’ll head back to hotel for rest and a photography lecture or image review session by Karl, followed by dinner. Overnight in Leh.
Day 4: (July 19)
Today we drive over one of the world’s highest roads, the Khardungla Pass. Built in 1976, the pass was opened to public motor vehicles in 1988. The pass is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder, in the area north of the pass. It is also an important gateway to the Nubra and Shyok Valley. It is at an altitude of 5,359 meters. We’ll stop briefly at the top for photos, then continue our drive to our hotel in Hundar, for check-in. After a brief rest, we make the short drive to photograph camels on dunes at sunset. Overnight in Hundar.
Day 5: (July 20)
This morning at 6:00 am we’re off to visit Diskit Monastery, the oldest and largest in the Nubra Valley, dating back to the 14th Century. We’ll experience Morning Prayer, then we’ll share tea with monks in the kitchen before heading back to our hotel for late breakfast and check out. This afternoon we drive to the remote, windswept Insa Monastery. From there make a short hike to a hidden lake stopping to eat our boxed lunches in the riverbed. Later, we’ll continue our journey to the charming and picturesque village of Sumur, which will be our home for the night. Overnight in Sumar.
Day 6: (July 21)
Once again we’re departing at 6:00 am for nearby Samtanling Monastery. Set amidst scenic mountains and greens, Samstanling showcases the traditional touch with shades of gold, red and white. The grounds of the monastery are dotted with trees blushed in red and yellow shades, colorful prayer flags, surrounded by grey and golden mountains and (usually) clear blue sky. We’ll spend time photographing the Morning Prayer ritual. Afterward, we’ll return to the hotel for breakfast and checkout before returning to Leh. Overnight in Leh.
Day 7: (July 22)
Today our schedule includes a photography session with a famous Tibetan stone carver. We’ll also photograph and witness circumambulation of Tibetan refugees at prayer wheels. Later, we’ll visit a market to photograph bread makers and other aspects of market life. Lunch will be at the home of our guide and include a weaving demonstration by our guide’s mother. The weaving demonstration is followed by a lecture on Pashmina wool. Known as ‘cashmere’ in the West because Europeans first encountered this fiber in Kashmir. The wool comes from four distinct breeds of the Cashmere goat. Shawls are handspun, and woven in Kashmir and Nepal, and made from fine cashmere fiber.
Later we drive back to the hotel where you’ll have the opportunity to do an image review with Karl. Overnight in Leh.
Day 8 : (July 23)
This morning we have a 5:00 am departure to visit a nomadic sheepherder village. We’ll photograph nomadic families staying in tents, tending sheep and doing their daily tasks. We’re far from Leh, so we’ll enjoy boxed breakfast or snacks and tea at a local shop. If we’re feeling energized, we will continue our photography of the nomads, then drive back to Leh. Overnight in Leh.
Day 9 : (July 24)
Today we’ll explore and photograph the mystic charm of the Basgo Palace and Basgo Monastery. Basgo Palace is listed among world’s 100 most endangered heritage sites by the US World Monument Fund. Made of mud and rocks, the surreal castle ruins perched on a steep hill give an impression of huge anthills emerging from the ground. The monastery is noted for its Buddha statues and old murals. Next, we’ll head to Alchi Village, located on the south bank of the Indus River, for more photography and exploration. Later, we visit Sgyera village homes to photograph women wearing the beautiful, colorful indigenous dresses and ornate turquoise headdresses. Our guide, Stopgais will provide a lecture on the Arian people while we drink tea at the round-house overlooking the river at Ule Resort. Tonight there is a chance for more image sharing or a short photo lecture by Karl, or one might opt for an optional hike down to the river. Overnight Ule Resort, Sham Valley.
Day 10 : (July 25)
After breakfast, we’ll depart to visit and Arian village (Khalsi or Khaltse village), where we visit a school and photograph local villagers tending to their crops and/or going about their daily life. We’ll have a camp style lunch at the village, before returning to overnight once again at Ule Resort.
Day 11 : (July 26)
After breakfast at our hotel, we’ll visit the historic Lamayuru monastery, one of the largest and oldest gompas in Ladakh. At the monastery, we’ll experience a special puja ceremony (prayer ritual) and then visit and photograph children at a local school. After lunch, we continue to Rizong monastery. Situated at the top of a rocky side valley on the north side of the Indus River, Rizong monastery was established in 1831. The monastery is also called “the paradise for meditation” and is noted for its extremely strict rules and standards. We’ll spend time exploring and photographing the monastery and also visit another school before heading back to Ule Resort. Overnight Ule Resort.
Day 12 : (July 27)
Today after a leisurely breakfast at Ule Resort, we drive to Leh, where we visit a Pashmina wool processing facility to photograph and learn how the Ladakhi people process their unique, sought-after wool. There will be time for those that want to do some shopping. Tonight we have a final portfolio review, and slide-sharing show followed by our farewell dinner. Overnight in Leh.
Day 13 : (July 28)
After breakfast, transfer to airport for flights to Delhi and onward. (GUESTS TO MAKE OWN ARRANGEMENTS FOR FLIGHT TO DELHI)