(12 nights 13 days)
This stunning journey begins in Manali and continues for nearly 500 km through the high Himalayas & over majestic passes to reach Leh. The suggested route ensures gradual acclimatization, so that you reach Leh in fine fettle to enjoy exploring the rest of Ladakh and seeing not only must-see places like the ethereal turquoise hued Pangong Tso & the surprisingly verdant valley of Nubra, but also lesser explored gems like Turtuk. The visual delights would be aptly complemented by some firsthand experiences of the local lifestyle & traditions like a Traditional Balti meal in Turtuk. This is combined with festivities going on in Ladakh during this time. Participating in Kalchakra is a once-in a lifetime experience. One gets to experience the festive spirit that envelops Leh during the Kalachakra & Hemis festival and see the flamboyant, vibrant and varied tribes from across the region, all dressed in their traditional best, as they perform at Hemis Monastery, participate in festival events and break into spontaneous dances whenever they want.
- Day 1: Jul 03 - Arrive Manali
Reach Manali by any of these modes:
- Board a morning flight from Delhi to reach Kulu Airport around 8AM. Drive 1 ½ hrs to reach Solang in about 2 hrs.
- On the previous evening board a HPTDC Volvo Coach from Delhi & reach Manali Bus Stand at about 0730 hrs. Drive about 20 minutes to reach Solang Valley around 0800 hrs. Rest of the day at leisure – check out Paragliding, Zorbing, Hiking…Shop/Sightseeing in Manali.
- On the previous night board Himachal Express travel overnight by 2/3 AC to reach Kiratpur Sahib at 0600 hrs. Drive 245 km / 7 hrs to reach Solang in the afternoon. Rest of the day at leisure in Solang or Shopping / Sightseeing in Manali.
- Board the morning Kalka Shatabdi to Chandigarh or take a morning flight from Mumbai. Reach Chandigarh around noon. Drive 330 km / 9 hrs to reach Solang at night.
- Leave at dawn from Delhi and drive 570 km / 13 hrs to reach
Everyone meets at dinner, for familiarization with each other and your escort. Stay overnight at a hotel.
- Day 2: Manali – Jispa (3150 M / 10300 ft) 160 km / 7 hrs Leave around 0630- 0700 hrs after an early breakfast to avoid traffic en route Rohtang. We drive across the pass into the starkly barren landscape of Lahaul and at Tandi we stop for lunch at a Dhaba in Tandi – also the confluence point of the Chandra & Bhaga Rivers to form Chenab. Reach Jispa by late afternoon. Avoid strenuous activity but go for a short acclimatization walk. Stay overnight in a campsite & lodge besides the Bhaga River
- Day 3: Jispa - day hike to Darcha trekking point / relaxation & short walks For gentler, copy book acclimatization it’s best that you spend this day (& night) too in Jispa and do some walking/hiking. This way you also avoid the daunting combination of inclement weather & rudimentary campsites that staying in Serchu entails. Those interested can do a beautiful guided hike across the river to the Darcha Trekking Point - about 4 hrs totally. Others may just relax in the campsite, enjoying the serene, peaceful ambience and strolling around a bit to enhance acclimatization.
- Day 4: Jispa – Leh 339 km / 11 - 12 hrs (3505 M/11500 ft.) Start at about 0530 hrs carrying packed breakfast. Drive over Baralacha La and then via Serchu, negotiate the hair- rising Gata Loops - 21 back–to-back switchbacks. Cross Naki La (4740 M) & Lachalung La (5060 M); drive through the vast, amazingly stark Moray Plains. Cross Tanglang La (5328 M) and finally reach Leh by evening. Overnight stay in rooms at a small, cozy & comfortable guesthouse.
- Day 5: Leh – Hemis Festival
Post early breakfast, drive to Hemis to witness the Hemis festival – commemorates the birth of Guru Padamasambhava. Drive back to the hotel in the evening
Hemis Festival – The highlight of the Hemis festival is the mystic mask dances (Chams) and sacred plays by lamas, performing around the central flagpole that illustrates good prevailing over evil. Dressed in colourful bright brocades with vibrantly decorated and richly adorned paper-mache masks, the dancers simulate combat between good spirits and evil demons to the cacophony of drums, cymbals and long horns.
- Day 6: Leh – Choglamsar (attend Kalachakra) - Leh
Post early breakfast, drive to Choglamsar, “Buddha Garden” to attend HHDL Teachings along with the monks of Namgyal Monastery and senior lamas. Drive back to Leh in the evening and spend sunset at Shanti Stupa for unforgettable views of Leh Valley & town
Optional: In the afternoon drive back and before Leh take a detour over the Indus to reach Stok Village. Enjoy a traditional Ladakhi meal in a village home later see Stok Palace & Museum. Enjoy the rest of the day in Leh seeing the Palace & Bazaar. Photo ops: the gompas & the monuments, the Stok & Rimo range of mountains from various vantage points, at Stok Village, in Leh Palace and at the Bazaar.
- Day 7: Leh – Choglamsar (attend the Kalachakra Ritual Dance) - Leh Post early breakfast, drive to Choglamsar, to attend the Kalachakra Ritual Dance performance by the monks of Namgyal Monastery. Drive back to Leh in the evening. Rest a while and leave for the bazaar to shop for Thangkas, Chunky antique Silver Jewelry with Turquoise embellishments, mementos, Apricots & apricot based beauty products. Bid your adieus as you enjoy a grand farewell dinner at Summer Harvest restaurant and reach you guesthouse in time to turn in for the night.
- Day 8: Leh – Nubra Valley at Turtuk (avg. alt. of Nubra Valley is 3048 M) 225 km / 8 hrs) Post breakfast, leave on a stunning drive over the mighty Khardung La (5602 M) into the verdant Nubra Valley. Reach the base of the valley at Khalsar. Here the road forks & the broad valley get divided into two distinct parts by the Shyok & Nubra Rivers. Of course, the road forks too; the RHS branch goes all the way to Siachen Glacier. Move on the other branch, via Deskit & Hunder, past the Thoise Airfield. The wide open Nubra Valley starts closing in dramatically with the rocky mountain face getting darker & darker, finally bursting out into the verdant & vibrant Turtuk area at the north western end of the valley. Check into safari tents at a verdant campsite amidst fields & orchards, sprinkled with clumps of wild & vibrantly colored blooms. Relax for a while, have evening cuppa, and go for a short stroll to enjoy the sunset.
- Day 9: In Turtuk – short walks / hikes & traditional Balti meal Post breakfast spend 2- 3 hrs walking in & around the villages, interacting with the warm & hospitable locals sporting European looks. The cherubic kids are especially adorable. Get back to the campsite & enjoy a traditional Balti meal – so tasteful, nutritious and salubrious a diet that even 80- 90 yr olds in the villages are active & full of life. Later go for a hike & explore the fantastic, totally pristine natural beauty all around.
- Day 10: Turtuk – Deskit 92 kms / 3 hrs Post leisurely breakfast, leave Turtuk for Deskit. On the drive back stop at the dunes of Hunder, here those interested can enjoy a ride on the Double Humped Camels. Reach Deskit by late afternoon. After freshening up, relaxing for a while & evening cuppa, go to a vantage point with a huge outdoor statue of the Sakhyamuni Buddha near Deskit Gompa to enjoy great sunset views. Stay overnight in a hotel at Deskit.
- Day 11: Deskit – Wari La - Pangong Tso (4260 M / 14000 ft) 230 km / 9 hrs) Leave post an early breakfast, on an uncommon drive over a very offbeat route that takes you over a little known pass – Wari La, into the Sakti Valley. A short while later, stop for a quick look into the cave gompa of Chemrey, and move on to meet the route from Leh, a short distance before the imposing Chang-La (5,475 M / 17950 ft). Go over the pass and carry on via Tangse and finally reach the grand Pangong Lake by evening, in time to catch the sunset views. Stay overnight in tents at a campsite bang on the lake shore.
- Day 12: Pangong Tso – Leh 150 km / 5 hrs Enjoy early morning cuppa & a spectacular sunrise by the lake shore. Post breakfast, drive back to Leh. Reach Leh by afternoon. Rest a while and leave for the bazaar to shop for Thangkas, Chunky antique Silver Jewelry with Turquoise embellishments, mementos, Apricots & apricot based beauty products… Spend sunset at Shanti Stupa for unforgettable views of Leh Valley & town. Bid your adieus as you enjoy a grand farewell dinner at Summer Harvest restaurant and reach you guesthouse in time to turn in for the night.
- Day 13: Depart Leh Morning transfer to the airport in time for your return flight to Delhi.