Take the road less traveled and explore the rugged scenery and snow-clad mountain peaks of India’s “Little Tibet.” Nestled between the Great Himalayas and the Kunlun mountain ranges, Ladakh is the epitome of Tibetan culture; this “Land of High Passes” is one of the most exotic and unspoilt regions in Asia. Amritsar’s charismatic past is reflected in monumental palaces of devout Sikh centers. Align with the stream of devout pilgrims and watch them take a ritualistic bath at the Golden Temple. Dharamshala, surrounded by a dense coniferous forest of stately Deodar trees is the center of the Tibetan exile world in India – a highly spiritual place. At an altitude of 11,500 feet, Leh was for centuries one of the most influential hill stations for trade routes along the Indus Valley. Step into the footsteps of English explorer William Moorcroft of the East India Company who reached here in 1820 and embark on an epic journey—you’ll be nothing less than spellbound!
Very Active. May involve strenuous hikes, severe stair climbing, arduous activities, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
India is best visited during winter – October through March. During this time, there’s hardly ever any rain, and the days are warm – not hot – while the evenings are cool. During summer, it can be very hot, which is also the time of the monsoons, with a substantial amount of rainfall. It can be foggy in Delhi during the winter months. For our South India program, for best viewing of wildlife at Nagarahole, April/May is recommended, when the elephants congregate at the banks of the lake and can be seen in massive herds. It is warm, but the wildlife viewing warrants it. For our Wild India program, the parks close between June and mid-October when temperatures can soar to 120 degrees. For our Little Tibet program, this part of India is best visited June through September. Because of the high elevation and winding mountain roads, driving the rest of the year could be treacherous and it will be quite cold. June through September, the average temperature ranges from the low 60’s at night, to the high 80’s during the day. Delhi at this time of year will be quite hot and possibly rainy – temperature could be around 100 degrees.
Board your flight to Delhi, India’s capital and political hub, arriving the next day, where you transfer to your luxury hotel in the heart of Delhi. Next day, embark on a tour of New Delhi – view the Qutab Minar, Emperor Humayun’s tomb, India gate, and the Presidential Palace. In Old Delhi, a labyrinth of crowded streets greets you on your way to Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque; see the Red Fort and Raj Ghat, a memorial for Mahatma Gandhi. Tonight, enjoy a welcome dinner. THE LALIT NEW DELHI. (Meals Aloft; B,D)
Fly to Amritsar, Punjab, also known as the “City of Nectar and Gold,” the spiritual and cultural nerve center of the Sikh community in India. This afternoon, visit the Wagah border which crosses into Pakistan to see the elaborate “Change of Guard” ceremony, an extravaganza which takes place before sunset each day. Tonight, witness a custom of highly contrasting nature, the spectacular Arti Ceremony at the Golden Temple. RADISSON BLU HOTEL AMRITSAR. (B,D)
Start the day with a visit to the Golden Temple of Amritsar, which was last night’s spectacular golden-lit backdrop of the Arti Ceremony. Most Sikh people visit Amritsar and the Golden Temple at least once in their lifetime, particularly on special occasions, birthdays, marriages, and childbirth. Afterwards, embark on an adventurous drive to the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dharamshala, where also the Central Tibetan Administration and the exiled Tibetan government are located. This remote hill station is nestled in a scenic backdrop of the snow-clad Dhauladhar mountain range, surrounded by pine, oak and deodar forests. CHONOR HOUSE. (B,L,D)
Spend two days experiencing the Tibetan culture. Visits will include the masterfully designed Norbulingka Institute, named after the traditional summer residence of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, devoted to the preservation of Tibetan culture in its literary and artistic forms. Also visit the Kangra Art Museum, a treasure trove of significant Buddhist and Tibetan relics, dating back to the 5th century. You will notice countless prayer flags and “mani stones” along your tour route, leading the way to the sacred residence, monastery, and temple of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. In the evening, enjoy a stroll through the Mcleodganj market, known for Tibetan handicrafts, intricate stone-studded jewelry, prayer wheels, carpets, garments, Buddha statues, and other objects of meditation of Tibetan life. Next day, choose between two programs: either a “pilgrimage” to Naddi Village, as often done by Buddhist monks clad in their burgundy robes, or a day hike to the mountain station of Triund, also known as “Heaven on Earth for Nature Lovers and Trekkers.” CHONOR HOUSE. (B,L,D Daily)
Your full-day drive takes you to the city of Chandigarh and the airport for your short evening flight to Delhi. CROWN PLAZA GURGAON. (B)
Early morning flight to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, where the entire day is at your leisure to acclimate. Located at the lofty altitude of 11,562 feet, the town is still dominated by the now ruined Leh Palace, former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, built in the 1600’s. The old town of Leh was added to the World Monuments Fund’s List of the 100 most endangered sites, since increased rainfall in the last decades, combined with a cold desert climate, and changing settlement patterns within the old town influenced the preservation of this unique site. Next day, visit the Tibetan Buddhist Hemis Monastery, the largest and wealthiest monastery in Ladakh, tracing back its roots to the 10th and 11th centuries. Stop at the Thiksey Monastery, located on a hill with breathtaking views of the Indus valley. Pass by a series of chortens (stupas) to visit Shey Monastery and Palace, the former summer residence of the King of Ladakh. THE GRAND DRAGON. (B,L,D Daily)
First stop today is Basgo Monastery, situated on a hilltop, recorded on the list of endangered sites of the World Monument Fund. Built in the 16th century, the dark-colored temple complex has three temples in celebration of the fifth Buddha, Great Maitreya whose 46-foot gilded earthen statue is surrounded by ceremonial murals depicting scenes from his spiritual life. Situated on a hill in the valley near the Indus River is Likir monastery, where a massive 75 foot gold statue of the future Maitreya Buddha glows in the sun. Erected in 1065 under the direction of the fifth king of Ladakh, it is home to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Continue driving to Alchi monastery, known for its Buddha statues, elaborate wood carvings, and mystic 11th and 12th century Indo-Himalayan wall paintings. In the afternoon visit the only nunnery in Ladakh, Rizong. ULEYTOKPO CAMP. (B,L,D)
Drive along the bank of the Indus to the isolated valley of Dhahanu. Dha and Hanu are two villages situated in this valley, the only two villages tourists are allowed to visit. The inhabitants are believed to be the last race of the Aryan people, consisting of Dard, and Brokpa, a smaller subgroup. Nestled deep in a long and narrow fold of the mountains, reach in Sham the picturesque village of Tingmosgham in the afternoon. On both sides of the village, barely a few hundred feet across, almost all vertical walls are of dark, solid rock. Yet in the valley are orchards of apricot and apple trees, and fields of barley and wheat watered by fastflowing streams rushing down from the mountains. HOTEL NAMRA. (B,L,D)
Start the day at Lamayuru Monastery, perched on a spur high above the valley bottom, founded in the 11th century, one of the oldest and most picturesque in central Ladakh. It is believed to have been the holy place of the Bonchos, the advent of Buddhism. Return to Leh where the next day is at leisure to enjoy this stunning part of “Little Tibet” on your own. THE GRAND DRAGON. (B,L,D Daily)
Your flight this morning returns you to Delhi and your dayroom at CROWN PLAZA GURGAON. Later tonight, transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home. (B, Meals Aloft)
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