DRIVE LEH – LIKIR – AICHI
LEH – HOME STAY
DELHI – DEPARTURE
FLY LEH – DELHI
FLY DELHI – LEH
WELCOME IN NEW DELHI
SHANKAR GOMPA AND A TIBETAN VILLAGE
HEMIS, STOK OR THIKSEY MONASTERY
DAK THOK AND CHEMRE
DRIVE TO AICHI VIA LIKIR
RETURN TO LEH (HOME STAY)
SPEND TIME WITH THE HOST FAMILY. AFTERNOON DRIVE TO A HOTEL
FLIGHT TO NEW DELHI
IN NEW DELHI - CULTURAL VISIT
DEPARTURE FROM NEW DELHI
TASTE OF LADAKH
If you have limited time, want to enjoy the Himalayas and one of its most intact Buddhist cultures, this short summer excursion to Ladakh is for you. After a day in Delhi, you fly across the sky-touching mountains into Leh, the capital of Ladakh, or “Little Tibet”. Here you spend a week visiting the different monasteries and participating in one of the many summer festivals. Along the way, you can visit with the shaman, stay in a local home and explore the fascinating blend of the Buddhist and Muslim cultures. Note that there may be slight deviations from the itinerary, depending on festival schedule.
ITINERARY IN DETAIL
Day 1 Arrive Delhi
Arriving in Delhi, you will clear customs and immigration. Leaving the airport, you will be met by your guide and transferred to the Hotel.
Day 2 Fly Leh. Afternoon walk around town
Rising early, you will fly from Delhi to Leh, over the entire Himalayan range - a champagne flight with snow-capped peaks like foam on the top of a narrow glass. Suddenly, the green hills of India and the white peaks are behind as we come down over the barren desert land of Ladakh into the airport near Leh. Since the altitude in Leh is a modest 11,500', you can expect to find yourself moving somewhat slowly. Looking around, you will see a city caught in a time warp – a melange of medieval and modern, with a somewhat schizophrenic history. Back in the 3rd century BC, many years before the great saint, Padmasambhava, had converted Tibet to Buddhism, Leh was already an important Buddhist center. Later, in the 15th and 16th centuries, as trade mushroomed between the West and the Far East, Leh became a major commercial hub on the fabulous Central Asian Silk Route. Today, driven by the practicalities of politics and economics, Leh has become both a strategic military base for the Indians on the Chinese border, as well as a major tourist foreign exchange earner.
Since Leh is so high, it is important to not over exert yourself and to take things easy. Therefore, your time this first day in Leh is free. Should you wish, you can walk around town. Here you can walk around the a bit, exploring the bazaar and ambling up and down some of the narrow twisting streets.
You will spend the night at a nice hotel.
Day 3 Shankar Gompa, Spitok, Tibetan Village, Oracle
Moving slowly, you will pay a visit to first to Shankar Gompa, a rather modern monastery that serves most of the Leh Valley and is unique in that it is built on the valley bottom. Monks attend the monastery from Spitok, your next stop.
Spitok is perched high up on an outcropping overlooking Leh airport and is a Gelugpa or Yellow Hat monastery with about 125 monks. The Gelugpas are the sect to which the Dalai Lama belongs. The head lama not only is the head of Shankar Gompa in Leh, but also represents Ladakh in the Indian Parliament. Heading back into town, you can stop at Choklamsar, a village that has become a haven for Tibetan refugees, and now boasts the lovely, two-story, golden-roofed summer palace of the Dalai Lama. Here, at the Tibetan Refugee Center you can visit the school, clinic, and gift shop.
In the afternoon, assuming she is available, you can pay a visit to the local oracle. If you have any ailments or problems, she can conduct a healing. Should you have questions to ask, she can also help.
DAY 04 Hemis, and Stok or Thikse
Stagtshang Richen, who was invited to Ladakh by King Singe Namgyal, founded the 350-year-old Hemis Gompa. Ladakh’s wealthiest monastery, Hemis, belongs to the Kagyupa Brugpa sect of Buddhism, the sect dominant in Bhutan. The Rimpoche, or spiritual overlord of the monastery, is considered to be a reincarnation of the monastery’s founder, and is heir to the 5-year-old Tibetan child, who was undergoing training in Tibet when the Chinese invaded, and has since not been heard from. The present Rimpoche is in his 30s, and studied in Darjeeling.
If you are there for the festival in June, the day will be adjusted to allow you to spend as much time as you would like.
In the afternoon, you can take a drive into the countryside to visit Shey and Thikse. Shey is the former palace of the kings of Ladakh, built about 550 years ago by Lhachen Palgyigon, the first king of Ladakh. The foundation of the monastery dates back to the earliest history of Ladakh, and there is an inscription on the rocks below the palace dating from the time Buddhism first arrived in the Himalayas. The monastery contains the largest golden Buddha statue in the district, standing 12 meters high with blue hair. King Dalden Namgyal had the statue constructed in the 17th century. In July, the monastery has a one-day prayer festival for the welfare of all sentient beings in the world. When the royal family was exiled to Stok in 1834, many of the buildings fell into disrepair. Today, however, much is being restored. Depending on timing and how long you wish to stay, you may catch the monks during their prayers.
Thikse is a 500-year old monastery perched on a hill overlooking the Indus, and belonging to the Gelugpa sect (that of the Dalai Lama). Thikse, along with a spectacular view and the largest contingent of monks in Ladakh, also has the most beautiful library and an active block printing operation. Additionally, the Thikse Oracle, a villager with supernatural powers, who is a miraculous healer and predictor of the future, is considered to be the most powerful oracle in Ladakh.
Returning to Leh, you will overnight at the hotel.
DAY 05 Dak Thok and Chemre
Chemre Gompa is located about 40 km south of Leh in the Chemre Valley. It was founded about 350 years ago by Stagtshang Raspa, a Tibetan lama who also founded Hemis gompa. To this day, Hemis and Chemre have the same head lama. About 120 lamas of the red-hat sect of Buddhism live at Chemre. The gompa, situated atop a rocky outcropping in the valley, resembles a medieval European castle when seen from the rear. Chemre has a Dukhang, and two temples above it.
Dak Tok is situated about 6 miles farther up from Chemre in the Chemre Valley. The Rimpoche or head lama of Takthok is from Tibet and is highly respected by Ladakhis. The gompa houses about 55 lamas of the Nyingma-pa sect of Buddhism, also known as the "Old Order" or the “Red Hats”. Members of this sect are followers of Padmasambhava's teachings and Takthok is the only gompa in Ladakh that follows this order. The name Dak Tok in Ladakhi means "Rock Roof" and refers to the cave chapel found in this unusual gompa.
At night, you will once again sleep at the hotel.
Day 6 Drive Likir and then on to Alchi
Leaving Leh, you will drive first to Likir, then on to Alchi. At night you will camp just beyond Alchi.
Likir was built during the reign of Lachen Gyalpo more than 500 years ago and housed more than 600 monks. One of the most important Gelugpa monasteries in Ladakh, Likir used to house a set of images and thankas that surpassed those at Alchi. In fact, the monks of Likir were the caretakers of Alchi. The head Lama today is the younger brother of the HH the Dalai Lama, although he is not in residence. Many of the old treasures and much of the old structure was destroyed in a fire, and the present buildings date mainly from the 18th century. A small, but interesting, museum is opened on request.
Leaving Likir, you will continue on to Alchi, one of the most famous of Ladakh’s monasteries. Alchi Choskor, to use the full name, is the oldest and largest monastery in Ladakh. Unlike most Ladakhi temples, our friend Rinchen Zangpo built Alchi on the lowlands, rather than high on a hill. Three 3-story high statues of the Bodhisatvas dominate the monastery, but the Kashmiri-Hindu influence in the wooden carvings on the doors, ceiling designs and murals is apparent. There is a legend about Alchi that Rinchen Zangpo left his walking stick embedded in the ground with a promise that if the stick took root, he would return and build a gompa on the site. The stick did take root, and the gompa was built. Just before the four chortens in the courtyard on the right hand side, there is a large remnant of the tree, believed to have grown from the walking stick of Rinchen Zangpo.
Tonight you will stay in a tented camp with cots.
DAY 07 Drive Lamayuru for Festival in June or for day in September
Before you return to Leh, your path will take you on a hair-raising drive to another of Ladakh’s most famous temples, that of Lamayuru.
Note that if you are there for the festival, timing will be adjusted to allow you to spend as much time as you would like.
Driving across the barren hills, one is struck by the vivid colors that awaken the landscape. Subtle blues, pinks and mauves flow into each other, endowing the countryside with an almost fluid quality. Lamayuru is just below the road below the pass to Kalsi. Legend has it that the monastery was built where once serpents or nagas swam in a crystal clear lake and where the sage Naropa meditated in the 10th century. The central building dates back to the 10th century also constructed by Rinchen Zangpo at the bequest of the King of Ladakh. Yet Lamayuru has a pre-Buddhist, Bon Po history, and is one of the oldest religious sites in Ladakh. Its real name is Yungdrung, signifying swastika. Once the home of more than 400 monks, today the monastery barely supports 20 to 30 monks of the Gelugpa sect. Known as Tharpa Ling or "Place of Freedom," the monastery is a sanctuary even for criminals and is guarded by an 11-headed, 1000-eyed image of Chenrezi, the Buddha of Compassion.
In early July, the trip is timed to coincide with the Lamayuru Festival.
You will overnight near Lamayuru at the very simple Moonland Guest House during the festival. In September, you will return to the hotel.
Day 8 Return near Leh, and overnight with a family
Heading back towards Leh, you will stop at a local home. Here you can spend the night and get a sense of how the people live, farm, and spend their lives.
Overnight in a private home.
Day 9 Visit with family. Return to Ladakh. Afternoon free for shopping
This morning, you visit with your “family”, and wander around the farms in the area. When you are ready, you will return to Leh and the Hotel Gawaling. You can spend the afternoon shopping or catching up on any sights you may have missed. Tonight you will have a farewell dinner.
Day 10 Fly to Delhi
After breakfast, you will head back to the airport and catch the flight back to Delhi. Here you will be met and transferred back to the Park. The afternoon is free to wander Delhi and a car is available.
Day 11 Delhi – Departure
Today, when you are ready, you can begin to explore Delhi, the third largest city in India, located on the west bank of the Yamuna River. There is perhaps no place in India that can compare with Delhi in the number of its monuments, dating from the time of the Imperial Gupta Dynasty 1600 years ago, through the Pathan style Indo-Muslim architecture from 1193 – 1526; and into the Mughal architecture, represented most dramatically by the Red Fort (Lal Qal’ah). Later architecture illustrates first the British period and then the search for a synthesis between the Indian and the western styles. Along the Yamuna River are memorials, set in striking flowering gardens, to India’s 20th century leaders – Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Jawaharlal Nehru.
In the afternoon, you can take a tour of Delhi, beginning with a rickshaw ride down Chandni Chowk, the old market street of Delhi. As you drive, you should think of the street as a supermarket with different departments such as hair ornaments, pots and pans, blankets, and the like. You might want to visit the Jain Temple near Chandni Chowk, walking around barefoot with the pilgrims and the Jami Masjid, or great mosque of Old Delhi. After seeing the mosque, you drive to a very important site – Gandhi’s Home, and where he was assassinated. Simple in design, the site is visited by constant streams of Indians.
Late in the afternoon, you will have a farewell dinner and transfer to the airport for your flight home.