Impressions of Ladakh itinerary


Day 1: Arrive in New Delhi

Welcome to India!

Standard Check in time at the hotel is 1400 Hrs.

We do not have any set activities planned for today, but will be meeting for a welcome meeting around 6pm.

Delhi is a phenomenally interesting city, and if you haven't been here before, it might be worth arranging for an extra day or two to look around and acclimatise. Delhi is an exciting mix of colonial splendour, ancient monuments and teeming Old streets. You can see aromatic spice markets, ancient mosques, a fort and even a stone observatory from the Moghul period and tombs that were architectural fore-runners of the Taj Mahal. We can advise on different places that you can visit, or recommend one of Intrepid Travel's Urban Adventures to help you get more out of this city.

Accommodation: Jaypee Siddharth Hotel

Meals included: None


Day 2: New Delhi – Leh (flight)

Early in the morning we will be transferred to the airport to board a flight to Leh. The flight itself is an experience - passing over high mountains, and breath-taking landscapes.

Our flight is expected to be Go Air G8-221 DEL – IXL (0910 Hours – 1030 Hours). Snacks and soft beverages are available onboard on direct payment. Domestic Baggage Limit is 15 kgs Check-in baggage and 7 Kgs Hand Baggage. Rest assured if your bags are heavier than this that, even if rules are enforced, the costs for extra luggage are minimal.

Upon arrival in Leh, you will be met and transferred to the hotel. Officially the rest of the day is free to acclimatise to the high altitude, but we usually find something fun to do! It is worth avoiding too much alcohol and strenuous activity though!

Leh is a fascinating time, and it is easy to spend a few leisurely hours wandering through the atmospheric back-streets, visiting a couple of local monasteries and browsing for souvenirs.

Accommodation: Leh Plaza Hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 3: Leh

Today after breakfast, we will spend the day exploring the town of Leh. We will visit Leh Palace, a nine storey building depicting medieval Tibetan architecture. The Palace offers amazing view of Stok Kangri and the Ladakh region, the huge walls and the wooden balconies of the palace is quite similar to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, capital of Tibet. The former palace of the royal family of Leh, it was erected in the 17th century.

In the afternoon, we will visit the local market of Leh to see the local life and the handicrafts of this region.

In the evening we will visit Shanti Stupa – a beautiful white domed – stupa on a hilltop in Chanspa, built by a Japanese Buddhist which was a part of Peace Pagoda mission. This is a perfect place to photograph the ruined fort above the Leh Palace, as the shadow from the setting sun creeps across the valley and up the hillside. After sunset, we can photograph the illuminated Stupa which looks unique and beautiful during evening hours.

Included activities:

• Leh Palace

• Shanti Stupa

Accommodation: Leh Plaza Hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 4: Leh – Nubra Valley (surface)

After breakfast drive to Nubra Valley via Khardungla, once hailed as the highest Motorable road in the world, at approximately 5359 m (17,582 ft). (Leh to Khardungla is approximately 40 Kms, 1 Hour 20 minutes’ drive). We can take short breaks at roadside cafes and scenic points for photography. At the summit, we will stop for pictures, and possibly even to make a few snow angels - something completely unheard of in the rest of India - let alone in the height of the Summer months!

We will then continue to drive to the remote Nubra Valley (approximately 82 Kms from Khardungla, 3 Hours’ drive). Nubra valley originally called Ldumra which means valley of flowers is famous for its stark landscape, rough mountains and Bactrian Camels. The Shyok and Siachen river meets at Nubra valley and this is the place that separates Ladakh from the Karakoram and the massive Siachen glacier.

It will probably be mid–afternoon, by the time that we arrive, and we will check in at our camp and then explore the local area.

Accommodation: Highland Desert Camp or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 5: Nubra Valley

Today we will explore the landscapes and the mesmerising views of this iconic valley. Today you will explore Nubra valley by covering Tyakshi, Turtuk (170 kms, 5 – 6 Hour’s drive approximately).

After breakfast drive towards Turtuk which opened for Tourism in 2009. On the way we will see few memorials built in the memory of the soldiers who lost life in the Indo – Pakistan War of 1971. A small hamlet of 300 households on the southern bank of Shyok river, Turtuk is the place where you can witness Balti culture. Beyond this is the village of Tyakshi, and the border which separates Indian and Pakistan.

After exploring the Nubra valley during the day, return to your camp by evening.

Accommodation: Highland Desert Camp or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 6: Nubra Valley – Leh (surface)

Today you will drive back to Leh, enroute visiting the Diskit Monastery to see the 106 ft Maitreya Buddha statue. This is considered to be the largest and the oldest monastery in Nubra valley. The monastery was founded by Changzen Tserab Zangpo in the 14th century and is situated on a hill above the plains of Shayok river. The Maitreya Buddha statue was inaugurated by HH Dalai Lama, this spot also offers a magnificent panoramic view of Nubra Valley. After the visit continue drive to Leh by same Route crossing Khardungla.

Arrive by late afternoon and the rest of the evening is free to relax.

Included activities:

• Diskit Monastery

Accommodation: Leh Plaza Hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 7: Leh – Hemis (Surface)

This morning we will drive to Hemis in between stopping at Shey and Thiksey (approximately 100 kms, 4 – 5 Hours’ drive)

Shey Monastery was built in 1655 within the Shey palace complex. The palace was the former residence of the pre-Tibetan royal family. The palace houses a 12-meter-high copper statue of Lord Buddha which is plated with gold and is the largest of its kind and covers three stories in the building.

Thiksey Monastery is famous for its architecture and its location. The 12 storey monastery has 10 temples, assembly hall, and residence for 120 monks and nunnery. The monastery buildings are structured in hierarchal order. The monastery is referred as ‘Mini Potala’ of India as it resembles Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

Visit Hemis founded in the 1630s by Stag-tsang-ras-pa under the royal patronage of Sengge Namgyal, Hemis is the largest and richest of the Ladakh gompas. It nestles into the mountainside a little way up a winding glen in the mountains of the Zanskar range, about forty kilometres up the Indus from Leh.

Included activities

• Shey Palace

• Thiksey

• Hemis Monasteries

Accommodation: Shakti Villa Hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 8: Hemis – Ladakh Polo Festival – Leh (Surface)

Morning we will take you to be a part of week-long Polo festival. Polo Festival is a heritage game of Ladakhi region, the spirit of the game against the majestic and picturesque Himalayan mountains in the backdrop is unique. The festival also showcases the traditional culture, Ladakhi folk music, dance, archery and other celebrations. Ladakhi polo is unique - being played on barren ground and at a more aggressive pace. It will certainly be an exciting thing to witness and photograph. This game was introduced to Ladakh in 15th century CE through a princess from Baltistan, who also happened to be a mother of the Ladakhi ruler, Singge Namgyal.

The festival also hosts local cuisine like Thukpa (soup noodles), Mok (dim sum), chutai-sku (local pasta) and kholak (barley).

After spending some time, we will head back to Leh and spend the night in Leh.

Included activities

• Polo Festival

Accommodation: Leh Plaza Hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 9: Leh – Lamayuru (Surface)

After breakfast today we will explore the west side of Ladakh known as the Sham Valley / Lamayuru. Lamayuru is known as the Moon land for its magnificent landscapes and beautiful monastery. Enroute stop at Likir Monastery (approximately 60 Kms from Leh, 2 Hours’ drive approximately). Likir Monastery was built in the 11th century and was again rebuilt in the 18th century and houses a25 feet Lord gold covered Buddha Statue.

After the visit continue drive to Lamayuru which is (another 65 kms from Likir, 1.5 Hours’ drive approximately). Upon arrival visit the monastery. Lamayuru Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. Nearly 150 monks belong to the monastery and 30-40 still reside at the gompa belonging to the Red-Sect of Buddhism. The sacred aura of this beautiful location is a definite stop for travellers and learners who lures spirituality.

Included activities:

• Liker Monastery

• Lamayuru monastery

Accommodation: Hotel Moonland or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 10: Lamayuru – Kargil (Surface)

Today you will drive towards Kargil (100 Kms / approximately 5-6 Hours’ drive) enroute stopping at Mulbekh, where we will visit Mulbekh Monastery to see the 30 feet statue of Maitreya Buddha carved out of stone. This monastery is considered to be built 800 years ago, the altitude of the monastery is almost 11,495 feet. Here in Mulbekh, you will find two gompas (a Tibetan monastery or temple) one of Drukpa (new Buddhist school) and Gelugpa (old Buddhist school).

After the visit continue drive to Kargil, upon arrival by evening check – in at the hotel.

Kargil is the second largest town in Ladakh, and in 1999 it was invaded by Pakistani forces leading to the Kargil War. Eventually the Pakistani forces were forced to retreat to their side of the border. You can still see monuments to this war in the town.

Included activities

• Mulbekh Monastery

Accommodation: Hotel Zojila Residency

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 11: Kargil – Padum, Zanskar region (Surface)

Early morning drive to Padum in the Zanskar Valley. This will be a long yet slow day of driving (230 kms / approximately 10 – 12 Hours’ driving time), but the views and the stops will more than make up for this. Enroute we will stop at Karsekar village to see the giant rock carved Buddha (960 AD) and also magnificent views of Penzi la which is 14,436 feet above sea level. We will also cross Nun Kun Peak and Drang Drung Glacier.

Accommodation: Hotel Rigyal or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 12: Padum, Zanskar

Today and tomorrow we will be exploring places in Zanskar valley along with the most interesting part of this trip: the Stongdey Gustor festival.

Morning after breakfast, drive to Sani Gompa which stands apart from all other gompas in Ladakh as it stands not on a hill or mountain but on flat land. It is built in the shape of a fortress. Located next to Sani village, it is believed to be the oldest religious site in the entire Ladakh and Zanskar region. It belongs to the Drukpa Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and is the only order which has nuns.

We also visit Zangla Palace, an old castle which is almost in ruins, is inhabited by some monks. It is often referred to as a Zangla Monastery, majorly because of the fact that it houses a temple. The view from the castle is simply spectacular, and thus one must not miss to visit this place. Once you are here you must cover the Tsa Zar monastery.

Later drive to Stongdey Monastery to witness the famous festival of this region. An important Ladakhi festival celebrated in the Stongdey Monastery and is famous for its Cham Dance.

The Cham dance is a lively masked and costumed dance associated with some sects of Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist festivals. The dance is accompanied by music played by monks using traditional Tibetan musical instruments

This is a two day festival that takes place in the 11th month of Tibetan Calendar. Local people from nearby villages come to be a part of this festival. The monastery is decorated beautifully, while the locals beautify themselves in the most traditional attire, the lamas and monks from the monasteries add an extravagant charm to the festival by performing their sacred dances.

Later return to Padum for an overnight stay.

Included activities:

• Sani Gompa

• Zangla Palace

• Stongdey Gustor Festival

Accommodation: Hotel Rigyal or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 13: Zanskar

Today you will visit Dzongkhul Monastery or Zonkul Gompa is half an hour drive from Padum. This small monastery is located in the Stod village of Zanskar. This monastery is famous for its frescoes on the cave wall, a beautiful prayer room, a library, glass swastika, collection of paintings on cloth and several statues. This place used to be a meditation centre for Naropa (Indian Buddhist Mahasidha) and so is quiet, dark and claustrophobic

We will also visit Karsha one of the largest monasteries of Zanskar, located in Padum valley above the Stod river. It was founded in the 11th century and was constructed on the steep mountain above Karsha village. The monastery is famous for its wall paintings, huge collection of Thangkas (paintings on cotton and silk). The complex has eight temples, chapels, chortens, residential rooms for 150 monks and assembly halls. The 14th Dalai Lama’s younger brother looks after the monastery.

Return to Padum for an overnight stay

Included activities:

• Dzongkhul Monastery

• Karsha Monastery

Accommodation: Hotel Rigyal or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 14: Zanskar – Manali (Surface)

After spending last few days in the highlands of Ladakh, it’s time to move on. Today is a long drive, but then everywhere is a long drive to and from the Zanskar Valley! We will make a very early start to make our journey towards Manali, a beautiful hill station which falls in the state of Himachal Pradesh. This is a new road: in fact as this tour is launched the road has yet to be officially finished! Before this road, there were only two land routes in and out of Ladakh: the Srinagar to Leh and the Leh to Manali Highways. Each takes an arduous two days! Given that it would take us two days of solid driving to return to Leh or drivedown to Srinagar, this essentially counts as a short cut! It will certainly take us on a road that is seldom travelled and through some stunning scenery!

We will split the group in smaller vehicles for this day as the roads are narrow and smaller vehicles will be more convenient for the long drive. Stopping in between for small treats it will take approximately 10 – 11 Hours’ drive to reach Manali.

Upon arrival in Manali by evening, check-in at your hotel and relax for the night.

Accommodation: Mastiff Grand Manali by OTHPL Hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 15: Manali

Today we have a full day to explore the fascinating town of Manali. If it were not for the fact that we have just spent time in Ladakh, Manali would be a highlight of the entire trip. A remote and hidden location, it is surrounded by Alpine scenery and is covered with pine trees - something that will appear strange after the high Himalayan plateau. Nestled on the Beas river, the city offers magnificent views of the Solang and Parvati valleys. We will visit Hidimba Devi Temple where the Goddess Hidimba Devi is considered to be the local deity who protects the valley in times of dire needs and calamities. The temple sanctum sanctorum is a cave shrine that is believed to have footprints of the Goddess.

Rest of the day is free to walk around the local market, meet and interact with locals and see the lifestyle of these Himachali people with your local guide.

Included activities:

• Hidimba Devi Temple

• Walking Tour of the city

Accommodation: Mastiff Grand Manali by OTHPL Hotel or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 16: Manali – Amritsar (Surface)

Manali doesn't have an airport so the best way to get to a reliable connection is to drive to Delhi, or in our case, the slightly shorter route to Amritsar. This is in part to minimise a journey, and in part as it gives us the chance to take in the Punjab city of Amritsar: home to the Golden Temple complex - in my opinion the most stunning building in India! This is also a long day where you will be driving for almost 10-12 Hours to reach Amritsar (approximately 390 kms).

Arrive by evening and check – in at the hotel.

Accommodation: Holiday Inn Amritsar Ranjit Avenue or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 17: Amritsar

We start our day visiting the holy Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib), which sits in the middle of a sacred lake, where we can listen to the soothing sounds of the devout chanting verses from the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.

Later visit the nearby Jallianwala Bagh – the site of the tragic 1919 massacre that played a vital role in India's independence. We will hear the stories of the freedom fighter who once lived and sacrificed their life for the country.

In the afternoon we will head to the India–Pakistan border (Wagah Border) to witness the pomp and circumstance of the daily flag ceremony – a military practice that the security forces of India and Pakistan have followed since 1959.

Included activities:

• Golden Temple

• Jallianwala Bagh

• Wagah Border

Accommodation: Holiday Inn Amritsar Ranjit Avenue or similar

Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 18: Amritsar Departure

There are no activities planned for the final day and you can depart the accommodation at the designated time of check-out. Hotel check out 1200 hours.

Amritsar is well placed for flights o the rest of the country, and also enjoys many international connections, so you can fly straight home to many cities in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Meals included: Breakfast



We have arranged this tour to finish in Amritsar, to give people the chance to spend longer in this fascinating city, explore further the North of India or fly home directly. Once you have booked, myself or Intrepid Travel will be able to advise you about any onward arrangements.

Although we have set out an itinerary above, there are always a number of gaps and things that are organised on the ground. One of the things that we specialise on my trips is wringing the most photo-opportunities out of any trip. In essence, this is the basis of all of our trips: it is not just the things that are listed on the itinerary that are the things that people remember, we are always seeking out local markets, villages, temples and people working in fields to stop for, engage with and photograph. There are a number of times when we have built in time to be flexible.

On this trip there will be a number of early starts to photograph the sunrise. Often these will be extra to the actual itinerary, so you will have the opportunity to join us, or to have a lie in before breakfast and the official start of the days activities.

As you can see from this itinerary, there are a number of long drives. To get to Zanskar and then back to the rest of India, these simply are unavoidable. However, by varying the route, and by having complete days breaks mid-journey we hope to make this more bearable.

You should also bear in mind that the journeys are a massive part of the trip. As well as being the only way to visit certain places, they will pass through some fantastic scenery, and will allow us to have a number of stunning photo-stops. They are also an adventure in themselves: road travel in this part of India is seldom dull!