Ladakh and Kashmir

Kashmir and Ladakh lie within northwest India. This is a remote region and has been largely out of bounds for some time. Our tour takes us from the heaving capital Delhi to the Ladakhi town of Leh, which has a strong Buddhist heritage with cultural influences from neighbouring Tibet. We then explore Shey, Tikse and Hemis with their splendid icons and Buddhist monks.

Next we head into the desert region of the Nubra Valley. This area has only recently opened for tourism. It is a stronghold of Ladakhi customs, with prayer stones and stupas lining the roads. At Diskit we watch the monks at their morning prayers and then visit the traditional village of Hundar.

Driving through incredible scenery we take roads flanked by glaciers and the peaks of the Himalaya. We head to the beautiful region of Sonamarg, an important pilgrimage site for Hindus. From here we head down to Srinagar in the Vale of Kashmir, an area of legendary beauty.  We stay on its iconic houseboats – an intrinsically Kashmiri experience – and visit the flower meadows of Gulmarg.

Kashmir has been off limits for too long but now is the time to discover its treasures – it won’t be long before everyone else does.

Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours

Highlights

  • Stunning Buddhist monasteries
  • Explore the lively bazaar in Leh
  • Join the monks for morning prayers
  • The beautiful Nubra Valley
  • Stay in a houseboat on Dal Lake
  • Incredible Himalayan scenery

Day 1 - Delhi

Arrive in Delhi and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax or explore the city. Overnight Radisson Blu Hotel or similar.

Delhi

Delhi needs little introduction. As India’s capital it is a microcosm of the country itself, with vast wealth and grinding poverty existing side by side, and stunning architecture not so far from shanty towns without any infrastructure. Its streets redefine the very notion of chaos, with tuk tuks, ox-carts and cows mingling with shiny 4WDs belonging to India’s growing middle class.

Delhi’s origins are obscured somewhat by the sands of time, but it is thought that it dates back to around 1000 BC as the capital of the Pandava kingdom. Throughout its existence, it has seen numerous conquerors come and go, from the Turkic groups of Central Asia to the Mongol leader Tamerlane, but its history is perhaps today most associated with the Moghuls, who left it with a stunning array of monuments including the Red Fort, Jama Masjid and others.

Delhi has changed a lot in the past couple of decades, modernising immensely, but look in the back streets and hidden quarters to see scenes of life that have changed little in centuries. Some people love it, some hate it, but Delhi never fails to leave a lasting impression.

Day 2 - Leh

Early morning transfer to the airport to fly to Leh, in the remote region of Ladakh. The afternoon is free to relax and acclimatise to the altitude, and a little later we visit the village of Saboo. Overnight Hotel Spic n Span or similar. (BLD)

Leh

Ladakh’s capital Leh is dominated by the nine storey palace, a building in the grand tradition of Tibetan architecture, said to have inspired the famous Potala in Lhasa, which was built half a century later. Above it, on the peak overlooking the town, are the ruins of a 16th century fort which served as the earliest royal residence at Leh.

Leh has a colourful bazaar with shops selling curios and jewellery, including many Tibetan items. A particularly charming sight is the line of women from nearby villages sitting along the edge of the footpath with baskets of fresh vegetables brought for sale to the townspeople.

The best way to see the capital is simply by walking through its streets. Along the main street the Buddhist women with their tall hats chatter freely as they sell vegetables. Narrow lanes veer up and wind their way through the old city. You pass old dwellings clustered together on the slope and finally end up at the 16th century Leh Khar Palace and its gompa, the Temple of the Guardian Deities, perched on top of the hill. Though ruined and austere for ages, Leh Palace still makes an unforgettable backdrop to the mud city.

Day 3 - Spitok - Phyang

Morning exploration of the local market, then in the afternoon drive to the monasteries of Phyang and Spitok, still inhabited by monastic communities today and a great place to learn about the ancient traditions of Ladakh.. Overnight Hotel Spic N Span or similar. (BLD)


Day 4 - Tikse – Hemis - Shey

Spend the day exploring the deep Buddhist heritage of this isolated part of India. Drive first to the 500 year old Tikse Monastery and Hemis Monastery, the largest in Ladakh. We then take a short walk to Shey, meeting local people on the way. Shey was once the capital of Ladakh dating back to the 17th century and home to an ancient fort, palace and monastery. From here we return to Leh for the night. Overnight Hotel Spic n Span or similar. (BLD)

Shey, Tikse and Hemis monasteries

About 15kms south of Leh sits Shey, the seat of power of the first king of Ladakh, who constructed the hill top fortress now in ruins above the present Shey Palace. The main image in the monastery is the three-storey statue of Buddha Shakyamuni, made of copper gilt, which was made by Deldan Namgyal in the memory of his father Singay Namgyal. The statue is the only of its kind in the region.

The 500-year old Tikse monastery perched on a hill high above the Indus, has the largest contingent of monks in Ladakh and belongs to the Gelukpa order. Around 80 monks reside here at present. Dukhang Karmo is a huge long assembly hall, which contains the image of Shakyamuni and Maitreya Buddha statues. Numerous other statues and representations can be found within the monastery.

Hemis is one of the largest, richest and most famous monasteries, belonging to the Dukpa order. The monastery was founded in the 17th century and is now home to an annual festival, which takes place in June each year; every twelfth year an enormous thanka, which covers the whole monastery, is displayed.

Day 5 - Nubra Valley

Drive over the 5602 metre Khardung La pass, the highest motorable road in the world. From here descend into the Nubra Valley, on the old trade route from Leh to Kashgar. Drive through breathtaking landscapes to Khalsar, then head to Diskit with its 15th century monastery. In the afternoon we explore the village to see how life is lived in this isolated region. Overnight Desert Himalaya Resort or similar. (BLD)

Nubra Valley

The Nubra Valley is a high altitude cold desert, sitting at about 3000 metres above sea level and with stark but beautiful landscapes. For much of the year this region is isolated, and it was only recently that tourists were granted permission to visit this remote area of Ladakh. As a result of its isolation, the valley offers a unique opportunity to see the Buddhist traditions of the Himalayas, virtually untainted by modern influences. In Diskit, the centre of the valley, Buddhist stupas line the roads, prayer wheels dot the streets and you are continually reminded of the deep spirituality of the people here. Nubra is also famous for its Bactrian camels – the sight of these among the sand dunes, with a backdrop of high peaks, is unforgettable.

Day 6 - Hundar

This morning visit the monastery at Diskit to witness the morning prayers of the monks – a timeless sight. After spending some time here we then drive to the small village of Hundar, home to another monastery, before returning to Diskit. Overnight Hotel Desert Himalaya Resort or similar. (BLD)


Day 7 - Leh

Drive back over the Kardung La Pass to Leh. Upon arrival the rest of the day is free to relax or explore at your own pace. Overnight Hotel Spic n Span or similar. (BLD)


Day 8 - Alchi – Uletokpo

Drive to Uletokpo. En route we stop at Basgo Fort and Alchi monastery with its impressive religious art, dating back to the 11th century. Overnight Ule Ethnic Resort or similar. (BLD)


Day 9 - Sonamarg

Drive over the Zoji La Pass and through the Drass Valley, one of the coldest inhabited places in the world. En route visit the monastery of Lamayaru. We continue through the Sindh Valley, stopping at the impressive Thajiwas Glacier, to reach the beautiful area of Sonamarg, the gateway for Hindus to make the journey to the pilgrimage site of Amarnath. Overnight Tranquil Retreat or similar. (BLD)


Day 10 - Srinagar

Drive to Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. Upon arrival we join our shikara boats to head across Dal Lake, where we stay for the next few nights on houseboats – one of the highlights of Srinagar. (BLD)

Srinagar

Srinagar has had a tough time of it over the past few years, with clashes between Indian troops and civilian protesters demanding independence for Kashmir frequently making the news. However in recent times the situation here has normalised and it is now possible to visit what has long been proclaimed as one of India’s most attractive cities. Srinagar is renowned for its houseboats, elaborately decorated and sitting at the edge of Dal Lake – some of these date back to the early 20th century and have balconies, dining rooms, lounges and bedrooms. Staying here is a quintessential Srinagar experience and not to be missed.

Srinagar is also known for its Moghul gardens, established by a number of different rulers over the centuries and today popular for picnics with Kashmiris. Other things to do here include exploring the old city with its mixture of Hindu and Muslim monuments, taking boat trips on the tranquil waters of the lake, or setting off into the surrounding mountains; Srinagar is a good base for trekking excursions.

Day 11 - Srinagar

A full day to explore Srinagar. Surrounded by mountains and on the shores of Dal Lake, Srinagar has long been regarded as one of India’s most picturesque cities, and we spend time exploring some of its key sites including the splendid Moghul Gardens, the old city and Shankracharya Temple for panoramic views of the whole area. Return at night to our houseboat. (BLD)


Day 12 - Gulmarg

Head out of the city to Gulmarg, a beautiful area of rolling hills, forests and flower meadows with fine views of the surrounding peaks including Nanga Parbat. Return to Srinagar in the afternoon. Overnight houseboat. (BLD)


Day 13 - Delhi

Fly back to Delhi for our final night in India. Overnight Radisson Blu Hotel or similar. (B)


Day 14 - Delhi

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)


This trip can be combined with our ‘North Pakistan Explorer’ tour for a comprehensive journey through the region.

Valley in the Himalayas - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours
Camels in the Nubra Valley - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours
Boat on Dal Lake, Srinagar - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours
Tulip field in Kashmir - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours
Buddhist monastery in Ladakh - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.

    Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    In most cases you will be accompanied by one guide from start to finish. However there may be occasions when this is not practical, for example if your trip covers a number of different countries. In these cases it often makes more sense to include different guides for each place, to take advantage of their specific knowledge of the destination.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

All travellers will require a visa to enter India, which must be obtained before travel. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The local currency in India is the rupee. British pound sterling, US dollars or Euros are all fine to bring for exchange purposes.

It’s not difficult to change money in India, either at banks or the hotels and your guide can assist with this. There are a god number of ATMs in India, although once you get further off the beaten track don’t count on there being any, or the rare ones that there are, to be properly working.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO advises against travel to some parts of India that this trip visits.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Kashmir. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Updated May 2019

Valley in the Himalayas - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours
Camels in the Nubra Valley - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours
Boat on Dal Lake, Srinagar - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours
Tulip field in Kashmir - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours
Buddhist monastery in Ladakh - Ladakh and Kashmir Holidays and Tours
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
17 July 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,449
Single Supplement -
£575
Trip Status -
Guaranteed
Date -
16 July 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,599
Single Supplement -
£575
Trip Status -
Available