Passengers travelling on the group flights will arrive into Delhi in the morning and be transferred to the start hotel. Those making their own way will join us at the hotel throughout the day. The rest of the day is free to relax and recover from the flight or for individual exploration of Delhi. The rooms in the hotel are usually available from mid morning.
A very early start today for the flight to Leh. We usually leave the hotel at around 2am and drive to the airport for the very early morning but highly spectacular flight over the Himalaya to Leh. If the weather is good and the flight goes on time we should be in Leh for breakfast. The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatize to the altitude (3,500m). Flying straight to the high altitude of Leh can take your breath away (literally) and so we concentrate on acclimatising for the first few days. In the morning we rest and catch up on some sleep and in the afternoon there will be a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
Today there is a sightseeing tour to two of the major gompas (monasteries) in the area. We first drive to Shey, a former Royal Palace of the Ladakh kings. Inside is a small temple containing a 350 year old copper and gold statue of the Buddha. From Shey we walk across the fields on a good level trail to Tikse, where we visit the monastery perched on top of a hill - its red and white buildings can be seen for miles. We can explore the temples and courtyards and meet the red robed monks who live here. In one of the temples there is a 15 metre high statue of the Future Buddha. We return to Leh in the afternoon.
Today we will have an acclimatisation walk round the Leh Valley. Set above Leh on the Namgyal Hill, are the ruins of the Old Royal Palace. From here a winding path takes us to the Tsemo Monastery, from where we are rewarded for our efforts by magnificent views of the whole of Leh and its surrounding villages. Descending round the back of the palace we walk via Sankar to the recently built Japanese Peace Pagoda. This huge stupa overlooks Leh and we have stunning views of the town and the Stok range of mountains across the valley. (There is the chance today to make an optional jeep safari to the Khardung Pass; at 5,602m., one of the highest motorable roads in the world. The journey to the top of the pass and back takes roughly 4 hours in total and can be booked and paid for locally. Your leader will have details. (If you do the jeep safari this will be in the morning and you can do a walk in the afternoon).
Well acclimatised we leave Leh this morning. There is the chance today to do an optional few hours rafting on the Indus River. The starts in Phey, and after a safety briefing we set off down the river. This is not high-level white water rafting but there are some sections of grade 2 and 3 rapids. This means that a novice rafter will find it exhilarating and not too scary. Just after setting off we float through an impressive gorge to where the Zanskar River flows into the Indus. After about 3 hours the rafting ends at Nimmu, where we dry off, have lunch and rejoin our transport for the 2-3 hour drive to Yangtang. (Those not wanting to raft can have time to explore Nimmu village). If we have time, there is the chance to visit Likir Monastery en route. The monastery is well kept and there is an active school for young monks. We camp tonight near Yangtang village (3,683m). If there is time we can explore the village and maybe visit the small local school or watch the Ladakhis sowing the barley and potatoes, the staple crops of these hardy mountain people. From the campsite there are wonderful southerly views over the village to the Zanskar Range beyond.
We leave Yangtang away from the main trail and head north with spectacular rock formations surrounding us. Ladakh is a mountainous desert and the multi-coloured hills are magnificent in any light. During the first couple of hours of today's walk we will come across some interesting erosional features, including pinnacles with rock boulders precariously balanced upon them. We will get to camp by lunchtime and in the afternoon there is the chance to walk higher up the valley. This area is well known for Ibex and Snow Leopards have been seen in the area. Approximate walk profile: Yangtang to Ullay, 3.5-4 hours walking / 6km (3.7mi).
We head off along an easy trail which climbs to our first pass, the Spangpo La (4,082m) with wonderful views of the hills ahead and down to the village of Hemis Shupachen (3,663m). This tranquil village with a small gompa, green pastures and a clear stream is a lovely place to stay for the night. In the afternoon we can visit the monastery and have a look around the village. Approximate walk profile: Ullay to Hemis Shupachen, 4.5hrs / 8km (5mi).
From camp we cross the pastures in a north westerly direction skirting the sides of the fields. After a stop at a chorten we follow the trail past the mature juniper trees that give the village its name, 'shukpa'. The path climbs easily to our first pass today, the Mebtek La (3,796m) from where we can admire the pink and mauve-coloured mountains ahead. We descend into the next valley and the trail ahead can just be made out as it zig-zags up the mountainside in the distance. The path winds up to the Lago La (3,832m) and from the top there are magnificent views across to the south side of the Indus Valley. The trail descends steeply from the pass to the village of Ang. This area is regarded as the richest in Ladakh and fields of barley, potatoes and fruit orchards provide more than adequate food for these villages. From Ang it is an easy walk (although it can be hot and dusty) along the new jeep track to Temisgam (3,256m). This is the largest, most prosperous village on the trek. Set amongst fertile fields as well as spreading apple and apricot orchards there are some fine examples of large, white-washed Ladakhi homes. As a result of a division of Ladakh in the 14th to 15th centuries, the lower kingdom was controlled from Basgo and Temisgam. Little remains of its glorious past and the castle is in ruins but there are still temples you can visit. Approximate walk profile: Hemis Shupachen to Temisgam, 5hrs / 13km (8mi).
Today is a longer day. We begin with a gentle ascent to the base of the Skinyang Pass. We pass the pretty village of Tia and then Charcha as we follow a new jeep track. The trail then begins to climb up a barren hillside to a col at 3,927m. From here a wonderful boulder strewn landscape greets us. The wild landscape around here is home to Snow Leopards and Blue Sheep. We can see the pass ahead and an easy 45minutes walk brings us to the top of the pass at 4,060m. We now descend into a dry valley which we follow to a set of chortens above the village. The last 30 minutes of the descent is a little steeper as we drop down to Skinyang, a traditional Ladakhi village where we spend the next 2 nights. (Please note there is the option today of going all the way to Skinyang by jeep or if it is very hot we can drive to Tia at the base of the pass to avoid the heat). Approximate walk profile: Temisgam to Skinyang Village, 6hrs / 13km (8mi).
We spend today in Skinyang with optional walks. For the energetic there is a full day walk to the Junu La at 4,080m with views down into the Nirma Valley. The walk to the pass will take about three and a half to four hours up a winding rocky valley. For those who want an easier walk there are three small temples in and around Skinyang which we can visit. Or you may just wish to relax in the camp and explore the friendly village. Approximate walk profile: optional daywalk from Skinyang to Junu La, 5.5hrs / 8km (5mi).
We say goodbye to our trekking crew this morning and join our transport for the spectacular drive to Lamayuru Monastery, set amidst an amazing lunar landscape. We descend first to Khalatse and then head west on some of the most magnificent part of the Srinagar to Leh road. The road winds through a fantastic landscape - it was here that 50 million years ago two continents collided to form the Himalaya. Just before Lamayuru we pass a futuristic lunar landscape. Arriving at Lamayuru we have time to explore the monastery and the village surrounding it. We then rejoin our vehicles for the drive eastwards to Alchi where we spend the night. Alchi village is set in a side valley hidden from the main road and is an oasis of calm. In summer the villagers are busy in the fields with their crops of barley, wheat and vegetables. The climate here is very mild and apricot trees abound. Alchi Monastery is one of the most important cultural sites in Ladakh. Built in the 11th century, it is a treasure trove of early Buddhist art in the Kashmiri tradition, a style quite different from the Tibetan art found in Ladakh's other monasteries.
We drive back towards Leh and en route stop at Basgo Fort. Now mostly in ruins it is spectacularly situated in the wind blown rocks. We spend some time here exploring the ruins and temples. We then follow the main road back into Leh arriving by lunchtime. The rest of the afternoon is free in Leh for last minute sightseeing or shopping.
We fly from Leh to Delhi. The rest of the day is free for individual sightseeing in Delhi. You may want to visit the colourful bazaars and the Red Fort in the heart of Old Delhi or visit some of the Mogul monuments dotted round this ancient city.
It is time to say our farewells this morning as the tour ends after breakfast. Those travelling on the group flights will be transferred to Delhi Airport for your daytime flight back to London.