Current as of: June 14, 2024 - 15:11

Snow Leopard

Search for Snow Leopards with Valerie Parkinson Trip Notes

  • Ways to Travel: Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
  • Destination: India
  • Programmes: Walking & Trekking
  • Activity Level:

    3 out of 7 - Moderate

  • 15 Days: Flight Inclusive
  • 14 Days: Land Only
  • Ages: 16+
  • Trip Code: TGL
  • Carbon Footprint: 39kg CO2e

Trip Overview

A rare chance to see the elusive snow leopard and attend a monastic festival

Snow leopards are one of the most elusive mammals in the world but in winter they descend from the High Himalaya in search of food. As they inhabit some of the most remote and mountainous regions of Central Asia, the mission to see this enigmatic cat is really more of a pilgrimage. Other rare high-altitude wildlife and isolated Himalayan Buddhist communities only add to this quest’s allure. The itinerary varies slightly by departure date to fit in the different festivals. All departures are led by specialist Himalaya trekking guide Valerie Parkinson.

Valerie won Best Tour Leader 2021 in the prestigious Wanderlust World Guide Awards.

Valerie Parkinson

Valerie was born by the seaside in Blackpool, UK, and spent much of her younger days walking with her parents in the Lake District. After finishing her studies, Valerie worked in Germany and Switzerland, until 1984 when she took a break that would change her life forever. She travelled to India for a three-week trek through Kashmir and Ladakh and found her spiritual home in the High Himalaya. She has spent the rest of her life leading treks (and bike trips) in the Himalayan region and her knowledge of the local culture, religion, art and wildlife is second to none. Her enthusiasm for trekking developed into climbing. In 2008, she became the first British woman to summit the 26,781ft (8,163m) tall Mount Manaslu without the use of supplementary oxygen and she attempted Everest in 2009. Over the years, Valerie has been instrumental in setting up and running Himalayan Community Projects, which now operates through the Exodus Travels Foundation.

At a Glance

  • Seven nights in hotels, five nights of full-service camping and one night in a homestay
  • Seven days of wildlife spotting on foot
  • Group normally 5 to 16, plus leader and appropriate staff
  • Altitude maximum: 14,930ft (4,550m); average: 12,470ft (3,800m)
  • Maximum sleeping altitude: 12,795ft (3,900m)
  • Travel on foot, by jeep and two internal flights
  • Festival visited varies by departure date
  • All departures led by Valerie Parkinson

Highlights

  • Chance to see the rare, elusive snow leopard
  • Wonderful winter walking in mountainous Ladakh, when it is cut off from the rest of the world
  • Visit ancient monasteries and attend a colourful monastic festival with masked dancers
  • Enjoy a homestay night and traditional meal with a friendly Ladakhi family
  • Look for lynx, blue sheep, wolves, bearded vultures, red foxes, Himalayan griffin vultures and golden eagles

Is This Trip for You?

This trip is rated Activity Level 3 (Moderate). For more on our trip gradings, visit our Activity Level Guidelines page.

It is an adventurous tour and you need to be flexible in your approach. It takes place in winter when Ladakh is cut off from the rest of the world by road and temperatures drop well below freezing point. The hotel in Leh is simple but comfortable and has central heating. Out of Leh, conditions are more basic. Five nights are spent at a base camp, which consists of two-person tents, a dining tent with tables, chairs, solar lights and heaters, and local long-drop toilets. There is a full camp crew and cooks, who look after us. One night is spent in a Ladakhi house, which is heated with a wood-burning stove. While out spotting, we have professional wildlife spotters to guide us and one spotting scope for every five clients.

The tour is designed to maximise the chance of spotting a snow leopard and means you need to be flexible. We may need to adjust or change the itinerary at short notice should snow conditions or other adverse or local conditions deem it wise to do so.

What makes this trip challenging is the weather conditions in Ladakh at this time of year. The walking distances each day are moderate. Most of the walking is optional dependent on your enthusiasm for tracking animals each day.

Internal flights to Leh are operated throughout winter when the weather is clear. Delays and cancellations cannot be ruled out.

If you are prepared to be flexible and patient and have a spirit of adventure then this is a magnificent trip into one of the world’s best-kept secrets.

The leader for all departures is Valerie Parkinson, a woman with a real spirit for adventure and a great love for the wilderness of Ladakh.

Group

All departures are led by Valerie Parkinson, who has spent the last 35 years leading groups in Ladakh and other parts of the Himalaya.

She is supported by local guides/spotters, who are experts on the local wildlife. A full camping crew, including cook and assistants, are also available.

Luggage is carried from the roadhead to base camp by Jeep or mules. You only need to carry your backpack when we are out spotting. It is possible to hire a porter locally to carry any heavy camera gear. Details are in other sections of these Trip Notes.

Adult min age: 16

Min group size: 5

Max group size: 16

Itinerary

Search for Snow Leopards with Valerie Parkinson

Land Only

  • Start City: Delhi
  • End City: Delhi

Land Only Itinerary

Day 1
Start Delhi

The adventure begins in Delhi. You are free today to explore this buzzing city or rest after your flight; rooms may not be available until noon but it is often earlier than this. There is usually a welcome briefing in the hotel lobby this evening.

Accommodation: Hotel Regent Grand (or similar)

Day 2
Fly across the Himalaya to Leh

Usually, we have an early start for the flight to Leh. We may have to leave the hotel around 3am and drive to the airport for the very early morning (but highly spectacular) flight over the snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya, which are incredibly beautiful in winter. Landing in Leh, the temperature drops dramatically and we need our down jackets at the airport. 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 acclimatise to the altitude (11,485ft/3,500m). In the morning, we rest and catch up on sleep. In the afternoon, we have a gentle orientation walk around Leh and its bazaars.

Accommodation: Mahey Retreat (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3
Full day at a monastic festival or visit Shey, Thikse and Stakna monasteries

The activities for this day depend on your departure date. Each year, the timing of the monastic festivals change and so the itinerary is flexible to ensure you can attend this time-honoured tradition. You either attend the festival or visit the monasteries on Day 3. Please note, the arrangements below are for 2024 departures. Once a year, every monastery in Ladakh has a festival where the monks dress in elaborate brocade and silk costumes and re-enact century-old stories of the Tibetan Buddhist religion. People come from all over Ladakh to the festivals and these are a great social as well as religious occasion. The whole day is spent at the festival and, in the evening, we return to our hotel in Leh.

If not attending a festival on this day, we visit the most important monasteries in the Indus Valley. First, we drive just over 30 minutes to Shey, once the residence of the Ladakhi royal family. Below the old palace ruins is a small temple containing a two-storey gilded statue of Buddha. From Shey, we walk across the fields to Tikse, spotting birds en route. Set on a hill, it is one of the most impressive gompas in Ladakh. It has several temples, one of which contains a superb statue of the Future Buddha. We then drive to Stakna, a small but friendly monastery perched atop a huge rock. In the late afternoon, we return to Leh.

Festival attendance – land only start dates

19-20 February 2024: Stok Festival on Day 3

Accommodation: Mahey Retreat (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4
Drive to Jinchen; trek to Rumbak Sumdo

Today we leave Leh and drive across the Indus towards Jinchen. We follow the road past Phe to the entrance of the impressive Rumbak Gorge. We leave the cars near a bridge and our trail takes us up into the narrow gorge and we start our search for evidence of snow leopards and blue sheep. We camp tonight at our base camp at Rumbak Sumdo (12,470ft/3,800m).

Accommodation: Full-service camping

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 5 - 9
Five days of wildlife spotting in Hemis National Park

The next five days are dedicated to searching for snow leopards. The itineraries are flexible and set by our expert wildlife guides. They are in touch with other local spotters, who share recent sightings and maximise our chances of seeing a snow leopard.

We usually spend most of the time at our base camp at Rumbak Sumdo, while walks take us into the Rumbak Valley and further towards Yurutse and the Ganda La. We can also explore the Husing and Tarbuns valleys, all well-known haunts of the snow leopard. In 2023, we had six good snow leopard sightings in this area, plus fox, wolf and blue sheep sightings. In 2024, we saw six snow leopards, two wolf packs, foxes and blue sheep.

Bring a good pair of binoculars to scan the slopes, though we also have wildlife spotters (one per five group members), who carry spotting scopes, which they set up at camp and on ridges on the walks. They also go out in the early mornings and late evenings to search for evidence of any animal movement.

We also have a full trekking crew with us, including guides, assistant guides, cook, kitchen assistants and porters. Lunch and hot drinks are brought to us by our camp crew. If you have a heavy camera bag, it is possible to hire a private porter to carry this for you.

We camp every night, except for one, which is spent in a traditional Ladakhi homestay. Food at the homestay is traditional local fare and you get the chance to interact with the villagers.

Accommodation: Full-service camping and one night in a homestay

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10
Return to Leh

Today we trek back to Jinchen, where we meet our transport and drive back to the relative comforts of our hotel in Leh.

Accommodation: Mahey Retreat (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11
Full day at a monastic festival or visit Shey, Thikse and Stakna monasteries

See Day 3 for full details of activities and festival dates. This information includes which day your departure attends the monastic festival.

Accommodation: Standard hotel

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12
Fly to Delhi

We have an early start for the flight back to Delhi. The rest of the day is free in Delhi for individual shopping or sightseeing.

Accommodation: Hotel Regent Grand (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 13
Free day in Delhi for individual sightseeing

We have a free day in Delhi in case of any delays in the flight from Leh. If we fly to Delhi on schedule, today is free for individual sightseeing. You may want to visit Old Delhi with the magnificent Red Fort and Jami Masjid. Humayun’s Tomb (a forerunner to the Taj Mahal) is worth a visit. In New Delhi, there is India Gate and Parliament House. Delhi also has a wealth of interesting shops and markets. An optional day trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal can be arranged by your leader who will provide details and prices (not available on Fridays, as the Taj Mahal is closed).

Accommodation: Hotel Regent Grand (or similar)

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 14
End Delhi

The tour ends after breakfast today and we begin our return journeys home. Alternatively, if you’d like a little more adventure, consider joining our five-day Golden Triangle extension. Encompassing Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, the trip is a whirlwind of culture, taking in the Taj Mahal, Red Fort of Akbar and much more.

Meals included: Breakfast

Extend Your Trip

Golden Triangle extension

A visit to the incredible Taj Mahal and other great Moghul cities close to Delhi is an excellent way to begin or end a visit to northern India. The five-day Golden Triangle extension may be booked before or after your main itinerary or both options might be available depending on the trip start and end location. The Taj Mahal in Agra was built by the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631, and is one of the most beautiful sights on earth. Close by is the imposing Red Fort of Akbar with its beautiful courtyards and palaces and let’s not forget the deserted royal city of Fatehpur Sikri. The extension also visits the pink city of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, which is one of the most attractive and colourful cities in India. The detailed itinerary and if pre or post tour is available can be found here.

Please ask your sales representative for more details. Prices listed are starting prices.

Price per person

£ 549


Mandatory Single Supplement

£ 190

Altitude warning

This trip includes one or more nights over 11,480ft (3,500m) above sea level, where there is a genuine risk of being affected by acute mountain sickness (AMS). If left untreated, AMS can be life-threatening. We expect most clients to experience some mild symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headaches, shortness of breath while walking or sleeplessness. Our leaders are trained to identify symptoms of severe AMS and if a client requires extra care, arrangements such as rapid descent, will be made immediately.

On some days, this trip climbs faster than commonly published ascent-rate recommendations. Based upon an assessment by our external safety and medical advisors and our risk-assessment process, we consider the ascent rate acceptable due to the additional safety measures in place for our customers. All our trips operating at high altitude meet our internal altitude-safety standards, which minimise the risk of serious incidents occurring while travelling at altitude.

Several medical conditions or medications can reduce your body’s ability to acclimatise. This may affect your performance and make you more susceptible to AMS. If you are worried about any pre-existing conditions, such as heart conditions, or your overall physical ability, you must seek medical advice prior to booking. The drug Diamox (also known as acetazolamide and normally only available on prescription) has been shown to aid acclimatisation in some individuals, and therefore may reduce the risk of AMS. Clients considering using Diamox should speak to their doctor about the drug, its side-effects and a prescription. While we endeavour to assist all our clients in achieving their goals, there may be times when your leader decides to delay or stop your ascent based on your overall condition or the onset of AMS.

If you are not taking out Exodus Travel Insurance, make sure your policy covers you up to the maximum altitude on this trip (if trekking in the Himalaya your policy should also cover the use of a helicopter for emergency medical evacuation).

Accommodation

Hotels, camping and homestay

Search for Snow Leopards with Valerie Parkinson

In Delhi, we use a good standard hotel, which has air-conditioned rooms. In Leh, we stay in a comfortable hotel, close to the local market and town centre. There is wifi in Leh; however, there is no mobile coverage for international phones in Ladakh.

The trek itself is on a full-service camping basis, meaning our camp staff put up and dismantle the tents, cook, and do all the camp chores. You need only carry your backpack for the day. We use two-person tents, which have enough room inside for your kitbags and include a mattress, sheet, pillow, blanket, and a hot water bottle at night. We also have a dining tent with table, folding chairs and a heater for use during the evenings. No running water is available while camping. The camp staff collect stream water or melt snow to provide bowls of warm water (to wash with).

We spend one night in Rumbak village, where we stay in a traditional Ladakhi house. The dining room and bedrooms have a small wood-burning stoves, and a generator is normally available at the homestay to charge your electronic devices.

For both the homestay and camping, there will be a basic local long-drop toilet and dining room available.

If you require a single room in Delhi and Leh and a single tent while camping there is a single supplement. Please note, single rooms are not available in the homestay.

Worth knowing

  • At the homestay you may be sleeping on a mattress on the floor. The bedrooms have thick mattresses and you can take your sleeping bag from the camp.

Single supplement from £ 575

Food & Drink

All breakfasts are included and all food is included in Ladakh. In Leh, the food is a mix of Indian, Tibetan, Chinese and Continental. On trek, we provide a full breakfast including porridge, cereals, eggs and toast and a choice of hot drinks. Lunch is a packed hot lunch consisting of rice and chapattis, vegetables, tuna and cheese, which is carried for us. Dinners are mostly pasta, rice or potato based and a mixture of Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisines. In the afternoon, hot drinks and biscuits are served and, in the daytime, camp staff bring us hot drinks while we are out spotting.

Drinking water

Staying hydrated is important when undertaking any physical activity. However, we strongly encourage you not to buy bottled water as this contributes to the growing problem of plastic pollution in India

On trek, the cooks collect and boil drinking water from the mountain streams and fill up your water bottles for you, but you may need to collect water during the day and may wish to use your own water purification treatment as well. Purification tablets can be an economical way to treat your water, most taking between 30 minutes to one hour to purify one litre of water and are easy to used in water bladders/hydration packs. Purification tablets which contain chlorine dioxide are reported not to leave an obvious taste as other tablets may.

We suggest you may like to bring a reusable bottle with a wide opening and use a Steripen to treat any non-boiled water. A Steripen is a handheld UV water purifier – small, lightweight and battery powered, so easy to pack. It’s quick to use, far more effective than purification tablets, and the water is ready immediately. It’s fine to use a Steripen on non-boiled water so long as it isn’t cloudy or full of sediment (which is uncommon in these regions).

Steripens are widely stocked on Amazon, outdoor shops and other online retailers; look for the latest models but avoid USB charging ones. Models that take lithium batteries are best as they last longer, especially in cold conditions.

Transport

For transfers in Delhi, we use either taxis or private buses (during busy times such as morning rush hour, taxis are preferable to negotiate the busy narrow streets). For sightseeing in Ladakh, we use jeeps.

The flights to and from Leh are on one of the internal airlines operating in India. Please note, flights to and from Leh operate subject to weather. Flights can be cancelled and you should be aware of this.

Weather & Seasonality

Ladakh in winter is very cold. From January to March, the days can be sunny but there is a chill in the air. January is the coldest month. By March, the days can be up to 7C (45F). The early mornings, evenings and nights are extremely cold. You must be prepared for temperatures well below freezing. Daytime temperatures in Leh and on trek are approximately -10C to 6C (14F to 43F). It is a very dry cold in Ladakh and we can expect sunny weather with a windchill. Nightly temperatures can be -10C to -25C (14F to -13F).

There is usually snow around from January to March. You must be adequately equipped and prepared to deal with the cold on this trip. Please read the equipment section thoroughly.

In Delhi, the weather is mild with daytime temperatures up to 15C (59F).

Joining Instructions

Key information

Start hotel: Hotel Regent Grand, 2/6, Pusa Rd, opposite Metro Pillar No. 167, Block 2, East Patel Nagar, Karol Bagh, New Delhi, Delhi 110008, India
Phone: +91 11 4601 1111
Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today. There will be a welcome briefing in the evening, but if you miss it the leader will update you separately.
Airport: Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL)

Getting to the start hotel

The start hotel is approximately 35 minutes’ drive from the airport. Exodus provides free arrival transfers to the start hotel from the airport for all customers. If you would like further information on joining this trip, please speak to your sales representative.

Catching your return flight

Exodus provides free departure transfers for all customers to Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) from the end hotel.

Leh flight delays

Leh Airport can sometimes experience adverse weather conditions and fog, which can occasionally cause flights to be delayed or cancelled. If booking your own flights, we advise you to book your international flight home from Delhi departing no sooner than mid‐afternoon/evening on the last day of the itinerary. Please also be aware that should you miss your international flight as a result of delays from Leh, your insurance may not cover you for any additional expenses incurred.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Location start: Delhi
Location end: Delhi

What To Take

Essential Equipment

Please note that the checked in luggage allowance on the flight to and from Leh is 33lb (15kg) and 16lb (7/8 kg) hand baggage.

  • Four-/five-season sleeping bag
  • Four-/five-season jacket
  • Sturdy warm waterproof walking boots or breathable snow boots (eg Sorels or Hi-Tec snow boots)
  • Warm gloves
  • Warm socks
  • Fleece jacket
  • Thermal tops and bottoms
  • Warm trousers (pants)
  • Warm insulated shoes/boots for the evenings in camp
  • Backpack
  • Water bottle
  • Water purification treatment
  • Personal first-aid kit
  • Headtorch (head lamp)
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers (pants)
  • Gaiters
  • Sunhat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Warm hat
  • Wash kit
  • Trekking poles
  • Toilet paper
  • Plastic bags to line backpack and kitbag
  • Refillable water bottle/water bladder (also known as a hydration pack/CamelBak, which are useful for rehydrating on the go)

Please note: The Indian government has banned e-cigarettes and related products. You can’t buy e-cigarettes in India or bring them into the country. Please ensure you do not pack these in your luggage.

Equipment Hire

Duvet jackets and sleeping bags are available for hire from Trek Hire UK. Trek Hire UK can also provide a range of trekking essentials and accessories, from rucksacks to trekking poles. Please note that supplies are limited, and it is advisable to reserve any equipment as early as possible. For trips to Kilimanjaro, Nepal and Peru, certain items such as duvet jackets, sleeping bags and thick mattresses (mattresses not available in Nepal) can be hired through our local agents. For Kilimanjaro and Nepal trips these must be pre-booked through the Exodus office to ensure availability. For trips to Peru there is no need to pre-book these as they can be arranged locally through your tour leader in Cuzco. Please call for details.

If you have any space in your luggage, please check out our partner Pack for a Purpose (www.packforapurpose.org) to identify items needed by local schools and medical clinics. Your Tour Leader will happily assist with your donation.

Optional Equipment

  • Buff/scarf
  • Thermos flask
  • Pee bottle
  • Hand washing gel
  • Bio-degradable soap and shampoo
  • Micro Spikes/Grivel instep crampons/Yaktrax or similar for those who are not used to walking on snow
  • Good pair of binoculars is highly recommended (the guide carries a spotting scope but you will find a pair of binoculars useful for scanning ridges and slopes). If you have a spotting scope, you may want to bring it with you

Exodus kitbag

If you book this trip, we provide an Exodus kitbag to pack your luggage in while on trek. Once you have booked, you will be sent instructions on how to claim your free bag (they are not sent automatically). Please note, if you book less than three weeks before the departure date, we cannot guarantee your kitbag will arrive before your trip starts. If this is the case, please contact us on customerops@exodus.co.uk (or customeroperations@exodustravels.com if you’re based in the US or Canada). See www.exodus.co.uk/kitbags for full T&Cs.

Practical Information

Visa

To avoid possible problems at immigration, make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of entry into India.

Travellers from the UK, US, CA, AU and EU normally need a visa to enter India. Please note, visa requirements often change and it is your responsibility to obtain any required visas for this trip. Therefore, we recommend that you check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your chosen destination(s), including any countries you may be transiting or transferring through.

Some local governments provide guidance on what visas their citizens need. To help, we’ve gathered a selection of useful links below.

• Australia: www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/asia/india
• Canada: www.travel.gc.ca/destinations/india
• United Kingdom: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india/entry-requirements
• USA: www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/India.html

Travellers eligible for an e-visa, which includes those from the UK, US, CA and EU, can apply at www.indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html.

Please Note: If your trip visits Ladakh, in the very north of India, or Sikkim in the northeast, do not mention this on your Indian visa application. This can sometimes slow down or even cause the embassy to reject your visa.

For more information on applying for your Indian Visa, including details required for your start hotel and local reference contacts, please click on this link: Indian Visa Information

Vaccinations and Health

India

There are no required vaccinations. However, you may want to consider vaccinations for tetanus, hepatitis A, typhoid, cholera, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies and tuberculosis. The risk of malaria is slight, but you may wish to consult your doctor or travel clinic for further advice.

You will also require a yellow fever vaccination certificate if arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. Proof of a polio vaccination may also be required by some travellers. Please confirm all requirements and recommendations with your doctor or travel clinic.

Additionally, dengue, a viral disease spread by mosquitoes, is a known risk in India. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available, so we strongly recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Some of our India trips spend time at altitude. In regions over approximately 6,560ft (2,000m), there is little risk of mosquito-borne diseases. For trips above 9,840ft (3,000m), there is a risk of being affected by acute mountain sickness. Our itineraries are designed to enable everyone to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Please see the Trip Notes for further information.

The risk of malaria on this trip is slight, but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Dengue fever and/or Chikungunya are known risks in places visited on this trip. Both are tropical viral diseases spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for either, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Local Time

India's time zone: Asia/Kolkata (UTC +05:30)

Electricity

There are recharging facilities at the hotels in Delhi and Leh. We have a small generator at camp where you can charge batteries.

Search for Snow Leopards with Valerie Parkinson

Money

India's currency: Indian rupee (INR). Please note, it is illegal to import or export rupees. Do not accept torn or very dirty Indian banknotes from banks or in change as they will almost certainly not be accepted as legal tender in India. You can normally change money back from rupees into US dollars or British pounds at the departure airport, but you must produce an exchange receipt showing that you changed money in India.

ATM Availability

There are ATMs in Delhi and Leh. Please do not rely on ATMs as they are often out of order or run out of cash and there is a limit on how much you can take out per day. Even if you have told your bank you are travelling to India, many banks block cards used in Indian ATMs. We recommend you bring most of your money in cash and ask your leader where the best place is to change it. Credit cards are accepted in larger shops in Delhi. There are some shops open in Leh in winter but we recommend you take cash to spend in Leh.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

There is not a lot to spend money on, apart from lunches and dinners in Delhi. Allow approximately 6,230 rupees (US$75) for meals in Delhi. The hotel in Leh sometimes has beer and cold drinks. Safe boiled water is provided for drinking.

If you have heavy camera gear or would like your camera gear to be carried for the trek, it is possible to hire a special porter to carry your camera pack and help with the camera. The cost is 10,500 rupees (US$126) for the six days out of Leh. Please let us know if you would like us to arrange a special porter for you at least four weeks before departure/when booking; this must be booked in advance but paid for locally in India.

India has very good opportunities for shopping, especially for locally made goods. During your trip, it is highly likely your local guides will take you to emporiums and workshops where these goods are made. Many people find this a great opportunity to buy local handicrafts, silk, jewellery and carpets. Guides often assume visitors want to go shopping, it is very much part of the culture, but if you do not wish to go, please make this clear to your local guide at the time.

Tipping

Tipping is customary in India and usually expected. Tipping can often be an awkward affair, especially when in an unfamiliar country where you are not sure when or how much to tip. As such, your tour leader will offer to arrange and look after a group tipping kitty, which will be used to tip hotel staff, local sightseeing guides, drivers and any other support staff used throughout your trip. Your leader will suggest how much to contribute, depending on group size, but it is usually around 6,500 rupees (approximately US$80) total per person for this trip. At any time during the trip, your leader will happily show you an account of how the kitty is being distributed. Please note, for smaller groups the leader may have to collect more than the above amount.

Tipping of leaders is not included in the kitty and is at your own discretion. If you wish to show your appreciation a tip of around 1,800-2,800 rupees (US$20-US$35) per person would be appreciated. By definition, gratuities are not something that can be included in the tour price.

People, Places & Planet

We work hard to create trips that improve life for the people and places we visit and look after the planet we explore. Find out more about our sustainable travel ethos and practice here, and find out about the work of the Exodus Travels Foundation here.

There are many community projects in Ladakh that Exodus has set up or supported over the years. Some examples include helping to rebuild houses and schools and providing materials to build a flood barrier following devastating flooding in 2007 and setting up a flood relief appeal following mudslides in 2010. In 2021, we launched our Covid Emergency Relief Appeal to raise funds to provide support to our trekking staff in Ladakh.

Some sustainable travel highlights of this trip include:

People

How this trip helps improve life for local communities.

  • The involvement of local wildlife spotters means our customers are well informed about local traditions and cultural-social sensitivities.
  • This trip brings income and opportunity to the destination community through the inclusion of locally owned hotels and restaurants, the emphasis on eating locally produced food, and by supporting other local enterprises.
  • The hotels we stay in are dedicated to hiring local staff, this helps to benefit the surrounding community by providing employment opportunities and income alternatives where they may be otherwise hard to come by.
  • This tour uses a mix of camping and homestays, which provides a source of income for local families and is a wonderful opportunity for our guests to interact with local people and share aspects of their culture and traditions.
  • In 2021, the Exodus Covid Emergency Relief appeal was launched and provided food and health essentials for guides, cooks, ponymen and other trekking staff for a number of months.
  • Our Himalayan Community Projects are undertaking a wide range of initiatives to support local development including helping local women’s groups to make and sell locally produced handicrafts.

Places

How this trip helps protect and conserve local landscapes and nature.

  • Read about our commitment to nature protection and restoration here including our rewilding commitment for every customer who travels.
  • By travelling in a small group, led by a local guide, we ‘tread lightly’ to minimise our impact on local resources and the environment.
  • Our trips adhere to ABTA’s industry-leading animal welfare guidelines to ensure the best possible practices with regard to working animals and wildlife viewing. Our animal welfare policy can be found here.
  • Snow leopard tourism is highly regulated and the local guides are all trained in socially responsible travel. The places snow leopards inhabit are high on mountains and a sighting is normally more than 655ft (200m) away and often much further than that.
  • We work with our partners on the ground to proactively eliminate or reduce waste, for example eliminating all single-use plastic water bottles and instead providing refills for reusable bottles.
  • Where possible on this trip, paper bags are used as an alternative to single-use plastics.
  • Through the Exodus Kickstart Project funding, fruit trees are being planted in villages in Ladakh to provide income and protect biodiversity.

Planet

How we seek to keep the carbon footprint of this trip low.

  • Read about our climate action here, including our carbon reduction and compensation commitments.
  • Accommodation and restaurants in the itinerary use locally sourced food which has not been transported long distances.
  • One night is spent in Ladakhi homestays in Rumbak village. Food at the homestay is traditional local food and you get the chance to interact with the villagers.
  • This trip favours locally owned and run accommodation.

 Tips for sustainable travel on this trip

  • Leave no trace: We do all we can to ensure we leave no rubbish behind in the wild and beautiful places we visit; we ask that you do the same. If there are no recycling facilities in-country, we’d ask you to consider bringing recyclable materials home with you.
  • Plastic waste reduction: Please bring your own reusable water bottle on this trip; filtered water is provided where tap water is not drinkable.

Cultural respect

  • Sometimes local people may object to being photographed, so please ask first.
  • It’s polite to use only your right hand when eating something without cutlery and when handing money and small objects to someone else.
  • Dress modestly to be polite and avoid stares. Do not wear tight or sheer clothing and it is preferable to have shoulders covered and skirts or shorts below the knee.
  • When visiting a sacred site, sleeveless tops and shorts are not acceptable for women or men and you need to remove your shoes. You are permitted to wear socks in most places of worship.
  • Religious etiquette also includes not touching anyone on the head or directing the soles of your feet at a person, religious shrine or deity. You should also not touch a carving of a deity.
  • It is common practice to remove one’s shoes before entering someone’s home and you should tuck feet under if sitting on the floor.
  • Making the effort to fit in is invariably appreciated so being aware of these aspects of cultural respect will assist you during your travels in Ladakh.

This trip goes near an area deemed unsafe to visit by the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, whose advice we follow when operating our trips. While our itinerary doesn’t go to these areas, you should familiarise yourself with your local government’s advice if you are planning any pre- or post-trip travel. Any independent travel to areas currently against your local government advice is entirely at your own risk and unlikely to be covered by your travel insurance.

Important Information

Your safe participation 

When booking this trip, you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability, please call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary. 

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely take part in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity. 

By booking this trip you agree to our Booking Conditions which clearly state that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these rare instances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred. 

How to Book

  1. Check availability: Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.
  2. Secure your place: You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.
  3. Complete your booking and payment

When you’re ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque.

After booking

You will receive your booking confirmation letter and invoice, which includes extra information and guidance about your travel arrangements.

Full joining instructions, including local emergency numbers and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately two to three weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier, please contact our office or your travel agent.

Trip Note validity

These Trip Notes are valid from the “Current as” date on page one. They will occasionally be updated after booking and before departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary, customers will be written to separately. They will also receive a link to the most up-to-date Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions before travelling.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons – climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best-possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

Licensing

Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582, issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA – The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all money paid to us for your trip is fully protected.