Price

Twin share $4789 AUD

Single supplement $870 AUD

Inclusions

  • Meet and assistance on arrival / departure at airports
  • 11 nights accommodation
  • All meals (B,L,D) daily
  • Domestic flights Delhi/Leh/Delhi
  • Transportation in an air conditioned vehicle
  • English speaking local guides
  • All sightseeing as per itinerary
  • Entrances fees to sites mentioned in itinerary
  • Miscellaneous Festival Ticket for HEMIS on 14th July 2016
  • LAHDC Environmental Green Fee
  • Inner Line Permit / Wildlife fee for trip to Nubra Valley and Tsomoriri
  • Scrubba Wash Bag

Exclusions

  • International flights
  • Visas
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • All services, meals other than those indicated above
  • Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
  • All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips etc

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Hemis Festival Ladakh

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Hidden in the green valleys and timelessly beautiful Hemis village, lays the biggest 300 year-old monastery of Hemis Jangchub Choling, near Leh. Every year, the monastery celebrates the birth of Lord Padmasambhava, revered throughout the Himalayan ranges as the second Buddha who founded Tantric Buddhism in Tibet and Bhutan. It is said that he fought the dark forces and transformed them into guardians of pure dharma.

This mystical extravaganza is complete with sacred rituals believed to bring spiritual strength and good health. The celebration begins with beating of large pan drums, melodious clanking of cymbals, small trumpets and lyrical sound of wind pipes atop the Gompa, where a portrait of ‘Rygyalsras Rimpoche’ is grandly displayed for all to admire and worship. A fine-painted Tibetan table holds cups of holy water, uncooked rice, incense sticks and tormas or figures made out of dough as offerings. You can watch the revering people and be one of the many fascinated onlookers.

The monks in flowing brocade costumes and brightly painted paper mache masks depicting demons, perform the chams or masked dance to demonstrate how goodness came to prevail over evil. The locals, Buddhist pilgrims and others, can be seen losing themselves to the mystical trance as they join in this frenzy when the dough idol of evil is destroyed by the leader of ‘black hat’ dancers. Celebrate this battle of good versus evil and surrender yourself to the spiritual beauty of Tantric Buddhism.

Crooked Compass will whisk you away from the stifling and busy lives in the city to the abode of quiet and calm of Leh/ Ladakh. Under the deep blue skies and in comfort of special luxury tents, you will be far away from walled buildings to enjoy this serene experience. With Crooked Compass, explore the rocky roads that lead to Tibetan style palaces and forts, flowing streams and fields, monasteries, mud brick houses and much more. You will visit the many Buddhist monasteries and temples that are coloured with paintings, scriptures and are etched with the bygone era, kept alive by the many monks here.

Our expert guides will fill your mind with varying narratives of kings and dynasties, Buddhism and its sects that have left behind a rich heritage. From a whirlpool of mountain and cold desert hues, you will head back to the chaos of city life in Delhi. Delhi, a city that has seen the rise and fall of kingdoms and dynasties, transfer of power from colonial to sovereign and continues to blend traditional customs with modern lifestyle, offers much to be explored. Let Crooked Compass give you this journey that takes you to a land that feels like paradise and a city that sits on rubbles of the past- its narratives, myths and legends.

Day 1 - Arrival in Delhi, Flight to Leh

Welcome to India! Upon arrival, you will be met at Delhi airport and embark on your journey to Leh.

When one chooses shades of blue to bring out the colour of the sun-kissed sky looking down on the ochre sand and mountainous terrain, with its reflection in the brilliantly shimmering lake, that is what the canvas of Leh will offer to your eyes.

Before Crooked Compass takes you through this dream-like journey, you will be assisted and transferred to your hotel, Ladakh where you can enjoy breakfast surrounded by picturesque beauty. As you fall in love with this magical land, give yourself a day to get acquainted to the high altitude before embarking on your journey. Take a lazy evening stroll through the busy bazaar in Leh, before heading back to the hotel. (D)

3 nights at Royal Ladakh or similar

Day 2 - Leh

Rise to the beautiful morning of Ladakh and brace yourself as nature’s splendour around you slowly captures your imagination. On the outskirts of Leh resides a large Tibetan refugee community in the village of Choglamsar. Experience the Buddhist teachings here which have served as a centre for Buddhist studies for years, including the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies and the Mahabodhi Meditation Centre.

Visit the one of a kind children’s village called Choglamsar Village, an idea that sprang from concerns of XIV Dalai Lama for the Tibetan Settlement in Ladakh. Set up in 1975, it is a thriving village with its own school, facilities and centres that offer training in handicrafts and other such vocations. The premises also flaunt an agro-nomadic farm and an old people’s home. Often called an ‘oasis in the desert’, it serves both the Tibetan and Ladakhi communities and is a beautiful example of ethics of care and universal responsibility for all.

The Stok Palace which was built in 1825 by King Tsespal Tondup Namgyal, now serves as a residence for his descendants since they lost their throne in 1846. From the sprawling gardens of the palace, you can see the fusion of traditional and contemporary architecture where its museum displays the dresses of King and Queen, their ceremonial jewellery, Buddhist art, interesting historical objects like coins, seals, armour, weapons, precious jade and porcelain as well as exquisite Buddhist applique work called thangkas or Buddhist scroll paintings depicting life of the Sakya- Muni Buddha, images of Buddhist and Tantric deities and other religious artefacts.

In the afternoon, you will drive down to the Leh Palace which sits majestically in the backdrop of blue skies overlooking the Himalayan town of Leh. Built by King Singe Namgyal in the 17th century, it was modelled after the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The king later had to move to Stok Palace as the Dogra forces came to control Ladakh in the mid-19th century. In the ruins of this nine storey high Palace lie the dark corridors, hidden stairways, prayer room and a rich collection of jewellery and ornaments along with the precious thangkas and paintings whose designs are derived from colours of crushed and powdered gems and stones and are almost 450 years old.

You will then visit the Shanti Stupa, a symbolic white domed structure to promote world peace and commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism. It was built by Japanese artists in 1991 against the panoramic view of Leh. This two level structure holds a central golden image of Buddha on a platform depicting ‘the turning wheel of dharma’ and exquisite reliefs showing the birth of Buddha, his death, and Buddha in meditation. It looks perfect in the golden glow of sunrise and sunset and glittering lights in the night.

Samker Gompa or monastery was founded in the 18th Century and served as the seat of late Head Lama of Ladakh and founder of yellow sect, Tson-Kha-Pa. Sitting atop the lofty mountain ranges with fluttering religious flags around it, the monastery is known for its traditional stone structure where the temple walls have recently been painted with Tibetan calendar, mandals, rules for monks and figures of Buddha and Buddhist lord including Avalokiteshwara, Padmasambhava, TsonKhapa and green Tara. On your way back to the hotel, you will stroll through the Leh bazaar and browse through curios, pashmina shawls, prayer wheels, Tibetan tables called choktse, Buddhist masks, thangkas, silver jewellery and hand woven carpets and rugs. (B,L,D)

Day 3 - Hemis Festival

Following an early breakfast, and a pre-planned picnic basket, you will join in the celebrations at Hemis. Founded in the 1630’s by Tsang-ras-pa under the royal patronage of Singe Namgyal, it is the largest and richest of the Gompas in Ladakh.  Feast your eyes on the sacred dances and music, colourful masks and shimmering brocades robes before returning to Leh. (B,L,D)

Day 4 - Leh to Uleytokpo

This morning you depart for Uleytopko. Explore the village of Nimo and stop to take some photos at River Zanskar before proceeding to visit Likir. Likir is situated in a side valley about 5km from the main Srinagar – Leh highway. Likir belongs to Ge-Lung-Pa sect; the monastery also maintains and runs a school for young Lamas. After your visit, drive 20kms to Uleytopko where you will stay in the cottages of Uley Ethnic Resort. You will an opportunity to go white water rafting. Lunch today is at the resort.  This afternoon, you will visit the Alchi monastery. Founded in the 11th century by Rinchen Zangpo the Great Translator, it was richly decorated by an artist from Kashmir and Tibet.  Paintings of the Mandala’s which have deep tantric significances are particularly fine; some decorations are reminiscent of Byzantine art.  The monastery is maintained by monks from Likir and is no longer a place for active worship. On your return, you will visit Rizong Gompa. Rizong is one of few monasteries in Ladakh which houses women monks called ‘Chomos’. Its small Gompa is situated deep inside a narrow valley. Drive back to Uleytopko. (B,L,D)

Overnight stay at Uley Ethnic Resort or similar

Day 5 - Uleytokpo to Lamayuru to Leh

Today you will drive through the mountain terrains and spectacular landscape to Lamayuru Monastery which is situated in the Kargil district at a height of 3510 metres. This 11th century monastery is not only the oldest and most picturesque, but is said to be the earliest seat of learning in Ladakh. It serves as a seat for the Drikung Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Legends recall this place to have once been a lake and Arahat Nimagung made a prophecy that a monastery would be built on this spot. He made offerings with grains of corn to the Naga or the holy serpents. The corn that fell on earth took the shape of a Swastika (Yungdrung) which later came to be known as Yungdrung Monastery. Later in the 11th century the great translator Rinchen Zangpo is said to have constructed a temple here and Mahasiddha Naropa is also believed to have meditated here. Amidst such narratives and legends, enjoy a hot lunch at a local restaurant in Lamayuru before driving back to Leh. (B,L,D)

Overnight stay at Royal Ladakh or similar

Day 6 - Tso-Mo-Riri

Driving through Upshi and through Sumdah Village, today you will reach the Tso-Mo-Riri Lake, a place where nature painted its landscape with the most remarkable brush strokes. The lake is fed by the melting snow caps and is famous for wild geese, ducks and other wild birds. On its western bank is the 400 year old Karzok monastery which attracts Buddhists from all around the sub-continent. Take in the beauty of this serene place at the overnight camps here surrounded by hills and wandering changpas or the pastoral community walking their yaks, sheep, goats and horses who mainly use this land for grazing and cultivation. Have a nomadic experience as you enjoy local cuisine and authentic flavours of the region.

Listen to the story from three hundred years ago when the Karzoks fought several wars but lost, which led them to lead a nomadic life. One of the kings of this nomadic lineage was sent to Tibet to seek help which ultimately led to the establishment of the monastery here. The monastery was rebuilt in the 19th century and houses the statue of Buddha along with images of other deities, thangkas and paintings. The Korzok Gu-stor festival is celebrated here in the month of July/August to pay homage to the act of assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-dar-ma, by a Buddhist monk in the mid-9th century. (B,L,D)

Overnight stay at Deluxe Camp

Day 7 - Drive back from Tso-Mo-Riri to Leh

Rise to the chirping of birds and wildlife and enjoy breakfast in the middle of a picturesque landscape before departing for Leh. On your way back, enjoy a picnic lunch at Shey Palace, the ancient capital of Ladakh. It was the royal residence of the monarchs of Ladakh and it is said that even after King Singe Namgyal built the more commanding palace at Leh, the other kings continued to regard Shey as their real home. Today the palace at Shey serves as a centre for Buddhism and has the largest golden Buddha statue. Although there are no written chronicles of the place but several inscriptions and sculptures indicate that Shey was settled by a Tibetan prince Nyima Gon in the the 10th century. The barren plains to the south of the palace and surrounding village is dotted by a number of Chortens (Buddhist shrines/memorials dedicated to Buddha) which emphasise the importance of seat of Shey in Ladakh. (B,L,D)

Overnight stay at Royal Ladakh or similar

Day 8 - Drive from Leh to Nubra

In the early hours you will leave for the Nubra Valley, the cold desert situated at a high altitude with rare precipitation and scanty vegetation. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the Khardung village before the winding roads of Leh take you through Khalsar Bridge at Shyok River to the Nubra Valley originally called Ldumra (the valley of flowers). You can see the Bactarian camels (shaggy double hump camel) treading the ochre sands. Khardungla Pass, at a height of 5602 metres, is regarded as the world’s highest motorable road by many from where the enthralling landscape of Leh seems like a memorable dream sequence. You will pass through villages including Horzey & Gangles Village that are fertile with wheat, barley, peas, mustard and a variety of fruits and nuts including blood apples and almond trees.

You will be taken to the quiet and lesser known village of Sumur and enjoy a short trek to the Samstengling Monastery there. It was founded by Lama Tsultim Nima 132 years ago and is presently home to 50-60 monks. As part of reverence, the Gompa follows certain rules and regulations which do not allow women to enter after sunset and before sunrise and entry is permitted following a strict dress code. The monastic community of the Ridzong Gompa is situated deep into the mountains and is a haven for meditation where Lord Padma Sambhava is believed to have been in meditation for years.

You will take a break from this vast trail of gompas and walk to the Tso Chun Lake and relax amid the tranquil landscape. (B,L,D)

2 nights at Deluxe Camp or similar

Day 9 - Sightseeing in Nubra Valley

After a hearty breakfast at your deluxe camp, visit the town of Dikshit in the Nubra Valley. It serves as the centre for basic facilities for the people in the valley who come down to the small market place here. The town also holds the 32 metre high Maitreya Buddha statue at the Dikshit monastery built in 1420 AD. The Dikshit Gompa was founded by Lama Sherab Zangpo of Stod during the reign of King Dragspa and presently about 100 monks reside here at the Gompa, a branch of Thiksey Monastery. The nearby village of Baigdandu is inhabited by blue-eyed locals along with mongoloid features of the Ladakhis. Legend has it that they are descendants of a Greek tribe who had come here in search of Jesus Christ’s tomb and eventually settled here.

Another blissful village by the name of Hunder is draped with trees and sand dunes and once again has a different monastery and a ruined fort filled with different stories and narratives. For a breathtaking experience of these dunes we will take you for a walk or camel safari on the two humped camel from Hunder to Deskit. From here you will drive back to your camp where an organic luncheon treat will await you. (B,L,D)

Day 10 - Drive from Nubra Valley to Leh

Down the winding roads of Khardungla pass and back to Leh, you will have lunch at your hotel and explore the bazaar of Leh. After exploring the old monasteries around Ladakh, visit the Leh Jokhang, the new main Buddhist temple built in the 1980s. (B,L,D)

Overnight stay at Royal Ladakh or similar

Day 11 - Flight from Leh to Delhi

Delhi, the capital of India is an amalgamation of the old and new, the old offering glimpses of pre-colonial habitations and the new being Lutyen’s Delhi, built according to colonial sensibilities and accepted by independent India. Discover this quaintness of old and new where both seem to trespass each other giving you the experience of a unique city life.

Enjoy a thrilling rickshaw ride through Old Delhi, the capital city of emperor Shahjahan. The narrow lanes teamed with vehicles and pedestrian with numerours eateries here and there and goods spilling from the shops line these streets. Visit the historic Jama Masjid and drive past the Red Fort, the Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace), the secretariat buildings, the impressive Rajpath and the World War I memorial arch, the India Gate, where the new structures give hints of European architectural styles.

You will then visit one of the oldest monuments of Delhi, standing tall with pride, the Qutub Minar. Learn about Delhi’s most curious antique here, the un-corroded Iron Pillar, which dates back to 4th century AD believed to be sitting on the head of a ferocious snake. Even more interesting than the mythology is the metallurgical skills of the ironsmith who produced this puzzle cast in iron. On your way back to the hotel, you will visit Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh Gurudwara in Delhi. Get a taste of local cuisine or browse through crafts from all over India in Delhi. (B,L,D)

Overnight stay at The Claridges or similar.

Day 12 - Departure from Delhi

Following breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight. We hope you take a back the rich memorabilia of history, art, divinity and tranquillity from this land of many cultures. (B)