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LADAKH: IN A HIGH ALTITUDE DESERT

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DAY 1 ARRIVE DELHI

On arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal II you
will be taken to your hotel. Spend rest of the day at
leisure.Overnight in Delhi.

DAY 2 DELHI - LEH (3,500 M / 11,550 FT) - BY FLIGHT 9W 609 – DEP AT 0630HRS / ARR AT 0745HRS

After an early breakfast you are transferred to the domestic airport for yourQutab Minar flight to Ladakh. This must be one of the most sensational flights in the world. On a clear day from one side of the aircraft can be seen in the distance the peaks of K2, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum and on the other side of the aircraft, so close that you feel you could reach out and touch it, is the Nun Kun massif.

Upon arrival you will be transferred to Mahbodhi Eco Resorts. You would take a little time to settle in and acclimatize since you have gone from a relatively low elevation in New Delhi to over 11,000 feet! During the afternoon, you can take a walk in the Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre complex and visit the Museum, Old Age Home & Meditation Centre.
Overnight in Mahabodhi Eco Resorts.

DAY 3 IN LEH - VISIT TO LEH PALACE & SHANKAR GOMPA

Qutab MinarThe morning is at leisure to acclimatize to the rarefied air. You may choose to stroll along the main bazaar - observing the varied crowds. Looking into curio shops is an engaging experience. A particularly attractive sight is the line of women from nearby villages sitting along the edge of the footpath with baskets of fresh vegetables brought for sale. Behind the main bazaar, Chang Gali is less bustling but has interesting little shops selling curios and jewellery. Further on are the labyrinthine alleyways and piled-up houses of the old town, clustering around the foot of the Palace Hill. In the other direction, down the bazaar, are the Tibetan markets where one can bargain for pearls, turquoise, coral, lapis lazuli and many other kinds of semi-precious stones and jewellery, as well as carved yak-horn boxes, quaint brass locks, china or metal bowls, or any of a whole array of curios. When tired of strolling, one can step into any of the several restaurants; some of them located in gardens or on the sidewalks and serve local Tibetan, Indian and Continental cuisine.

Also walk to the LEH PALACE & SHANKAR GOMPA, which belongs to Gelukspa school of Tibetan Buddhism. This small Gompa is a branch of Spituk Gompa, founded by the first incarnation of Skyabje Bakula (head monk of Spituk monastery).
Return to Mahabodhi Eco Resorts for dinner and an overnight stay.

DAY 4 IN LEH - VISIT TO SABOO & SOS VILLAGE

Today you will drive to SABOO - 8 km from Leh, standing majestically on top of a hillock overlooking the Indus Valley. It is a less frequented gompa in Leh.

On your drive back to Leh, you visit SOS Village (Choglamsar). Choglamsar is an important center for the study of Tibetan Culture and History. There is the "Central Institute of Buddhist Studies", a Tibetan library, medical center, shops selling handicrafts, books and plenty of restaurants. It abounds in greenery with Poplar and Willow trees dotting the landscape. There is a golf course, horticulture nurseries and a polo ground as well.
Overnight in Mahabodhi Eco Resorts.

DAY 5 IN LEH - VISIT TO THIKSE (3,230 M / 10,569 FT) - HEMIS GOMPA (3,450 M / 11,385 FT)) - STOK PALACE (3,650 M / 12,045 FT)

Qutab MinarYou begin the day by visiting THIKSE MONASTERY, which is one of the most vibrant and active monasteries in the region. It dates back to the 16th century and is part of the Gelug-pa Sect. It is headed by successive reincarnations of the Khanpo Rimpoche. The monastery is 12 storied and painted in deep shades of red, ochre and white. It has evolved around a central courtyard with buildings surrounding it from three sides. At one extreme lies the main dukhang, which houses numerous racks containing religious texts. Behind the main alter lies a small chamber that contains images of revered deities.

Continue your drive on a well mettled broad road traveling upstream along the Indus River to HEMIS GOMPA, crossing over the Indus at the village of Karu. The most famous of Ladakh’s monasteries, Hemis or Changchub Samstanling (The love palace of the compassionate person), dates back to the 17th century and was built over a period of 40 years (1602 – 1642 A.D.). Today Hemis is well known for its festival or Hemis Tsechu commemorating the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava. In the year of the Monkey (every 12 years) a giant thangka depicting Guru Padmasambhava is unfurled from the terrace draping the five-storey facade. Delicately wrought in pearls and appliqué, it is one of the most famous art treasures of Ladakh. The central courtyard forms the focus for the masked dances held every year in summer. In the dukhang, remnants of the original 17th century murals can be seen. The Gompa boasts of an excellent library, well preserved frescoes and murals, silver gilt chortens and a Kashmiri lacquered wooden throne.

On the return journey to Leh, drive to STOK PALACE, which is the present residence of the former royal family of Ladakh. King Teswang Thondup Namgyal built the palace in 1825. The last king of Ladakh died here in 1974. The main palace is five storeys high. The palace museum displays the collections of the royal family. In the queen’s chamber can be seen royal ornaments such as the beautifully crafted turquoise studded perak (head dress), the queen’s crown as well as the necklace of the Balti Princess, Gyal Khatun. Within the king’s room are displayed exquisite thangkas, most significant of which is the set of 35 thangkas depicting the stories relating to the former lives of Buddha. Other artifacts include silver chortens, the king’s crown and a 7th century image of Avalokitesvara as well as jade cups, fine porcelain and ritual objects.
A Gompa is situated behind the museum and contains some ritual dance marks and frescoes. An annual archery contest is held here in July.
Return to Mahabodhi Eco Resorts for dinner and an overnight stay.

DAY 6 IN LEH – VISIT TAKTHOK - CHEMREY

The days’ tour of monasteries begins with a visit to TAKTHOK GOMPA in the morning. In the 8th century, the great propagator of Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava set out from India to journey across many lands en route to Tibet. Along the way, legends speak of numerous halts one of which was at a cave at Takthok (“a ceiling made of rock”) where he meditated. Takthok monastery developed around this cave. In the 16th century a learned monk, Tsewang Norbu arrived from the Kham region of Tibet, mediated in this cave and laid the foundations of the monastic order. Within the dark interiors of the cave, the slow dripping of sacred water or Dhukchhu from the rocky roof can be heard. The wall paintings can barely be seen obscured by layers of soot from the constant burning of butter lamps. Some fine butter sculptures made by the head lama of the gompa can be seen at the Udgyan Photsang. The monastery belongs to the Nyingma-pa Sect.

Returning from Takthok, the CHEMREY GOMPA rises majestically on a hill with the residences of the lamas spilling along its contours. Though most of the books, including the Ladakh Chronicle, tell us that the great lama Stag-tsang-ras-pa, under the patronage of Sengge Namgyal, founded it, but Professor Luciano Petech has shown that it was actually founded after Sengge's death as a funeral act of merit for him. The building was started in March 1644 A.D. and completed in 1645 / 1646 A.D. Overlooking fields and houses, the monastery is perched picturesquely atop a small hill, down one side of which spill the monks' dwellings. The main du-khang, a large rather bare temple, has images of Stag-tsang-ras-pa and other Drug-pa lamas, together with a fine silver chorten about fifty years old made at Chiling. The murals are mainly manifestations of Sakyamuni, as is common in Drug-pa temples; there are also fine mandalas of Kalchakra and Akshobya. Twenty-nine volumes of the scriptures have title pages whose lettering is in solid silver of exquisite craftsmanship, the text is pure gold. A smaller temple upstairs houses a nondescript collection of images of Drug-pa lamas.
Overnight in Mahabodhi Eco Resorts.

DAY 7 LEH – PHYANG – 17 KM / APPROX 30 MINS – BASGO - 27 KM / APPROX 45 MINS - ALCHI – 24 KM / APPROX 45 MINS - LEH –BY SURFACE / APPROX 70 KM / 2 HRS

Qutab MinarAfter breakfast you will be driving to ALCHI. En-route you would be taking a short diversion to visit PHYANG GOMPA, which is located on the right of the main highway to Alchi. Built on a large mound, with the village below, the setting is one of the prettiest in Ladakh with groves of Popular trees along the road leading up to the monastery. The founder of the Namgyal Dynasty built it. According to popular legend, he placed a flagpole at a spot from where the monastery is first visible and anyone guilty of a crime could seek pardon if he reached this spot. The gompa has an exquisite collection of pre-4th century Kashmiri bronze statues, thangkas and manuscripts. During July, a temple festival is held in the beautiful setting of the temple courtyard and ritual masked dances are staged here.

After visiting Phyang you come to BASGO, which lies astride the road to Alchi. The jagged skyline of the ruins of the 15th century capital of Ladakh dominates the village of Basgo. It was an important center in the old days, having been the capital of lower Ladakh when the kingdom was divided in the 15th & 16th centuries, and the seat of that branch of the dynasty, which eventually unified Ladakh and took the surname Namgyal. As with the other royal residences at Leh and Shey, the palace at Basgo also incorporates places of worship. The largest of the three shrines, all of which are dedicated to Maitreya, has been described as ‘after Alchi perhaps the most beautifully painted temple in Ladakh’.
You will arrive in time for lunch at Alchi resort.

In the afternoon visit the ALCHI GOMPA. The complex of temples located within the village is the most celebrated of Ladakh’s monasteries and dates back to the 11th century. The complex consists of a group of five temples as well as a number of chortens scattered around the complex. The Dukhang and the three-tiered Sumstek are the most significant. It is the seat of the Ngri Rimpoche, an incarnation at present embodied in the younger brother of the Dalai Lama. Alchi Gompa is the only monastery, built on flat ground. It is very famous for its paintings and architecture, which has an Indian and Kashmiri influence in them.
Drive back to Mahabodhi Eco Resorts, Leh for dinner and overnight stay.

DAY 8 IN LEH – EXCURSION TO KHARDUNG LA (HT 5602 M)

Today you take a drive to Khardung La (the highest motorable pass in the world). This would probably be the highest altitude that has ever been reached by you. There are wonderful photo opportunities from either side of the Pass. The Pass is the Gateway to the Nubra Valley, which lies on the ancient Silk Route.

In the evening you can spend some more time in Leh Bazaar picking up souvenirs on your last day in Leh.
Overnight at Mahabodhi Eco Resorts.

DAY 9 LEH - DELHI - BY FLIGHT 9W 610 - DEP AT 0735 HRS / ARR. AT 0850 HRS

In time transfer to the airport for your flight to Delhi.

 

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