Crossing the Zanskar - An Overland Journey from Delhi to Ladakh
15 days from £3350 per person
One of the great journeys of the subcontinent, this tour is centred on the spectacular Manali to Leh road - one of the highest in the world and a route only briefly open for travel from July to September each year. Starting with three nights in the charming British hill station of Shimla, travel onto Manali then through the Kullu and Chamba valleys to the high Himalayan plateau of Ladakh - one of India's true frontiers. Here spend five nights in this predominately Buddhist region of ancient monastic centres and remote mountain villages.
High in the dense forests of the Himalayas, Shimla was developed as the summer capital of British India to enable the civil servants and their families to escape the heat of the plains.
Dominated by surrounding mountains and the ruined 17th century Leh Palace, the city of Leh is at 3500m altitude and was an important stop on the Tibet to India trade route.
The expansive Pangong Lake lies in both India and China at a height of 4350m. Dramatic sparse mountain scenery surrounds the lake which attracts migratory birds in summer.
High Altitude: At all places in this Ladakh itinerary the altitude exceeds 3,000m above sea level. Please consult your doctor as to the suitability of this journey in relation to your health and the possible risks of altitude sickness.
Day 1 Depart the UK
Today depart the UK on the British Airways flight to Delhi. (N)
Day 2 Arrive Delhi
Arrive into Delhi and stay for two nights at Le Meridien New Delhi. Alternatively upgrade to the Claridges Hotel or the Imperial Hotel. Delhi is India's capital and a city of two halves. Old Delhi – the heart of Muslim India between the 17th and 19th centuries – is an historic district of grand mosques, majestic forts and crumbling monuments. In contrast New Delhi, with its large government buildings, wide tree-lined avenues and pretty white-washed bungalows was purpose-built in the 1930s by the British as a colonial capital and remains the epicentre of Indian political power. (N)
Day 3 Delhi to Kalka – by train
Kalka to Shimla – 100 kms
This morning catch the train to Kalka where you will be met and transferred to the charming hill station of Shimla, summer capital of the British Raj. With its wooden bungalows, gardens of gladioli and hydrangea and stone churches, this quaint town has retained much of its bygone atmosphere. Alternatively it is also possible to connect onto the famous ‘toy train’ and complete the journey to Shimla by rail. Stay for two nights at the Clarkes Hotel in the centre of Shimla or upgrade to the Oberoi Cecil Hotel or the Oberoi Wildflower Hall in nearby Mashobra. (B)
Day 4 Shimla
Today explore the town and surrounding area. Places of interest include Christ Church where the original chancel window was designed by Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard's father, nearby Gaiety Theatre and Town Hall which were both built at the turn of the 20th century in the ‘arts and crafts’ style. Also of interest is the Tibetan Bazar and the grand Viceregal Lodge. In addition there are many walks in and around the town including the climb up Jakhu Hill from where there are excellent mountain views. (B)
Day 5 Shimla to Manali – 300 kms
Drive north through the fertile Kullu Valley to Manali and stay two nights at Urvashi's Retreat. Alternatively upgrade to The Himalayan Hotel. Set in a region of outstanding beauty, Manali is the historic starting point of the spectacular overland route to Leh. Surrounded by apple orchards, Manali is a vibrant mix of Pahari speaking Kullus, Lahaulis, Nepali labourers and Tibetan’s who left Tibet for India during the 1950s. (B/D)
Day 6 Manali
Explore Manali and the areas surrounding the town. Start in the attractive old town of Manali then continue to the village of Dhungri with its carved buildings and rustic Hadimba Devi Temple and Vashisht home to a temple dedicated to Rama and communal hot sulphur springs. Further afield is the Solang Valley, the small town of Naggar and an art gallery showing works of the late Russian artist Nicholas Roerich. (B/L/D)
Day 7 Manali to Keylong – 120 kms (5 to 6 hours)
Today begin the spectacular drive to Leh. Exiting the lush Kullu Valley, summit Rohtang Pass and pause briefly to enjoy the magnificent view over cliff, ravine and glacier before descending into the Lahoul Valley. Here the landscape changes noticeably and the greenery is quickly replaced by barren hillsides and endless fields of barley, pea and potato. At a confluence of the Indus River continue to Keylong and stay overnight at the basic Drilbu Retreat. (B/L/D)
Day 8 Keylong to Sarchu – 140 kms (5 to 6 hours)
Leaving Keylong, pass through the small village of Patseo. Climbing steadily, the mountain views constantly improve. Crossing the large meadows at Zingzingbar reach the Baralacha La Pass which at 4,883 meters is the source of both the Bhaga and Chandra Rivers and a key crossing point midway between the Lahul, Zanskar, Spiti and Ladakh regions. Descend gradually to Sarchu and stay overnight at the Gold Rop Camp. (B/L/D)
Day 9 Sarchu to Leh – 235 kms (8 to 9 hours)
After an early start, cross the Lachalung La Pass then continue along the Zanskar Range to Debring and the Kyangshur plains. From here it is a steep ascent to the Taglang La Pass which at 5,328 meters is the highest point of the journey and the second highest motorable pass in the world. Pass the tiny temple perched precariously at the summit and follow the mighty Indus River through small roadside villages to Leh. Stay for three nights in Leh at the Ladakh Residency or upgrade to the Ladakh Himalayan Retreat or the Grand Dragon Hotel. Alternatively stay outside of the town at the heritage Nimmu House located in the village of Nimmoo, 30kms from Leh. (B/L/D)
Day 10 Leh
Leh, the capital of the Ladakh region, is nestled in a fertile valley of the Indus encircled by snow-capped mountains. Presided over by the old white-washed Leh Palace, which sits precariously on a hill to the north of the town, the town grew to become a historically important trading centre. Today visit the 16th century palace, similar in style but not size to Lhasa’s Potala Palace, Sankar Gompa, the 15th century Tsemo Gompa and the newer Shanti Stupa from where there are extensive views. (B/L/D)
Day 11 Leh – visit Hemis and Shey
Drive to Hemis, one of the largest and wealthiest monasteries of Ladakh and home to an important library of Tibetan books and collection of detailed thangkas. In the afternoon at Shey – a former royal residence of the Kings of Ladakh. A highlight here is the 17 metre high Maitreya Buddha made of copper, brass and precious stones. (B/L/D)
Day 12 Leh to Pangong Lake – 160kms (5 hours approx)
Early morning leave Leh with your driver and guide for the adventurous but scenic drive to Pangong Lake, a highlight of any visit to Ladakh. Most of the journey is through a rough and dramatically scenic mountain road. The road crosses the villages of Shey and Gya and traverses the Changla Pass at 5240m above sea level with spectacular views. The road down from Changla Pass leads through small villages before reaching Pangong Lake. Situated at about 4,300m above sea level Pangong is the world’s highest saltwater lake, the lake is almost 150kms long with just one third of it in India (the other side is in China). Stay overnight at the Whispering Waves Tented Camp. (B/L/D)
Day 13 Pangong Lake to Leh – 160kms
This morning enjoy the amazing lake again with sunrise, after your breakfast drive back to Leh, on your way stop to visit Thikse Monastery 25kms south of Leh and built on a rocky outcrop with a commanding position overlooking the flood plain of Indus River. This 15th century complex has ten temples, a nunnery and sixty resident Lamas making it one of the most populated monasteries in Ladakh. Once you have finished at Thikse travel the short distance to Leh for your overnight stay at the Ladakh Residency. Alternatively upgrade to the Ladakh Himalayan Retreat or the Grand Dragon Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 14 Leh to Delhi – by air
Today leave the hotel and transfer to Leh Airport in good time to catch the flight to Delhi where you will stay overnight at Le Meridien New Delhi. Alternatively upgrade to the Claridges Hotel or the Imperial Hotel. (B)
Day 15 Depart Delhi
Today transfer back to Delhi Airport to catch the British Airways flight non-stop to the UK. (B)
KEY: N = No meals B = Breakfast L = Lunch D = Dinner
- International flights from the UK
- Domestic flights
- Train travel as specified
- Private car with English speaking driver
- Sightseeing with local English speaking guides
- Hotel accommodation and taxes
What's not included
- Cost of visas
- Travel Insurance
- Expenses of a personal nature
Guide to Price
The price above is a guide and can vary according to selected airlines, hotels and season. If you wish to travel alone we will be very happy to assist you with your arrangements and will provide a proposal on request
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