The colourful Hemis Festival commemorates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. The festival is held at Hemi Gompa, an incredible Buddhist monastery which is the most spectacular monastery in Ladakh with links to the Ladakhi Royal Family. Dressed in the dramatic red robes and tunics and blasting out tunes on large horns, the vibrantly-dressed monks make the Hemis Festival an incredible spectacle that each year attracts thousands of devotees from across the region. Another major attraction of the Hemis festival is its colourful fair displaying some of the most exquisite handicrafts of the Ladakh region. However, what takes the cake is the display of the two-story high ” Thanka” of the monastery. This Thanka is beautifully embroidered with pearls and semi-precious stones, and depicts Guru Padmasambhava. It is put on display only once in twelve years.
Day 1: Arrival in Delhi.
Transfer to hotel your Hotel.
Day 2: Delhi
Morning rest after long flight. Afternoon sightseeing of Old & New Delhi including Red Fort, India Gate, Qutab Minar & riksha ride thru the market in Old Delhi.
Day 3: Fly Delhi – Leh (3506 Mt)
Early morning transfer to domestic airport for flight to Leh. Flying over snow-clad ranges of pristine Himalayan peaks, this is a never-to-be-forgotten travel experience as you arrive in the striking land of Ladakh in the upper Indus Valley. On arrival transfer to hotel. This afternoon visit the town of Leh, a fascinating labyrinth of winding streets and quaint bazaars. The spectacular eight-story Leh Palace, looming above and overlooking the town, was built in the 16th century, about the same time as the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
Afternoon visit Sankar monastery (gompa) situated on a valley floor right in the town. Sankar is the home for the Geluk-pa sect (yellow hat sect). Afterwards visit the ruins of Tisseru Chorten, Changspa Chorten and Sanchi Stupa. Overnight at Hotel Grand Dragon or similar.
Day 4: Leh – Spitok -Leh (36 km)
After breakfast visit Spitok Gompa, built about 550 years ago. The head lama of Spitok is the head lama for Ladakh. Spitok Gompa contains both old temples and those built in the 1970s. Ancient thankas are preserved here, some having been taken from the Potala Palace and Lhasa after the Chinese invaded. In the afternoon visit Stok for a tour of the palace and museum. Stok Palace is the only inhabited palace in Ladakh. This palace houses a fine private museum, open to the public when the royal family is in residence. There is a superb collection of thankas, said to be the best in the world. Some of them have been created out of pure gold and paints made of crushed semi-precious stones. Also of interest are antique robes and royal jewelry specially noted for the turquoise and red coral. The collection also includes artillery and animal skins. Overnight at Hotel Grand Dragon or similar.
Day 5: Leh – Hemis – Leh (90 km)
Morning drive to Hemis to witness the most famous monastic festival of Ladakh.
HEMIS GOMPA: Founded in 1630’s by Stag-tsang-ras-pa under the royal patronage of Sengge Namgayl, Hemis is one of the largest and richest gompas of Ladakh.
Hemis festival, is one of the most famous monastic festivals and especially the monkey year festival, which comes in a cycle of 12 years. The festival commemorates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. The sacred dance drama of the life and mission is performed wearing facial masks and colorful brocades robes. The monks dressed in colorful robes wearing different forms of masks dance slowly around the main tarchen(flagpole) in the main courtyard. Afternoon join the 2nd session of the dance which emerges into different forms. During the festival, the 60 foot thanka of Guru Padma Sambhava is hung in the courtyard and other precious thankas are also exhibited.
Later explore the richness of Hemis in its various Dukhangs(halls). Find the huge silver Chortens(stupas) studded with precious stones, old to very old Thankas brought from Tibet, huge statue of maitriya Buddha & many statues of different god & goddesses. Late afternoon drive back to Leh for overnight at Hotel Spic N Span or similar.
Day 6: Leh – Hemis – Leh (90 km)
Begin the day with prayers in the courtyard followed by the mask dance bearing resemblance to certain legendary animals and illustrating various moods of the gods. The festival ends with a long prayer meeting held by the Rimpoche of the monastery. Overnight at Hotel Grand Dragon or similar.
Day 7: Leh – Lamayuru (125 km)
Drive to Lamayuru. Visit their monastery, the oldest in Ladakh. It is believed to have been a sacred site for the pre-Buddhist religion called Bon. This fascinating 10th century monastery is located in a spectacular setting overlooking verdant farming terraces and is home to some of the finest frescos, carpets and tangkhas we will see. The complex includes one of the oldest libraries in the region, containing extensive books and other literature on the Tibetan Kagyupa Sect. On our drive back to Uleytokpo, we will visit both Resong Monastery and Chulichen Nunnery. Overnight at Hotel Moonland.
Day 8: Lamayuru – Alchi (36 km)
Drive to Alchi, one of the earliest monasteries built in Ladakh, dating back to the 11th century. Irrigated fields of brilliant green enliven the rich earth tones of the surrounding Ladakh and Zanskar Ranges, rising dramatically above the valley.Overnight at Hotel Alchi Resort.
Day 9: Alchi
Rest day. In evening enjoy a local dance performance. Overnight at HotelAlchi Resort..
Day 10: Alchi – Leh (76 km)
Drive to Leh enroute visit Likir Gompa which was established around the 15th century, and early in its history became responsible for the oversight of Alchi Gompa, to which it has posted lamas up to the present day. Likir belongs to the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism and is set on an isolated ridge not far from the village of Saspol. Overnight at Hotel Grand Dragon or similar.
Day 11: Leh- Shey – Thikse – Leh (75 km)
Proceed to Shey Palace and Thikse Gompa. Shey, built in 1645 as a summer residence for the kings of Ladakh, is the oldest palace in Ladakh. The adjacent gompa houses a gilded copper two-story image of the seated Buddha. Thikse’s twelve levels rise impressively on a rocky hillside. This gompa out did Shey by constructing a fifteen-meter-high clay statue of the Buddha to commemorate the 1970 visit of the Dalai Lama. Overnight at Hotel Grand Dragon or similar.
Day 12: Leh – Hundar (135 km)
Early morning drive from Leh to Nubra (7 hours drive). The Nubra Valley lies in the north of Leh and is accessible over the Khardung-la (18,380 ft) the highest motorable road in the world. The valley was a trade route from Leh and Khasgar via Saser and Karakoram passes. Apart from unparalleled trekking opportunities the valley has several Buddhist monasteries namely Sumoor, Tygar and 350 year old Diskit monastery famous for its murals. From Khardung-la drive to Khardung village (13,464 ‘) through starkly beautiful country side to the Traffic Check Post (TCP) at Khalsar where permits have be registered and checked. Overnight in deluxe bedded camp in Hundar at at Chamba deluxe camp. All tents have twin beds with clean sheets, quilts and sleeping bags with shared bathrooms/toilets having modern western facilities.
Day 13: Hundar – Diskit – Hundar (23 km)
After early breakfast, drive to Diskit and walk up to Diskit monastery to witness the morning prayer ceremony. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the monastery through a long row of scattered chortens. The monastery is one of the highest points near the villages belonging to yellow sect. The monastery has 120 resident monks. The Prayer Hall (Dukhang) has many statues one of which holds the head and left arm of Turkish invader believed to be about 5000 years old. After lunch leave for Hundar village through sandy desert valley and visit old fort of Hundar village and small monastery. Return to Hundar for overnight at Chamba deluxe camp.
Day 14: Diskit – Leh (118 km)
Drive back to Leh. Overnight at Hotel Grand Dragon or similar.
Day 15: Leh – Delhi
Transfer to airport to connect flight 9W610 dep. 0735 / arr. 0850 or IT3342 dep. 0810 / arr. 0925 to Delhi. At arrival transfer to hotel for wash/change and dinner. Late night transfer to International airport to connect flight.