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The Highlands (Manali – Ladakh – Zanskar)


The Highlands

Manali – Ladakh – Zanskar (14N/ 15D)


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Day 1

Distance – 310 kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 9 hrs.
Pick up from Chandigarh Airport or Railway station and drive to Manali (1950 mts/ 6450 ft). Enroute visit Vaishno Temple at Kullu. Reach Manali by late evening. O/n Hotel.

Day 2

Distance – 45 kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 6 hrs.
Breakfast and set off for lovely countryside drive which takes you to capital of old Kullu state called Nagar. Visit 1000 years old temple dedicated to Gayatri Devi at Jagatusukh. Visit Nagar castle built in typical Kullu architecture style which used to be the residence of the royal family. Visit Roerich estate which belongs to famous Russian artist called Nicholas Roerich. Visit ages old pagoda shaped temple of Hadimba located beautifully in the middle of cedar forest, Natural sulphur hot water springs at Vashisht. Explore old Manali in the evening. O/n Hotel.

Day 3

Distance – 82 kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 6 hrs.
Check out & Set off for acclimatizing trip after Breakfast. Ahead of Manali the road is well sprung and scenic as it ascends to the Rohtang Pass (3978 mts/ 13050 ft) high - our first landmark - 51 Km from Manali. Walk for one hour beyond Gulaba. Lunch at Marhi and drive on. The Rohtang Pass or Rohtang La demarcates the natural barrier between the dense Deodar forests, apple orchards and pretty alpine meadows of the Kullu valley and the harsher high altitude desert of Lahaul-spiti. Crossing the pass, the road descends the Chandra valley, the beginning of the Lahaul-spiti region - a stark, dry, forbidding yet amazingly beautiful land. The valley commands excellent views of the surrounding mountains, including the 6420 mts/ 21200 ft high White Sail massif (Dharamsura). Further descent from Rohtang takes you to Sissu (3200 mts/ 10550 ft), a spectacular village in Lahaul Valley, surrounded by towering mountains, a lake, verdant fields and a big waterfall. The campsite is located next to waterfall and lake. O/n Camp.

Day 4

Distance – 175 kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 8 hrs.
Check out after Breakfast, Visit Gondhla fort, Khardang Gompa and drive to Keylong (3080 mts/ 10100 ft), the headquarters of Lahaul. Evening Tea at Darcha. The trails second pass, Baralacha La (4880 mts/ 16100 ft), lays approximately 45 Kilometers beyond Darcha. Leading up to the pass is a 10 Kilometers stretch known as Zingzing bar. The scenery here is spectacular. Sparse vegetation notwithstanding, the bare mountains are a riot of colors - deep crimson, grey-green, indigo, mauve, lilac along with crystal clear waters of lake Suraj Tal. A brief halt at the top of the pass is mandatory, to allow us to drink in the awe-inspiring spectacle around us. Having crossed the pass another hour's drive brings us to the busy little hamlet of Sarchu (4420 mts/ 14600 ft), our destination for the day. Dinner & O/N stay at swiss cottage tents Sarchu.

Day 5

Distance – 195 Kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 9 hrs.
Early morning, after Breakfast, start your journey to Tso-Moriri Lake. After driving up the Naki-La(4950 mts/ 16330 ft) and Lachalung La (5060 mts/ 16700 ft), the descent to pang (4500 mts/ 14850 ft) is quite spectacular which offers great views of a series of dramatic gorges. We cross the Pang Army camp and then the More plains (4500 mts/ 14850 ft) and then divert towards right to reach Tso-Moriri by late evening. Tso-moriri (4595 mts/ 15160 ft) is the largest in size (28 kms long and 5/6 kms in width) and highest brackish wetland in cold desert eco system of trans-himalayas of Indian subcontinent. It is the breeding and nesting abode of globally threatened bar-headed goose, Black necked cranes, Brown headed Gulls, pin tails and Brahmini ducks. O/N stay at guest house or camp by the lakeside.

Day 6

Distance – 210 Kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 9 hrs.
After Breakfast start your journey to Leh. After driving past Puga Sumdo, one passes thru Umbu bush valley on the way to Chumathang. At Mahe Bridge one gets the first views of Indus River. Reach Leh (3524 mts/ 11560 ft) by late evening. O/N stay at Hotel.

Day 7

Distance – 130 Kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 6 hrs.
After an early breakfast, set off towards the Nubra Valley 'The Valley of Wild Roses’. The route from Leh to the Nubra valley is perhaps the most scenic in Laddakh, making its way over the world's highest motor able pass - Khardung La (18380 ft/5606m) and into the picturesque Nubra valley (3048 mts/ 10050 ft). Where the rest of Ladakh is arid and barren, the Nubra blooms and blossoms in many colors. The name Nubra is derived from the Ladakhi 'Dumra' which means garden or orchard. The Nubra valley is a small stretch of land in the northern part of Ladakh, nestled at the foot of the Karakoram Ranges. Two major rivers, the Nubra and the Shyok, irrigate this area giving rise to a fair bit of vegetation: mosses, wild roses, edelweiss, gentians, apricot and apple orchards, barley fields and willows. This combined with the ethereal beauty of the towering mountains all around it, makes the Nubra valley one of the most striking regions of Ladakh. This stunning valley is the same area through which the legendary silk route once traced its wealthy way - merchant caravans loaded with everything from carpets and silks to dry fruits and jewellery, made their way to Central Asia through the Nubra Valley. Dinner and overnight stay at Swiss cottage tents in Tigar.

Day 8

Distance – 150 Kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 8 hrs.
After breakfast, visit Hundur and Diskit (3144 mts/ 10315 ft). One can see the famous sand dunes at Hundur and even can go for a Camel Ride on the famous double humped Bactrian camels. See the vast expanse of Nubra from Diskit Monastery. Drive back and reach Leh by late evening. O/n Hotel at Leh.

Day 9

A day at leisure to unwind and rest. Take a walk to Shanti Stupa in the evening, excellent view of entire Leh town. Take an easy half hour walk to Sankar Gompa which is daughter embellishment of Spituk monastery and residence of Abbot of Spituk. Evening visit is recommended as Sankar Gompa is open the evening and is kept well lit. Eplore interesting Leh market. O/n Hotel.

Day 10

Distance – 235 Kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 8 hrs.
After an early breakfast we check out from the hotel and start our journey for Kargil, en route visiting Basgo which is certainly the most impressive of Ladakhi citadels despite its ruined state. Proceed to Likir (3500 mts/ 11550 ft). (Period: 11th century). The name Likir is derived from the word Lukhgil (coiled snake) as the site appears to be encircled by two great serpent spirits - Nanda and Taksako. Likir is one of the most active monasteries in the region with100 monks in residence. The Gompa has affine collection of Thanka's some of which are now housed in its museum. As you drive up to the monastery, a recently installed colossal gilded image of the Maitreya out in the open is one of the many impressive sights in Ladakh. We drive and cross the River Indus and reach Alchi (3100 mts/ 10200 ft), (Period: 11th century). The complex of temples located within the village of Alchi is the most celebrated of Ladakh's monasteries. It is one of the earliest existent monasteries in Ladakh built by Lodan Shorab and Tsulkhrim Od, disciples of Rin-chen Zangpo. The complex consists of a group of five temples, as well as a number of chortens scattered around the complex. The Dukhang and the Sumstek are the most significant of the complex. The Dukhang lies at the far end of the complex and is entered through a finely carved wooden archway and a door richly embellished with wood carvings depicting the five Buddha's. The other significant temple in the complex is the three tiered Sumstek, entered through a small portico supported by a superbly carved wooden archway showing a strong influence of Kashmiri traditions. Reach Kargil (2676 mts/ 8800 ft) by late evening. Dinner and overnight stay at Hotel in Kargil.

Day 11

Distance – 240 Kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 10 hrs.
Early Morning drive to Padum (Zanskar), On the way obtain magnificent view of Nun Kun mountain massif comprising a pair of Himalayan peaks (7135 mts/ 23409 ft). Visit Rangdum Monastery, situated on a hillop (4031 mts/ 13325 ft) in isolated region of the Suru valley of Ladakh. Rangdum is located midway between Kargil and Padum. On one side there are the colorful hills while on the other side are rocky mountains and glaciers, notably the very famous Drang-drung. The Drang-Drung Glacier is the long river of ice and snow, with a maximum length of 23 kilometres and at an average elevation of 15680 ft/ 4780 mts., a source of Stod River which is a tributory of Zanskar River and Zanskar River is a tributory of Indus River. It is best viewed fom top of Pensi-la. From Rangdum the valley rises to 4400mts/ 14436 ft at Pensi-la, the gateway into Zanskar. Reach headquarters of Zanskar, Padum (3657 mts/ 12000 ft) by Evening. Overnight Hotel/ Camp at Padum.

Day 12

. Distance – 30 Kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 5 hrs.
Breakfast & Relaxed morning. Leave for Karsha village which has the largest and most important monastery in Zanskar, attributed to Padmasambhava, and there are ancient rock-carvings at the site. The oldest remaining structure, an Avalokiteshvara temple, Chuk-shik-jal, contains wall paintings which seem to associate it with the era of famous builder monk Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055). The monastery is under the younger brother of the Dalai Lama. Behind his seat in the chapel is a statue of Lhaso Cho Rinpoche, which was brought from Lhasa in the 1960s and has a golden crown with carnelian and turquoise decorations. The gorge portion of the Zanskar River is called the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Asia. One can also enjoy River Rafting session. Visit beautiful villages and Gompas of Sani & Stongdey. Overnight Hotel/ Camp at Padum.

Day 13

Distance – 346 Kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 12 hrs.
Leave early after Breakfast. It’s day long drive to Lamayuru over Fatu – la, highest pass on Leh Srinagar highway (4108 mts/ 13500 ft). At Mulbekh (3300 mts/ 10900 ft), Visit the famous Chamba Statue, a striking enormous figure carved into the rock face on roadside. It pictures a standing Maitreya Buddha overlooking the old trade route and modern highway. Arrival at Lamayuru by late evening. O/n Hotel.

Day 14

Distance – 127 Kms, Journey and Sight-seeing Time – approximately 7 hrs.
Lamayuru (3500 mts/ 11550 ft), this beautiful ancient monastery is the main seat of Drikung Kagyu (Red Hat) tradition in Ladakh. One of the largest and oldest Gompas in Ladakh, it has a population of around 150 permanent monks residents. Lamayuru is host to two annual masked dance festivals. Besides its history, Lamayuru attracts travelers and trekkers for its lunar landscape. After visiting Lamayuru, proceed further to Leh. Sojourn at Rizong Monastery (Gelugpa or Yellow Hat). It is situated at the top of a rocky side valley on the north side of the Indus. It was established in 1831 by Lama Tsultim Nima under the Gelukpa order, at Ri-rdzong. There are 40 monks in the monastery. The monastery is also called “the paradise for meditation” and is noted for its extremely strict rules and standards. Reach Leh by evening. O/n Hotel.

Day 15

Transfer to Airport for early morning flight to Delhi