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Home >> North India >> Leh - Ladakh Tours >> Ladakh Cultural Tour  (Tour Code : NLL 02)

Ladakh Cultural Tour

- 13 Nights / 14 Days
Destinations Covered: Delhi - Leh - Lamayuru - Uletokpo - Alchi - Khardung La - Diskit - Sumur
DAY 01 : Delhi
You are met outside the International arrival hall and transferred to hotel for overnight stay.
DAY 02 : In Delhi

Afternoon city tour of New Delhi. Sightseeing of New Delhi includes a visit to India Gate, built in memory of Indian soldiers killed during the First World War. Rashtrapati Bhawan, built in the early 20th century as the Imperial residence of the Viceroy is today the official residence of the President of India and Parliament House, an unique circular building with huge colonnades, houses the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament. Humayun's Tomb is the first Mughal garden tomb.

 

Visitors are immediately struck by the tomb's resemblance to its more famous cousin - the Taj Mahal - with its four grand gateways, octagonal base-plan, soaring niche-shaped arches, lofty double domes and the symmetrical garden with its central canal. One of Delhi’s most striking monuments is the 70-meter high Qutab Minar, which looms majestically across the wide plains of Delhi. Lakshmi Narayan Temple was built in 1938 in a pleasantly laid out garden and is named after the goddess of wealth and the god Narayan, though other deities are also housed here. Also visit Connaught Circus the commercial hub of New Delhi. Overnight at hotel .

DAY 03 : Delhi - Leh

Early morning departure from Delhi on the spectacular flight to Leh by 9W 609 departing at 06.05 and arriving at 0720hours.( flight timing subject to change) . You are met at the airport and transferred to the Hotel . Rest of the day at leisure to acclimatize to the high altitude and rarefied air. Lunch, dinner and overnight stay at the Hotel .

DAY 04 : In Leh

Explore Leh town : Leh, a fascinating labyrinth of winding streets and quaint bazaars. The main street is open and airy, with rows of shops on either side. On either side of the market are seen a long line of Ladakhi women in traditional dress and colourful jewelry of coral and turquoise, seated behind enormous baskets, selling vegetables. The spectacular eight-storey Leh Palace looming above, overlooking the town, was built in the 16th century, about the same time as the Potala in Lhasa which it resembles.


The stroll through the town is followed by a visit to Sankar gompa, about 2 km from the market. It has a number of pure gold icons and richly painted walls, its pictures depicting different stories, including some from the Panchtantra. Return to the Ladakh Sarai for dinner and overnight stay.


On either side of the market are seen a long line of Ladakhi women in traditional dress and colorful jewelry of coral and turquoise, seated behind enormous baskets, selling vegetables.


Overnight at Hotel

DAY 05 : In Leh (SHEY, THIKSEY AND HEMIS)

After breakfast explore some of Ladakh's ancient gompas. A picnic lunch is provided.
After breakfast, we visit the Oracle of Sabu in the village of Ayu. Although many oracles are lamas, this oracle is an old woman who is believed to possess supernatural powers that enable her to prophesize. After our visit to the oracle. we visit the Shey Palace was built in 1645 by Deldan Namgyal as a summer residence for the kings of Ladakh. It is the oldest palace in Ladakh and above the palace is an even older ruined fortress.


In 1655, in memory of his father, this same king built the two-storey Shey gompa adjacent to the palace. Hundreds of chortens of all shapes and sizes stand below the palace and gompa. These chortens demonstrate the interest taken in Shey by the Ladakhi kings and queens who succeeded Shey's original builder.


Located on the second storey of the gompa is a large Buddha statue made in 1655 by a Nepalese sculptor who was assisted by three Ladakhi craftsmen. The seated Buddha is 12 meters high and worked of copper sheets gilded with gold. This Buddha is the biggest metal statue in the region and was the largest Buddha statue of any type in Ladakh until Thiksey gompa installed a 15-meter tall Buddha made of clay in 1970. The castings of the statue were made in Leh while the statue's copper was collected in Zanskar and hammered into plates on big rocks. More than five kilos of gold were then used to plate the copper. The statue was built in parts in the Zanstil Palace (Zans means copper and til means to hammer) in Leh and then transported to Shey where it was assembled and installed.


Sacrificial offerings such as grain or jewels, holy signs and mantras are contained inside the figure. In front of the Buddha is a large bowl of wax with a central flame that burns for one year before being replaced. This flame represents divinity and purity and is present in front of all Buddha statues in Ladakh.


Thiksey Gompa is the most picturesquely situated monastery in Ladakh, perched high on a hill above the Indus. Its buildings are arranged at various levels, leading up to the private apartments of the incarnate lamas on the summit. From here one commands a magnificent view of the valley. The gompa possesses a rich and beautiful collection of hundreds of hand-written or painted prayer books.


A new temple contains a 15-meter tall Buddha statue, constructed in 1970 to commemorate a visit to Thiksey by the Dalai Lama. The statue, made of clay and covered with gold paint, is the largest Buddha figure in Ladakh and took four years to construct. Inside, the statue is filled with the Kandshur and the Tandshur - volumes of Buddhist canonical texts. The statue was made entirely by local craftsmen and represents Maitreya, ("compassion" in Sanskrit) the Buddha of the Future. The prophecy made of the Future Buddha is that the world will be undergoing such chaos that He will teach compassion to the people.


Hemis Gompa is one of the most important in Ladakh, the largest and also the wealthiest. The king-architect Singe Namgyal, a great patron of Buddhism, built it in 1620. He filled Hemis with golden statues, stupas set with precious stones and thangkhas brought from many places, including Tibet.


The lamas of Hemis were associated with the Ladakhi royal family and became quite prosperous, owning much land and supervising many smaller, scattered monasteries. Although only about a dozen lamas actually live here, Hemis has several hundred lamas attached to its subsidiary monasteries.


The Rimpoche or spiritual head of Hemis is a reincarnation of the monastery's founder Stagtshang Raspa. The last Rimpoche was a reincarnation who, as a five-year old child, was being taught in Tibet when the Chinese invaded. There has been no communication with the Rimpoche since the 1960s. During the 1975 festival, Drugpa Rimpoche, a 12-year old youth, became the new Rimpoche as a new incarnation. Hemis is the location for numerous religious festivals throughout the year, although the most important one is in summer (July 4 and 5 this year) when a huge thangkha, one of the largest in the world, is hung in the courtyard. It takes about 50 monks to carry the thangkha to its place and unfold it. The thangkha is made of fine heavy silk and embroidered with pictures of various gods as well as of the founder of Hemis. The dances in front of this thangkha represent the forces of good, symbolized by legendary heroes and saints, overcoming demons. Eventually, the violence of the demons is overcome by the superiority of virtue resting on wisdom and the demons are driven from the courtyard. Spectators watch these dances from the upper storey verandahs around the courtyard.


Hemis also has a thangkha, reputed to be the largest in the world, that is displayed once every eleven years. It was last shown in July 1992. The hands of the artist who painted this thangkha are preserved at Hemis as holy relics, though they are not shown to the public. Return to the Hotel for dinner and overnight stay.

DAY 06 : Leh - Lamayuru/Uletokpo

After breakfast drive to Lamayuru. Approx. 4-5 hours drive.Lamayuru Gompa lies 15 km east of the Fatu La on the Srinagar-Leh Highway, with its medieval village seemingly growing out of the rocky hillside below it. In the past, Lamayuru has housed up to 400 lamas, but presently there are only 30 to 50 lamas living here, although about 150 lamas belong to the gompa. The other lamas stay and teach at Lamayuru's smaller daughter gompas located in outlying villages.

 

Twice a year, all the lamas gather at the gompa for general prayers, accompanied by three days of masked dancing. These gatherings occur in the second and fifth months of the Tibetan calendar usually March and July). Lamayuru belongs to the red-hat sect of Buddhism. Ancient legends say that at the time of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha), Lamayuru's valley was a clear lake where nagas (holy serpents) lived. The Bodhisattva Madhyantaka foretold that the lake would be emptied and a monastery built there.

 

The legends continue by saying that Naropa, an 11th century Indian Buddhist scholar, came to Lamayuru and spent many years meditating in a cave, which can still be seen in the main Dukhang or assembly hall. Naropa then caused a split in the surrounding hillside and the lake emptied through this opening. After the lake emptied, Naropa found a dead lion previously covered by the waters of the lake. On this spot, Naropa built the first temple at Lamayuru, the Singhe Ghang (Lion Mound). Other historical accounts relate that in the 10th century the King of Ladakh ordered the building of Lamayuru gompa and placed it under the supervision of Rinchen Zangbo.

 

The original gompa was composed of five buildings although only the central one still stands. In the 16th century, Ladakh's King Jamyang Namgyal was cured of leprosy by a lama from Tibet. In gratitude, the King gave Lamayuru gompa to this lama and also bestowed other privileges - no taxes were collected and the area surround the gompa was declared a sanctuary where none could be arrested. For this reason, Ladakhis still refer to Lamayuru as Tharpa Ling, the "Place of Freedom".


After your visit  to Lamayuru monestary  proceed to Uletokpo for over night stay. It takes about three hours.


Over night at the Uletokpo  Resort  or similar.

DAY 07 : Alchi - Leh

After breakfast drive to Alchi . Alchi Gompa is located near the small village of Saspol. It is one of the earliest monasteries built in Ladakh, dating from the 11th century. Because it was built before the invading wars began in the 15th century, Alchi was built on lowlands, rather than on a hilltop as others were, in order to protect them from marauding armies. King Rin-chen-Izghimpo, one of the first Ladakhi kings to engage in foreign relations, erected it. To build the monastery, the Ladakhi king signed a treaty with the Gyalpo (king) of Tibet, who agreed to provide the artisans. The rambling monastery has six main buildings: the Dukhang or main assembly hall, the Sum-tsek or three-tiered temple; the adjoining Manjusri Lha-khang and Lotsawa Lha-khang temples; the Lha-khang Soma or "New" temple and the Kanjur-Lha-khang, which is closed to the public.

 

Walking towards the gompa from the small group of houses nearby, the first temple of importance is the Sum-stek temple, the oldest of the Alchi gompa. The temple is surrounded by wooden pillars and carved woodwork of mythological animals. The woodwork is original and reflects Kashmiri influence. The Dukhang is the place where the lamas gather for religious ceremonies. Inscriptions on the Dukhang's back wall attribute its building to the religious devotion and financial generosity of a man named Kal-Idan Shes-rab.

 

The walls along both sides of the Dukhang are covered by mural paintings which are probably original to the time of the monastery's founding. Of particular interest are the miniature scenes of royal life. The best preserved is the royal drinking scene which is one of the most remarkable to have survived anywhere in the Tibetan-speaking world. The costumes in this scene clearly depict central Asian dress and the king and queen each have a halo, a convention that appears elsewhere in Alchi and possibly shows Nestorian Christian influence from Persia. This is the only painting in Ladakh that shows central Asian influence so clearly. The chortens around Alchi gompa also contain numerous wall murals, often of Rin-chen bZang-po, meant to honour his activities as a translator in collaboration with Indian teachers of Buddhism.


From Alchi drive back to Kargil - Leh highway and continue driving for another. Approx. 2 hours to Leh . On arrival check in at the Hotel . Overnight at The Hotel.

DAY 08 : Leh - Diskit Over Khardunga La

7 hours: Morning depart to Nubra. The Nubra Valley lies north of Leh and is accessible over the Khardung la (18,380 feet/5,600 m), one of the highest motorable roads in the world. The Nubra Valley was on the caravan route from Leh to Kashgar via the Sasir and Karakoram passes. Apart from unparalleled trekking opportunities, the valley houses several Buddhist monasteries such as Sumur and the 350 year-old Diskit gompa, famous for its murals.
Overnight at the Lodge .

 

DAY 09 : Diskit - Sumur

Early in the morning walk up to Diskit monastery to witness the morning prayer ceremony. It takes about 45 minutes through a long row of scattered chortens to reach the gompa, which is set on the highest point near the village. Belonging to the Gelugpa (yellow hat) sect, parts of the gompa, which houses 120 resident monks, are about 760 years old. The Dukhang has many statues, one of, which holds the head, and left arm of a Turkish invader believed to be 500 years old.


Return to the camp for breakfast after which drive 7 kms to visit Hundar gompa. This is a small gompa belonging to the Gelug-pa sect, set amidst innumerable chortens and has a huge impressive statue of Chamba in the main prayer hall. The gompa was built at the time King Jamgyal Namgyal came here with his wife Gyal Khatun. Explore the village, which has some beautiful old houses.


Drive down towards the Shyok river across an extremely rough and rocky stretch of flat ground. Cross the river over a bridge and arrive at the first village of Tirith. The road from here is extremely bad all the way up to Panamik. The scenery however, is spectacular, with the snow capped Karakoram mountains in the background. The weather being much warmer in Nubra in comparison to the Indus valley, the vegetation is thicker, with a variety of trees and flowers. Nubra is also known for its two-humped Bactrian camel which is found in these parts. The camels are left to graze in the jungle during the summer months and are brought back only during the winter months when they are used as beasts of burden and for their wool. Visit the 150 years old Samsthanling gompa at Sumur. It is a big complex of 7 temples including the Rimpoche's room. Walk half an hour from the gompa to Tegar village where there is another small gompa. Walk through the village and explore its beautiful surroundings near the jungle and a small lake.
Overnight at the Lodge

DAY 10 : Sumur - Leh Via Khardungla

6 hours: Retrace the route to the Leh for overnight stay at Hotel , via Khalsar and the Khardung La.


Overnight at the Hotel.

DAY 11 : In Leh
Day at leisure or explore the town at your own. Overnight at the Hotel .
DAY 12 : Leh - Delhi
Early morning transfer to airport to connect flight 9W 610 departs at 0800 hours and arrive Delhi at 0915 hours. ( timing of the flight subject to change) Upon arrival in Delhi you are met at the domestic airport and transferred to hotel The Park for overnight stay.
DAY 13 : In Delhi

After breakfast proceed for a half day tour of New Delhi.
Sightseeing of New Delhi includes a visit to India Gate, built in memory of Indian soldiers killed during the First World War. Rashtrapati Bhawan, built in the early 20th century as the Imperial residence of the Viceroy is today the official residence of the President of India and Parliament House, an unique circular building with huge colonnades, houses the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament. Humayun's Tomb is the first Mughal garden tomb.

 

Visitors are immediately struck by the tomb's resemblance to its more famous cousin - the Taj Mahal - with its four grand gateways, octagonal base-plan, soaring niche-shaped arches, lofty double domes and the symmetrical garden with its central canal. One of Delhi’s most striking monuments is the 70-meter high Qutab Minar, which looms majestically across the wide plains of Delhi. Lakshmi Narayan Temple was built in 1938 in a pleasantly laid out garden and is named after the goddess of wealth and the god Narayan, though other deities are also housed here. Also visit Connaught Circus the commercial hub of New Delhi. Overnight at the Hotel The Park or similar.

DAY 14 : Departure Delhi
You are transferred to International airport in time to connect your flight for home.
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