Kashmir, Ladakh & The Hemis Festival

India

Culture | Festivals

Experience dramatic Himalayan scenery, Islamic & Buddhist cultures

14 days £2,495 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

First stop is flowery Srinagar, where you’ll take a shikara across Dal Lake and sleep in a traditional houseboat. Learn about the rich Islamic history in this part of Kashmir before driving through sublime mountain scenery to the remote Buddhist heartland of Ladakh. Visit its colourful monasteries, drive along one of the highest motorable roads in the world and explore the enchanting desert landscape of the Nubra Valley. Later, witness masked dancers at the Hemis Festival, before driving to the shores of Lake Pangong, a vast intense blue lake dividing India and China.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Overnight in a charming houseboat on Dal Lake
  • Visit Buddhist monastries
  • Witness masked dancers at the Buddhist Hemis Festival
  • Visit shimmering Lake Pangong

Places Visited

Srinagar - Dal Lake - Kargil - Zojila Pass - Sonamarg - Mulbek - Leh - Alchi - Lamayuru - Nubra Valley - Lake Pangong

What's Included

Airport transfers
Ground transport with driver
Accommodation
Some meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
Sightseeing activities with local guides
Entrance fees to sites (one-time entry)
Itinerary & Map

Hemis Festival only takes place on June/July departures. If travelling outside this period, optional walks and monastery visits can be arranged.

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Day 1 : Arrival

Arrive at Srinagar airport where you will be greeted by a Travel the Unknown Representative. Transfer to Kashmiri houseboat on Dal Lake and rest of evening free. Overnight in Srinagar.

Overnight in Royal Houseboat, Srinagar

Meal plan: Dinner

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Day 2 : Srinagar - Dal Lake

After breakfast, spend half of the day sightseeing in Srinagar. Visit the Mughal Gardens. In the evening, enjoy a shikara ride on tranquil Dal Lake. Overnight in Srinagar.

Overnight in Royal Houseboat, Srinagar

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Situated on the banks of the Jhelum River, Srinagar is the summer capital of Kashmir. It is well known for its beautiful gardens, lakes and houseboats as well as dried fruits and Kashmiri handicrafts. Known as ‘the Kashmiri Venice’, the city has a unique blend of cultural heritage which is reflected in the city’s many religious buildings, such as Keer bhawani and the Hazaratbal Shrine, which is the only domed mosque in the city.

Surrounded by snow capped mountains, Dal Lake is one of the most beautiful urban lakes in India. It's the second largest lake in Kashmir and has many orchards dotted along its shores. The lake is part of a natural wetland including its floating gardens which cover the surface in lotus flowers during July and August. Called the 'jewel of Kashmir', the best way to view the stunning scenery is to take a colourful shikara ride across the tranquil waters.

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Day 3 : Srinagar - Kargil

After breakfast, start your drive along the spectacular ‘Himalayan highway’ to Kargil. Stop off in the hill station of Sonamarg, situated at the foot of the stunning Zojila Pass. Lunch en-route. Arrive early evening in Kargil. Overnight in Kargil.

Overnight in Zojila Residency, Kargil

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Lying on the banks of the Suru River, Kargil is the second largest town in the Ladakh. Before the Partition of India in 1947, the town was part of the Baltistan region of Ladakh and was a sparsely populated area with diverse language, ethnic and religious groups living in the isolated valleys. The town has a unique mix of architecture with the older mosques built in Tibetan and Iranian styles and the more modern mosques built with Arabic influences.

Zojila Pass is a high mountain pass connecting Srinagar and Leh. It’s one of the most dangerous roads in the Himalayas because it is narrow and has vicious winds due to a funnel effect. The second highest pass on the Srinangar – Leh Highway, it provides a vital link between Ladakh and Kashmir. 

Translated as 'meadow of gold', Sonamarg is a hill station. With a backdrop of snow-clad mountains, the hill station had historical significant and was a major gateway on the ancient Silk Road connecting Kashmir with China. The area surrounding the hill station is full of bewitching natural beauty as the great Himalayan glaciers, Kolhoi Glacier and Mohoi Glacier, lay in its vicinity.

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Day 4 : Kargil - Leh

Breakfast at the hotel. Drive to Leh, visiting Mulbekh Valley, Lamayuru monastery and Alchi. Arrive in Leh and transfer to the hotel. Evening free. Overnight in Leh.

Overnight in Ladakh Himalayan Retreat, Leh

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Located around 45km from Kargil, Mulbek is a Buddhist village. It features many monuments which lie scattered around the area in ruins. The most famous of these is Mulbek Chamba, a 9 metre tall statue of Future Buddha which is a blend of Saivaite symbolism and early Buddhist art. Situated on the highway, it's thought to date back to the 8th century and was built by Buddhist missionaries. It is also home to the Mulbek Gompa, which stands on a hilltop and dominates the valley below.

The village of Alchi is most known for its monastery which is the oldest Buddhist monastery in the Ladakh region. It is famous for its wall paintings depicting Hindus Kings of the time and are some of the oldest paintings in the area. It also houses huge statues of Buddha, elaborate woodcarvings and artwork that is often compared to the Baroque style. 

Lamayuru is a medieval monastery that is built on top of a near-vertical cliff. Towering over a small cluster of mud-bricked houses, it was founded by Rinchen Zangpo in the tenth and eleventh centuries. However, the place itself is thought to have been sacred well before Buddhism when the local people followed the shamanistic Bon cult. It is known for the being one of the largest gompas or monasteries in the Ladakh region with 150 monks permanently residing there. It hosts two masked dance festivals in the second and fifth months of the Tibetan lunar calendar when all the monks from the surrounding gompas gather together to prey.

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Day 5 : Leh

After breakfast, spend the day sightseeing in Leh visiting Thiksey Monastery, Shey Monastery and Stok Palace. Overnight in Leh.

Overnight in Ladakh Himalayan Retreat, Leh

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Leh is at an elevation of 3500m above sea level, situated in the Ladakh province. The stunning Leh Palace is modelled on the Tibetan Palace in Lhasa. some of Ladakh’s most famous and spectacular religious sites, including Sindhu Ghat where you can take a stroll by the bank of the River Indus. From there we move on to Thiksey Monastery, one of Leh’s most architecturally impressive structures clinging to the cliff-face and containing numerous stupas and murals of Lord Buddha.  The former home of the Ladakhi royal family, Shey Palace and Museum is situated on a hillock and houses an impressive 7.5 metre gold statue of Lord Buddha.  Hemis National Park is India’s largest national park, and the only park found in the northern Himalayas. It is home to a number of endangered species and the 400-year old Hemis Monastery.

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Day 6 : Leh

Breakfast at the hotel. Today you will have sightseeing of Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa and a walk in Sankar village.  Overnight in Leh.

Overnight in Ladakh Himalayan Retreat, Leh

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 7 : Leh - Nubra Valley

Early start to the day for your tour of the Nubra Valley. This must be one of the world`s most spectacular journeys with sublime views of Ladakh`s valleys. Despite its altitude and barren mountains, the landscape is dotted with lush greenery, the winding River Indus, sporadic wildlife and snow-capped peaks. Be one of the few to travel the highest motorable road in the world. At 18,380 feet, Khardung La Pass literally is on top of the world. Drive onwards to Nubra Valley, a remarkable setting with silver sand dunes contrasting with snow peaks in the background. After settling in at the Eco-retreat, have a hot cup of chai and snacks, then set forth in the `Himalayan desert`. Return to the Eco-retreat as the light fades. Enjoy excellent food in the buffet tent and gaze at the nightsky from your own private veranda. Overnight in Nubra Valley.

Overnight in Desert Himalayan Camp, Nubra Valley

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Nubra Valley is full of spectacular landscape contrasts and silver sand dunes are set below snow peaks, with sublime views of Ladakh’s valleys. Here you can cross the highest motorable road in the world at 17,582 feet (5,359 m) and see how Khardung La Pass is literally on top of the world. It is also the home of the shaggy double-humped camel – a fine beast and one of the rarest camel species in the world.

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Day 8 : Nubra Valley

After breakfast, visit the village of Panamik, known for its hot springs and for being the last village accessible to tourists. Overnight in Nubra Valley.

Overnight in Desert Himalayan Camp, Nubra Valley

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 9 : Nubra Valley - Leh

The eco-retreat is located close to the picture-postcard village of Hunder and it is well worth a light morning stroll. The village contains a lone stupa, a meandering stream, cobbled pathways all set against a backdrop of imposing mountains. Return for breakfast at the eco-retreat then leave for Leh. Drive back to Leh via impressive Diskit Monastery. A short detour but not visited by many, this Monastery enjoys fantastic views of the Ladakhi landscape. The Monastery itself houses a number of shrines and is steeped in Buddhist folklore. It is believed that an evil anti-Buddhist Mongol demon once lived there and was killed near the monastery grounds but is said to have been resurrected. Apparently the head and hand of the demon lie inside one of Diskit`s temples. After walking around the monastery complex, hop back into the jeep. Head back to Leh via Khardung La Pass, stopping off for your packed lunch. On arrival in Leh, unwind and relax in hotel. Evening buffet and take a well-earned rest. Overnight in Leh.

Overnight in Ladakh Himalayan Retreat, Leh

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 10 : The Hemis Festival

After breakfast, visit the 300 year old Hemis Monastery to experience the Hemis Festival. Overnight in Leh. 

Overnight in Ladakh Himalayan Retreat, Leh

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 11 : The Hemis Festival

Breakfast at the hotel. Spend the day at the Hemis Festival. Overnight in Leh.

Overnight in Ladakh Himalayan Retreat, Leh

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Hemis Festival is one of the biggest and most vibrant Buddhist festivals in Ladakh. The two day celebrations take place on the tenth day of the fifth Tibetan lunar month and commemorate the birth of Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. Priests called take to the streets, dressed in elaborate costumes and masks, and dance the traditional cham dance which is only performed in gompas that follow the Tantric Vajrayana teachings.

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Day 12 : Leh - Lake Pangong

Lake Pangong is one of Ladakh`s true natural gems. In the opposite direction to Nubra Valley, you will set off after breakfast and cross the world`s second highest motorable road, Chang La Pass (5300m, 17,350 ft). The lake forms part of the border area between India and China, and sits at at an altitude of 13,930 ft above sea level. Its most striking feature is the phenomenal colour variation, with its different hues of blue. Packed lunch provided or have a snack at a foodstop en-route. On arrival at the lake, you will be assigned to your private tent overlooking the serene lake. Tents come fully equipped with beds and attached bathroom. After unwinding from the journey, take a short hike by the lake. Sit back and enjoy a delicious dinner buffet in the midst of the starry nightsky with the moonlight shimmering off the lake`s soothing waters. Overnight in Lake Pangong.

Overnight in Pangong Heritage Resort, Lake Pangong

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Lake Pangong is one of Ladakh’s true gems. The lake forms part of the border area between India and China, and sits at an altitude of 13,930.

Read more
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Day 13 : Lake Pangong - Leh

Breakfast at the camp. Drive to Leh. The afternoon is free to spend as you wish. Overnight in Leh.

Overnight in Ladakh Himalayan Retreat, Leh

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 14 : Delhi - Departure

Transfer to the airport to depart.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Royal Houseboat

Srinagar (2 nights)

The Royal Houseboat is a traditional Kashmiri boat. It provides a unique experience to travellers, who can enjoy the comfort of a traditional wooden cabin during their stay on the water. All houseboats feature a balcony, lounge, dining room, and 3 or more bedrooms which are fitted with ensuite bathrooms.

Visit hotel's site
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Zojila Residency

Kargil (1 night)

Zojila Residency is located near to the buzzing city of Kargil. The contemporary hotel is fitted with moderm amenities to allow for a comfortable stay. The bedrooms are simple, yet spacious and come with an en-suite, television and wifi that guest can access. Zojila provides a choice of dinning areas, where guests can decide between sampling local dishes or enjoying other international cuisine options. 

Visit hotel's site
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Ladakh Himalayan Retreat

Leh (7 nights)

Ladakh Himalayan Retreat's location is ideal, only a kilometre away from the Main Bazaar on Fort Road and surrounded by snow capped mountains. The hotel has picturesque views of Shanti Stupa and Stok Khangri Leh Palace. All rooms have all the essential amenities including a private balcony, 24 hour room service, ensuite bathroom and LED satellite TVs. The hotel also features a restaurant and offers same day laundry and dry cleaning service. Free WiFi access is available.

Visit hotel's site
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Desert Himalayan Camp

Nubra Valley (2 nights)

The tents of the Himalayan Camp are nestled within 6 acres of lush green land. It is surrounded by scenic views, across mountain peaks and crystal clear natural springs. The camp allows visitors to really experience this rural region, whilst enjoying modern comforts - where each tent is furnished with comfortable beds and a bathroom with hot running water. Guests can enjoy the many activities at the Desert Himalayan Camp, including archery and swimming in the natural pool. In the evenings, visitors can sit around the campfire and relax in the remote camp setting. 

Visit hotel's site
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Pangong Heritage Resort

Lake Pangong (1 night)

A brand new site, Pangong Heritage Resort provides luxury tents located near Lake Pangong. Each tent is tastefully furnished and equipped with comfortable beds and clean facilities. 

Extensions

Kolkata & Sunderbans (6 days)

Discover colonial Kolkata and the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve

Hill Stations & Mountains

Escape the city and unwind among some of the most breathtaking mountain and hill scapes the world has to offer.

City Extensions (1-4 days)

Visit the must-see sights and the hidden depths of India's most vibrant cities.

Beaches (1-7 days)

After exploring the busy cities, there's no better place to relax than one of India's paradisiacal beaches

Treks & Walks (1-12 days)

Himalayan treks, village walks and more

The Golden Triangle (5 days)

Marvel at India's most incredible forts and palaces

Himalayan Extension: Ladakh to Kashmir (5 days)

Travel across the spectacular Himalayan Highway

Kolkata & Darjeeling Snapshot (7 days)

Ideal extension to Bhutan

Wildlife of Madagascar, India & Borneo (29 days)

Spot lemurs, tigers & orangutans

Indian Odyssey (29 days)

Experience the best of North and South India

Highlights of the Subcontinent (22 days)

Discover iconic sights of India, Nepal & Bhutan

Wildlife of India & Borneo (21 days)

Get under the skin of Asia's two best wildlife spots.

Monks, Tribes & Rhinos (20 days)

Himalayan mountains, unseen tribes & amazing wildlife

Hill stations to the Himalayas (20 days)

Travel through the Himalayan foothills via Shimla & Amritsar to Ladakh

Classic Bhutan & Assam Cruise (18 days)

Experience Bhutan's rich culture, colonial Kolkata and rural life in Assam

Essential India & China (17 days)

Visit the two most populous countries on Earth.

Glimpse of India & Nepal (16 days)

Golden Triangle and the Himalayas

Essential India & Sri Lanka (16 days)

India's Golden Triangle & the best of Sri Lanka.

Textiles & Artisans of Gujarat & Rajasthan (16 days)

Nomadic tribes, traditional textiles, crafts & Mewar Festival

Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters (15 days)

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival (15 days)

Wildlife, tribes & rural life in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur

Taste of South India (15 days)

Experience the flavours and exotic spices of South India

Kerala Calling (15 days)

Tropical mountains, tea & spice plantations, and backwaters

Rajasthan Explorer & Pushkar Camel Fair (15 days)

Fort cities, rural villages & camel fair

Big Six of India (15 days)

Spot tigers, lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino & elephants

Tribal Orissa & Chhattisgarh (14 days)

Distinct tribal cultures, unique temples & traditional textiles

Spirit of South India (14 days)

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu to backwaters of Kerala

Kerala & Karnataka Explorer (14 days)

Idyllic backwaters, tropical forests & ancient temple towns

Taj, Tigers & Temples (14 days)

Perfect mix of classic sights and off-beat places for first-timers to India

Hampi and Beyond (14 days)

Discover Karnataka's stone temples, wildlife and coffee farms

Tribes of North East India (14 days)

Remote tribal cultures in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Nagaland

Sacred India (14 days)

Uncover the religious diversity of India

Delicacies of North India (14 days)

Discover the huge diversity of North India's cuisine

Big Cats of India (14 days)

Experience the thrill of the Indian jungle ...

Best of Bengal & Sikkim (14 days)

Colonial Kolkata, Darjeeling toy train & Buddhism

Wildlife of North East India (14 days)

Diverse wildlife in Assam and the Sunderbans

Heart of India (14 days)

Lucknow, Varanasi & the wonders of Madhya Pradesh

Kashmir, Ladakh & The Hemis Festival (14 days)

Experience dramatic Himalayan scenery, Islamic & Buddhist cultures

Kerala - Trekking the Western Ghats (13 days)

Explore this UNESCO biodiversity hotspot on foot

Markha Valley Trek (12 days)

Set foot in Ladakh's hidden Himalayan valleys

Treasures of Gujarat (12 days)

Villages, temples, salt flats & the world's last Asiatic lions

Glimpse of India (11 days)

Golden Triangle, tigers & exotic Goa

Classic Kerala (10 days)

Tea, spices, backwaters & beaches

Essential Rajasthan (10 days)

Discover the forts, palaces, villages and desert of Rajasthan

Living Bridges of Meghalaya (7 days)

Waterfalls, hills and living bridges in North East India

Reviews

Thank you Travel The Unknown for an unforgettable experience.

Sue Holden , Kashmir & Ladakh Explorer, India

Travel The Unknown tailormade our extensive itinerary to meet our specific requirements and we couldn't have been happier. The trip went like clockwork! The individual guides and drivers were excellent and the variety of unique accommodation was outstanding. The rough roads of Ladakh were worth it to experience first-hand the majesty of the towering Himalayas. So much to see in India - need to plan another itinerary!

Laurel & Paul Smallwood , Tailormade India

I have been on 3 tailor made trips with Travel The Unknown and have found them to be knowledgeable and reliable. We`ve stayed in some wonderful places and have had some unusual and satisfying experiences that go beyond the standard tours.

Joan Edmunds (USA) , Tailormade India

I would highly recommend Travel the Unknown to anyone visiting India. The service we received both prior to, during and following our travels was always timely and excellent. We were able to customize our trip to our liking and to enjoy a wide variety of activities. The guides in every location were outstanding! Honestly. Having travelled through much of the world I can truly say that we have never been more impressed with the quality of the guides arranged for us in each location, as well as the service we received. Similarly, the hotels were excellent and allowed us to live very comfortably while, at the same time, enjoy an authentic Indian experience. If you haven`t already booked your trip with Travel the Unknown, then either do so now....or at least give them a chance to show you what they can offer.

Tracey & Gary , Tailormade India

A wonderful trip! Great nature, stunning landscapes and very interesting itinerary. Recommended to anyone looking for spirituality and breathtaking experiences! A big Thank You to our excellent guide who was able to make a huge difference to our trip.

Annalisa & Chiara , Kashmir & Ladakh Explorer, India

Another great trip from Travel the Unknown. I would recommend this company to anyone who wants to move outside the boundaries of the usual tourist itinerary.

Catherine Crawford , Kashmir & Ladakh Explorer, India

What an excellent service! Rahul adapted, extended and improved our trip so many times without a qualm and we ended up with the trip of a lifetime. The destinations are unusual and interesting but everything has been checked out by the team and works brilliantly. I can`t wait to do another trip.

Penelope Smith , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

The tour was an amazing experience for our first visit to India. The country, its people and its cuisine were friendly,delightful, colourful and exceeded all our expectations. Travel the Unknown have put together a superb unique package that we have no hesitation in recommending to anyone with an interest in food and culture.

Elaine & Neil Smith , Delicacies of North India, India

I`m sure I could not have found a better operator for the type of complicated Indian tour I wanted to undertake on a limited budget. India is an intimidating country to visit, and I suspect that some operators look down on the first time visitor, or disparage their requirements. Travel the Unknown, by contrast, helped me all the way, and their local guides were superb.

Andrew Martin , Tailormade North East India

A really well planned trip. We experienced life in Northeast India in just the way we wanted to. We loved the game reserves and saw a rock python which thrilled our guides as it is even rarer than the tiger! We visited villages and were able to interact with local people and loved the busy markets in Delhi and Calcutta. A special highlight was the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland; shown to us by our very own Naga guide Kezo. Kezo accompanied us for 15 days of our trip and ensured that we had many very special experiences - even taking us to the home of one of his Aunts where we spent a couple of hours sitting by the bonfire chatting.

Ann Holgate , Tailormade India

I just took the Food Tour of Kerala and Malabar Coast and it was purely unforgettable. The accommodation was superb as was the food and hospitality. I essentially came back feeling like a baby hippo - that should tell you you NEED to take this tour ASAP!

Anupy is the author of best-selling Indian cookery book - The Indian Slow Cooker - which is available for purchase on Amazon.

Anupy Singla Gupta , Taste of South India, India

This was a very varied and interesting trip to a forgotten part of India. If you like off the beaten track travel it is definitely worth the effort but go with an open mind and keep a smile on your face.

Richard Williams , Monks, Tribes & Rhinos, India
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