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Ladakh Winter Panorama
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"To visit Ladakh in winter you have to be a bit mad or
I would take Lonely Planet's view and change it to, 'You have to be very special and seriously prepared'. We are both! On my first journey to Ladakh in winter I never thought I would rediscover and see places I had known well for years in a new light. Leh is bustling with life, all the markets open, and the hotels we use have heating and hot water. The monasteries in the Indus valley are normally full of Ladakhis, free from their summer tasks taking their families to the holy places. It really is wonderful to bundle up in your winter clothes, grab some crispy hot bread from the Muslim bakery. And go and watch an ice hockey match!
Arrival in India
Note that most flights into Delhi arrive late at night or very early in the morning. Plan your arrival time and date carefully, and do ask if you are not sure about meeting points. Please email us your flight arrival details as soon as possible, and have our contact details and the contact details of The Metropolis Hotel, and Joel's' mobile handy.
Note that the trekking itinerary and campsites may vary slightly depending on trail and weather conditions and the various trekkers' acclimatization rate.
Many people arrive in Delhi a day earlier to explore the city or recover after a long flight. We can make hotel and airport pick-up arrangement for you IF we know your flight details, and you will only need to pay your extra night's at The Metropolis Hotel. If Joel and/or Kim are in Delhi, they will meet you at The Metropolis Hotel in Paharganj.
- Day 1 - Arrive Delhi
Joel and/or a representative from The Metropolis Hotel will be at the airport to meet you and take you to The Metropolis Hotel in Paharganj, near Connaught Place, in central New Delhi.
If your flight is delayed, please phone the Metropolis Hotel. If you have to take a taxi to the hotel, we will reimburse you for the trip. Every taxi driver will know where Paharganj and the Metropolis Hotel are located, and the drive takes around 30-45 minutes, at least, from the airport.
Day 2 - Fly to Leh 3500m
We leave at 4am to join our morning flight to Leh, which in winter is rarely delayed. After an hour long spectacular flight over the Himalayas, we land in the past, Tashi Namgyal's 15th century capital, Leh. The cold air will catch at your throat and you will definitely feel the altitude. We stay at the comfortable Lasermo hotel near the main bazaar, which has heated rooms. After a late breakfast, Joel will take you on a slow stroll around Leh, a little piece of central Asian history, with its palace dominating the old bazaar and a backdrop of snowy peaks.
Day 3 - Leh 3500m
We have two days to explore the bazaars and alleyways of historic Leh, and the striking Indus valley with its snowy backdrop that surrounds it, visiting some of the most ancient forts and gompas of the Tibetan Buddhist world. A little bit of old Tibet. Joel has been a regular visitor since 1988, and there is lots to explore in this wonderful Central Asian town; the fort and palace, colorful gompas, the mosque, back alleys with steaming Muslim bread and tiny antique shops tucked away, colorful fruit and vegetable bazaars, polo fields ... and of course, the regular 11 am ice hockey match!
Day 4 - Drive to Chilling and trek to Tilad Do camp 3100m
Mornings in Leh in any season are special, with the harsh high Himalayan light softened by the dust in the air. In winter, the call to prayer from the mosque wakes you gently. Breakfast in the Lasermo is a last touch of civilization. By eight we will be on the move, driving through the suburbs of Leh, then along the Indus valley. The road climbs slowly past Spitok Monastery, and bus loads of Ladakhi kids heading for where the Indus has been diverted into shallow pools for skating. We reach about 3700m where we normally stop to stretch our legs and take in the view behind. Leh nestles at the foot of the Ladakh range, its location dictated by the high route to China behind. From here you can really see how geography dictates history.
We drive on, descending to the Indus again to its confluence with the Zanskar. A dirt road from here takes us to Chilling, as far as the jeep can go. Here we have a simple lunch, then it is on to the ice. It takes an hour or so to get into a comfortable rhythm, and we have found that using crampons tends to be more of a hindrance, as they are not suitable for all ice conditions. As the gear list says, good, well made trekking poles are essential. Again, as on the gear list, you must have boots with good, new soles that 'stick'. Luckily there are rarely any ice puzzles on this section, except at the camp, where you ascend a frozen stream. The camp is on a sandy plateau to one side of the Zanskar, where on this first day our tents will have been erected for us. We will introduce you to camp routines and our warm and cozy dining tent, followed by dinner, soup and a good, varied vegetarian meal. Evenings in the dining tent, which is big enough to stretch your legs but small enough to be easily warmed, are very comfortable. Before bed, as as part of the daily routine, we fill your bottles with boiling water. Great to toast your toes, and drinkable in the morning.
Day 5 - Trek to Chilling and drive to Alchi
A shock? we hope not too much! That morning cold is eased by the hot beverage of your choice that comes to your tent, and hot washing water. Breakfast call is 7.30, but your gear and tent have to be packed by then! We go back via the same route, but most trekkers are surprised by how different it all looks; the light coming from early morning angles gives new perspectives. By twelve we are lunching in Chilling, and by two we are at our cozy guest house in Alchi, the site of the 11th century gompa founded by the Great Translator, Ringchen Zangpo. We will visit the prayer rooms either this afternoon or early tomorrow. After the garish demons of some of the other monasteries we have seen in the last few days, the beautiful Kashmiri influenced art work here is worth the time to take in.
Day 6 - Drive to Likir 3400m
After a leisurely breakfast and a visit to the monastery, we drive for less then two hours to the village of Likir with its small gompa. We will be given a clean, basic room in one of the village houses and entertained to a Ladakhi style dinner. The rooms are warmed by woodstoves - and we will also have Lobsang on hand for hot water, drinks, and his fresh bread before we move in the morning.
Day 7 - Trek to Yangtang 3550m
An easy pass, more a bump on a ridge, today, at 3700m, but you will feel the altitude and the sharp, cold air! This route is a highway, winter and summer, for local villagers and monks, who we will see going back and forth to the road, and Leh. After a six hour walk and a visit to Rizong Gompa, we are at the village of Yangtang, and another curious family will welcome us into their home.
Day 8 & 9 - Trek to Shukpachu and rest day 3644m
A short stage of four hours walking today (but longer if there is snow) brings us to the beautifully situated village of Shukpachu, our home for two nights. On our day off we propose to move early and explore, with a local guide, some of the high valleys around the village, known for their wildlife. During our two nights we will explore the village, and our house; the winter is a time to sit in the warm 'winter room', gossip, play with the kids, and weave. And of course, the endless cups of salt tea.
Day 10 - Trek to Temisgam 3300m
Our winter walk today takes us over two hills (marked as passes) and down to Temisgam, a village famous in Ladakhi history for the signing over of Ladakh's' Pashmina trade to Kashmir. We spend our last night here with a family in a Ladakhi house.
Day 11 - Drive to Leh via Phyang Gompa
Back along the Indus valley, with its mud brick houses and smoke rising from village fires, we detour to see Phyang Monastery, situated in a side valley on the old trade route to Nubra. Then back to our hotel for dinner.
Day 12 - In Leh or Nubra valley
If the highest road pass in the world behind Leh, the Khardung La, is open, we leave early for the 4 hour drive to visit this tiny area of high desert between India and Pakistan, with its Bactrian camels and amazing panoramas. If the road is closed, we will have alternative plans.
Day 13 - Fly to Delhi
We say goodbye to this tiny kingdom in the sky as we board our early morning flight to the (comparative) warmth of Delhi and the morning rush hour.
Day 14 - Journey end
We take you to the airport for your flight home. The Metropolis staff will arrange a taxi to the airport, and you can store your bags in the hotel until you leave for the airport. Farewell to India. For now!