- Step back in time at the ancient monasteries of Leh
- Conquer the whitewater rapids of the mighty Indus River
- Travel across the shifting sand dunes of Hundar on a Bactrian camel
- Set up camp, luxury-style, on the endless shores of Pangong Lake
|Day 1||Arrive in Delhi, Explore||Delhi|
|Day 2||Fly to Leh, Guided Walking Tour of Leh||Leh|
|Day 3||Monastery Tours, Rafting Adventure on the Indus River||Leh|
|Day 4||Driving Tour of Leh, Shey Monastery, Stok Village & Palace||Leh|
|Day 5||Transfer to Nubra Valley, Diskit Monastery, Hundar||Nubra|
|Day 6||Hundar Sand Dunes, Camel Rides & Hot Springs||Nubra|
|Day 7||Transfer to Sumur, Samstanling Gompa Monastery||Sumur|
|Day 8||Transfer to Pangong Lake, Camping Adventure on the Lake||Pangong Lake|
|Day 9||Transfer Back to Leh, Browse the Leh Market||Leh|
|Day 10||Fly to Delhi, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Delhi, Explore
Welcome to India! Upon your arrival at the New Delhi airport, your driver will meet you and transport you to your hotel. Once you've checked in and had a chance to regroup, step out and start exploring India's capital city! Sitting on the banks of the Yamuna River and part of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, this is a vibrant, densely populated metropolis with a rich history and plenty to see and do.
Start with a visit to Lal Qila, or the Red Fort, one of New Delhi's most popular attractions. Built in the 1600s, this was once the residence of Mughal emperors, featuring stunning architectural elements that combine Persian and Hindu influences. You can stroll the grounds on your own or take a guided tour for a true history lesson and education on the fort—something older kids or teens might find especially interesting.
Afterward, visit India Gate, built as a memorial to the Indian soldiers who fought in World War I. Here you'll find a large stretch of grassy lawns with a huge playground right next door for the kids to burn off some energy. And if you've got little ones who are obsessed with trains, be sure to stop at the National Rail Museum, where you can see rail exhibits, and the kids can climb on real trains! Rest up tonight at your hotel before continuing your journey tomorrow.
Day 2: Fly to Leh, Guided Walking Tour of Leh
This morning, a private transfer will take you to the airport to catch your flight to your next destination, Leh. Located in the far northern territory of Ladakh, this charming city sits in a fertile valley just above the mighty Indus River. The region is known for its abundance of picturesque monasteries, as well as for being a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The plane crosses the mighty Himalaya range, providing an amazing overhead view of the mountains and glaciers, so be sure to grab a window seat!
Upon your arrival at Leh's airport, you'll be met by your driver and taken to your hotel. You may immediately notice the change in altitude here—Leh sits at 11,500 feet (3,500 m), which can be a bit of a shock to the system. You may want to spend today resting and acclimating, or your family can take a gentle guided walk around the valley.
The tour takes you to Leh's old Royal Palace, which sits on Namgyal Hill, then along a winding path to the nearby Tsemo Monastery, where you'll be rewarded with magnificent views of the whole of Leh and its surrounding villages. See the Japanese Peace Pagoda, Shanti Stupa, which was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu Gyomyo Nakamura. End the day with a visit to some of the local bazaars, where you can get a bite to eat and the kids can run around freely.
Day 3: Monastery Tours, Rafting Adventure on the Indus River
Today's excursion covers three of the major gompas (monasteries) around Leh. Your guide will pick you up in the morning and drive you to the monastery of Thiksey, which belongs to the Gelukpa order (Yellow Hat) sect of Buddhists. The monastery is perched on top of a hill, with red and white buildings that can be seen for miles. A recently built temple there contains a magnificent two-story image of the Future Buddha.
From here, you'll continue to Hemis, which belongs to the Drukpa order (Red Hat) sect. This is one of the biggest (and wealthiest) monasteries in Ladakh. The monastery boasts a rich collection of ancient relics and rare 17th-century murals. Then it's off to Matho, which sits on the other side of the Indus River. Founded in the 1400s, this is the only monastery that belongs to the Sakya order of Tibetan monasteries.
If your family is looking for some real outdoor adventuring, spend your afternoon rafting down the Indus River, easily considered one of the most beautiful whitewater streams in the Himalaya. Your guide will provide a safety briefing, and you'll don the provided equipment, then start your journey, traversing moderate class II and III rapids along the way. The run takes you through breathtakingly gorgeous mountains, many of which have tiny villages and grand old monasteries hidden among the valleys, and the kids will love the excitement of the rapids as well as the chance to spot some local wildlife!
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Driving Tour of Leh, Shey Monastery, Stok Village & Palace
Enjoy a guided driving tour of Leh today, which takes you along the Indus and Zanskar Rivers. You'll make a stop at Sindhu Ghat, where the kids can stretch their legs and, depending on the time of year, might even get to see some of the local festivals taking place on the banks of the Indus. Afterward, you'll drive toward Thiksey Monastery, where you'll listen to the morning prayers, chanting, and drum-playing of the monks that live there.
From here, you'll continue to Shey Monastery, once the summer capital of Ladakh and home to the impressive Shakyamuni Buddha and Shey Palace. After touring the monastery and palace, you and the kids will have an opportunity to try out your archery skills! Archery is a popular sport here and is considered to be part of Ladakh tradition and culture.
After breaking for lunch, your tour takes you to the Stok Palace Museum, which was built in the 14th century by Lama Lhawang Lotus. The museum has exhibitions of various ancient artifacts, including royal crowns, coins, precious stones, jewelry, and prayer instruments. You'll finish the day in the village of Stok, where you'll see the 200-year-old Stok Palace and the 14th-century Stok Monastery, which has a 71-foot (22 m) tall seated Buddha.
Day 5: Transfer to Nubra Valley, Diskit Monastery, Hundar
The day starts early with a drive to the Nubra Valley, which takes you along Khardung La—the world's highest motorable road—and Khardungla Pass, which sits at an astounding 18,379 feet (5,602 m). Enjoy the breathtaking views that stretch south over the Indus Valley to the peaks and ridges of the Zanskar range and north to the giants of the Saser massif. Nubra Valley, or Ldumra (Valley of Flowers), is nestled between the Karakoram and Ladakh ranges, a desert expanse with an elevation nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level.
After your arrival, you'll proceed to Diskit Monastery, which sits high atop a cliff. See the elevated cupola here, which has a fresco that depicts Tibet's Tashihunpo gompa, and take in the expansive views of the valley and village below. Afterward, your family will head to the village of Hundar. Hundar is often referred to as the "desert in the sky" and is known for its sand dunes and barren landscapes. If the kids aren't too tired, you can take a stroll around the village, and if you happen to be there in the fall, the friendly residents are likely to let them pick a few apples from the many fruit trees you'll see around town!
Day 6: Hundar Sand Dunes, Camel Rides & Hot Springs
Explore more of Hundar today, starting with a camel ride at the amazing Hundar sand dunes! Travel across the desert on the double-humped Bactrian camels that were once an integral part of the caravans of this ancient trade route. After the kids get to do a meet and greet with the camels, you'll mount up, and your guide will take you on a desert tour, regaling both kids and adults with stories and history of the region.
Later, visit Panamic village, known for its sulfur hot springs. There is a small pool here and changing areas are available if you or the kids want to take a dip. The village is also near the Siachen glacier, one of the largest in the world outside of the polar regions. This evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant and rest up before tomorrow's transfer.
Day 7: Transfer to Sumur, Samstanling Gompa Monastery
Take a private transfer from the Nubra Valley to Sumur village, a drive of approximately 1.5 hours. After you arrive and check in at your hotel, you can step out for some sightseeing. Start at the village's monastery, Samstanling Gompa, which was founded by Lama Tsultims Nima in 1841 CE and belongs to the Gelukpa order. This is a great place for the kids to walk around after the car ride and houses a lovely collection of idols and thangkas (Buddhist paintings). Sumur is also home to Sumur and Charu monasteries, both of which are worth a visit.
Day 8: Transfer to Pangong Lake, Camping Adventure on the Lake
Today your family departs for gorgeous Pangong Lake, also known as Pangong Tso, one of Asia's largest lakes, with crystal clear waters that span the borders of India and China and create stunning vistas of water meeting sky. You'll be camping lakeside tonight at one of the several luxury camps here, most of which have modern facilities, meals, and fun optional excursions.
After you check in at your camp, the rest of the day is yours. While the lake is not considered swimmable (sorry, kids!) in part because of its cold temperatures, you can walk along the shores, take lots of photos, and let the youngsters run and play at their leisure on the vast, open expanses here. Tonight, relax at camp, where you can have bonfires, meet other travelers, and enjoy family-friendly group activities and games.
Day 9: Transfer Back to Leh, Browse the Leh Market
Travel back to Leh for your final full day in India. Along the way, your driver will break up the drive with a stop at Hemis Monastery, a Himalayan Buddhist monastery of the Drukpa lineage, re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. The monastery is quite beautiful and also has a museum attached that the whole family will find interesting and informative.
After arriving back in Leh and getting settled at your hotel, take advantage of your free time with a visit to Leh Market, a bustling, colorful space where you'll find all the gifts and souvenirs you might want—and maybe discover some you didn't know you needed! The market consists of small pathways and streets and has clothes, spices, food items, and handmade woolens, perfect for staying cozy in colder climates. The kids will love looking for some treasures to take back home, and there are also plenty of restaurants and food stalls, so this is a great place to have dinner before heading back to your hotel.
Day 10: Fly to Delhi, Depart
It's time to say goodbye to India today, as your driver transfers you from your hotel in Leh to the airport, where you'll catch a flight to Delhi and your onward connection. Safe travels!
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