Known as "Little Tibet," India's Ladakh region offers all the beauty and history of Tibet without the red tape. This adventurous 12-day tour begins and ends in Delhi, with a week of trekking through Ladakh's magical mountainous landscapes and fertile river valleys in between. Setting out from the remote city of Leh, you'll visit ancient Buddhist monasteries, stay in traditional village homestays, and marvel at the rugged grandeur and rich culture of the Indian Himalaya.

Highlights

  • Touch down in India's mesmerizing capital city of Delhi
  • Explore the ancient trading city of Leh on the old Silk Road
  • Trek across mountain passes in the heart of the Himalaya
  • Stay with local families in remote village homestays

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Delhi Delhi
Day 2 Fly from Delhi to Leh Leh
Day 3 Leh City & Monastery Tour: Shey Palace, Thiksey & Hemis Leh
Day 4 Trek from Leh to Likir via Phyang Likir
Day 5 Trek from Likir to Yangthang via Sumbo Yangthang
Day 6 Trek from Yangthang to Rizong Monastery Yangthang
Day 7 Trek from Yangthang to Hemis Shukpachen Hemis Hemis
Day 8 Trek from Hemis Shukpachen to Themisgam via Ang Ang
Day 9 Trek from Tia to Skinding via Chamla Pass Tia
Day 10 Trek from Skindying to Khaltse, Transfer to Leh Leh
Day 11 Fly from Leh to Delhi Delhi
Day 12 Depart Delhi  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Delhi

Welcome to Delhi! Your first day is free to relax or explore India's capital city
Welcome to Delhi! 

Welcome to India! Upon arrival at Delhi airport, you will be met by your English-speaking guide and driver and transferred to your hotel in the city.  The rest of the day is free to relax, check out the neighborhood, or go sightseeing around one of the oldest living cities in the world.

First settled in the sixth century BCE, Delhi's central location made it the perfect hub for many different kingdoms and empires, from the Mauryans to the Turkic Muslim dynasties to the Mughals and the British. Over the centuries, Delhi has been invaded and raided by countless armies, including Persians, Afghans, and the British, who divided the city and made it their capital.

Although it is formed of seven different cities, these days Delhi is divided into two—Old Delhi and New Delhi. The former features many fine examples of historic architecture, including the Qutub Minar, the Red Fort, and Jama Masjid, whilst the latter is heavily made up of colonial-era architecture and government buildings, including Parliament House, the Secretariat Building, and the Rashtrapati Bhavan—the President of India's official residence.

Day 2: Fly from Delhi to Leh

Take a flight from Delhi to the magical Himalayan city of Leh
Fly from Delhi to the magical Himalayan city of Leh

Start your first full day of the tour with an early morning flight over the Himalaya from Delhi to Leh. Enjoy amazing views of the snow-capped mountains and the lush Indus River Valley. Upon arrival, check into your hotel.

Today, you're free to wander, explore, relax, or just adjust to life at altitude. It can take a couple of days to get used to the high altitude up here, so take it slow and enjoy the laidback pace of life in the mountains. As soon as you arrive you'll notice the strong spiritual influence around Leh, which is surrounded by Buddhist monasteries and temples. The town itself is dominated by the impressive yet imposing nine-story Namgyal Palace, whose faded grandeur is said to resemble that of the Potala Palace of Lhasa.

In the late afternoon, take a walk through the colorful bazaars of Leh, which was once an important trading stop along the old Silk Route from China. 

Day 3: Leh City & Monastery Tour: Shey Palace, Thiksey & Hemis

Visit Thikse Monastery and check out the vistas over the Himalayas
Enjoy the amazing views from Thiksey Monastery

Spend today on a gompas (monasteries) tour around Leh to learn about the traditions and culture of this deeply religious part of the world. The main religion here is Tibetan Buddhism, but there are many different sects and faiths, which you'll discover as you find out more about the different monasteries and temples of the Himalaya.

Start with a visit to Thiksey Monastery. Perched on top of a hill surrounded by mountains, you'll be able to see the red and white buildings of this 12-story, 15th-century gompa from miles away. Thiksey Monastery belongs to the Gelukpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Buddhism and is home to many sacred shrines and precious relics, including art, statues, and swords.

Across the river in Leh lies Namgyal Palace, also known as Leh Palace, which was constructed by Sengge Namgyal in 1600 CE as the royal residence. By the mid-19th-century this imposing nine-story building was abandoned, and it has lain empty ever since. Now, most of the palace lies in a dilapidated condition, although the Palace Museum still boasts an impressive collection of jewelry, ceremonial clothing, and crowns.

Round off your cultural explorations with a visit to Hemis Monastery, which is tucked in a side valley opposite the Singge Tsangpo River. Founded at least 900 years ago, the monastery was re-established in 1672 CE by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. Today, Hemis Monastery belongs to the Red Hat/Drukpa order of Buddhism and is one of the wealthiest and most important monasteries in Ladakh.

Take a tour through the monastery and you will soon see why Hemis is so revered. There are several gold Buddha statues and stupas decorated with precious stones. Although there is plenty to see within, don't miss the chance to climb to the roof and check out the amazing views of the surrounding mountains and valley.

In the afternoon, return to Leh where you can spend the evening at leisure before beginning your trek tomorrow.

Day 4: Trek from Leh to Likir via Phyang

Start your trek with a visit to Phyang Monastery outside Leh
Start your trek with a visit to Phyang Monastery outside Leh

Today involves a combination of both walking and driving. You'll start the morning with a short transfer to the bridge of Phyang, about 10 miles (16 km) from Leh. From here, you'll trek to the village of Phyang to visit the Phyang Gompa.

Then, hop back in the car and drive out to the ancient Likir Monastery, which is located on a hill near the Indus River. Although these days the 11th-century temple is quite isolated, it was once on a major trade route of the Silk Road. Take a tour through the historic halls and temples, and admire the exquisite details on the woodwork and faded murals of the temples.

Before retiring to your warm guesthouse for the night, watch the sunset over the snowcapped mountains and brave the cold to witness some of the clearest night skies on the planet.

Trekking Time: 2+ hr

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Day 5: Trek from Likir to Yangthang via Sumbo

Begin today's trek from the ancient Likir Monastery
Begin today's trek from the ancient Likir Monastery

After breakfast, it's time to hit the road. Today, you'll be trekking from Likir to the village of Yangtang, stopping en-route in the small village of Sumdo, with its lofty vantage point offering amazing views over the Himalaya Mountains. The walk is on a rough jeep-road with barely any traffic.

After Sumdo, cross the small mountain pass of Charatse La (12,139 ft/3,700 m) before descending to the fertile lands surrounding Yangthang. Once you arrive, you'll set up your camp either near the village school or at the river bank and enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal before retiring for the night.

Trekking Time: 4.5 hr

Day 6: Trek from Yangthang to Rizong Monastery

Today you'll visit Rizong Monastery
Today you'll visit the19th-century Rizong Monastery

Start the day with a pleasant walk along the river to Rizong Monastery. Stretching in a circular arc around the bottom of a canyon, the Rizong Gompa was founded in the nineteenth century by Lama Tsultim Nima under the Gelukpa or Yellow Hat order of Buddhism. The monastery, which is one of the strictest in Ladakh, is also known as the "paradise for meditation" and is home to forty monks.

Take a tour through its shrines and halls and admire the many paintings, statues, and relics before returning along the river to Yangthang, where you'll spend another night camping.

Trekking time: 5-6 hr

Day 7: Trek from Yangthang to Hemis Shukpachen

Learn how to cook traditional Himalayan meals with a cooking lesson
Learn how to cook traditional Himalayan meals with a cooking demonstration

You're in for a relatively easy walking day, as you follow the relatively easy and flat trail from Yangtang to the village of Hemis Shukpachen. Along the way, you'll pass by many ancient chorten (stupas), and rare cypress trees.

After walking for around four hours, you'll arrive in the traditional mountain village of Hemis, where you'll be spending the night in a homestay with a local family. This evening, you'll be treated to a local cooking demonstration where you will learn to cook traditional meals using locally sourced ingredients. Staying with a local family means that you'll get to experience a special kind of unique mountain hospitality, and you can share stories and learn about their culture as you spend a comfortable night in their warm and welcoming home.

Trekking time: 3-4 hr

Day 8: Trek from Hemis Shukpachen to Themisgam via Ang

Today's hike includes some amazing views over the Himalayas
Today's hike includes some amazing views over the Himalaya

Start the day walking on a relatively flat trail from Hemis to Rongtil La until you arrive at the chorten that marks the beginning of this mountain pass. From here, keep walking until you reach the second pass, Meptik La (12,303 ft/3,750m) which is easily recognizable by its multi-colored mountain face. After a short but steep descent to the base, you'll start the climb up the sharp, rocky peak. Although it looks quite sheer, it only takes around 30-minutes of leisurely walking to reach the top.

Enjoy amazing panoramas of the surrounding mountains before making a gradual descent through the village of Ang and arriving at nearby Themisgam, where you can explore the local castle before settling into a local homestay for the night.

Trekking time: 5-6 hr

Day 9: Trek from Tia to Skinding via Chamla Pass

Spend your morning exploring a remote Tibetan Buddhist nunnery

This morning, pay a visit to a remote Tibetan Buddhist nunnery, where you will learn about the monastic life of these isolated women of faith. Take a tour of the buildings and watch the nuns go about their daily life in the mountains before beginning the walk to the Chamla Pass.

At 13,615 ft (4,150 m), this is one of the highest mountain passes you'll cross on your Little Tibet adventure, but your effort will be well rewarded with incredible panoramic views over the Himalaya. From here, you'll descend to the tiny mountain village of Skinding, where you'll spend the night.

Trekking time: 5-6 hr

Day 10: Trek from Skindying to Khaltse, Transfer to Leh

Finish your Himalayan trek back in the city of Leh
Finish your Himalaya trek back in the city of Leh

Today, wake up early and make your way to the nearby village of Khaltse, where you'll end your trek with a visit to the local markets.  After shopping for some local handicrafts and souvenirs, meet your driver and enjoy a different view of the mountains as you settle in for the 4-5 hour drive back to Leh. En route, stop to visit Lamayuru Monastery, one of the most prestigious in all of Ladakh.

If time allows, you can also swing by the thousand-year-old Alchi Monastery, famous for its faded frescoes, heritage buildings, and giant statues. Arrive into Leh just before sunset. This evening, you can enjoy a well-deserved rest or head out to explore the bazaars.

Trekking time: 1 hr

Day 11: Fly from Leh to Delhi

Make your way back to Delhi where the afternoon is free to go exploring
Make your way back to Delhi where your afternoon is free to explore

After breakfast, make your way to Leh Airport to board your flight back to the hustle and bustle of India's capital city. Upon arrival in Delhi, you'll be met by your driver and taken to your hotel in the city center where you're free to spend the rest of the day at leisure.

Make the most of your final day by squeezing in a half-day city sightseeing tour through Old or New Delhi, where you can marvel at the historic architecture and impressive sites, including the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid Mosque. You could also visit the bazaars and markets to pick up some last-minute souvenirs or just spend the day relaxing before your onward journey tomorrow.

Day 12: Depart Delhi

Make your way to Delhi airport to begin your onward journey
Make your way to Delhi airport to begin your onward journey

The time has come to say goodbye to India. Depending on the time of your flight, you can spend your last day relaxing in the hotel, drinking chai and people-watching in the neighborhood, picking up some more gifts and souvenirs, or squeezing in even more last-minute sightseeing. When the time comes, you'll make your way to Delhi International Airport to board your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Little Tibet Trek: Delhi to the Himalaya - 12 Days
Map of Little Tibet Trek: Delhi to the Himalaya - 12 Days