Situated in India's far north, the Ladakh region is famous for its Tibetan Buddhist culture and centuries-old traditions. On this whirlwind 5-day tour, you'll fly north from Delhi to experience the magic of this mountain paradise—exploring the old Silk Road city of Leh and visiting ancient monasteries nestled among spectacular Himalayan landscapes.

Highlights

  • Tour the highlights of Old & New Delhi
  • Fly north to the ancient Silk Road city of Leh
  • Experience breathtaking views over the Himalaya
  • Visit hidden Buddhist mountain monasteries 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Delhi, Full-Day City Tour Delhi
Day 2 Fly to Leh, Visit Spituk Monastery & Leh Palace Leh
Day 3 Leh Monastery Tour: Thiksey, Hemis & Matho Leh
Day 4 Tour the Monasteries of Lamayuru & Alchi  Leh
Day 5 Fly to Delhi & Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Delhi, Full-Day City Tour

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.  After a short rest, it's time to head out for a full-day tour of the city. 

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, whilst the latter is heavily made up of colonial-era architecture and government buildings.

Your tour commences in Old Delhi, with visits to ancient monuments, narrow streets, and bustling bazaars. Passing through the dramatic Red Fort, you'll see Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India, completed in 1658 by Shah Jahan who also built the Taj Mahal. Continue to the famous market of Chandni Chowk, where you'll find everything from saris to silver jewelry. Take an exhilarating rickshaw ride through the market, then visit Raj Ghat, the sober memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.

In the afternoon, you'll proceed to New Delhi where you'll drive past the Presidential Palace, the Secretariat Buildings, India Gate, and other colonial buildings. Make sure to look for the early 20th-century work of Edwin Lutyens, a British architect, who is featured prominently in the colonial districts. 

Day 2: Fly to Leh, Visit Spituk Monastery & Leh Palace

Take a tour through the city and explore the historic Leh Palace

Start today with an early morning flight over the Himalaya Range from Delhi to the northern city of Leh. Enjoy amazing views of the snow-capped mountains and the lush Indus River Valley. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and meet your guide for a tour of two nearby landmarks. 

Start with a visit to the 11th-century Spituk Monastery, about 5 miles (8 km) from the city center, before heading up to the top of Namgyal Hill to explore Leh Palace with its beautiful views of the city. Built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century, this imposing nine-story fortress has been abandoned since the mid-19th-century when Kashmiri forces took control of Ladakh. 

Spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets and exploring by yourself, or find a cafe to sit and drink chai and watch the world go by.

Day 3: Leh Monastery Tour: Thiksey, Hemis & Matho

Visit Thiksey Monastery, a short drive from Leh

Leh is famous for its amazing mountains and beautiful monasteries, and today you're going to combine the two, with visits to three of the major gompas (monasteries) and a beautiful drive through the Indus Valley.

Start with a drive out to the hilltop Thiksey Monastery, with its eye-catching red and white buildings. Belonging to the Gelukpa order (Yellow Hat) sect of Buddhism, this twelve-story complex dates back to the 15th century and houses some amazing Buddhist art, including statues, stupas, paintings, and swords. 

From here, drive out to Hemis Monastery.  Although it dates back to the 11th century, Hemis was re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal and is now one of the biggest and the wealthiest monasteries in Ladakh. It also has a rich collection of ancient relics, painted stone reliefs, and rare 17th-century murals. 

Continue your tour with a trip out to the Matho Monastery right across the Indus River from Thiksey. Meaning "Many Happiness" in Tibetan, this monastery was founded in 1410 by Lama Dugpa Dorje and is the only monastery in Ladakh that belongs to the Sakya Order of Buddhism. Here you can see some 15th-century thangkas—Tibetan Buddhist mandalas—and pictures painted on silk and cotton.

After exploring the monasteries, return to Leh where the evening is yours to spend as you please.

Day 4: Tour the Monasteries of Lamayuru & Alchi 

Lamarayu Monastery's dramatic setting

Today is another chance to explore some of the most famous monasteries around Leh.

First, your driver will take you to Lamayuru Monastery, which sits on a promontory above the valley. Lamayuru is one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh. According to the stories, Lamayuru's valley was once a lake where Nagas (holy serpents) lived, and the Bodhisattva Madhyantaka prophesized that the lake would one day be emptied and a monastery would be built here. 

Afterward, you'll visit Alchi, the largest and most famous monastery in the region. Alchi is 43 miles (69 km) from Leh and was built approximately 990 years ago. This gompa (or monastery) is known for its massive Buddha statues, lavish wood carvings, and beautiful artwork. Some of the buildings still date back to when it was built, a millennium ago, like the big wooden door on the Main Assembly Hall, but lots of changes were made in the 12th and 13th century. Take a stroll through the temple complex and admire the faded beauty and grandeur of days gone past, like the detailed woodwork, frescoes, and clay images made in the Kashmiri style. Nearby you'll find huge statues and ancient chortens, Tibetan-style pyramidal structures of solid stone masonry that contain relics and commemorate Buddhist saints.

In the late afternoon, you'll return to Leh, where you can relax and enjoy your final evening in the mountains. 

Day 5: Fly to Delhi & Departure

Head to the Delhi Airport for your departing flight

After breakfast, make your way to Leh Airport to board your flight back to the hustle and bustle of India's capital city. Depending on the time of your departure, you can spend the rest of the day drinking chai and people-watching, picking up some more gifts and souvenirs, or squeezing in some last-minute sightseeing. When the time comes, your driver will meet you in the city and take you to the Delhi International Airport to board your departing flight. Safe travels!

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