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Day 1: Arrive in New Delhi
You are met upon arrival at Delhi International Airport and transferred to your hotel. We will meet this evening for our group orientation and welcome dinner. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 2: Delhi Sightseeing, Train to Amristar
The capital city of India is often the starting point of a visit to India. For all Indians, it is the capital of their country, the center of power and culture. There are two Delhis: Old Delhi - the city built for Shahjahan, the man who built the Taj Mahal. Then New Delhi - built by the British in 1931. It is this juxtaposition between the Old and the New one, which is one of the attractions of the capital. While Old Delhi evokes a distinctly Asian atmosphere, New Delhi is modern, with wide avenues and imposing office buildings.
Day 3: Amritsar
Today is dedicated to a full sightseeing program of Amritsar. The Golden Temple, a glittering gold and marble temple, is one of the holiest Sikh shrines. The temple interiors are elaborately designed with fine inlay and semi-precious stones. During Maharaja Ranjit Singh's reign, the lower half of the temple was decorated with marble while the entire upper half was inlaid with copper covered over by gold plate. Hence its new name, the Golden Temple.
Day 4: Dalhousie
In the morning we drive towards the Footsteps of the Himalaya crossing the western end of Dhauladhar Range of Himalayas arriving at the old British hill- station of Dalhousie, situated at 6600ft (2012 m). Named after Lord Dalhousie (a British Governor- General of India), the town was first explored by the British General Napier (the Chief Engineer in the Punjab) during a hunting trip in 1853AD. It was later converted into a cantonment and sanatorium. Overnight in Dalhousie.
Day 5: Chiminu Village - Himalayan Home Stay
Today we drive to Chiminu Village along the Saal River before reaching the trailhead for our home stay at the Himalayan Orchard Huts. This will be our base of exploration for the next three nights as we stay with a local family on their organic farm. Overnight at Himalayan Orchard Huts.
Day 6: Himalayan Home Stay - trekking options
After breakfast, we begin our day trek with picnic lunch. Total hiking time today will be 4-6 hrs of moderate hiking. For those who would prefer a shorter hike there is an option to be transferred by car back to the trailhead and to return to the Himalayan Orchard Hut. Overnight at Himalayan Orchard Huts.
Day 7: Himalayan Home Stay - cooking class
This day is your chance to take part in an Indian cooking class, visit an organic farm and relax in the tranquil surroundings. For those who would prefer a more strenuous option, an opportunity for another hike will be available. Overnight at Himalayan Orchard Huts.
Day 8: To Dharamsala
Today we say good-bye to our host family and journey to Dharamsala, the Tibetan Capital in exile since 1959 and home of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Dharamsala sits at an elevation of 6831 feet (2082 m). Overnight in Mcleod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamsala.
Day 9: Dalai Lama's Monastery, Dharamsala
Today is a full day of sightseeing around McLeod Ganj. Sights include a visit to the Dalai Lama's Monastery and glimpses of his Holiness's house from outside. The area is home to many Tibetan exiles and we will have time to visit some of the many shops selling Tibetan crafts. Overnight in Mcleod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamsala.
Day 10: To Naggar; Naggar Castle
This morning we drive along the Beas River to the village of Naggar, located at an elevation of 5940ft (1810 m). Surrounded by magnificent mountains, waterfalls and snow covered ranges, the village of Naggar is known for the impressive cultural heritage and rich architectural style. The Russian artist Nicholas Roerich lived here in 1929 AD.
Day 11: Naggar
This morning we visit the Roerich Art Gallery, which houses the paintings of Nicholas Roerich as well as his scriptures. Roerich was the former residence of Professor Nicholas Roerich who came to India in 1929. His residence was later converted into an art gallery, which houses many of his paintings of the Himalayas. Later, we visit the beautiful Gauri Shankar mandir. The temple was built in the 11th and 12th century and is considered one of the last great monuments of the Gurjara - Pratihara traditions. Apart from the Gauri Shankar mandir (and time permitting) we can visit some of the other famous temples in the area, namely Vishnu, Chatar Bhuj, Tripura Sundri Devi, Tripura Sundari and Lord Krishna Temples. Rich in wood and stone carvings, these temples are constructed in the Shikhara and Pagoda-style. Overnight in Naggar.
Day 12: Over the Rohtang pass to Jispa
It's an early start today as we drive over the Rohtang pass (elevation 13,051ft (3978 m) crossing the Pir Panjal ranges of the Himalayas. Our final destination today will be Jispa at 10 500ft (3200m). Jispa is a beautiful village on the Delhi - Manali - Leh Highway and is situated on the right bank of Bhaga River. Overnight in Jispa.
Day 13: Sarchu
From Jispa we will ascend up to Baralacha La at an elevation of 16,500ft (5029 m) driving through the beautiful trans-Himalayas. Baralacha La has a small lake called Suraj Tal (Sun Lake) formed by the confluence of the Chandra and Bhaga Rivers. We arrive at the high plateau of the Himalayas called Sarchu (also known as Sir Bhum Chun) located at 14157ft (4315 m). Sarchu is the dividing line between two states - Himachal and Jammu Kashmir. Overnight in Sarchu in a mobile tented camp.
Day 14: To Leh
Starting early today we will be crossing two high passes - Lachung La (16,820ft/5127 m) and Tanglang La (17,582ft/5359 m). This is the second highest motorable pass in India and one of the highest in the world. Our journey today includes 21 hairpin bends through the mountains. In the late afternoon we will arrive in the town of Leh.
Day 15: Sites of Leh
Today is dedicated to sightseeing in Leh. This morning we pay a visit to a miniature version of the Potala in Lhasa, Leh Palace. The palace was built in the 17th century and is now dilapidated and deserted. It was the home of the royal family until they were exiled to Stok in the 1830s. We also visit the Shanti Stupa that was built by a Japanese order and was opened by the Dalai Lama in 1985. Before lunch we have time to visit the colorful local bazaar.
Day 16: Hemis Festival in Leh
Hemis Monastery is one of the biggest gompas in the area. Built in 1630, it belongs to the red sect, Brokpa. It is also known as Chang Chub Sam Ling or "the lone place of the compassionate person".
Day 17: Leh - Thikse & Shey Gompas
Today we visit some important sites outside of Leh. Our first stop is Shey Gompa. Until the 16th century, the Shey Gompa was the royal residence. This Palace Monastery has the largest statue of Maitreya Buddha (the Buddha to come) in Ladakh. Erected in the mid-17th century, crafted from gold and gilded copper sheets, it stands 17.5 m high.
Day 18: To Alchi over the Khardung La pass (highest motorable pass in the world)
We have an early departure as we drive up to the Khardung La known as the worlds highest motorable pass (18,380ft/5602 m) before continuing on to Alchi (elevation 11,483 ft/3500 m). Nestled in the valley of the Indus River along an ancient trade route, Alchi is famous for its shrines, some of which we will visit. Many of the 900-year-old wall paintings and murals are so well preserved that they appear to have been painted recently. Overnight in Alchi.
Day 19: Return to Leh; Lamayuru Monastery, Basgo Castle
After some morning sightseeing around Alchi we return to Leh. Enroute, stops include Lamayuru Monastery, the oldest known in Ladakh, dating back prior to the 10th century. This gompa is in a spectacular setting making the views unforgettable. It also houses a famous collection of frescoes, carpets and thangkas. Driving along side of Indus river, we will stop at Basgo Castle also known as Basgo Rabtan Lhartsekhar Castle. Inside is the "Golden Maitreya", a sacred copper-gilt image of the Buddha Maitreya, two stories high and the three-story high Buddha Maitreya made of clay. We arrive back in Leh in the early evening. Overnight in Leh.
Day 20: Delhi
We have an early morning flight today back to Delhi. The remainder of the day is free for any last-minute shopping or a journey by cycle rickshaw to the spice market or the Sikh Temple. This evening we will have our farewell dinner. Overnight Delhi.
Day 21: Delhi
Today we say goodbye to this remarkable part of India. You will be transferred to the airport for your onward international departure flight.
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