You will arrive in Delhi in the morning and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and recover from the flight, or for individual exploration of Delhi. Rooms in the hotel are usually available from noon.
In the early morning, you will transfer to the domestic terminal at Delhi airport for the spectacular flight over the Himalayas to Leh. The rest of the day will be free for you to relax, and to acclimatise to the altitude (3500m). In the afternoon there will be an orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
Today there will be a sightseeing tour around two of the major gompas (monasteries) in the area. Firstly, you will be driven just over half an hour to Shey, once the residence of the Ladakhi royal family. Below the old palace ruins is a small temple which contains a two-storey gilded statue of Buddha. From Shey, you will be able to either drive or walk across the fields to Tikse. Set on a hill, Tikse is one of the most impressive gompas in Ladakh. It has several temples, one of which contains a superb statue of the future Buddha. You will then return to Leh, and the rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore.
Today there will be an acclimatisation walk round the Leh Valley. Set above Leh on the Namgyal Hill are the ruins of the Old Royal Palace. From here, a winding path takes you to the Tsemo Monastery, where we are rewarded for our efforts by magnificent views of the whole of Leh and its surrounding villages. Descending round the back of the palace we walk through Sankar to the recently built Japanese Peace Pagoda, which has fantastic views of the palace and across to Stok Kangri, which dominates the skyline. Today, there is also a chance for you to go on a jeep safari to Khardung La at 5602m in altitude, one of the highest roads in the world. This can be booked and paid for locally. (Your leader will have the details of the safari. If you do the jeep safari, it will be in the morning, and you can do the walk in the afternoon.)
By now you should be well acclimatised, and you will be driven from Leh to Spituk. Spituk is only 7km from Leh, and is the site of the first Gelugpa monastery in Ladakh. There should be time to visit the monastery, with its commanding views of the Indus Valley. From here, a new road takes us across the Indus towards Jinchen. You will be driven as far as the road conditions allow, and to where your ponies will be waiting. After they are loaded up, you will begin your trek into the Jinchen Gorge at the foot of the Stok Mountains. The trail is straightforward, as you will follow the Jinchen Nala upstream. The valley closes in around you, and spectacular rock formations tower overhead. The ever-changing panorama of fantastically coloured mountains surrounds you as you ascend through the valley. You may have to cross the river as the stream forces the path closer to the side of the valley. Suddenly, you will find that the valley widens, and reveals the snow-topped peaks of the Stok Mountains. Prayer flags above a wide pasture mark the junction where the trail leads to Rumbak village. Tonight's camp is below Rumbak village (3800m).
Looking left towards Rumbak, a fantastic multi-coloured toothy skyline ridge appears in the distance. There is time this morning for an acclimatisation walk into the Rumbak valley. Returning to camp, you will then carry on up the main valley to a watermill and a bridge, which you will cross. The trail ascends through the valley gradually, and when the valley splits you will take the right hand fork up past the village of Yurutse. The camp is just past Yurutse, at the base of the Ganda La,y our first pass.
Today will be a long day, as you cross the first pass. The trail is clear as it zigzags towards the pass. As you climb, the views become more and more spectacular. Behind you, Stok Kangri dominates the skyline, until finally you reach the top of the Ganda La (4900m), which is decked with colourful prayer flags. The views are worth the effort! Ahead is the Zanskar Range, and behind are the Stok Mountains. Far below in the valley are the fields of Shingo. As you descend, keep an eye out for marmots and blue sheep, both of which seem to thrive in these desolate, altitudinous spots. The trail to Shingo is easy, and, in the main season, there is usually a tea tent here, which may sell cold drinks. From Shingo, the trail takes you through a spectacular gorge with beautiful rock formations. You will continue down the gorge all the way to the little hamlet of Skiu (3400m), where you will camp.
A fairly long but easy walk today, as you trek along the valley to Markha. The terrain along the valley is not demanding, so there is plenty of opportunity to admire the magnificent scenery. The colours of the barren mountains of Ladakh are truly spectacular: pastel pinks, blues and greens shine in the brilliant sunshine, and change colour dramatically as the sun rises and sets. The trail occasionally crosses the Markha River, and, although bridges have been built there, there may be some paddling involved. Beyond the settlement of Chalak there is an impressive line of chortens and a huge mound of goat horns, which are placed on the chortens to ward off any evil spirits trying to enter the valley. A medieval fort silhouetted on the hillside tells us that we have almost reached Markha. Markha is a large village, and there will be time to explore it in the afternoon. The camp will be on the lush grazing flats just outside the village. Just before you reach camp, there is the chance to visit some families in Markha (see above under Responsible Tourism for more details).
Just beyond Markha, the trail meets the Chacham Valley. Here is the Umlung gompa, set overhead on the cliff face. There is time to visit the monastery, which is the most important in the valley, and is affiliated with Hemis. Continuing through the valley, you will walk through Umlung village to Hankar, where there are more impressive fort ruins and a small gompa. From Hankar, the trail turns off from the main valley and starts to follow the Nimaling stream to Thachungtse, where you will camp. You may be lucky and see wild sheep high up on the grazing areas above the campsite.
Today there is a short walk to Nimaling. The trail climbs steeply to the plateau where the valley opens out, and there are spectacular views ahead of Kang Yangtse, at 6400m, the highest peak in the valley. In this area there is no permanent habitation, but during the summer months the shepherds bring their flocks of sheep, goats and dzos to graze on the high altitude pasture. The shepherds stay in stone shelters close to the grazing area for the whole summer, and we can often buy yoghurt or chang from them. Chang is a local beer brewed from barley and is an acquired taste! In the evenings, the animals are brought down from the hills and it is quite normal to see hundreds of them wandering through the campsite. Look after your edibles! You will have the afternoon in Nimaling, and the energetic can walk up on the hills behind camp towards Kang Yangtse.
The trail begins today by climbing to the Gongmaru La. It is a fairly long, steep ascent, which zigzags up to the top of the pass at 5200m, but the views from the top are worth the effort. Looking back, you will be able to see Kang Yangtse and Nun Kun in the far distance. Ahead, there are views across the Stok Range, and down to the Indus valley. The descent is steep at first, but you then enter a beautiful gorge which allows you to descend more gradually, intercepted by a few small river crossings. High up on the barren cliffs, you may spot the elusive blue sheep which inhabit this area. Passing through Shogdo, you will continue your descent to the village of Sumda. Today is a hard day due to the crossing of the high pass and the long descent.
Your transport should arrive this morning to drive you back to the Hemis monastery (occasionally, the road gets blocked, in which case we walk down the jeep track to Hemis). Hemis was once the largest and richest of all the Ladakhi monasteries. A wander round the dimly lit temples which contain grotesque yet beautiful masks and statues, will take you back hundreds of years in time. You will then be driven back to Leh and the comforts of a hot shower at the hotel. You should arrive in Leh in time for lunch, and the rest of the day will be free for last minute sightseeing or shopping in the bazaars.
You will fly from Leh to Delhi. The rest of the day will be free for individual sightseeing in Delhi.
After Breakfast, Depart from Delhi.