This new India tour will take us to the beautiful mountainous far northwest of India. The tour is adventurous entailing some long drives along mountain roads. You will have to be relatively fit to do this tour due the effects of traveling at high altitude. There is no trekking involved but there will be some short walks. This tour will appeal to all travel photographers with its mix of landscape, people and culture.
Ladakh the very name conjures up visions of stunning vibrant colours, ancient monasteries, cobalt blue lakes, high altitude passes and nomadic tribes with pashmina goats and camels across an arid landscape surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Ladakh is in northwest India sandwiched between China and Kashmir. It is a desert with fertile green valleys threading through the spectacular Himalayan mountains. The religion is Buddhist - closely allied to that of Tibet. The stark but beautiful landscapes contrast greatly with the rich colours found in the monasteries. The light that plays on the mountains, near and far, will delight any photographer. The people here live very tough lives but we have them some of the most friendly folk in the region and very willing to engage with you as you take their photograph. You will meet nomads, monks, farmers and townspeople as they go about their daily lives in the towns, villages and countryside.
Day 1: Arrive Delhi:
Upon your arrival in Delhi you will be met and transferred the hotel near the airport.
Day 2: Delhi to Leh (Flight):
In the early morning we fly to Leh. The view from the plane window over the high Himalayas will enthrall you and whet your appetite for the tour to come. Upon arrival in Leh you will be transferred to the hotel and will spend rest of the day in relaxation and acclimatization. Acclimatization is necessary for you to adjust to the high altitude.
Day 3: Leh:
Today we will have a leisurely day exploring the streets and markets of Leh. There is an option to walk up to the Shanti stupa through the by lanes of the Leh market. In the afternoon there will be a post processing class.
Day 4: Leh:
Our day will begin early in the morning as we will visit the monks doing their morning prayers at the famous Thicksey Monastery. This is large multi-level monastery perched on a hill overlooking the Indus River. You will see gompas adorned with prayer flags; a beautiful sight as the brightly coloured flags flutter against a deep blue sky. The monks welcome visitors to photograph them at prayer and hard at work making the mandala sand paintings. One of the main points of interest is the Maitreya (future Buddha) temple, containing a 15 metres (49 ft) high statue, the largest such statue in Ladakh, covering two storeys of the building. We will spend about 3 to 4 hours here and then drive back to Leh for breakfast and relax for the rest of the morning. Post lunch we will visit a small village where a traditional medicine is being manufactured called “The Amchi”. In the late afternoon we will visit a place where “Oracle” is performed. This is performed by those people who are believed to have divine connections and can predict the future of the people. This activity is based on the availability and therefore cannot be guaranteed. Late afternoon drive back to Leh.
Day 5: Adventure safari to Nubra:
We begin our day early in the morning. The best aspect of this tour begins with a jeep ride to the famed Khardungla pass strategically located at a height of 18000 ft above sea level. This will be your first foray into the mountains. The landscapes are simply beautiful. From the pass, we drive along the Shyok river basin towards the Hunder region located in the Nubra Valley. The region is famous for its sand dunes and Bactrian camels. On arrival we will settle in the resort and later take a walk around the village and also visit some local houses and witness the rural life here. We will photograph the camels and their drivers in the sand dunes at sunset. Overnight in camps.
Day 6: Nubra to Turtuk:
Early in the morning we will visit the Deskit monastery to photograph monks at their morning prayers. We will return to the camp for breakfast and then drive to Turtuk. This village is about 120 kms from Nubra valley and can take about 4 to 5 hours to reach, the total population of Turtuk is just 4000 and follows Islam as about 40 years ago this village was under Pakistan rule and so they speak the Baltistan language. We will stay here in the camps which have basic facilities but it is worth it to stay in the wilderness and explore this beautiful village. We will take a photo walk around the village to meet the people and capture their way of life.
Day 7: Tracing the road back to Leh:
A long day of driving ahead, after breakfast we will start the drive towards Leh which will take about 9 hours, in between we will have some photo stops, comfort stops and refreshments. Sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Day 8: Leh to Pangong Lake:
Today we head for Pangong Lake via the Chang La pass. The drive takes us through spectacular scenery with breathtaking views of the snow covered Himalayas. We will arrive at the lake in time for late lunch. The lake is the highest (4267M) salt-water lake in the world, situated along the India / China border. It is about 130 Km long and 5-6 Km wide. The Chang - Chenmo range surrounding it from the north provides a spectacular backdrop to the blue and green shimmering expanse of water. Around the lake we will see the nomads tending their yaks and pashmina goats. If the sky is clear we will take a shots at night with full of stars and moon. Stay overnight in a camp (bathrooms ensuite).
Day 9: Pangong to Leh:
After breakfast we will drive back to Leh. On the way we will take a detour and visit Hemis, one of the richest monasteries in Ladakh. Within the monastery there are to be seen a copper-gilt statue of the Lord Buddha, various stupas made of gold and silver, sacred thankas and many objects. Photographs are not allowed in the prayer hall but can be taken in the rest of the monastery where there is plenty of activity. We then return to Leh. In the evening we will visit a coffee shop in the market and take some evening shots of Leh market.
Day 10: Leh to Alchi:
For this part of the tour we head north along the Indus River Valley on Highway 1 – a well maintained road which connects Ladakh to Kashmir. We are headed for the lovely oasis of Alchi situated in the outer Zanskar region. As we drive past colorful villages and hill side monasteries the journey offers superlative views of the mountains. The mountains are moody, magnificent and ever changing. We cross the bridge to arrive at Alchi early in the afternoon, just in time for lunch. We spend the time exploring the small village. One of the interesting aspects of this village is its monastery. Mainly known for its wall paintings of the 11th century, the monastery was built by the great translator "Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo". The wall paintings in Alchi Monastery are some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladkah and reflect artistic and spiritual details of both Buddhism and Hindu kings of that time in Kashmir.
Day 11: Alchi to Lamayuru Monastery and back to Leh:
After breakfast we will leave to visit one of the famous monasteries in Ladakh “Lamayuru” its about 65 kms up Highway 1, upon arrival at the Lamayuru we will visit the Monastery and explore the village around here, later we will drive back to Leh which is about 120 kms but the roads are good so it will not be a hectic drive.
Lamayuru is on the way to Kashmir so people who are carrying on will stay in Lamayuru and the next day will start their drive to Sonamarg in the morning.
Day 12: Depart for Delhi:
Early in the morning we will leave for the airport to catch our flight to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi, you will be transferred to a hotel near the airport for the day. Breakfast will be served. You will be taken to the airport for your onward flight.
Day 12: Sonamarg:
After breakfast we will leave Lamayuru to drive to Sonamarg via the Zoji La pass. We pass from the dry deserts of Ladakh to the alpine lushness of Kashmir. This drive is not for the faint hearted. It twists along the mountainside giving breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys. This journey of about 7 hours will take us to Kullan village which is located on the banks of River Sindh. It is a picturesque hamlet that will give you good opportunities to takes photos of the village life. In the evening we will go for a gentle village walk and visit some local homes for where we will be invited in for a chat and tea. The evening will be spent relaxing in front of a riverside bonfire being entertained with some local music. Overnight at the charming but modern Villa Himalaya built hotel on the banks of the river
Day 13: Sonamarg:
After breakfast we will visit a local school to witness the morning prayers. When the teacher arrives all the students stand in line starting from grade 1 to 8. We can capture this beautiful moment and also have look at the education system. We then take a 30 minute drive to Thajwass glacier. From the main road we take local taxis to drive to the glacier through the alpine meadows. Here we can see many tourists from across the India, pony men, nomads and tea stalls as well as the glacier. We will have a picnic lunch here after which we will explore the small bazaar of Sonamarg. At this time of year there are many Hindu pilgrims on the road on their way to visit Amarnath Yatra. This is great people photography opportunity.
Day 14: Srinagar:
Today we depart for Srinagar and en-route take a detour to the sacred and striking Hindhu temple complex of Naranag. We will also stop at the Kangan Market which is the largest market in the area and is always bustling with activity. On the drive up the Naranag valley we stop at every possible place for photography that will include small towns, hamlets, paddy fields, nomads and a couple of milky white streams that come out of narrow cliffs and waterfalls, We then take a walk of about 3 hours (optional) up to Dumail, Later we will continue to Srinagar and transfer to the houseboat. In the evening we will take a 2 hour shikara ride in the back waters of Dal Lake gliding past floating gardens, people paddling to their homes in small boats. You can expect to see a lot of birdlife including a kingfisher picking up his dinner, kites zooming overhead and, of course, all sorts of waterfowl. Return back to the houseboats for dinner and overnight stay.
Day 15: Srinagar:
We wake up really early in the morning to take a Shakira to the vegetable market. People who trade at the market still operate a barter system and money rarely changes hands. The market ends as soon as the first rays of the sun reflect on the lake we return to the houseboat for breakfast.
Next stop is the famed Mughal garden of Shalimar. Originally built for the purpose of keeping it for the Mughal harem, the garden is well fed by a milky water channel and majestic trees and flower beds. The chief attraction though is the central pavilion at the end of the garden. We enjoy a walk in the cool breeze and the shadow of the Chinar trees. Here you can see the Kashmiri people at leisure. They are always happy to be photographed. Later we drive a further 6 kilometers to the Dachigam national park. Once known as the royal hunting ground of the Kashmiri Hindu Maharajas and the British aristocracy, this natural reserve, houses the remnant population of the Hangul – one of the most sought after animals on the planet. It is also home to the formidable Himalayan Black Bear. The forest reserve has different types of soil, plants, animals and birds roaming around. The rangers give extensive information on the wild residents. They will also help us to get the right spots for the photo sessions.
Today we explore the city of Srinagar. It is full of treats for the street photographer and for those who are interested in culture and history. We start with half day walk in the heritage area. Starting from the famous shrine of Shah-Hamdan, we crossover the Jehlum river and visit the Mughal architecture inspired Stone Mosque. Following the banks, we cross once more back to the other side and in between see a few temples, the mausoleum of Budshah (Sultan Zain-Ul-Abidin) and the Hari Parbat fort on the hill overlooking the river. We then walk through the spice market, brimming with shops that sell, soap nut, saffron, dry fruits, steaming kebabs, Himalayan herbs and dried vegetables. In the lanes there are interesting old houses with a distinct style of medieval architecture of Kashmir. From the bazaar, we cross the main chowk onto another alley that leads to the grand mosque of Kashmir. In between, we will be walking past tobacco selling shops, bakers, roadside vendors and copper ware shops. Later we drive to one of the most sought after local restaurants for a mid-day meal. After lunch, we will take a walk on the “Bund” that runs parallel to the Jehlum river. The “Bund” is a British inspired paved road that has a river on one side and shops on the other. Evening at leisure. Dinner and overnight in houseboat.
Day 17: Fly to New Delhi:
In the morning we go to the airport for our flight back to New Delhi. You will be transferred from Domestic Terminal to the International Terminal.
Please Note: Itinerary days may be subject to changes or variations.
This tour is focused on improving an in-depth understanding of good travel photography. Nathan is especially keen to promote three aspects of travel photography; technical competence, creative observation and ethical responsibility. Introductory workshops cover all three and although they don't leave the novice out of their depth there's usually enough in these workshops to keep the most seasoned practitioner interested. After the workshops most of the teaching is done on location. Constantly unearthing interesting scenarios, Nathan will work alongside the group to help you understand particular technical challenges, give you artistic inspiration and most importantly, to lead by example, in approaching local people. This approach will both open doors and help you take better pictures. Time is also put aside to help develop your post-production skills so that you can 'up the wow factor' of your pictures and go home with a portfolio of the tour that anyone would be proud of. In fact many of our past participants have gone on to win awards or competitions.
Please book your flights to arrive into Delhi at any time on the 3rd July. For those just doing the Ladakh tour the outbound flight should be at from midday onwards on the 14th July. For those continuing to Srinagar the flight should be after midday on the 19th July. Please let us know if you would like extra hotel nights in Delhi at either end of the trip
Ladakh and parts of Kashmir are at a very high altitude therefore it is necessary to take account of the potential effects of altitude sickness. Time to acclimatize is built in at the beginning of the tour. It is recommended that you research altitude sickness to be aware of the effects and what you can do to mitigate them. We strongly suggest that you consult your doctor before booking. You also need to decide whether you want to take anti altitude sickness medicine. At altitude you need to take things slowly. There will not be any long walks at the higher altitudes. Oxygen tanks are taken in the cars when we are going to the higher altitudes.
Some parts of Kashmir have travel warnings issued by government's travel advice services. You need to make your own assessment of the risk and look at the cover given by your travel insurance.
Nathan Horton Photography Tours cannot be held responsible for your entry/exit arrangements. Getting the required documentation is solely your responsibility. No refunds will be made in the event of you being refused entry into the country where travel is to take place.
As visa rules can vary according to your country of origin we strongly advise that you research the visa rules for the country before you travel. Please refer to the visa information in Essential Information Sheet given for each country. The PDF can be downloaded below.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all Nathan Horton Photography travelers and should be taken out at the time of booking. Your travel insurance must provide cover against personal accident, death, medical expenses and emergency repatriation with a recommended minimum coverage of US $200,000 for each of the categories of cover. We also strongly recommend it covers cancellation, curtailment, personal liability and loss of luggage and personal effects. You must provide proof of your travel insurance on or before the first day of your trip; you will not be able to join the trip without it.