Leh - Stok - Shey - Thiksey - Hemis - Spitok - Phyang
Duration : 05 Nights / 06 Days
Destinations covered : Leh - Stok - Shey - Thiksey - Hemis - Spitok - Phyang
Day 01 : Delhi/Leh
Early morning departure from Delhi on the spectacular flight to Leh. You are met at the airport and transferred to the Ladakh Sarai. Rest of the day at leisure to acclimatize to the high altitude and rarefied air. Lunch, dinner and overnight stay at Hotel.
Day 02 : Stok And Leh
After breakfast visit Stok palace. The palace houses a fine private museum, which is open to the public when the Rani (queen) of Stok is in residence. There is a superb collection of thangkhas, said to be the best in the world. Stok Gompa is a subsidiary of Spitok and both were founded by the same lama, Nawang Lotus, during the reign of King Takpa Bumlde. Stok belongs to the yellow-hat sect of Buddhism and currently has about 20 lamas living there. The oldest parts of the gompa are some 550 years old though the Dukhang or main assembly hall is only about 50 years old.
In the afternoon visit Leh, a fascinating labyrinth of winding streets and quaint bazaars. The main street is open and airy, with rows of shops on either side. On either side of the market are seen a long line of Ladakhi women in traditional dress and colourful jewelry of coral and turquoise, seated behind enormous baskets, selling vegetables. The spectacular eight-storey Leh Palace looming above, overlooking the town, was built in the 16th century, about the same time as the Potala in Lhasa which it resembles.
The stroll through the town is followed by a visit to Sankar gompa, about 2 km from the market. It has a number of pure gold icons and richly painted walls, its pictures depicting different stories, including some from the Panchtantra. Return to the Hotel for dinner and overnight stay.
Day 03 : Shey, Thiksey And Hemis
After breakfast explore some of Ladakh's ancient gompas. Shey Palace was built in 1645 by Deldan Namgyal as a summer residence for the kings of Ladakh. It is the oldest palace in Ladakh and above the palace is an even older ruined fortress.
Located on the second storey of the gompa is a large Buddha statue made in 1655 by a Nepalese sculptor who was assisted by three Ladakhi craftsmen. The seated Buddha is 12 meters high and worked of copper sheets gilded with gold. This Buddha is the biggest metal statue in the region and was the largest Buddha statue of any type in Ladakh until Thiksey gompa installed a 15-meter tall Buddha made of clay in 1970.
Thiksey Gompa is the most picturesquely situated monastery in Ladakh, perched high on a hill above the Indus. Its buildings are arranged at various levels, leading up to the private apartments of the incarnate lamas on the summit. A new temple contains a 15-meter tall Buddha statue, constructed in 1970 to commemorate a visit to Thiksey by the Dalai Lama.
Hemis Gompa is one of the most important in Ladakh, the largest and also the wealthiest. It was built in 1620 by the king-architect Singe Namgyal, a great patron of Buddhism. He filled Hemis with golden statues, stupas set with precious stones and thangkhas brought from many places, including Tibet.
Hemis is the location for numerous religious festivals throughout the year, although the most important one is in summer (July 4 and 5 this year) when a huge thangkha, one of the largest in the world, is hung in the courtyard. It takes about 50 monks to carry the thangkha to its place and unfold it.
Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight stay.
Day 04 : Raft Trip
After breakfast drive up the Indus valley to begin a raft trip. The journey downstream is a fascinating experience as you pass between amazing rock formations and granite outcrops interspersed with open stretches of cultivated land.
Drive back to Ladakh Sarai in the early evening glow of the setting sun. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Day 05 : Spitok And Phyang
After breakfast visit Spitok Gompa. It built about 550 years ago by Gyalpo Bumlde, although one temple, dedicated to Mahakala was built about 900 years ago. Spitok gompa contains both old temples and those built in the 1970s. Ancient thangkas are preserved here, some having been taken from the Potala Palace and Lhasa after the Chinese invaded.
Continue on to Phyang Gompa. It is also known in Ladakhi as the Gouon Gompa, meaning "blue peak", for it is beautifully situated on a hilltop above the small village of Chhiwang, about 22 km west of Leh. The monastery was built by King Lkra-Shis-Namgyal, founder of the Namgyal dynasty, in 1500 after defeating the last of the Lha-Chen kings.
Phyang is a monastery of the red-hat sect of Buddhism with over 100 lamas. The head lama studied Buddhist philosophy at a university near Lhasa for eight years and had much of the gompa renovated in 1975.