Western Himalayas: A Journey Through Sacred Lands

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Tour Description

This fascinating Himalayas adventure travel expedition takes us to spectacular natural wonders and exquisite cultural landmarks. We begin with a Delhi tour, where we visit energetic bazaars, lavish palaces, and stunning British Raj and Mughal architecture. From here, we venture to Ladakh, in the Trans-Himalayan region and former commercial hub on the Asian Silk Road. Visit Lamayuru Monastery, Ladakh’s oldest spiritual center; attend a traditional Tara puja ceremony in Palampur; and explore the Tibetan complex and home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, McLeod Ganj. Our Himalayas expedition is a tapestry of ancient, mystical landscapes and the people who call this breathtaking region home.

Western Himalayas Expedition Highlights:

  • In-depth Western Himalayas tour; we explore the wilderness outside Nupur Bedi and search for resident bird species, hike to waterfalls in Kangra, and more.
  • Visit McLeod Ganj near Dharamsala, the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
  • The tea gardens of Palampur, known as the tea capital of northern India.
  • A Tara puja ceremony—a lamp-lighting ritual where nuns prepare hundreds of small lamps symbolically to honor the Buddhist deity Green Tara.
  • Stately Shimla, with its majestic English architecture: Gorton Castle, Christchurch, and the formal Viceroyal Lodge on Observatory Hill.
  • Chandigarh, “The City Beautiful,” and India’s first planned city; explore the work of renowned architects and urban planners before concluding your Western Himalayas tour.

What to Expect:

Our Western Himalayas and Delhi expedition requires a moderate degree of exertion. We will be walking on rough terrain and often climbing stone steps. As we will be traveling at high altitudes—Leh, Ladakh, for example, sits at nearly 11,000 feet—altitude sickness may occur with some participants. Travelers with a history of medical problems, particularly cardiac or respiratory ailments, should consult a doctor before deciding on this journey. Participants on this Western Himalayas tour should be aware that some days will include long bus journeys, sometimes over rough roads. However, with a healthy sense of adventure, you’ll gain much from this remarkable Himalayas expedition.

Itinerary

Day 1

USA / DELHI, INDIA

Depart the USA on your independent flight to Delhi, India.

Day 2

Delhi

Arrive Delhi late tonight and transfer to the Taj Palace Hotel.

Day 3

Delhi

After a morning at leisure and an early lunch, we explore historic and energetic Delhi. In Old Delhi, narrow lanes twist and turn between leaning houses, revealing a slice of daily life around every corner. We see the magnificent Red Fort and the Jama Mosque with its tapering minarets. New Delhi is a city of wide boulevards and ordered open spaces. We visit the Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi; the India Gate; and the exquisite Islamic 13th-century brick minaret, Qutub Minar. We return to the Taj Palace Hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 4

Delhi / Leh, Ladakh

Early this morning we fly to Leh, the capital of Ladakh in the Kashmir state, and once a major stop on the Asian Silk Road. Numerous castles, Buddhist temples, and stupas speak of the power and importance that endured millennia; rising behind the town is the 17th-century nine-story palace considered a masterpiece of Tibetan architecture. Our first day is spent acclimating to the high altitude. The next two nights are at the Grand Dragon Hotel

Day 5

Leh

Today we visit the superb monasteries that punctuate the isolated hills surrounding Leh. Hemis, built in 1630 and tucked into a spectacular valley, houses a copper statue of Buddha, a gem-studded chorten (Tibetan for stupa), and sacred thankas (paintings on cloth). After lunch we continue on to beautiful Tikse, the home of 80 monks. Vistas of the Indus Valley below are breathtaking. The Shay Palace, the summer home of the Raja of Leh, is famous for its huge copper-gilt Buddha statue.

Day 6

Leh / Alchi

We follow the Indus River this morning, enveloped by some of the most spectacular scenery in the Himalayas, and make a short detour to visit the monastery of Likir, built in 1065. We arrive in the picturesque village of Alchi for a late lunch, then explore its ancient monastery. The views of evening sunsets here are among the most spectacular in Ladakh. We spend the night at the Alchi Resort.

Day 7

Alchi / Lamayuru / Leh

We drive to Lamayuru Monastery today, the oldest spiritual center in Ladakh, set against its famous “moonscape”—a vast swath of windswept high-mountain desert that backdrops the building. About 150 Buddhist monks reside here. The monastery is comprised of a number of shrines with an exquisite collection of thankas, wood carvings, and statues. We return late in the day to the Grand Dragon Hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 8

Leh / Chandigarh

Early this morning we transfer to the airport for our flight to Chandigarh via Delhi. Upon arrival we drive to the Kikar Lodge, surrounded by 1,800-acres of Himalayan wilderness outside Nupur Bedi. Time permitting enjoy a walk to search for resident bird species such as partridges, bulbuls, babblers, and peacocks.

Day 9

Chandigarh / Palampur

We depart for Palampur after breakfast, stopping first at one of India’s holiest Sikh temples, Anandpur Sahib. Following lunch our drive takes us into the Kangra Valley, its undulating terrain carpeted with pine forests and terraced fields. Historic Kangra town overlooks a series of waterfalls and is famous for its ruined fort and beautiful temples. A huge 1905 earthquake destroyed the opulent 11th-century Bajreshwari Devi Temple; completely rebuilt in 1920, it remains a place of pilgrimage. The evening in Palampur, time permitting, is free to explore the grounds of our hotel, the Taragarh Palace. Or, visit the Tashi Dzong Monastery with views of surrounding tea gardens and a handicrafts and carpet center.

Day 10-12

Palampur / Dharamsala

We have three full days to explore the wonders of Dharamsala and Palampur. McLeod Ganj (near Dharamsala) was established in the mid-1850s as a British garrison and it briefly served as an administration center for the colonial government until the devastating 1905 earthquake. It remained a back-water until 1960, when the His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his entourage claimed asylum here following the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Here we tour the Namgyal Monastery, a multi-faceted complex including the Nechung Monastery, seat of the state oracle; the Tibetan Medicine and Astrology Center; and the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.

We also drive through the tea gardens of Palampur—the tea capital of northern India. Enjoy visits to St. John’s Church, the Tse-chokling Monastery, and the Tibetan Children’s Village. Tour the impressive Norbulingka Institute as well as the Dolma Ling Nunnery and Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. One evening we participate in the Tara puja, a lamp-lighting ceremony where nuns prepare hundreds of small lamps arranged symbolically to honor the Buddhist deity Green Tara.

Day 13

Palampur / Pragpur

We depart for historic Pragpur this morning arriving at our hotel, Judges Court, for lunch. From here we set out to explore Garli-Pragpur, a panoramic area that is home to India’s oldest ruling lineage. Fifty-two clans settled the peaceful hills and towns here; in the center of Pragpur they built elegant havelis—mansions and Italianate-style buildings—among lovely slate-roofed houses that line cobblestone streets.

The local market, shops, and galleries offer numerous varieties of local crafts, from silver jewelry and hand block-printed fabrics to beautiful woven wools. Dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Day 14

Pragpur / Shimla

We depart after breakfast and drive along the Beas River. After lunch in Bilaspur we continue to Shimla, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh, nestled among hills and surrounded by thick cedar forests and apple orchards. This former summer capital of India, when under British rule, was known as “queen of the hills.”

Late this afternoon we arrive at our hotel, Wildflower Hall, situated at 8,250 feet, and our base for the next three nights.

Day 15-16

Shimla

The stately English architecture—including Gorton Castle, majestic Christchurch, and the formal Viceroyal Lodge on Observatory Hill—continue to lend Shimla its colonial aura. A pleasant traffic-free walk up the hill to Scandal Point reveals the social hub of the town; its colorful name refers to the elopement of the British Commander-in-Chief’s daughter with the Maharaja of Patiala.

The following day is at leisure to enjoy walks around Wildflower Hall, go horseback riding, or enjoy the spa.

Day 17

Shimla / Chandigarh / Dehli

We depart Shimla this morning and drive to Chandigarh, “The City Beautiful,” and India’s first planned city. Several renowned architects and urban planners, Le Corbusier among them, designed the city, its parks, and buildings in the 1950s. After lunch here we transfer to the airport for our flight to Delhi; dinner and overnight at the Radisson Hotel.

Day 18

Delhi / USA

Depart Delhi on your independent flight homeward, or continue your exploration on our optional Valley of Kashmir extension.

Departures

Pricing Information

Land-based Accommodations

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Tour Notes

Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers. For planning purposes, below please find suggested travel dates for this itinerary: