Monday, March 07, 2011

Mountains and Monasteries–A Photography Tour of Ladakh

My friend and fellow travel photographer Arun Bhat is organizing a photography tour of Ladakh this July. This tour is organized by Darter Photography Tours that is managed by Arun and popular wildlife photographer, Shreeram.

If you are interested in knowing more about this particular photography tour, you can read the details below and if you are interested in photography tours in general, you can look up the facebook page of Darter Photography Tours to stay updated on their photography tours and workshops.

All the photographs in this post are copyright of Darter Photography Tours.

Darter Photography Tours is excited to take you to the land of the high passes this summer. Be ready to be awed as you wander in the mountains photographing stark yet beautiful landscapes of Ladakh. Travel with photography experts and capture the beauty of super-blue lakes, see the views from the highest motorable road in the world, watch wildlife that can be seen nowhere else in the country and witness rituals of a culture that has kept its traditions alive for almost a millennium. This Mountains and Monasteries Tour is specially designed to maximize photography opportunities and capture the deeper essence of Ladakh.

10th to 17th July, 2011 – Starts and ends in Leh (weekend to weekend)
08th to 17th July 2011 – Starts from Manali and ends in Leh

Is this tour for you?
This tour is intended for serious as well as amateur photography enthusiasts with an interest to visit and photograph the beauty of Ladakh. Travel enthusiasts who are not photographers but keen to experience the multiple facets of Ladakh can also benefit from the tour.

Tour Highlights
- Visit to sights specifically chosen keeping photography opportunities in mind
- Expert help and advice with photographing culture and landscapes of Ladakh
- Constant interaction and assistance on field by photography experts having considerable experience travelling in Ladakh
- Insights to nuances of travel and outdoor photography during the tour - An opportunity to attend a monastic festival and photograph monks performing masked dances
- Image reviews by photography experts at the end of day, every day

The Itinerary
Also see the detailed itinerary and images at the bottom of this page.

Participants can chose to join the tour in Manali or directly arrive at Leh. If you arrive directly at Leh, your tour begins from the morning of Day 03.

Day 01 08-July Manali to Keylong
Day 02 09-July Keylong to Leh Those arriving directly at Leh will join the tour from Day 03 below.
Day 03 10-July Rest day with a visit to Shanti Stupa in the evening.
Day 04 11-July Hemis Monastery Festival
Day 05 12-July Khardung La and back
Day 06 13-July Leh to Pangong Lake. Visit Thiksey Monastery on the way. Stay at the banks of Pangong Lake.
Day 07 14-July Pangong to Leh with a visit to Shey Palace on the way.
Day 08 15-July Leh to Tso moriri
Day 09 16-July Tso Moriri to Leh via Tsokar
Day 10 17-July Depart from Leh

Tour Cost
- Rs.33,500 per person if you chose to travel from Manali
- Rs.28,000 per person if you join to tour at Leh on Day 03

The cost includes
- Accommodation on twin sharing basis
- Transportation on all days of the tour
- Breakfast and two meals at the hotel or on the way on all days
- Inner line permits and all entry fees
- Expert photography advice and assistance, image reviews and critiques on all days

The cost does not include

- Travel to Manali for those joining the tour on Day 01
- Travel to Leh for those joining the tour directly at Leh on Day 03
- Return travel from Leh
- Additional snacks or beverages ordered

Please note that the itinerary is subject to favourable weather and road conditions. In case of bad weather and inaccessibility to a destination, we will do our best to make alternate plans. The cost of the tour or any part of it will not be refunded in the event of unfavourable conditions anytime during the tour days.

Accompanying Photography Experts
Arun Bhat

Accomplished travel and landscape photographer Arun Bhat’s works have been used by publications in India and across the world, all the way from Japan to USA. He is a professional photographer who has extensively travelled across India, creating some of the finest imagery of India’s landscapes and has spent years capturing the essence of India’s cultural diversity. Having travelled the country many times over and being used to waking up at 5am in bitter cold winter days, he has seen and captured finest landscapes all the way from Himalayas to the peninsular India and has mastered the art of travel, outdoor and landscape photography.

Arun has spent nearly three months in Ladakh exploring varied landscapes and the Buddhist culture of Ladakh in different times of the year. His in-depth knowledge of Ladakh will come handy throughout the tour as he introduces you to the beautiful places, helps you photograph and understand the culture and traditions of Ladakh. People who have travelled with Arun on tours never forget to mention his friendly approach and a willingness to be available to everyone all the time through the tour.

Book this tour
Contact us to book the tour. Like all our tours, Mountains and Monasteries tour of Ladakh will have a limited number of participants. We recommend booking early, which also helps you get cheaper flight tickets.

Ph: 9880006460 (Arun) / 97400 83260 (Shreeram)

Detailed itinerary

Day 01. Manali to Keylong.
The exciting journey begins today as we leave really early in the morning from Manali. We climb up steadily through the green vistas of Pir Panjal Ranges towards Rohtang Pass, the first high pass along the way. Rohtang is as far as the tourist crowd to Manali go, to play in one of the most easily accessible large expanse of snow. Rohtang Pass is a wide ridge that divides two completely different worlds. The mass of tourists, the traffic and all the commotion dies down and makes way to silence on the other side of the valley. Verdant landscapes of Beas Valley make way to a stark beauty that has no parallels to scenery witnessed so far. It is here that we begin to see first glimpses of barren landscape that Ladakh is, though Ladakh itself is still far away.

We descend the valley and drive parallel to Chandra River for a some time, unfailingly gawking at the sharp and high mountain peaks on the other side of the valley, occasionally seeing waterfalls tumbling down from the slopes.

We reach Keylong late afternoon, where we will be staying tonight. The deep valley of Bhaga River and the remnant greenery of Lahaul Valley provides some great photography opportunities before we rest for the day.

Day 02. Keyong to Leh.
The remotest and stark landscapes of Manali-Leh highway will keep your camera busy today. You won’t have enough of these landscapes and you will never be tired of clicking through the day. Keep all your memory cards outside with you – you will realize soon that dozens of gigabytes consumed will still leave you hungry for more. We pass through several high passes, with one of them more than 18,000 feet high. These dizzying landscapes are as dramatic as they can get anywhere in the country.

Today we will pass through a stretch of more than two hundred kilometers of road where you see no permanent habitation. Not to worry, you will still see some summer settlements built for quenching the thirst and hunger of travellers making this long journey. We arrive at Indus Valley in the evening and get the first glimpses of Ladakhi habitation. When we reach Leh in the evening and checkin at the hotel, you will surely feel having gone through an out-of-the-world experience.

Day 03. Rest Day at Leh. Visit Shanti Stupa in the evening.
Those joining the tour at Leh will arrive in the morning after a flight over snowy mountains. Don’t forget to arrive early in Delhi Airport and demand for a window seat at the check-in counter. You will regret it if you don’t do so. Not everyday does one get to see 15,000 feet high mountain peaks from a height miles above them. We recommend taking the first flight available in the morning and take the right-side window to see first rays of sun kissing the snow peaks.

For those coming by the road, this is the day to rest after the excitement of Manali-Leh highway.

We will take the day easy and allow the body to acclimatize to Leh’s altitude of 11,500 feet. We will spend most of the day in the hotel, letting the body adjust to rarefied air and high altitude. We will drive to Shanti Stupa in the mountains above Leh in the evening to witness the sunset and see the last rays of sun go over Leh Town and on the distant mountains of Zanskar Ranges.

Day 04. Hemis Festival.
We will drive to Hemis Village in the morning to witness Hemis Festival, an annual celebration at the monastery. The whole village will have gathered to witness the festivities, where monks from the monastery will wear intriguing masks and dance to drum beats. The dances began slow and easy as the monks take deliberate steps circling around the flagpole at the center of the courtyard.

The pace improves slowly with the progress of the dance and concludes with sudden and swift moves that are more suitable to the wild demon-like cover on their faces. A great spectacle and a great photography opportunity. The pictures below are from another monastic festival and indicate what you will see at Hemis.

Day 05. Drive to Khardung La and back.
Having gotten used to 10,000+ feet heights, we will now head towards the highest point that we will ever reach during the tour. Be ready for the mountainscapes like you have never seen before. As we slowly climb up the Ladakh Ranges towards Khardung La, you will see jagged snowy peaks of Zanskar Ranges challenging the heights we are climbing. Once on top, you will no longer have to crane your neck to see all the mountains rising tall in the distance: those peaks appear almost at your height. Besides the thrill of having gone up the world’s highest motorable pass, you will get to see vistas that you will never forget for the rest of your life.

We will get back in Leh by afternoon, which gives you plenty of time to rest. You can walk around the Leh’s market area today, see the town and do some shopping if you wish to.

Day 06. Pangong Lake. Visit Thiksey Monastery on the way.
Another day of driving through high passes, but in a landscape that keeps changing by the hour. After driving upstream Indus River for an hour, we will leave the Indus Valley and head towards the high-altitude plateau of changthang region. On our way is formidable Changa La. We get across the pass with our jeeps wading through many icy and clear streams. As we climb up, it is another opportunity to see and photograph a different view of Zanskar Ranges. Soon after we cross Chang La, you will be surprised to see a lot of green grass, unlike the stark slopes we have just left behind. You might see cute and cuddly-looking marmots playing in the slopes. They are timid and some of them may even come and stand next to you expectantly. We recommend not to feed them, but photograph them instead.

Sometime after we cross Chang La, we will see a small but beautiful lake with clear blue waters. We will then follow the stream running off the lake and descend to reach the village of Thangse. Further ahead, we will drive through a narrow valley carpeted with rich green grass and a stream flowing by. Lookout for colorful flowers along the stream bed. But this is not all; the first view of deep-blue waters of Pangong Lake will force you to halt there and gawk at its beauty forever. We will be staying next to the lake today, watching the sun go down the mountains across the lake.

Earlier in the morning soon after we leave Leh, we would have stopped for sometime at Thiksey Monastery, perhaps the most beautiful and among the larger monasteries in Ladakh. The monastery is a haphazardly spread group of buildings on a crag and its structure is sometimes compared to giant Potala Palace in Lhasa. We will see and capture the beautiful array of small stupas outside the monastery, visit the room hosting two-storey Maitreya Buddha statue and try to decipher some colourful paintings in the monastery’s prayer hall.

Day 07. Drive to Leh. Visit Shey Palace on the way
After spending some time on the bank of the lake in the morning hours, we will make a slow and easy drive back to Leh, stopping on the way to see ancient Shey Palace. You will again find some time to rest and wander around in Leh today evening.

Day 08. Leh to Tso Moriri Lake.
If Pangong is the largest lake in Ladakh spreading over a lenght of more than a hundred kilometers across two countries, Tso Moriri is perhaps the most beautiful. The brackish water lake trapped amidst the mountains in all directions is flanked by a large grassland that adds to the beauty of the deep blue lake. The snow-capped mountains rising steeply from the edge of the lake on the other side add to the drama of the landscape. Wildlife enthusiasts will also see a lot of birds at the lake. Lookout for black headed gulls, great crested grebes and bar headed geese.

Korzok Village on the bank of Tso Moriri still feels remote and charming, thanks to its distance from the highways in Ladakh and also from Leh town. A stroll in the village and a short climb of the hills behind gives you excellent panorama of Tso Moriri Lake.

Day 09. Return to Leh via Tso Kar.
We will make the slow and easy drive to Leh on an alternate route, driving through rich grasslands around Tso Kar Lake today. Tso Kar, unlike Pangong and Tso Moriri, is a marshy expanse and has wide open vistas. We will keep a lookout for the Tibetan Wild Asses or Kiang that roam these plains. Once in Tso Kar, you can also spot a good variety of birds. It is a region with surprisingly good variety and density of wildlife. We will continue via Tanglangla and return to Leh in the evening. After a good night’s sleep in Leh tonight, begin your return journey home next morning with truck loads of memories and pictures.

Book this tour
To contact us for any queries or to book the tour, please use the email, phone numbers or the contact form below. Like all our tours, Mountains and Monasteries tour of Ladakh will have a limited number of participants. We recommend booking early, which also helps you get cheaper flight tickets.

Ph: 9880006460 (Arun) / 97400 83260 (Shreeram)

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