It is now also possible for nationals of a number of countries to apply online for their India visa, in advance of travel using the E-Visa facility. Please check the following website for further information and online visa application: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html
HEMIS FESTIVAL - HEMIS, PHYANG AND TAKTOK (accessible from Leh)
Ladakh is one of the most remote areas in India. This part of India was only opened to tourism in 1974 and only since 1979, air transport has come to the capital Leh. Ladakh is known for its resemblance to Tibet. That applies not only to the beautiful vistas, the pristine and vast landscape, but also for the valuable monasteries with their wealth of original wall paintings, idols, thangkas and religious festivals. During this, usually two-day festival, festivities will include a dazzling show of colourful masked dancers. The monks in their bright images (sometimes ancient) and terrifying masks reenact the different gods and tell their story (without words) of victory over evil.
Each monastery in Ladakh has its own annual festival and people travel from far and wide to receive their blessing for the coming year. There is also time for more worldly entertainment: dancing and singing, good food, all kinds of popular games. The mornings of the festival are always filled with dancing. One by one, several dancers appear from the temple to perform their dance in the courtyard of the monastery. Dressed in colourful brocade robes, with beautiful masks, they enter the whirling dance to present their blessing. The monks of the monastery train for years to be able to depict religious stories. The stories are dancing legends that preach about good and evil and tell the local people about the Buddhist philosophy. There are always funny characters in the dance, trying to get spectators to laugh. At various points around the festival are all sorts of stalls where the Ladakhi prepare to surrender to more worldly entertainment. If you wish to take photos please be discreet with your camera.
Hemis is the largest and richest monastery in Ladakh. It is especially famous for its festival with masked dances. The monastery of Hemis is filled with golden statues and stupas, inlaid with semiprecious stones. Situated in a lovely valley with babbling brooks and has some beautiful areas, where monks will be praying or meditating.
Phyang is a typical Ladakhi village that looks like an oasis. It consists of houses built in traditional Ladakhi style and the green fields are fed by irrigation canals.
Taktok is an interesting Gompa. It's a small monastery, built around a cave where once the Buddhist saint Padmasambhava meditated. It is the only monastery of the Nyingmapa sect in Ladakh, the oldest Tibetan monastic order. The monastery of Taktok is a bit off the beaten route and (outside festival time) rarely visited.
" Monks in colourful costumes with huge pointed hats are dancing. Other senior monks in red are sitting on a sort of stage and assist with cymbals and a drum to accompany the dancers. The traditionally dressed Ladakhi people are great fun! Old wrinkled women wear braids and coloured hats with raised bumps at the front. Also necklaces with beads and some women have typical shoes: high soles and a raised front. What's also nice is to just look in the room where the monks keep their costumes. Here is a spacious wardrobe and there are various musical instruments such as the typical long, straight brass instruments. "
PLEASE NOTE: During our festival trips our itineraries are subject to change. Please check our latest news section for any updates.
This tour is classified as Category C.
The difficulty of our travels varies greatly. Added to this is the fact that travel difficulty is a very personal perception. To give an indication of the difficulty of a particular holiday, we have developed the following classification system:
Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.
The Ladakh trip falls into category C. This trip is for any healthy person, but take into account some long travel days. Furthermore, the sometimes bad roads, especially between Manali and Leh, and the high altitude can temporarily effect travellers with altitude sickness. Though you spend the night in simple mid-range hotels, please remember that you are travelling in a developing country with much lower living standards than you are used to at home.
Note: Deviations from the itinerary:
The tours to Ladakh are not only relatively hard because of the altitude but also, roads may be temporarily blocked because of the weather or owing to their state of repair, in which case a detour is unavoidable. Air traffic in Delhi / Leh may decide that a flight on a given day is cancelled due to the weather in Leh. In this case we obviously try to travel the next day instead. All in all, it is clear that a flexible and positive attitude for travellers to Ladakh is as important as physical fitness.
Nature of the trip: Ladakh is an incredible land bound by the world's mightiest mountain ranges. We journey to Dharamsala, a place that has become the home of Tibetan leader Dalai Lama. The Tibetan community has spread here but remnants of the British colonial era still exist. We move on to Mandi and Manali, in which it is most delightful to wander around the old houses and orchards and explore the pagoda architecture of the area. In Leh, you can see the former royal palace and the surrounding gompas. The optional trek is very rewarding, you will camp in the rugged mountains and experience various mountain villages, points of interest and of course spectacular vistas. We finish in Delhi, a city unique in its own right, with a thousand and one things to do and see. This trip we believe will leave you with many memories of Indias' Northernmost state.
We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible.Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here
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