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India: Ladakh

Enter ''Little Tibet'' !

Book from € 1,299.-
GROUP SIZE: 4-24 | 22 DAYS


The rugged highlands of Ladakh are among the most remote places on our planet and can only be reached in summer by a spectacular tour of the Indian Himalayas. The deserted moonscape makes an indelible impression on visitors. Culturally, you're in Tibet, the serene Buddhist monasteries testify to this. You can opt for a breathtaking hike and visit Dharamsala, the present seat of the Dalai Lama. Aspects of Sikhism you will find in the Golden Temple of Amritsar, Hinduism in Delhi and you will experience the charm of Manali where you can take leisurely walks in the woods.

Travel documents

Travelling with the correct travel documentation is your own responsibility. Please ensure your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond the finish date of your trip.

For India, a visa is required for many nationalities in order to gain entry. Please check this information in good time before your trip commences as this information is always subject to change. You can check this information through a site such as this one. To arrange your visa, you should either contact your nearest Indian embassy or use an agency such as CIBT.

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:



Accommodation and transport

During this tour we have the use of our own private bus, so we can stop at beautiful places in nature along the way. The bus does not have air conditioning. The train journey from Delhi to Amritsar (Swarna Shatabdi Express) and the domestic flight from Leh to Delhi are included. The transfers to and from the airport are not included.

Travel distances

Delhi airport to hotel: 30 km / 1 hour
Delhi to Amritsar: departure 7.20 am / arrival 13.25 pm (Swarna Shatabdi Express train)
Amritsar to Dharamsala: 200 km / 6 hours
Dharamsala to Manali: 235 km / 7 to 8 hours
Manali to Keylong: 120 km / 6 hours
Keylong to Sarchu: 90 km / 4 hours
Sarchu to Leh: 251 km / 9 hours
Leh to Alchi: 70 km / 2 hours
Alchi to Leh: 70 km / 2 hours
Leh to Delhi: 1010 km / 1 ¼ hour (domestic flight)
NB: Just as with us, Indian trains and flights are not always on time. You also travel in an area where the infrastructure is far from optimal. Delays are certainly possible and the stated travel durations are only approximate. Some flexibility is greatly appreciated.

You'll stay in simple but comfortable hotels in 2-person rooms with private bathroom. During the optional trek in Ladakh you sleep in tents. This also applies to the night in Sarchu.

Participants who book individually will share a room with another participant. We will of course try and pair travellers of the same sex together. If you would like a room for yourself on this trip it can be arranged, but there is a fee payable. During the optional trek and crossing through the Himalayas no single room is possible.


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.


Our tours are led by trained, local English speaking tour leaders. We know that our travellers appreciate being accompanied by these local tour leaders who, compared to their counterparts (living outside of the destination) have more detailed knowledge of their country. He/she knows the area well, can provide background information and ensure that the trip goes smoothly. He/she knows what to do if something were to go wrong, but is not a "walking encyclopedia". Therefore we would like to refer you to study a good travel guide (book) in advance of travel.

Your tour leader understandably expects a tip at the end, if she/he has completed the job well. Shoestring pay the tour guides a wage which is higher than that of most adventurous travel companies. Our guideline for tipping is between € 1, - and € 2, - per passenger per day (the equivalent thereof).


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


Travel insurance, including medical repatriation insurance, is mandatory. It is not included with our packages and it is your responsibility to purchase suitable travel insurance. Make sure that it covers all the activities that you are likely to undertake, such as rafting and trekking. Many ‘free’ insurances that come with banking packages, credit cards etc, are quite often inadequate to cover you on our tours, so make sure you check the policy before you travel. You should enter your travel insurance details via your my.shoestring account and you are required to give a copy of your insurance policy to your tour leader upon arrival. Without proper insurance like this, you will not be allowed to join the tour as we will not be able to respond adequately in case of an emergency if you do not have the right insurance.


Shoestring International
Entrada 223
1114 AA Amsterdam-Duivendrecht, The Netherlands.                    

You can call us on number +31 20 6850203 or +44 (0)1306 744797 and email us at           

Opening hours Monday to Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM (Local times in Netherlands).

Country information

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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about India

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