Dussehra-festival

Our tour departs South Africa on 08 September 2012 and flies through Mumbai and into Srinagar in Kashmir. Here we have one night on a traditional houseboat on Dal Lake followed by three nights in a royal palace on the banks of the lake. We’ll visit the lovely mughal gardens and monuments of this medieval city and take a trip up into the surrounding mountains while acclimatizing to the altitudes ahead of us.

It is from Srinagar that our amazing Himalayan, Roof of the World adventure commences. Our first night stopover is in Kargil from where we will proceed the following day to Leh stopping en route at Ladakh’s most famous monastery at Lamayuru. Leh’s bazaar was once an important trading post on the route between India, China and Central Asia. Today it is a vibrant market town which still attracts many tourists. On a promontory overlooking the town stands the imposing palace of the Ladakhi kings; its’ design was the model for the Potala, palace of the Dalai Lamas in Lhasa. We’ll have 3 nights in Leh.

From Leh, the itinerary proceeds across the Khardung La Pass (at 5575m this is the highest motorable road in the world), through the Nubra Valley and past the Siachen Glacier to Sarchu. The journey along the Manali-Leh highway at high altitude and with variable road condition, is challenging and Sarchu is a conveninent place to break our journey for an overnight stop. Here we will be staying in a deluxe tented camp.

The route to Jespa follows the Indus River and climbs the Tanglung La Pass at 5181m before descending onto the Pang Plateau at 4876m. The Sanskar valley is one of the world’s most remote regions. After lunch we’ll cross the Nakee La and Baralacha La Passes before descending into the Lahaul valley and arriving in Jespa (3300m) where we’ll overnight.

Crossing the Kunzum Pass (4551m), we’ll visit Dhankar and Kibber villages, the highest villages in the world at 4400m. Dhankhar Monastery appears almost tethered to the edge of the cliffs keeping watch over the valley. We’ll spend two nights in Kaza, capital of the Spiti Valley. Kaza is bound by the Kullu and Lahaul valleys, with the sprawling magnificence of the Himalayas serving as a resplendent backdrop. Hidden from the world for half of the year because of thick impenetrable snow, Kaza emerges during the warmer months from April to October. This alluring town is made up of sheets of ashen tundra plateau sporadically scattered with tiny white-washed mud huts. Situated at an altitude of more than 4000m, lies the whitewashed Ki Gompa, with its traditional murals and ancient Buddhist texts. Morning prayers are held daily at 7am and tourists are welcome to join this spiritual offering.

The drive from Kaza to Manali over the Kunzum Pass, into the valley of the Chandra River and over the Rohtang Pass (3979m) is through breathtaking landscapes. Two nights will be spent in Manali to explore the Old Town, Hadimba Temple and Nagar Castle.

It’s a short drive to Mandi. En route we’ll stop at Kullu, the Valley of the Gods, to witness the Dussehra festival.

The itinerary continues to Dharamsala, headquarters of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile since 1959. We’ll have two nights here with a full day of community sightseeing.

From the earliest times until the British Raj, Dharamsala and its surrounding area was ruled by the Katoch Dynasty of Kangra. The Katoch Dynasty is said to be the oldest serving Royal Family in the world. The Royal Family still keeps a residence in Dharamsala, known as ‘Clouds End Villa.

In 1970, The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, opened the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives which houses over 80,000 manuscripts and other important resources related to Tibetan history, politics and culture. It is considered one of the most important institutions for Tibetology in the world.

Several thousand Tibetan exiles have now settled in the area, and most live in and around McLeod Ganj in Upper Dharamsala, where they have built monasteries, temples and schools. McLeod Ganj is sometimes known as ‘Little Lhasa”, after the Tibetan capital city.

Our last stop in the Himalayas is the hillstation of Dalhousie, built on and around five hills, on the western edge of the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas, offering majestic views. Established in 1854 by the British Empire in India as a summer retreat for its troops and bureaucrats, the town was named after Lord Dalhousie who was the British Viceroy in India at the time. This hill region is a repository of ancient Hindu culture, art, temples and handicrafts preserved under the longest running single dynasty since the mid-6th century. Chamba is the hub of this culture and has 84 ancient temples dating from 7th to 10th c. It is a unique place and not to be missed. The tribal people of the town add charm to the old world town with their unique costumes and ornaments.

If you have any further queries, or would like to book your space on this exciting tour, please do not hesitate to contact me.

With its long stretches of rocky roads and vast barren plateaus studded with rivers and valleys, dominated by snow-capped mountains, it is little wonder the landlocked Himalayas are lauded as Deva Bhumi – Abode of the Gods. It’s the perfect sanctuary for ascetics and sages. With its plethora of temples, the Himalayas promises respite and tranquility for those wishing to reconnect with their inner spirit.

Don’t miss this special opportunity. This is about as close to heaven as we’ll ever get in this lifetime.