If you are a curious adventurer, an explorer at heart and are ready to immerse yourself in a journey that will light up your soul and leave you shining bright, connected and alive, then join us for a yoga experience infused with nature, culture and spirit in this exploration of Northern Indian culture, landscape and Tibetan Buddhism.
June 18 – 28, 2018
An exploration for yogis and non-yogis seeking inspiration and adventure.
Are you ready to step out of your daily grind and immerse yourself in a magical journey that will light up your soul and leave you shining bright, connected and alive?
Can you think of a better way to celebrate International Yoga Day than in the mountains of India – the birthplace of yoga?
Imagine the sweet smokey smell of incense tickling your nose as bright colored costumes flash, flow and dance before your eyes. Melodic chanting mixed with drums, trumpets and other instruments sweetly rings in your ears. The backdrop to this scene is the glorious and stark high altitude desert mountains. As you take it all in, your heart beats with extra passion and you are left a little breathless from the beauty and richness of a spirit that feels deliciously inescapable.
You are in the “Land of High Mountain Passes,” witnessing a lively grand ritual, Buddhist festival called Hemis Tsechu. Taking an extra inhale, you smile to yourself because you still can’t believe you are here.
Beneath the beautiful mountain backdrop, you find yourself in a yoga class taught by a local guru on International Yoga Day. As you sip your chai after practice, you realize that its distinct buttery flavor, and this particular moment of peace, will be long etched in your memory. You can’t help but smile.
Wake up for a morning meditation with the monks at a local monastery. Engage in the sweet vitality and heart-warming hospitality of the Ladakhi people and the remote mountain life of India’s most sparsely populated region. Experience Tibetan Buddhist life.
Combine spirit, culture and nature’s most astounding landscapes when we drive over the high altitude scenic pass, Wari La. Imagine bike riding down the Trans-Himalaya with stops to give you an overlook of the stunning mountains beyond and valleys below. Visualize a caravan making its way along the ancient trade route in the valley, connecting Tibet to Turkistan. It is impossible to overstate what an adventure this will be!
My committment to you
On this journey to India you will have the opportunity to:
Unwind and experience travel simply as you leave the logistics to your knowledgeable guides and experienced leaders.
Practice yoga and meditation in the birthplace of yoga itself.
If you are looking to deepen the way you experience yourself, or if you are transitioning to a new chapter on your life journey, this exploration will create the breakthrough you desire.
Soak in Buddhist culture up close and personal.
Have the adventure of a lifetime!
Thank you for organizing, planning and executing such a beautiful trip. What a trip of a lifetime with memories and friends to match! Please know I am filled with gratitude of your work and vision. Truly amazing!
Namaste, Peace and Thanks!Ann Bean
TOP 8 REASONS YOU’LL WANT TO BE ON THIS EXPLORATION
This is India beyond the India you imagine…
This high altitude region of India is nothing like what you expect in the crowded chaotic cities. There is a strong influence of Tibetan Buddhism and the views are nearly unimaginable; the people sweet and kind. This land of mysteries and legends will unfold a unique culture and life before you. You will visit ancient monasteries and palaces and learn how Buddhism came to this remote kingdom, land locked by high mountain passes and deep river gorges.
Yoga practice on International Yoga Day!
Is there a better way to celebrate International Yoga Day than with a local guru at 10,000 feet above sea-level in India on the Tibetan Plateau, alongside a handful of other inspired souls? We’ll have 1/2 day asana experience in the morning, then time with Tibetan monks in the afternoon to learn more about the Buddhist culture and religion.
Spirit-filled ritual and celebration.
A celebration of the Hemis-Teschu festival with the monks will take us to the special Hemis Monastery. Hemis is a lively ceremony with dance and music honoring the birth of Guru Rinpoche, known as the “second Buddha” who established Buddhism in these northern lands. Any Indian festival, with its special blend of celebration and spiritual devotion, is a stirring experience, not-to-be-missed. People from all over come to experience this festival.
Ladakhi food is simple and fresh. Local dishes include momos (dumplings), thukpa (noodle soup) and butter tea. Options will also include more typical northern Indian food, rich with flavor and beautifully spiced, with a variety of vegetables, beans and meats, breads and rice; as well as a variety of tasty Chinese-influenced foods. Each meal will be as much a dive into culture and tradition as it will be delicious.
Intimate cultural connection and the local’s favorite sport.
As we meander through the streets, we will meet up with locals playing one of the traditional games of Ladakh – archery. A lesson with the bow and arrow and you’ll be joining in on the fun too! On this journey, you will have intimate experiences daily with the local people and culture.
Small group design, with like-minded travelers and professional guides.
Combined with a transformative inspired exploration, this journey will lead you to develop new friendships and life-long connections with your fellow travelers. Through all of these experiences, you will be guided by an English-speaking, knowledgeable and professional guide who will help you get the most out of each experience.
Be amazed and refreshed.
At the end of a BIG day of exploration, you will have welcoming, comfortable accommodations to come “home” to. Prepare to experience Indian hospitality, combined with distinct local character. On this retreat, we will be spending the majority of our nights in Leh, with three nights in the Nubra Valley. While we do have several day trips planned, we will not be packing up and moving home-base very often.
Adventure for your heart and soul!
Combine walking explorations, with a biking adventure, incredible landscapes, intimate cultural experiences, yoga and meditation and a deepened understanding and appreciation of Buddhism in North India; this journey will delight your heart and your senses.
Create a deeper context for your own life. Be an adventurer. Connect to people and cultures that seem worlds apart. It will make your heart full!
Click on the days to view the details.
June 18, 2018 ~ Day 1: Leh, Ladakh India
Our enchanted adventure begins today when we take a flight to Leh, one of the highest commercial airports in the world, at 10,682 feet. You will meet our in-country host and we’ll be brought back to our hotel for check in. Except for a special welcome dinner in the evening, nothing will be scheduled for today. This will allow time for you to acclimate to the altitude.
Ladakh means “land of high mountain passes” and it is mainland India’s most remote and sparsely populated region. The dazzling scenery of high-altitude desert cradled by the Karakoram Mountains and the Himalaya ranges, is crisscrossed by myriad razor-sharp peaks and ridges and deep river gorges. Tibetan Buddhist monasteries a top rock out-croppings with small village hamlets below dramatically dot an otherwise untouched landscape. Variously described as “Little Tibet” or “the last Shangri-La,” the population of Ladakh is predominantly Buddhist. Tibetan Buddhism is infused into every bit of the culture and as our understanding of it deepens during our journey, so will our connection and joy of life.
June 19 ~ Day 2: Leh, Time to Acclimate
Much of today will be at your own leisure to ensure adequate opportunity to acclimate. We will take our time and venture out to visit the markets and bazaars. There will be ample opportunity to check out the Kashmiri handicrafts along the way.
Most of our destinations on this Deep Dive in Ladakh are at elevations above 10,000 feet. Acclimatizing is important to avoid headaches and other signs of Acute Mountain Sickness. By taking it relatively easy in the beginning of our journey, we will progressively ramp up to our exploration and adventure-filled days.
June 20 ~ Day 3: Walking Exploration of Leh
After breakfast this morning, we will meet up with our expert local guide for a cultural and historic tour of Leh, the capital of Ladakh. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this scenic town bloomed into one of the busiest markets on the Silk Road. The city appears to spill out from the famed Leh Palace, where the Ladakhi royal family used to reside. We’ll visit the Palace and Namgyal Tsemo gompa, perched amid prayer flags, with the narrow streets of the old quarter below. Making our way through winding alleys, mud-bricked lanes and stairways that burrow around series of old mud-brick Ladakhi houses and chortens (domed stupas), we’ll meet the local inhabitants and witness the traditional way of life in Ladakh.
Overnight in Leh.
June 21 ~ Day 4: International Yoga Day
Today is dedicated to celebrating International Yoga day in the serene environs of Ladakh. We’ll practice yoga asana, meditate with monks and deepen our understanding of Buddhism. For the first half of the day, we’ll have an early start for our yoga session with a local guru at an exclusive venue. Yoga is an ancient art based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind and spirit. A late morning breakfast will be served at the venue.
In the afternoon, we’ll attend a lecture on Buddhism and spirituality, including meditation time with the monks. This will be an amazing opportunity to dive deeply into Tibetan Buddhist thinking and practice in an intimate setting.
This evening you’ll have time to assimilate the day’s teachings at your leisure.
Overnight in Leh.
June 22 ~ Day 5: Lamayuru Gompa and Alchi Monastery
Starting our day in the appropriate frame of mind, we’ll attend a morning prayer at a local monastery before driving to Lamayuru Gompa (approx. 2.5-3 hrs). Perched on a steep rock mountain amidst a dramatic moonscape, houses of the town nestled in around the base, Lamayuru Gompa is home to more than 150 monks year-round, and is believed to be the oldest and largest monastery in Ladakh.
After lunch we’ll head to the Alchi Monastery and temple complex which sits on the banks of the Indus River. The artistic and spiritual ideals of both Buddhism and the Hindu kings of that time in Jammu and Kashmir are reflected in the wall paintings in the monastery. These are some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh, despite the aging walls.
Today’s explorations will combine dramatic landscapes, ancient history and cultural learnings giving you an authentic experience of Buddhist practice in Ladakh.
In the evening we will drive back to Leh.
June 23 ~ Day 6: Hemis Tsechu Festival
After breakfast, we will spend the good part of today at Hemis Monastery celebrating with the monks and others on pilgrimmage. Based on Tibetan and Buddhist legends, the Hemis Festival is said to have its origins back in the 8th century. The celebration, with fervent preparations and dance performances by masked lamas, music and prayers in the Hemis Monastery courtyard, honors Lord Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche). Known as the second Buddha, he is the founder of Tibetan Buddhism and taught the Tantric teachings. The dance of the lamas, dressed in vibrant costumes and masks, represents good prevailing over evil. Today’s experiences will highlight this land of mysteries and legends as a unique culture and life unfolds before you.
After taking in the day’s vibrant chaotic celebrations, we will spend the evening at leisure in Leh.
June 24 ~ Day 7: Archery then the Nubra Valley
After another delightful breakfast at our hotel (will be too easy to get used to this!), we’ll walk through town and seek out the locals playing their favorite sport – archery. It’s highly likely they’ll offer us a quick lesson and invite us to give it a try – and of course, we will!
In the afternoon we will leave Leh, drive over Khardung La pass (over 17,000 feet) and head down into the spectacular Nubra Valley (Approx. 5 hrs). The wide flat Nubra Valley is crisscrossed by the Shyok and Nubra Rivers and cradled by rugged mountains. While from afar the valley seems parched, as you get closer on this stunning drive, you find prime farmland – the reason it is also called the Orchard of Ladakh.
In the evening we will enjoy an enchanting, elaborate and colorful traditional Ladakhi dance. Our simple and immaculate hotel for our stay in the Nubra Valley is made up of separate cottages with views of the Himalaya, Lchang Nang Retreat (House of Trees). Meals will be locally sourced and fresh each day.
Overnight in Nubra Valley
June 25 ~ Day 8: Tribal Village of Turtuk
After breakfast, we’ll visit a small village tribal community that was unseen by tourists until as recently as 2010. The Balti people in the village of Turtuk follow age old customs – they are farmers, apricot growers and shepherds – and speak a language which is just spoken, not written. This peaceful hamlet of apricot trees and smiling children borders the Karakoram Mountains on a high plateau amidst the Trans-Himalayas. We’ll take a village walk, learn how the villagers make a living and soak in the peace of this unspoiled paradise.(Approx 3.5 hrs drive)
In the evening, we’ll drive back to our hotel in the Nubra Valley.
June 26 ~ Day: 9 Diskit Monastery and Hunder Sand Dunes
After another delicious breakfast, a short drive will take us to Diskit Monastery, built in the 14th century. As we approach the gompa on a walk up the long flight of stairs to the entrance, we’ll pass the monks’ quarters to a group of temples with remarkable murals, prayers halls bright with color and bookrooms that store hundreds of Mongolian and Tibetan texts.
Adding to the majestic and divine beauty of Diskit, a spectacular 32 meter (105 feet) statue of the Maitreya Buddha near the gompa will take your breath away. Maitreya Buddha, according to Buddhist scripture, is the future Buddha, a transcendent bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment and teach the pure dharma as the universal buddha. The name Maitreya is taken from the Sanskrit maitri (or metta), which means “loving kindness.” In Mahayana Buddhism, Maitreya is the embodiment of all-encompassing love.
With fantastic local guides giving us the history of the area and insight into the evolution of Buddhism, we’ll then head to explore the Hunder Sand Dunes where we meet up with the natives: Bactrian camels! Bactrian camels live on the high altitude steppes of central Asia where temperatures can get extremely hot, but also drop down well below zero. Their double hump distinguishes them from their more common relatives with one hump. We’ll take a camel ride and experience what it might have been like to be a trader along the ancient trade routes in Asia.
Overnight in Nubra Valley.
June 27 ~ Day: 10 Bicycling with the Wind
After breakfast this morning, we will check out of the Lchang Nang Retreat to our next adventure. Making our way back towards Leh over Wari La pass (approx. 3 hrs) our view will not only be from a comfy car seat though; we will stop to hop on bicycles!
Wari La is one of the most scenic passes in Ladakh and the fourth-highest motor able road in the world. The pass connects two of the most exotic valleys in this trans-Himalayan region. You are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Nubra Valley, as well as the many villages that dot the Indus Valley.
After a short safety briefing, you’ll be ready to cycle down one of the best tracks that the Ladakhi Himalayas has to offer. The road criss-crosses its way along the mountain side into the green oasis of Sakti Village. Our ride will end a little further on at Kharu town.
Note that Wari La pass is over 17,000 ft. Today’s cycling adventure will be all downhill; you must be relatively fit to enjoy this activity.
After the bike ride, we’ll continue our drive back to Leh and check in to our hotel for the evening.
June 28 ~ Day: 11 Depart Leh
Sadly, all amazing journeys must come to an end and this is our last day in Ladakh. However, the combination of nature’s profound beauty in this region, the spirit of the Buddhist-infused culture and the warm welcoming people will fill your soul to the brim, giving you reasons to celebrate life well beyond your actual stay in this incredible country.
Note that due to the mountainous location of the Leh airport, all flights arrive and depart before noon.
- Accommodations double or single occupancy for 7 nights in four star hotel and 3 nights in 3.5 star hotel.
- Group transport from airport to hotel, if arriving within stated time frame.
- All meals included on all days except for arrival day. (Breakfasts will be served at the hotel unless otherwise noted in itinerary. Lunches and dinners will vary depending on the day’s schedule, with a focus on local restaurants.)
- International Yoga Day celebration.
- Buddhist lesson with the lama/s.
- All excursions noted in itinerary including visits to Lamayuru and Alchi, Hemis Tsechu Festival, Nubra Valley, Turtuk Village, Diskit Monastery.
- Camel experience in Hunder Sand Dunes.
- Bicycle ride in the Himalayas.
- Service of locally appointed English speaking guide in each city/town.
- Transportation by an air-conditioned/heated mini-coach/van with our own driver for all drives noted on itinerary.
- Currently applicable entrance fees and permits to places of visit, which are subject to change. (See day by day visits on the itinerary for all that are included.)
- Currently applicable government taxes, which are subject to change.
- Your own bottled water daily. (Min 2 per day.)
- Yoga / meditation sessions throughout the trip, as planned by trip leaders.
What’s Not Included
- All airfare.
- Tips to local guides, drivers etc. (Plan on roughly $150 in tips – You will receive a Tipping Cheat Sheet as we get closer!)
- Personal items, gifts, etc.
- Camera fees (Many sites/monuments will charge a small extra fee to use your camera – generally less than a dollar – and if you are 2 people and only want to use 1 of your cameras, they will charge you only for 1. Not a big deal, just giving you a heads up!)
- Entry to museums, monuments, etc that are NOT listed on the itinerary (ie: anything you explore on your own)
- Personal, medical or trip cancellation insurance.
Your Travel Hosts
The travel bug became imbedded in me from a young age. My parents were skiers – lucky me! We lived in New York, but each winter, they would pick my sister and me up from school on Fridays and make the 5 hour drive to Vermont. We’d return in time for bed on Sunday night. Then I lived and studied in Paris for a year in college, using all of my vacations to travel through out western Europe. The train system made it so easy.
My love affair with India started in 2006 when a friend and I decided to use our frequent flyer miles to go as far away as we could with our FF credits. I was at a place in my life where I needed a shift. I was 38, single, a fundraiser at a small nonprofit organization, and a lot of my time was taken up playing Ultimate Frisbee. It doesn’t sound terrible at all, right? And “on paper” it wasn’t. Life was busy, I was fit, having fun, and my job had meaning in the community. Yet I was beginning to feel down, dull and disconnected. Lacking joy. Frustrated from another “failed” relationship. Something was out of alignment. I felt like I was just dredging along through each day, in spite of the fact that everything was “fine”.
So I booked my flight. A few months later my friend and I arrived in Delhi, and then got on an overnight public bus, headed north. On day two of that trip, we were on a hillside in Dharamsala as the Pakistani/Indian earthquake shook the region. As it happens, it also shook the dullness and drudgery right out of my life! That was just the beginning of my incredible journey through North and Northeast India – and it only got better from there.
I am a seasoned yoga teacher and a grant writer for a nonprofit organization. Yet, nothing makes me happier than traveling and sharing the delights of India with others. After several explorations there, I started Inspired Exploration Travel, hosting two fantastic groups of travelers with me in 2016 and one in 2017. I am thrilled to accompany you on your 2018 journey, Deep Dive in Ladakh, A Spirit Celebration!
Learn more about Sandy and her travel explorations on her blog.
Travel is in my blood and in my soul. As an only child, I was blessed to spend time all over Europe, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and many of the amazing places right here in the continental US with my parents while growing up. My husband Takis and I began married life with a truly unforgettable journey to the South Pacific. With stops in Bora Bora, Moorea and the remote islands where we swam with sharks, we saw few people and were dumbstruck by the simple beauty of nature in its picture-postcard grandeur.
Our most memorable spiritual journey was the one we took to China in 2000 to adopt our daughter, Bijou. Not only did we spend time in Japan and all over China during that trip, but we also became parents for the first time! Instead of a trip to the maternity ward we toured Asia with our new baby. Then it was back to Asia to adopt our son Asher a few years later and more time in Japan as well as South Korea.
We travel as often as we can these days. Our family is a global one and we all share the passion for new places and new horizons. Travel teaches us in ways books and classes never can. It broadens us and deepens us, opening us wide to the whole world and our place in it. Travel touches the deepest parts of us – our heart and soul.
Several years ago, I left my work as an attorney behind to devote myself full-time to teaching and practicing yoga. I’ve always known I would one day travel to India on a pilgrimage to understand the birthplace of yoga and Buddhism. As a seasoned teacher, co-founder of Indigo Yoga and teacher trainer, I joined Inspired Exploration Travel in 2016 for our Awaken the Spirit journey to Northern India. Fast forward to today, and I simply can’t wait to head back and explore Ladakh and the roots of Tibet Buddhism in India with you in 2018 on this Deep Dive in Ladakh!
Why Inspired Exploration Travel?
Engaged travel – is the most direct, succinct description of the philosophy of Inspired Exploration Travel. Taking loads of pictures is highly encouraged AND we want to see you get out from behind the lens of your camera as well. Inspired Exploration trips are designed to give you many opportunities to engage in your surroundings and the people of the region.
Each itinerary, retreat and/or travel exploration is mindfully created so that you can feel confident that you will be more than just a tourist on your travels. Engaging with the locals, communing with nature, partaking in a cooking lesson or a meal in someones home, singing or dancing along in a local ritual. Meeting the people who weave silk into saris or getting your hands dirty in a pottery class in an off-the-beaten-path village. You get beyond the main tourist circuits and have an authentic, moving experience. This doesn’t just happen as the highlight of the trip – you will experience it day after day in this incredible country, with Inspired Exploration.
Engaged travel means that you have the chance to take part in the culture, not just observe it; learn and live the history of a place while you immerse yourself in the experience that is at your fingertips. Create a deeper context for your own life, have an adventure, connect to people and cultures that may at first seem worlds apart from your own, yet along the journey, that distance dissolves.
Please do not book your flight before reading this and speaking to us at Inspired Exploration Travel. You will be booking a flight to Delhi to arrive early in the morning on 18 June 2018. Inspired Exploration will help you book your flight from Delhi to Leh, Ladakh, which will depart from Delhi before noon on June 18th. Call us so we can help coordinate the timing before you select and purchase your flight. This way you will be transferring in Delhi to your flight to Leh together with the other travelers, keeping it simple. Return flights will be departing from Leh, Ladakh on the 28 June 2018 into Delhi and from Delhi to home.
As noted in the exclusions, neither flight is included in the cost of of the retreat.
If you are interested in adding on to your trip, I would be happy to help you with ideas and planning to create the perfect travel addition.