ladakh ~ village experience

Situated in the far north of the sub-continent, over 3,500m (11,500 feet) up on the high plateau, Ladakh is often referred to as ‘Little Tibet’. Ladakh’s geography protected it from the ravages of the Chinese Cultural Revolution as a result of which it contains one of the most intact Tantric Buddhist societies left on earth. With a high altitude desert dominated by rugged snow capped mountains and deep turquoise lakes. Ladakh Himalayas is one of the most picturesque places on earth. Ladakh has long been on the map for backpackers, mostly staying in and around the capital, Leh. However, the Shakti Village Experience avoids the over now-crowded hub of Leh and takes you off the beaten track to unspoiled, traditional villages in the Indus valley. The perfect antidote to the frenetic world that most of us live in, the Village Experience can include arranged visits to local schools, monasteries, craft workshops and markets to give you a full understanding of the culture, people, religion and customs of the region.

The best way to experience these villages is a combination of walking, rafting and driving between them while overnighting in some of the beautifully quaint homestays along the way. Traditional Ladakhi houses are built with sun-baked mud bricks and wooden beams of poplar and willow. The bricks are plastered with clay giving a striking whitewash appearance. The interiors of the overnighting houses on the Village Experience have been spruced up by local craftsmen with local materials. Tibetan carpets adorn the floors and Ladakhi coffee tables sit on the roof terrace – a perfect place to enjoy a well-earned drink after a day’s trekking. Although simple, the level of comfort in the houses is truly surprising and yet does not compromise their authenticity.

For the more active walker, we offer trekking and camping in even more remote and beautiful locations. The treks require a reasonable level of fitness and reach altitudes of up to 4,250m (14,000ft). The tented camps provide an atmospheric night under canvas with all the usual service and style of the village houses while enjoying outstanding mountain views and some of the clearest night skies to be found in the world. The Village Experience includes river rafting on the glacier-fed Indus and Zanskar rivers. The rapids vary from Class 1 to Class 4 and offer a thrilling change of pace.

There is no standard itinerary as every trip is tailored to the individual travelers ensuring the best possible experience to suit their tastes. Depending on preference, the walking can range from very light to genuinely strenuous. It is also possible to arrange motorized transport if walking is not desired. The Village Experience is available from early May to late September.

My journey

Because every journey is tailored specifically to individual requirements, preferences and timings, the itinerary below is my only personal travel experience and therefore should be considered to be only a brief example of the experiences that are possible in Ladakh. The itinerary does not in any way reflect the ‘best’ possible routing and is simply an example.

Day 1 

Fly from Delhi to Leh and be met and driven to the Shakti Village House in Nimoo where we recommend complete rest to aid your acclimatization.  Nimoo (3190m/10463ft) is a large village situated 36km west of Leh along the Indus valley at the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers. The village is characterized by impressive mountain scenery, surrounded by lush green fields and apricot, apple and walnut orchards abound. As you will be acclimatizing today, we recommend spending the day taking it easy relaxing at the house. A delicious gourmet picnic lunch was served by the river. After lunch, relax at the village house, or if you are feeling ready to do so, either take a hike this afternoon with your guide or a cooking lesson in the kitchen with your Shakti private chef. 

 

Day 2 

This morning you will be met by your Shakti guide at the TUTC Thiksey camp at 08:30 am.
You will be driven an hour to the charming village of Phyang. Explore the village with your guide, walking further to visit the Phyang monastery which houses a 900-year-old museum and contains numerous sacred shrines inside the monastery, frescoes dating from the royal period. You will then be driven for 45 minutes to your Shakti village house in Nimoo. Nimoo (3190m/10463ft) is a large village situated 36km west of Leh along the Indus valley at the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers. The village is characterized by impressive mountain scenery, and is considered exceptionally fertile in Ladakhi terms – lush green fields and apricot, apple, and walnut orchards abound.
Arrive in time at the village house to enjoy lunch prepared by your private chef. After lunch, you could spend some time relaxing at the village house.
Later today, you will be taken on a two hour walk of the village of Nimoo by your guide. You will get a fascinating insight into rural Ladakhi life. You may also like to visit the Basgo fort located 10 minutes by drive. At Basgo (3295m/10808ft), where there are three ‘Future Buddha’ monasteries completed in the 16th century and the ruins of a fort that is interesting for its Islamic architecture.
Depending on how you are feeling, you could take a 2 hour hike in the area, further extending your hike uphill to the charming Ney Village. You could then cycle for 2.5 hours back to Nimoo on a scenic trail (or drive back to Nimoo as cars will be on standby).
Enjoy your drinks followed by dinner prepared by your private chef. 

Day 3 

This morning after a leisurely breakfast, you will drive up the Zanskar canyon to the village of Chilling (3236m/10614ft), around an hour from Nimoo. Chilling is a settlement that is traditionally home to metal smiths and has provided copper, bronze, tin, silver and iron work to Leh through the centuries. Your guide will take you for a walk around the village of Chilling and you will get the chance to see the local metal smith at work.
You will then have the option to raft for 2 hours to the shores of Nimoo, ending at the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus River. Return to your village house in Nimoo to dry up and enjoy hot lunch. Spend some time relaxing at the village house. If you are feeling active, your guide will suggest some trekking routes depending on how you are feeling.
This evening we will organize a cooking lesson with your private chef this evening. Try your hand in learning how to make a few local dishes. Tonight you will have your farewell drinks and dinner at the Nimmo House.

 

Day 4 

This morning head out to Alchi (3120m/10233ft), a fascinating monastery and the only one in Ladakh to be built on flat ground, unlike the others which were always on hilltops. The temple was founded in the 11th century and is particularly interesting for its Indian and Kashmiri influences. Drive for about 20min and enjoy a picnic lunch at Saspol. You could then explore the Saspol Caves- its walls adorned with 13th century paintings are noted for its fusion of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist art. 

You will then be driven an hour to the picturesque village of Likhir. Visit the Likhir monastery with your guide. It also has a school where approximately 40 monks study per year. A visit to the monastery will leave you struck by the beauty of the illustrative paintings on the walls, the spectacular 25 foot statue of the Buddha! Later today should you wish to trek, you may walk up to the grazing grounds of Likhir. Walk upwards for about half an hour till the road disappears and you come across a small glacial stream. Cross over the stream to the other side and start ascending a trail for about an hour till you get further upstream to the Likhir summer pastures. There is only one settlement in the grazing ground, where an old lady spends her entire summer at this settlement grazing her yaks and sheep and looking after them. 

This evening you will have the chance to meet with a local monk from the Thiksey Monastery. You will have the chance to have a one-on-one experience to chat about life, and ask any questions you may have for an authentic conversation. 

Day 5 

This morning after breakfast you will be driven for an hour to the domestic airport for your flight to Delhi. 

——- OTHER Bespoke travel stories you might like ——

 

OTHER EXPERIENCES you might like

SHAKTI 360° LETI

Reach new heights at Shakti 360° Leti boutique retreat in the Himalayas. High in the clouds, with prime mountain views, the four-cabin stay offers a remote escape to suit every type of traveler. Each of the four stone-and-wood cabins is perfectly positioned to maximize peak views, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing the snowy range. Each stay is customized, including meals of locally sourced ingredients and activities in the area. Guests can take to the trails for rugged treks, stroll to campsites or settle in by the fire for fresh air and complete serenity.