Embark on a nomadic journey through the centuries-old culture of Ladakh. Explore fascinating monuments, monasteries, fairs and festivals in absoloute luxury for quintessential glamping
Ladakh’s astounding scenery and traditional culture make it an ideal destination for adventurous families looking for an alternative to a fly-flop beach break in the summer. During the school holidays, the weather in the region is blissfully dry and sunny – perfect for outdoor fun – and by August there is considerably less pressure on hotels, meaning prices are lower.
We’ve devised an all-inclusive two-week trip based around a mix of child-centric activities and experiences that are guaranteed to keep any over 8s, tweens or teens you may wish to travel with happily distracted from their phones (though rest assured they will have limited access to WiFi over the course of the holiday). Long drives are kept to a minimum; visits to monasteries are shorter and less frequent than usual; and instead of excursions to a succession of museums and monuments, you and the kids (or grandkids) can learn about Ladakhi culture through hands-on archery lessons and cooking workshops, and by meeting local farming families.
For more active members of the party we offer some serious outdoor action: white water rafting on the Indus, mountain biking or a camel ride on a two-humped Bactrian. If desired, you can also include a proper three-night trek, staying overnight in traditional Ladakhi villages miles from any road (which more senior travellers may, course opt out of in favour of a more leisurely interlude at valley level).
Bear in mind this is merely a ‘suggested itinerary’, proposed as a starting point that may be adapted to the particular interests and practical requirements of your family. That includes your choice of hotels. In the outline below we’ve included only those we feel offer the very best experience possible, but there are, of course, plenty of less expensive alternatives. Our consultants will also be able to recommend a range of tempting extensions to this tour should you wish to explore the region more widely.
One question we’re frequently asked by parents contemplating a trip to Ladakh is whether the altitude is safe? The answer, quite simply, is ‘yes’, as long as you take things easy over the first few days while your body acclimatises – something our experienced guides will ensure you do.
Cultural Tours Family Holidays
Fly overnight from London to Delhi.
On arrival in Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport, you’ll be met by your TransIndus guide and driver and transferred to your hotel for an overnight stay. Spend the remainder of the day recovering from your journey by the pool. Depending on your choice of hotel – and energy levels – you might wish to experience the ‘Kingdom of Dreams’ show in the evening – an all-singing, all-dancing sound-and-light extravaganza (staged conveniently close to the airport).
Since it started in 2009, ‘Kingdom of Dreams’ has been a huge hit with local families. Its centrepiece is a spectacular outdoor show featuring a feast of Bollywood-inspired music, dance and acrobatics. Think crazy light shows and dozens of dancers in glitzy costumes performing live on stage. It’s all a far cry from what you’ll be experiencing in Ladakh, but is certain to entertain your jet-lagged offspring! It’s also located a short drive from the airport and south Delhi hotels.
Enjoy a day exploring Delhi’s high-density core today, guided by former streets kids. Later, visit the atmospheric Sikh Gurudwara in central Delhi for evening prayers.
Our walks around the market district of central Delhi are guided by youngsters who, apart from showing visitors around the historic sights and backstreets, also give a vivid account of what life is like for disadvantaged children in the area. Income from the scheme helps the NGO Saalaam Balak fund its shelter and outreach programme, and provides a living wage and much needed boost to the self-esteem of the enthusiastic young guides. Your offspring will also gain a valuable insight into what life can be like for people of their age growing up in poorer parts of Delhi.
Made of white marble and crowned by a gilded onion dome, the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib and shimmering pool inside it are places of great sanctity for Indian Sikhs, and offer the most atmospheric introduction possible to the capital. The complex in its present form dates from the late-18th century and was constructed at a place associated with the eighth Sikh Guru, Har Krishnan. At a Langar, or ‘canteen’ in the temple, devotees and visitors are fed nourishing, free meals of chapatis and black dal by volunteers. If you’re lucky, you may see groups of Akalis, members of a Sikh warrior sect, dressed in traditional ceremonial garb.
Transfer to the airport in the morning to catch your plane to Leh. Weather permitting, you and your kids will see a vast sweep of the Great Himalayan range, smothered in glaciers and snow. Having been greeted on arrival by your TransIndus guide and driver, spend the remainder of the day soaking up the wonderful scenery from the comfort of your hotel, perhaps venturing out with the family later to explore the village.
Ladakh is India’s most physically remote region, and during your flight you’ll appreciate why. Vast, ice-encrusted Himalayan mountains separate the plains from the Indus Valley, where the airport and capital city, Leh, is located. As you land, you’ll catch your first glimpse of the white-washed Buddhist monasteries perched atop crags near the river, and of the pretty Ladakhi villages huddled around them, wrapped in stands of poplar trees and fields of vivid green or golden barley.
After a leisurely breakfast, enjoy a stroll around Stok. To avoid mild altitude sickness, we always ensure our clients do not over-exert themselves on their first day. It’s a good idea to bring some board games, cards and books to keep the children occupied (and as sedentary as possible!) on their first afternoon of acclimatisation. Your base for four nights will be a cottage in one of these farming hamlets. A short drive from the airport, our recommended accommodation – the Chuli Bagh Villas in the leafy grounds of Stok Palace – couldn’t be better suited to family travel.
With a population of around 1,500 people, Stok is a typical Ladakhi village of large, traditional farmsteads and chortens (stupas) scattered across a patchwork of barley fields and fruit orchards at the mouth of the Stok Chu River. From a low outcrop overlooking the riverbank rises an imposing 14th-century monastery with multi-storey whitewashed walls and windows picked out in burgundy – the colour denoting holiness in Tibetan tradition. You’ll be staying in the grounds of a palace which the local royal family built in the early 19th century. The village’s only other monument of note is a giant golden Buddha, inaugurated in 2016 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which is always intriguing for children (and eminently Instagram-able!).
With its gorgeous farmhouses and jaw-dropping backdrop of Himalayan peaks, Stok makes a perfect introduction to Ladakh.
Cross the Indus Valley to visit the region’s capital Leh today. A bustling market town overlooked by an impressive medieval palace, the town holds a lively bazaar full of colourful little shops, cafés and restaurants, many of them run by Tibetan refugees. Explore the sights in the company of your guide.
Prepare for a total change of atmosphere as you explore the narrow alleyways of Leh’s old town in the morning, where the once grand houses of Ladakh’s aristocrats and merchants huddle at the foot of a towering, Tibetan-style palace. The market is a compelling mix of souvenir shops filled with Tibetan jewellery and handicrafts, and essential supplies for locals, including traditional Himalayan costume, outdoor clothing, prayer flags and incense. Your children’s eyes will be on stalks!
After lunch back at the hotel in Stok, climb to the palace’s temple to make a sacred amulet with one of the resident monks. Each of the charms contains a prayer hand-written in Tibetan script on a piece of cloth, which will be bound by strands of sacred threads. The pattern these form depends on the purpose of amulet, which your children make take home as souvenirs or gifts.
Later, drive to the edge of Leh to visit the gleaming white Shanti Stupa, a modern chorten which you can climb for a superb sunset view extending to the distant Stok Kangri massif. Younger children will enjoy spinning the large brass prayer wheels lining the approach to the stupa.
Rise before dawn today for an early breakfast and departure in time to catch morning prayers at Tikse monastery, on the north side of the Indus Valley.
One of the largest and most spectacular Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayas, Tikse rises up the flank of a sacred hill of pale grey rock and sand. Morning prayers are preceded by blasts of giant Tibetan trumpets from the roof terrace (riveting for children) where an expansive view extends across the Indus Valley to the ice giants of the Stok Kangri massif. Attend prayers in the main assembly hall, under the watchful eyes of a 15-metre (49-ft) gold-faced Maitreya, then visit the other (often rather spooky!) chambers, whose walls are decorated with multi-coloured murals.
In the afternoon, enjoy some downtime back at the hotel before heading into the village to meet and dine with a local family. You’ll be invited to help with some daily chores, perhaps feeding livestock or lending a hand with field work, depending on the time of year. Most local children speak a little English. You’ll learn about the agricultural calendar and how meltwater is used to irrigate crops. This is a great opportunity to experience a traditional Himalayan way of life at close quarters – one that’s supremely well adapted to the mountain environment.
A fabulous Himalayan road trip today takes you down the Indus Valley then north over Wari La into the spectacular and remote Nubra region, where you’ll be spending two nights.
We recommend you break the half-day drive to Nubra at Chemrey, a superbly picturesque village and monastery on the road to the Wari La pass 5,312m (17,427ft). Throughout, the views of local barley fields and surrounding snow peaks are wondrous.
Keep an eye out for marmots as you crest the pass. With coats of dense fur to keep them warm, these curious rodents live in burrows at high altitudes, grazing on shoots and roots. From here on you’re in the Nubra region of Ladakh, where the scenery is a notch more dramatic and the valley flanks correspondingly wilder. Not until you approach the banks of the Shyok River will you see any signs of human habitation.
Thanks to the mild climate and lower elevation of the Nubra Valley, locals grow crops of barley, summer wheat, peas, mustard, walnuts and apricot; you’ll even come across the odd almond orchard.
Spend the afternoon taking in the wild atmosphere of this extraordinary corner of the Himalayas, which once served as the final outpost of civilization for traders heading north across the Karakorums to Kashgar in Xinjiang – a route long since closed, even to Indians.
Cycles are available at your hotel for rides in the local area should you wish to venture out to explore. Birding walks by the river and around nearby villages are also available. Start with a round of the wonderful, 300-year-old mani wall, which bounds the eastern perimeter of your hotel.
After breakfast round up the troops for a hike up the mountain to spectacular Samstanling monastery, located immediately above where you’re staying. Later, enjoy a guided village walk and ride on a Bactrian camel around the dunes at Hundar.
Instead of the uphill trek to Samstanling, you can drive up to attend morning prayers with all the monks chanting in the main hall, then walk back down to the village.
Overlooked by the remnants of a palace, fort and monastery, Hundar (30km further up the valley and the furthest point north tourists can travel in Nubra) was in former times the region’s capital. The camels are a throwback to the bygone era when this was a waystage on a spur of the old Silk Route connecting Kashgar in Xinjiang Province and Leh. They live in a tract of dunes, grazing on seabuckthorn and taking tourist out on rides in the summer months – a great Instagram opportunity!
One of the undoubted highlights of the tour is today’s spectacular drive, as you return to Leh and the Indus Valley via Kardung La. The trip takes half a day but flies past, thanks to the breath-taking scenery. You’ll be spending the night in a pretty village called Nimmu, to the west of Leh.
Built in the 1970s to supply troops stationed on the disputed Siachen Glacier, the road to Kardung La reaches an impressive elevation of 5,359 m (17,582 ft) and yields superlative views over the Ladakhi peaks. It was across this pass that around 10,000 ponies used to plod annually en route to and from Kashgar, one of the pivotal markets on the Central Asia Silk Road, until disputes between India, Pakistan and China closed the trail.
Nimmu village occupies a bend in the Indus around 40 minutes’ drive from Leh and offers a convenient base for explorations of points further west.
Spend your final full day in Ladakh enjoying the beautiful Indus Valley with a picnic near the confluence of the Zanskar River and gentle walks to local places of interest. After lunch, head down to the nearby confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers for a white-water rafting trip. Your guide will have discussed the various options with you in advance: they range from gentle floats (suitable for children under 12) to full-on, three-hour crossings of Grade III rapids!
The confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers traditionally marks the point of departure for those embarking on the perilous ice route through the Himalayas to Padum. Known as ‘Chaddar’, the walk through the Zanskar Gorge may only be attempted for a few weeks in the depths of winter, when the river freezes over. Traditionally, Zanskaris undertook the journey in order to trade yak butter (highly prized for making Tibetan tea). Today, groups of school children also brave the sub-zero temperatures in order to spend time with their families before returning to boarding school in Leh after the holidays. Trekkers sleep in caves and at ruined shepherds’ huts along the way, taking between three and six days to walk from the village of Chilling, near the confluence, to the Zanskar region.
Transfer to Leh airport for the return flight to Delhi, where you’ll spend one night. We always recommend staying over in the Indian capital for 24hrs in case of delays.
A wealth of sightseeing options are on offer for the late afternoon and evening in Delhi, should you wish to venture into the city. Your consultant will be able to make suggestions according to your interests and location of your hotel. Alternatively, cram in some last-minute shopping at Dilli Haat, a wonderful open-air crafts bazaar in South Delhi, not far from your hotel, where top artisans from across India sell their produce.
Time for you and the family to bid farewell to India as you transfer to Delhi airport in good time for your flight back to the UK.
✓ International flights from London
✓ 11 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Full board in Ladakh, breakfast daily in Delhi
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Take the early morning express train to Agra. Spend the day in Agra visiting the Taj Mahal, the impressive Agra Fort whose buildings, made of red sandstone and marble, are a mix of Hindu and Islamic architecture and the ornate tomb of Itamud-ud-Daula. Return to Delhi by train and stay at the Pride Plaza Aerocity or similar.
After breakfast transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
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The gilded domes of the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib dominate the skyline to the west of Connaught Circus, New Delhi’s commercial core. In contrast to the hubbub of the nearby shopping m…
The Himalayan province of Ladakh is India’s most physically remote and culturally distinct region. It only takes an hour or so to fly there from Delhi, but the change of landscape…
With a population of around 1,500 people, Stok is a typical Ladakhi village of large, traditional farmsteads and chortens (stupas) scattered across a patchwork of barley fields and…
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