Tailored from £7,350 per person excl. flights
10 days Delhi, Leh, Hemis National Park
10 days Delhi, Leh, Hemis National Park
November to April is the prime time for seeing snow leopards in the Trans Himalayas. Through positive tourism, The Lungmar Remote Camp’s work conserves over 5 million hectares of snow leopard habitat internationally. There are 12 countries where snow leopards dwell and Hemis National Park in Ladakh, India is the prime place to view them.
Snow Leopards are known as the ‘ghost of the mountains’, and it’s understandable why. Roaming landscapes that are vast and austere, these creatures live a solitary existence, and have a reputation for being notoriously hard to track in the wild. The sheer scale of snow leopard country, combined with the elusive nature of the cats has made viewing them feel like an unachievable feat. However, this narrative has changed for the better in recent years.
Hemis National Park provides a sanctuary for snow leopards in the largest concentration in the world. Unlike the busying southern national parks of India, the protected areas in Ladakh epitomise untouched wilderness and are scattered with small local communities who are slowly growing a positive relationship with these cats.
Hemmed by China, Tibet and Pakistan, Ladakh is accessible by a 1 hour flight from Delhi. The gateway to the region is its capital city, Leh. To acclimatise to new heights, guests require at least two nights here as it takes the body a little while to adjust to being 3,500m above sea level. As ever, with dizzying heights come epic views. With the Himalayas framing the landscape, and a town dotted with dozen of heritage buildings and Buddhist monasteries, it’s a great place to set up base and relax before the adventure.
After slowing down in the city, a two-hour drive to The Lungmar Remote Camp marks the beginning of the off-grid expedition. The camp is surprising, as whilst it’s adorned with traditional local materials, carved wooden beams and roofing, it’s also well equipped with space-age technology to keep all guests warm from the harsh winter outside. This is the springboard into snow leopard territory. Accompanied by guides with decades of experience in this landscape, and state of the art gear for spotting these creatures, set off for 5 days of treks and sightings.
In an otherworldly landscape, The Lungmar Remote Camp provides a warm and inviting base for spotting the unseen. This itinerary is an expedition to the only national park north of the Himalayas in India, and a cultural endeavour to a unique camp on the Great Silk Road.
Today on your international flight you’ll arrive in India’s chaotic capital, Delhi. This stop is necessary to sleep off the jetlag and recuperate before your journey into the mountains tomorrow.
This morning, you’ll be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the airport for boarding your flight to Leh. The journey takes just over 1 hour, and upon arrival you’ll feel the fresh mountain air greet you. We recommend a quiet day today as your body adjusts to the altitude.
The Grand Dragon was the first ever 5* lodge in Leh, and offers unrivalled views over the cold desert and surrounding mountains. It is owned a local family, who have more than 40 years experience welcoming visitors to the region. Beautifully decorated and incredibly comfortable, the hotel features paintings by Gulam Mustafa - the first morden Artist of Ladakh and has fixtures reminiscent of royalty.
Leh is mountain-framed and enchanting. With whitewashed houses and stupas dotting the Old Town, the Tibetan-style palace and fort looks over from a rocky ridge above. Upon arrival, we have planned for you to take things very easy here. Enjoy a heritage walk through the town and the bazaar, meandering through over 180 old buildings, several Buddhist temples and various mosques.
Set off early this morning to witness the morning prayers at Thiskey Monastery, located atop a hill with formidable views of the Indus Valley. The monastery is known for its gigantic, seated statue of the Maitreya and Dukhang assembly hall, which houses hundreds of wooden and silk prayer books.
Then, you’ll explore Hemis Monastery, one of the largest and most revered monasteries in Ladakh which is also home to a charming museum. On the way back to Ladakh, stop via Shey Palace, the former summer palace of the King of Ladakh.
After an early breakfast, you’ll be picked up from your lodge and taken to the wild landscape that lies beyond. Change your sightseeing cap for an explorer’s hat and journey by road to the borders of Hemis National Park. It only takes a little over an house, and upon arrival at Camp you’ll be greeted with warmth and hospitality and given time to settle into your new home for the next 4 nights.
After a briefing, you’ll set out in the afternoon in search of wildlife with your tracking team. Although snow leopards are the main draw factor here, other unique species dwell here. Some of the high-altitude animals include bharal (blue sheep), Himalayan marmot, Himalayan mouse hair, Eurasian brown bear, red fox, and Tibetan wolf, amongst numerous bird species.
Snow leopards are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active at dawn and dusk. Every day on camp, the team of expert trakkers will leave camp at dawn, journeying to various points in different valleys. Scanning the ridge-lines and slopes for wildlife, any sightings are swiftly reported back to camp.
Most days, you’ll wake at 7am for breakfast and preparation for a day of trekking ahead. Once spotted, you’ll join the team to the location of the sighting to see the leopards go about their daily business through Swarovski Optik lenses. The favourite spot is just 20 - 25 minutes away from the camp.
Other than mountain treks and remote sightings of snow leopards, you can get involved in conservation work which is ongoing at The Lungmar Camp, or visit local villages, gargantuan monasteries and even attend morning prayer. There is plenty of opportunity to just relax, enjoy the mountains and the incredible Ladakhi culture. There’s a real feeling of being on the Silk Road, even though this is essentially a wildlife tour.
After numerous wildlife sightings (there has been a 100% success rate for seeing snow leopards on each 6 night stay), and an incredible encounter with the mountain scenery, humble home-cooked Indian food and plenty of star-gazing it’s time to set off back to lower grounds.
This morning, bid farewell to the mountainous surroundings. Drive to Leh to board your flight back to Delhi where you’ll spend your final night relaxing at a local hotel and eating one last delicious Indian meal.
Today marks the end of your Indian adventure, a snapshot of remote life in the Trans-Himalayas, and a mere introduction to some of big cats that live in this vast country.
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Snow Leopards are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conversation of Nature. Lungmar Remote Camp is committed to reducing human-wildlife conflict which is the main cause of snow leopard population decline. With each guest that visits Lungmar, $350 is donated towards building predator-proof corrals for local herders, with the aim of reducing livestock deaths by snow leopards and, the consequential chance of retaliatory killings.
Although beautiful and mysteriously solitary, these creatures have existed in a state of conflict with local communities. Historically, Ladakhis have depended on agriculture for their livelihood, and these predators posed a primary threat. The Lungmar Remote Camp strives to transform the perception of an animal viewed as a liability, into an asset.
And, it’s worth adding that 99% of the team at The Lungmar Remote Camp are trained locals who come from snow leopard landscapes themselves.
As for the Grand Dragon, this hotel also places a big emphasis on their green philosophy. They have 95 solar panels, aim to reduce water consumption and use a variety of energy-saving technologies throughout the hotel.
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