Rare Arts and Wildlife of the Himalayas
Journey throughout Spiti, a valley tucked away in the Trans-Himalayas on the border of Tibet. Experience Spiti’s culture with intimate community visits and homestays. Explore the rare dance forms and breathtaking natural wonders. Gain insight on the local efforts driving responsible eco-travel and the conservation of natural and cultural heritage of a region rarely visited by “outsiders”. Learn how your ecotourism revenues will help support numerous community projects - from wildlife conservation, endangered dance preservation, to solar and wind energy development. End the tour with a colorful visit to Delhi where you will learn about Gandhi’s Legacy and celebrate the rich heritage of the Taj Mahal. This unforgettable journey will rejuvenate your spirit as you create positive change through your travels.
EcoArts Tours is an innovative concept and will help in taking the philosophy of ecotourism forward.~Seema Bhatt, author, Fulbright Fellow and ecotourism consultant in India
Tour Dates: Sample itinerary for June
Day 1: Delhi
Upon arrival, you will be greeted at the airport by a Travel Passion Inc. representative, escorted to the the Best Western Sky City Gurgaon (near Delhi airport), given a brief orientation and relax for the evening.
Day 2: Delhi to Sarahan
Today we catch a morning flight out of Delhi to Shimla, which used to be the summer capital during the British Raj. From Shimla the drive takes us through some of the States famous apple growing belt. We zig zag our way through the apple country to the Sutlej Valley below and reach Rampur at 924mts. the seat of the erstwhile Bushahir Kingdom. We then head onto Sarahan famous for the Bhimakali temple.
Day 3: Sarahan to Sangla Valley
Today we visit the Bhimakali temple and head further onto the famous sangla valley. We descent back to the Satluj valley which we follow along some stunning roads with deep gorges for company till we meet the Baspa River emerging from the Sangla valley. We head up the sangla valley famous for its beauty, where we spend the night. We explore the Sangla valley today and drive upto Chitkul, the last village in this valley.
Day 4: Sangla to Kalpa
Today we head to Kalpa. This region offers some of the most dramatic scenery in the Himalaya. Here the Kinner Kailash range rise majestically from the river bed up through orchard forest and glinting glaciers to rocky pinnacles and snow-capped tops. Before we reach Kalpa however we stop at Rekong Peo to make inner line permits which will allow us to continue our journey further which lies very close to the international border with China.
Day 5: Kalpa to Giu to Tabo
Our journey today, is to a region which was opened to tourists only a couple of decades ago, from Lower Kinnaur to Upper Kinnaur and eventually to Spiti, it’s a transition in the landscape, beliefs and life styles, a 200 km journey through the history and culture of this amazing region. The journey moves into high altitude territory as we enter Khab, the confluence of the Sutlej and Spiti rivers. Tibet is a stones throw from this point and the Shipki ranges rise majestically on the eastern sides. From here on it is the Spiti river that will be our companion through some rugged backcountry. Enroute we will take a slight detour and visit the village of Giu. Giu is the furthest and most isolated village of Spiti, lying close to the border of Tibet (China). Be ready for a surprise as we witness a rare relic of the human spirit here. Later we drive to Tabo and halt here for the night.
Day 6: Tabo to Dhankhar
Today after breakfast we visit the famous Tabo monastery which celebrated a 1000 years in 1996. After exploring the monastery and its numerous temples, we will get a brief presentation on Spiti, its culture, people, dance and art forms. We will also get details on Ecosphere’s various developmental activities in the region along with their initiatives on responsible eco-travel and conservation of nature & culture. After lunch we head to Dhankhar, the ancient capital of Spiti, which houses an ancient Monastery and Fort perched precariously between unique wind eroded structures. A visit to the Monastery, Fort and other subsidiary temples leaves one fascinated at the traditional architectural marvels of yester years. The Monastery has some interesting wall murals and thangkas, which are in an urgent need for restoration. With efforts of Ecosphere, restoration of the Dhankhar Monastery structure, murals and thangkas are now underway. This conservation initiative is also being linked to livelihood generation of the village community and monastery from tourism, in order to provide them with an incentive to conserve this heritage. If interested we can trek to the Dhankhar lake which offers some spectacular views (2 hours of trekking).
Day 7: Dhankhar to Lhalung to Pin Valley
Today we head onto Lhalung which is the largest village of the Lingti valley (a tributary of the Spiti River). It is famous for its over 1000 year old temple and a tree which is also said to be that old too. We visit this unique temple and head onto the Pin valley, which is another tributary of the Spiti River. The Pin valley, though a part of Spiti is quite distinct both in terms of culture and topography. The Pin valley is famous for its horses and for the Bhuchens. We will witness a Shabro performance today. The Shabro is an elaborate and unique Spiti dance form performed together by both the men and women. This is a unique dance form and is not accompanied by musicians as in the Khar and Semjo but by the traditional Spiti Guitarist.
Day 8: Pin Valley
Today we witness the Bhuchens who are a unique and rare sect of Tibetan Buddhist theatrical artists that preach religious, social and ecological morals to the local community through a set of diverse performances. Followers of Tholdan Gyalpo, who invented this art in the early 11th century A.D, they are now only found in the Spiti valley after disappearing from Tibet and Ladakh. Ecosphere is working with the Bhuchens to ensure this art form can flourish and be preserved in the Spiti valley. The evening can be spent at leisure and if interested we can take a walk around the village and its surroundings. This is also the entrance to the Pin Valley National Park famous for the elusive Snow Leopard.
Day 9: Pin Valley to Demul
Today we leave pin valley. Enroute we visit the Kungri Monastery which is part of the Ningmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. From there on we head onto Demul which is one of the most interesting villages of Spiti. It is a village of numerous legends and stories. Demul is also famous for its local brew called arak and its cultural dances. Today we spend the night in homestays. Homestays have been developed in numerous villages by Ecosphere to ensure direct economic benefits to the local communities and to enable a more enhanced understanding of the lifestyles of these hard working mountain folk. Before reaching Demul we trek to a vantage spot (2 hour of trekking) from where one can get stunning panoramic views of the Spiti valley. For those not up to trekking an option of taking a yak safari can be arranged. Once in Demul we settle into our Homestays and later get the opportunity to see some of the other initiatives of Ecosphere pertaining to promotion of solar energy in the Spiti valley as a means to reduce fuelwood consumption and carbon emissions of the local community (these range from solar passive houses, green houses). Demul village was also solar electrified by Ecosphere in 2011 and is one of the highest solar powered villages in India and perhaps the world.
Day 10: Demul
Today we get an insight into the traditional Tibetan Medicinal system practised in these parts. The village has a local doctor, traditionally called Amchi and we get an opportunity to learn about this intricate science and work with him for half a day. Ecosphere has been working with the Amchi in the village in trying to preserve this practice and encourage its continuity. Issues on this front will also be shared with the guests and we will learn more about the Amchi system, which is an off-shoot of Ayurveda. If we are lucky we shall even get an opportunity to prepare a few herbal medicines and learn of how sustainable harvesting techniques are being adopted by the amchi to ensure that the bio-diversity is not harmed in any way what so ever. In the latter half of the day we will witness 2 performances, one by the village girls called Semjo and one by the men called Khar. Khar is one of Spiti’s most traditional and unique dance forms. It is on the verge of extinction and today’s performance will be an opportunity to be a part of Ecosphere’s process of preserving this dance form from completely dying out. Khar was traditionally performed on occasions such as marriages, before the summer harvest and when a boy reached adulthood. Semjo on the other hand is youthful dance performed by the village girls at times of celebration and festivities. These provide a great opportunity to learn and experience the different dance forms of Spiti and understand their linkages and importance to the local culture.
Day 11: Demul to Komic
Today we adopt the local mode of transport, Yaks. We explore the Trans-Himalayan Deserts and travel into the grazing pastures of the local livestock and wild herbivores (such as the Blue Sheep). This is also the hunting ground for the Himalayan Wolf and Snow Leopard. If lucky, spotting of the Wolf can be possible. Yes, definitely include more of a wildlife component here, overview of snow leopard conservation and wildlife viewing. Ecosphere is working with the local community to conserve these unique and endangered wildlife. The trail also gives insights into the floral diversity of the region. At Komic we will visit a legendary monastery and spend the night at Homestays in Komic which incidentally is the highest village in Asia. One of the main highlights of the day is a session with a Thangka (Tibetan paintings on silk and canvas) painter and learning of this amazing art form. We shall have a brief session with the painter and he shall provide us with some basic information on the significance of this art form and some of the techniques that are commonly used to develop Thangkas along with the relevant tools and painting material. There are very few thangkas painters left as the art is both difficult and requires a lot of training. Ecosphere is working with a few of these painters in the valley to help market their paintings.
Day 12: Komic to Langza to Key to Kaza
We get back into our jeeps and head today to Langza village, located in a large high mountain meadow with a beautiful mountain, Chau Chau Kang Nilda, towering above this village. Here we will take a short trek (1 hour) around the village and if lucky we may be able to find evidence of fossils of sea life going back to 200 million years when this region was submerged under the sea. Ecosphere has been trying to preserve Spiti’s geological wealth from getting depleted and is now in the process of developing a fossil museum and fossil replicas as souvenirs. Langza village also has a unique temple and was traditionally famous for the mud craftsman that lived in the village. These artisans however due to a lack of a market for their traditional goods had stopped practicing and the art form had practically died. Ecosphere is now working with these artisans to revive mud crafts and has set up a pottery unit in Kaza. Later today we will get the opportunity to get our hands muddy learning the basics of pottery in kaza. After Langza, we head further onto the famous monastery at Key which is the largest monastery in Spiti. From here we head to Kaza for the night. In the evening we visit the Ecosphere office to bid farewell and give our feedback to the Ecosphere team. Ecosphere also works on various livelihood initiatives from the regions herbs, berries and crafts. At the Ecosphere office is also has a small shop selling these local handicrafts and goods. The rest of the evening can be spent roaming the Kaza market and picking up local souvenirs. Today we will have a farewell dinner.
Day 13: Kaza – Manali
On the last day we will have an early (7 am) breakfast we drive back to Manali along the same route that we took to reach Kaza over the Kunzum La and Rohtang La.
Day 14: Manali to Delhi
Today we drive to kullu to catch our flight to Delhi. In Delhi, free time to shop and get souvenirs. Arrive Delhi from Manali (Kullu) by flight. Met upon arrival and escorted to The Mantra Amaltas Hotel. Bus will be at group's disposal for shopping around. Lunch & Dinner at the local restaurant.
Day 15: Delhi City Tour
Visit various sites such as the Raj Ghat (Mahatma Gandhi’s Memorial and Cremation Ground) and Gandhi Museum. After lunch we will drive past the India Gate, the Houses of the Parliament and Presidential Palace before visiting the Qutab Minar (a victory tower built about 800 years ago). Group dinner and free time to relax or attend cultural show.
Day 16: Agra/Taj Mahal
Early morning, the group will be transferred to the New Delhi railway station to board the train to Agra. Proceed to visit Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted capital city built by Emperor Akbar in 1569 and abandoned almost immediately due to severe water shortage. Tour the Diwan-I-Aam (Hall of Public Audiences) and after lunch capture the breathtaking view of the Taj Mahal. Later we will visit the massive Agra Fort, enjoy the tour's last dinner and take the train back to Delhi.
Day 17: Delhi to home
Morning transfer to airport and fly home.
In-country transportation for this trip includes by flight, train, jeep and yak safari and optional mountain bike excursions.
This is a carbon neutral trip. It is our Spiti partner, Ecosphere’s, endeavour to generate minimum emissions on this journey and whatever emissions that we do generate are calculated and offset through investments in the in-house renewable energy projects within the region. These include construction of passive solar houses, green houses and investing in other sustainable renewable energy alternatives such as solar water heating systems, solar cookers, solar lighting, etc. Through our partnership with Native Energy, trip participants can also offset their airfare emissions to India.
Accommodations include a choice of homestays or guest houses while in Spiti Valley and at the Best Western Sky City Gurgaon and The Mantra Amaltas Hotel in New Delhi. Detailed accommodation information available upon request.
Group size of 6
Group size of 10
Group size of 12
$2700Price is subject to change and based on early 2012 rates.
The price includes
• All confirmations in the program
• Double room accommodations
• Transportation by private, air-conditioned vehicle as well as transfers for group as appropriate, in addition to all other land transportation.
• Global Exchange/EcoArts Tour trip representative to accompany the group through the whole touring period and/or English speaking, tour guide(s) to accompany the group throughout the touring period.
• Preparatory reading materials
• Admission and fees to museums, program activities and lessons
• Honoraria for conservation and arts professionals and donations to organizations
• Global Exchange annual membership fee of $35 (this amount is tax deductible)
• Two meals a day
• Bhuchen performance, shabro, semjo and khar dance performance and dance instruction.
• Yak safari
• Session with the local doctor (Amchi)
• Session with the Thanka artist
• Pottery Session
• Orientation presentation in Tabo
• Monastery fees
• Inner line permits
• Farewell dinner
• Train Fares for Delhi / Agra / Delhi sectors for Shatabdi Express in AC Chair Car.
• Services of local English speaking guides during the sightseeing tours in Delhi & Agra.
• Entrance Fees at all the monuments & museums in Delhi & Agra.
• All currently prevailing taxes on hotels, transport and government service tax
• Philanthropic and carbon offset donations to One Million Lights and Native Energy
The price does NOT include
• Domestic airfare Delhi to Manali
• Extra baggage fees
• Room service charges
• Gratuities to the bellboys, waiters, guide and driver
• Extra Beverages/mineral water and one meal a day
• Travel Insurance (We strongly advise that each participant arrange for their own travel insurance)
• Any room category not mentioned above or Any meals apart from the ones mentioned above
• Any Early check in / late check out will be subject to room occupancy of the day, at any of the hotel
• Any personal expenses like telephone call, laundry, shopping, table drinks, fee for the cameras/video camera at the monuments / museums etc.
• Any additional expenses caused by or liability for disturbance in the trip due to circumstances beyond our control such as airline & railway delays, roadblocks, vehicle malfunctions (mechanical breakdown) and other conditions like sickness, natural disasters, wars etc.
Reserve Your Space
Deposit: A $400 non-refundable deposit (that is included in the total tour cost) and registration forms are required from each tour participant.
Final payment: The remaining balance, health and liability forms are due no later than 45 days prior to departure.If you plan on attending this tour but need an extension for the payment deadlines, please let us know and we will do our best to work with you on an alternative.
Although a part of Spiti Valley, the Pin Valley is quite distinct both in terms of culture and topography. The Pin Valley is home to the Bhuchens, a unique and rare sect of Tibetan Buddhist theatrical artists that preach religious, social and ecological morals to the locals through a set of diverse performances.
This ancient dance form originated in the early 11th century A.D. as the creation of Tholdan Gyalpo. After disappearing from Tibet and Ladakh, the dance of the Bhuchens can now only be found in Spiti Valley. EcoArts Tours’ partner, Ecosphere, is working with the Bhuchens to ensure this art form is preserved.Read more about the Bhuchens
Travel Passion Inc.