This unique Changthang Hemis Festival photography tour will take you through a sensory experience second to none. Starting in Leh with an introduction to photography, the Hemis Festival tour ends after a week exploring the high plains of the Changthang Plateau. We begin our journey with the Hemis Monastery Festival. Here you will be privileged to see monks, believers and people from all over Ladakh as they participate in this festival, held annually at the Monastery. Moving south towards Ladakh’s eastern border with Tibet, we camp and trek through some of the vastest and hardly inhabited areas of the Changthang. This area is dotted with several beautiful lakes that provide a spectacular interval in the largely barren landscape. Changthang is a Tibetan word meaning western plains. It is inhabited by the Changpas who are a nomadic tribe and travel all over Changthang following the ancient grazing patterns. This great Changthang Hemis Festival adventure follows in the footsteps of many explorers and is a magical week of discovery, learning and above all, Ladakhi hospitality.
On this holiday to Changthang Hemis Festival we will be constantly at an altitude of more than 3500m. Therefore, it is essential that you acclimatise well in order to make the best of the week. You will be advised by the UFO guide and mentor to rest and keep your body hydrated as much as possible on the first day of arrival. Your oxygen levels will be monitored from time to time to check on the level of acclimatisation. There is fair bit of walking to be done every day, and we would encourage you to do a bit of walking/running and breathing exercises to enjoy this Hemis Festival photography expedition to the maximum. There is no level of restrictions and anyone with a camera and a genuine interest in photography are welcome to join our Hemis Festival photography tour. If you have no camera and no interest in photography, you are welcome nonetheless. We will guide you as to what personal gear and camera equipment you should be carrying to capture the best images at the stunning locations we have for you. The UFO mentor has prepared a curriculum which we will try to follow. However, the UFO mentor can change the curriculum according to his or her perspective as and when the situation may arise.
Meet at the group hotel in Leh. A single group transfer at 10.30 am from Leh Airport to the group hotel in Leh is provided. The first day of Hemis Festival photography tour is reserved for acclimatization and you will be advised to rest and drink water as much as possible. In the evening will be a short orientation session where the group gets to know each other as well as discussing camera equipment and itinerary. Lights out after dinner as we will have an early start on the next day of our Hemis Festival photography tour.
We will make an early start after tea and breakfast to catch the morning prayers at Thiksey Monastery. Affiliated to the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, it is situated on a hill in Thiksey village and is noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. After getting the blessings of the monks, we drive to the Monastery for the annual Hemis Festival honoring Guru Padmasambhava. We leave the Hemis Festival by afternoon and head towards Shey where a picnic lunch will be waiting for us. After lunch, we rest a bit and visit the Shey Palace and surrounding areas. You will be given sometime to yourself where you can explore the palace on your own and maybe a small assignment by the Mentor. A fixed time and place will be decided where the group will meet later and then head back to Leh.
We do the Monastery circuit today. After a hearty breakfast, we leave for Lamayuru Monastery while stopping at the Zanskar Confluence, Alchi Monastery and Likir on the way. Alchi Monastery is famous for its huge statues, elaborate wood carvings, frescoes and paintings which date all the way back to the 12th century. Likir Monastery is affliated to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Budhhism and is said to be established by the fifth King of Ladakh, Lhachen Gyalpo in 1065. You will notice the change in landscape on the way to Lamayuru Monastery. Said to be one of the oldest and largest existing gompas (Monastery) in Ladakh, it houses around 150 monks and was approximately built in the 9th century. We return to Leh and call the night early as we have an early start on the next day our Hemis Festival photography tour.
After an early tea and breakfast, we leave for a 5-6 hour drive to the white lake of Tso kar. Situated in the Rupshu Plateau, Tso kar is a fluctuating lake which was an important source of salt for the Changpa nomads, who have been known to export the salt all the way to Tibet. There is a good chance of spotting wildlife with wild kiang (wild ass), marmots, geese, terns and if we’re lucky a Tibetan wolf, fox or gazelle. We will ideally want to reach the camp by lunchtime. After lunch and short rest, we will go for a walk along the shores of the lake where you can take in the magnificent views of the lake. Night Photography lesson will take place if the conditions permit. We will stay the night in Tso kar in one of the fixed campsites.
After a filling breakfast, we leave for the biggest high altitude lake wholly situated in India, Tso Moriri. Almost 35-40 sqm in size it is situated at an altitude of 4522 m in the Changthang Plateau, one of the highest in the world and borders Tibet. The area is now known as Tso Moriri Wetland Conservative Reserve and attracts a variety of birds and animals to its waters and surrounding areas. We will try and reach the lake by lunch which will give you ample time to explore Korzok, the village on its banks, catch the evening prayers in the Monastery and take in the stunning sunset views over the lake. We will stay the night in Korzok.
This will probably be the toughest day of the Changthang Hemis Festival photography tour as we will take you hiking to higher ground to get even better views of the lake and the looming mountains in Tibet on the other side. After breakfast we get some packed lunch and head of the trail which takes us to the Mentok Kangri range base camp. The hike should take at least 2-3 hours (depending upon the speed of the group) to reach a point where we can have our lunch and take in and capture the views of the lake. We spend some time at higher ground and then head back to our accommodations. Tea and hot dinner will help with the tiring legs at night.
Today is our last day of the Changthang Hemis Festival photography tour, we bid goodbye to our local staff and guides at Korzok and leave for Leh after breakfast. The drive should take about 6-7 hours and we will stop at Chumathang to see the natural hot spring. We check into our accommodation in Leh by evening. The evening is at leisure and we can walk to Tsemo Gompa and Shanti Stupa if the group feels like it. After dinner, the Mentor will look at some chosen photographs by you and give his/her feedback and also a review of the whole itinerary and curriculum.
After an early breakfast we transfer by private vehicle to the Leh Airport for your onward journey. However, if you would like to extend your visit in Leh to visit the Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley or any other areas, please contact our team of adventure travel consultants.