The Soul of Ladakh

Into the high Himalayas as we journey into the heart of the Himalayas discovering a land of dramatic jagged mountains, whitewashed stupas and spiritual Tibetan-Buddhism monasteries. Ladakh inspires the intrepid travellers with its vast landscape, charming villages and photogenic settings, an unforgettable discovery of one of the last "Shangri La". 

HIGHLIGHTS

Stay in luxurious and boutique hotels

Enjoy an immersive experience of the stunning archaeological sites

Marvel at the stunning wildlife of Gujarat

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE LEH / NIMMU

Arrive at Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport where after a warm welcome, we begin an immediate welcome sight of Ladakh greeted by spectacular landscapes for our drive to Nimmu. The first day is an acclimatizing day, where we will relax & enjoy our stay at the Nimmu House. An orientation visit of the house to understand the Ladakhi lifestyle ensues where you admire the beautiful paintings and carving. 

Overnight: Nimmu House, Nimmu

Meals: Lunch & Dinner

DAY 2: NIMMU (EXCURSION TO SASPOL & ALCHI)

After breakfast, we begin our day with a drive to Saspol to discover the meditation caves and their amazing paintings. Four of these caves are richly adorned with paintings of Buddhist pantheon from the 13th – 15th Century AD, representing a fusion of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist art. 

 

From there you will continue to Alchi, which is one of the oldest monasteries of Ladakh from the 11th Century. Regarded as one of the most important Buddhist centres in Ladakh and also as one of the monastic jewels of Ladakh, the Alchi Monastery dates back to nearly one thousand years and so the effect of the Tibetan influence can be seen in the local culture. There are five shrines in the Choskor Temple Complex which has some splendid wall paintings. One of its walls features thousands of miniature sized pictures of the Buddha. From here, we enjoy lunch at Alchi before continuing our day to visit the monumental Buddhas of Mangyu Monastery, also known as "Chamba Lhakhangs" practically hidden right out in the open. With unassuming, in fact rather miniscule, entrances in barely 3-foot-high doorways,

Finally, we return back to the Nimmu House. 

Overnight: Nimmu House, Nimmu

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 3: AHMEDABAD (EXCURSION TO MODHERA & PATAN)

Today, we will enjoy a full day excursion to the major cultural centres of Modhera & Patan. Heading north, our first stop will be the ancient city of Modhera remarkable for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Sun Temple, built in the early 11th century during the Solanki Dynasty, said to be the golden period of Gujarati architecture, during which several masterpieces were constructed. The Sun Temple is unique in that it has three separate but integrated elements, all aligned to a central axis. Dedicated to the Sun God, Surya and stands high on a plinth overlooking a deep stone-steeped tank. Every inch of the edifice, both inside and outside is magnificently carved with Gods and Goddesses, birds, beasts and flowers. Sun Temple of Modhera was built by King Bhimdev I (1026-27) and bears some resemblance to the later, and far better known, Sun Temple of Konark in the state of Orissa, which it predates by some 200 years. Like that temple, it was designed so that the dawn sun shone on the image of Surya, the sun God, at the time of the equinoxes. The main hall and shrine are reached through a pillared porch and the temple exterior is intricately and delicately carved. As with the temple of Somnath, this fine temple was ruined by Mahumad of Ghazni. 

Later, continue to the ancient fortified city of Patan, the ancient city that served as Gujarat’s capital for 650 years first founded by Vanraj Chavda, the first of the Chavda dynasty. Enjoy an immersive visit of this charismatic city with a most incredible atmosphere of its bazaar, charming havelis and a rich and ancient heritage in fine textiles. The peculiar quality has its origins in a very intricate and difficult technique of tie dyeing or Knot dyeing known as Bandhani process on the wrap & weft separately before weaving. 

Visit the UNESCO-listed Rani ki Vav Stepwell, an intricately constructed stepwell on the banks of the Saraswati River, built as a memorial to the 11th Century King Bhimdev I. Constructed entirely underground as an inverted temple with four pavilions on various levels, it highlights the sanctity of water. As you descend seven levels, you pass sculptural panels of the highest artistic quality, comprised of 500 principal sculptures and 1,000 minor ones. A masterpiece of architecture, construction, and adornment, Rani ki vav in Patan, Gujarat, is the only stepwell to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is considered the foremost example of this type of complex architectural technique, demonstrating great beauty in proportion and detail. 

Time-permitting, visit the sacred town of Sidhpur, flanked by temples, kunds, ashrams and other sacred structures.  Around the 10th Century, under the Solanki rulers, Sidhpur was at the pinnacle of prominence and glory. It derived its name from the great ruler of Gujarat, Siddhraj Jaisinh from the Solanki dynasty. An unmistakable signature of Sidhpur are the historic Bohras mansions in the Dawoodi Bohras neighborhood, decorated in a whole range of pastel colors left abandoned, resembling now a "Bollywood" studio set 

Overnight: The House of MG

Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

DAY 4: AHMEDABAD / VELAVADAR NATIONAL PARK

We leave Ahmedabad today for a drive south. En route, we make a brief stop to the 4,500 year old ancient city of Lothal dating back to the 2nd Millennium BC, once a thriving city and an important Indus Valley civilization during the Harappan Era. Lothal is an important archeological site due to its scientific layout and a massive dockyard that facilitated trade with other civilizations of the time. 

Later, continue to Velavadar National Park, also known as Blackbuck National Park, one of the last stands of grassland remaining in the massive alluvial plain running along the Gulf of Khambatt called Bhal. The Bhal is a tapestry of cotton, wheat and other agricultural fields, saline flats, grasslands, pastures, freshwater wetlands and coastal marshes in a 35 square metres of largely treeless Savannah grasslands and bushes - home to some of India's largest herds of blackbuck antelopes, which gets its name from the deep blackish brown color of the buck which stands out in graphic contrast to its white underparts. On our afternoon jeep safari, we head out on our jeeps to track these massive herds and during the rutting period, which typically occurs in October-November and February-March, the bucks attain a glossy sheen. They fight for territory, locking horns and butting heads to show their dominance, and the winner takes centre stage herding does into groups. Predators that is often seen in Velavadar National Park are the Striped hyenas, Indian Wolf who hunt in packs as well as smaller predators such as the Golden Jackal and Jungle Cat. 

Overnight: The Blackbuck Lodge, Velavadar National Park

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5: VELAVADAR NATIONAL PARK / PALITANA / GIR NATIONAL PARK

Early this morning, we head off on a morning jeep safari to track the fascinating wildlife that inhabits Velavadar National Park. Depending on our luck, we may spot fresh kills of the efficient hunters that are the Indian Wolf and Striped Hyenas while marveling at the incredible savannah landscape. Thereafter, we leave the Velavadar National Park and head further south to the town of Palitana with its impressive collection of Jain temples on the Shetrunjaya Hills. Numbering more than 863 Jain temples made of marble that first started in the 11th Century, we enjoy an insightful visit of some of these temples that took more than 900 years to complete in 2 phases. From the 11th to 12th centuries AD as a part of the resurgence of temple building all over India, the first phase of temple architecture was constructed. The second phase followed later, from the 16th century AD onwards. Muslim invaders destroyed some of the earliest temples built in the 11th century AD during the 14th and 15th centuries AD. No one person can be attributed for the construction of these magnificent temples rather it was the effort of the wealthy businessmen who were followers of Jainism. 

Thereafter, we continue our drive to Gir National Park, the only place in the world outside Africa, where the lions can be seen in its natural habitat. Gir's biodiversity rivals any National Park in India. The forest harbors a variety of smaller animals and birds. Other predators are panthers and hyenas, the Indian deer, sambar, spotted deer, blue bull, chinkara and the chowsingha (four horned antelope) are found here, along with the bear and the long tailed langur. 

Overnight: Woods at Sasan, Gir National Park

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 6 - 7: GIR NATIONAL PARK

Spend the next 2 days uncovering the fascinating wildlife of Gir National Park - home to the Asiatic lions in their natural habitat and the only place in Asia where it roams free in the wild. Covering an extensive 1,412 square kilometres, the population of Asiatic lions have risen from 20 in 1913 to over 500 adult lions in the amazing wilderness of Gir National Park. With an abundance of prey, the park has also witnessed an increase of leopard population, hyenas. Other interesting animal sightings will be the chowsingha, the world's only four-horned antelope. 

Overnight: Woods at Sasan, Gir National Park

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 8: GIR NATIONAL PARK / JUNAGADH / GONDAL

Enjoy another morning safari today and thereafter, we leave for the historical city of Junagadh, with a complex history of more than two millennia where it was once capital of small kingdoms and sultanates, ruled by dynasties and clans of Afghan origins. visit the Ashoka Edicts - 14 Edicts of Ashoka were inscribed on a huge stone and the carving in Brahmi script in Pali language mention the resistance to greed and animal sacrifice and also moralize the principles of purity of thought, secularism in thinking, kindness and gratitude. 

Next, we head to the Mahabat Maqbara Palace, an interesting blend of Gothic and Islamic ornamentation, completed in 1892, culminating in an elaborate work of ornate carvings on the buildings’ inner and outer façades, fine arches, French-style windows, columns and shining silver doorways. On the adjacent mosque, each minaret is encircled from top to bottom with winding staircases. Both buildings topped with distinctive “onion dome” rooflines.  We also have the opportunity to visit the Upperkot Fort, in the oldest part of Junagadh dating back more than 2,300 years ago with walls as high as 20m that allows it to withstand a 12 year siege at one point. The caves of the fort are gilded with beautiful pillars and entrances, water cisterns, horseshoe shaped chatiya windows, an assembly hall and cell for meditation. 

Later, we continue to Gondal arriving at the Orchard Palace, a government of India classified heritage hotel that is equipped with period furniture, antiques and artifacts reminiscent of the days of the Raj.

Overnight: Orchard Palace, Gondal

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 9: GONDAL / RAJKOT / DEPARTURE DELHI

Spend a relaxing day to discover Gondal, a city that takes you back in time of a bygone era. Ruled by a family of car enthusiasts whose royal passion resulted in a fine collection of automobiles which are now part of a museum in the palace premises. Such was the royal passion that Gondal had the best planned and well designed road system in pre-independent Gujarat. Our highlight of the day is the Royal Garages, housing vintage & classic cars, and the Naulakha Palace, which is a festival of stone carvings & houses royal memorabilia including toys of the late 19th & early 20th century, silver caskets that carried messages & gifts for the Maharaja, elephant howdahs & royal portaits. It has a royal saloon suite, which has its own drawing, dining, bedroom & bathroom in a converted railway carriage. Worth a visit is the Swaminarayan Temple, decorated with incredibly-beautiful murals where Lord  Swaminarayan and his paramhansas often came to Gondal and bathed in the waters of the River Gondali in Gondal town. 

In the evening, we will be transferred to Rajkot Airport (1hr drive) where you board a short domestic flight to Delhi for connection onto your international departure. 

Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

HOTELS

The House of MG is a premier boutique heritage hotel in Ahmedabad, the UNESCO declared World Heritage City. One of the oldest buildings in the city, it wonderfully represents the architectural colonial heritage architecture of the early 20th century. The hotel has 38 beautifully appointed rooms, offering all modern amenities in a grand but homely ambiance.

The House of MG, Ahmedabad

The Blackbuck Lodge is one of the most amazing wildlife resorts of Western India. Sitting comfortably amid the Savannah, the superbly appointed cottages of The Blackbuck Lodge offer an opportunity to luxuriate in the wilderness. Lodged in a luxurious room with wide-ranging modern conveniences, gaze out of the deck at the changing colours of the grasslands and the wealth of wildlife.

The Blackbuck Lodge, Velavadar National Park

Woods at Sasan, Gir National Park

Woods at Sasan by 1000 Island is the first hand-crafted eco-boutique luxury resort and spa at the edge of Gir Forest, the only place where the majestic Asiatic Lions are seen in the wild. Built within an eight-acre mango orchard, Woods at Sasan espouses a sustainable concept using indigenous materials and craftsmen with minimal intrusions to the natural terrain and foliage, the resort and spa sport supreme luxury that is innate.

Orchard Palace, Gondal

The Orchard Palace was built as an annex of the Huzoor Palace, the family residence, in the late-19th century to host personal guests of the Maharajas. Converted into a seven-room heritage hotel, it is appointed with 1930s and ‘40s art deco furniture, antiques and handicrafts. 

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