“Head into the remote and stunning mountain wilderness of Ladakh in winter to search for endangered snow leopards as they descend from the high peaks to hunt for food.”
Tracking snow leopards in Hemis National Park, Northern India | Dosmoche Festival in Leh | Stok Festival | Shey, Tikse & Stakna monasteries | Sightseeing in Delhi | Possible encounters with ibex, blue sheep & lynx
Description of Snow Leopard searching holiday in Ladakh
Beautiful, endangered and notoriously elusive, the snow leopard inhabits some of the most remote and isolated regions of Central Asia, living a solitary life in often impenetrable mountain terrain. In summer, snow leopards retreat high above the tree line – but in winter they are forced to descend to lower altitudes in search of food – and it is at this time that we have our best chances of seeing them. This snow leopard holiday in Ladakh, northern India, maximises our chances of sightings with five days’ trekking through the valleys of Hemis National Park – where we also hope to encounter ibex, wolf, blue sheep and lynx, amongst other creatures. Although sightings are never guaranteed, the scenery here is absolutely stunning, and guides carry spotting scopes to help spot them from a distance.
The snow leopard searching holiday begins in Leh with the chance to visit the annual Dosmoche Festival in which monks re-enact ancient Buddhist stories in elaborate costumes. After our five days tracking in the Himalaya, we return to Leh in time for the Stok Festival, to witness oracles entering deep trances to predict the future of Ladakh.
Please note: Due to this trip fitting around these festivals, this itinerary may vary slightly depending on the departure date to ensure we can participate in the events. Full details can be found in the trip notes.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Snow Leopard searching holiday in Ladakh
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a trekking trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints, although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, and use local businesses in order to leave behind a positive cultural exchange. Also in visiting cultural sites and National Parks (such as Hemis N.P. and Tikse and Stakna monasteries), we benefit local communities, species and environments by contributing our entrance fees towards conservation projects in these areas.
Water: Water is a really important issue with trekking trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. Lack of recycling is already a massive problem in India so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. You will be provided with boiled drinking water on trek but it is also advisable to bring purification tablets/liquid such as Biox Aqua to treat water. Burnable rubbish will be burnt on trek and we ask each trekker to keep a rubbish bag for non-burnable rubbish to take back to Delhi.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation & Meals: We spend 7 nights in hotels, 5 in full-serviced camping and 1 night in a Ladakhi family homestay. All accommodations used are staffed locally, camping has its environmental merits and the homestay is a great way to directly benefit the local community whilst getting an authentic cultural experience and a home cooked meal. On trek, meals include locally sourced ingredients, like porridge, eggs, bread, pasta, rice and potato with a mixture of Indian and Chinese styles. All groceries and other items used during treks are purchased from local shops and markets in Leh- where clients are encouraged to support local businesses and explore local delicacies on offer.
Local Craft and Culture: We visit the annual Dosmoche Festival in Ladakh where in every monastery the monks dress in elaborate brocade and silk costumes and re-enact century old stories of the Tibetan Buddhist religion. People come from all over Ladakh to the festivals and these are a great social as well as religious occasion. In Leh, we also visit the Stok Festival, which features the appearance and performance of oracles who go into trance-like states and predict the future of Ladakh.
Community: Our Himalayan Community Support Projects have been helping people in the Markha Valley, Ladakh since the floods in 2006, when we helped people rebuild homes. Since then we have been involved with the local women’s groups and Youth Organisation for the Conservation and Preservation of the Hems National Park in building and running a successful Eco Café. The focus is using only locally made or organic produce and eliminating the plastic bottles littered around the Valley with the use of a UV water filter for trekkers. The Ladakhi women have been trained in needle and flat felting in order to make and sell felt snow leopards, ibex and blue sheep as souvenirs. This has had great economic, social and environmental benefit for the area.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.