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Tour in Focus: High Road to Kashmir

Posted by Emma Burley 4th September 2018
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Our Tour in Focus blogs take an in-depth look at our best and most popular trips, highlighting what makes them unique and answering anything you may like to know.

Kashmir remains a long forgotten tourist idyll with its clean crisp air and beautiful lakes, making it a perfect location to unwind, whilst the wonderful region of Ladakh with its Tibetan Buddhist influences offers a memorable journey through an old Silk Road kingdom. Our High Road to Kashmir group tour combines two of our favourite destinations in India with the remote Nubra Valley.

“High Road to Kashmir had a lot of expectations riding on it and I am happy to say it did not disappoint. From the giddy heights of the 5600m Khardung La Pass to the cultural and colourful Hemis Festival and not to mention the spectacular landscapes around each corner. A trip not to be missed!" said Paul Rose about the tour.

If there’s anything you’d still like to find out, please don’t hesitate to call the office for a chat or leave a question in the comments below.

We have a number of departures of this tour planned, so make sure you don't miss out.

What route does it take? Delhi – Leh – Nubra Valley – Leh – Kargil – Rangdum – Kargil – Srinagar - Delhi.

What's the number one highlight?

This tour is filled with highlights throughout, but some of our particular favourites include:

  • The stunning scenery, particularly when driving over Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the world;
  • Staying on houseboats in Srinagar;
  • Exploring the remote Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh;
  • Meeting the remote communities of Rangdum in the Zanskar Valley;
  • Passing through three different religions over the course of the tour – Hinduism in Delhi, Buddhish in Leh and Islam in Kashmir.

For WF traveller Jamie Harwood there were multiple highlights:

“There were so many highlights, it’s hard to say what was most memorable! The drives - it felt special to be taking roads that most other tourists do not use. Every monastery was different and worth visiting. The views, landscapes and people. It was all good and the tour leader was excellent. We've done a few trips like this before and the guide was one of the best we've had.”

What does this tour do differently to everyone else?

This is the only itinerary of its kind combining Ladakh and the Zanskar Valley with Kashmir.

Who leads it?

All of our High Road to Kashmir group tours are led by an Indian leader, who knows the route well.

Who is the tour suitable for?

This is the perfect tour for adventurous travellers, who want to get off the beaten track to see different cultures and explore an alternative side of India.

What's the accommodation like?

The accommodation starts and ends with some luxury at Claridges in Delhi. In Ladakh we stay in a combination of small hotels and campsites. The campsites have fixed tents with proper beds and decent bathrooms – you can even stand up inside the tents! The luxury of the houseboats are a great way to end the trip, which everyone looks forward to before the final night back in Delhi.

How fit do I need to be? Is there much walking involved?

The main challenge on this trip is the altitude when flying into Leh. The itinerary is designed to accommodate the change in altitude and allow people time to adjust as much as possible, offering a day to acclimatise. The altitude can be particularly challenging when in Ladakh as there are multiple steps up to each of the monasteries, so it’s highly advisable to walk at a slower pace, drink plenty of fluids and take regular rests. The rest of the trip doesn’t involve anything too strenuous – there are a number of village walks and time to explore the Moghul Gardens, but these are at a gentle pace.

What's the food like?

The food on this tour offers a real mix; from the street stalls of Delhi to the Tibetan influenced dishes of Leh. For those used to typical Indian food, there are still plenty of spices used, but the dishes are not as hot as in other regions.

In Ladakh the food consists of plenty of noodles, rish dishes and Tibetan momos (dumplings). The food in Kashmir consists of rich Kashmiri curries. Kashmir has a typical north Indian diet but uses a lot of saffron. There are a number of fruit orchards in the region, growing apples in particular which make a delicious apple juice. Kashmir is also famous for its tasty honey – click here to see our video of a Kashmir honey seller. If you’re lucky you will be invited to experience a Kashmir feast, known as wazwan, which consists of 12 – 24 courses and lasts most of the day!

The food on the houseboats is particularly tasty, consisting of rice, fresh vegetables, delicious curries, bhajis and samosas, which are all made specifically for houseboat guests.

Do I need a visa?

Visitors can now apply for an e-visa, making the process far simpler. E-visas can be applied for online, so there is no need to send your passport off or book a face-to-face appointment at the embassy. The whole process typically takes approximately 48 hours, from applying to receiving your visa. A tourist e-visa is valid for 60 days and can be applied for a minimum of 4 days and a maximum of 120 days before your intended arrival date in the country. E-visas are valid for single or double entry (although single entry is ample for this trip). You must enter through one of the 24 designated airports and not overland (although you can exit the country overland). You can only apply for an e-visa twice in one calendar year and e-visas are non-extendable.

Are there many long journeys involved?

This is essentially an epic road trip! Whilst there are a number of long journeys over the two week trip the real highlight is the scenery and there is plenty of time to get out and explore along the way. On the three main drives (Leh to Nubra, Kargil to Rangdum and Sonamarg to Srinagar) the scenery is considerably different on each and you’re guaranteed to be in awe of the breathtaking mountains, glaciers and alpine scenery along the way.

Is there much interaction with the locals?

This trip has plenty of interaction with the Indian locals. We walk through a local village in the Nubra Valley (where we also stay). In Rangdum we visit the local school for which the Wild Frontiers Foundation fundraised and bought the school bus to collect the children from three local villages. We see the bus, meet the children’s parents and find out what life is like living in the remote Zanskar Valley. A ride on a Shikara boat offers the chance to see the floating vegetable and flower markets and the floating gardens in Srinagar. We also have the opportunity to see what life is like in local monasteries along the journey and occasionally even speak to the monks.

Are there shopping opportunities?

There are some good places for shopping on this tour. Leh has a number of Tibetan markets selling beautiful silverware with turquoise stones and thangkas (hand paintings on cotton or silk, often depicting a Buddhist scene). Kashmir offers one of the best places for shopping there is – it’s famous for its pashminas, textiles, carpets, engraved wood carvings, papier-mâché, honey, jewellery, embroidery and gemstones. You don’t need to go far – most of the salespeople will paddle up to your houseboat! There is also a free afternoon in Delhi when you can visit the markets.

Any hygiene issues?

This tour doesn't involve any hygiene concerns, beyond the usual considerations when travelling in India. All of the hotels and tented camps we stay in have western toilets, although some are more basic than others and some of the roadside stops may involve squatting. We always provide bottled water to our travellers and eat in tried and tested restaurants.

Is there anything in particular I should pack?

You don’t need large amounts of specialist clothing or equipment for this tour, but we do recommending bringing the following items:

  • Some warm clothing as Leh and the Nubra Valley are above 3000m so the evenings can get chilly – layers are definitely key on this trip.
  • A scarf/pashmina, which can double up to keep you warm in Ladakh and cover your head in Kashmir.
  • A headtorch for camping in the Nubra Valley and Rangdum.

Don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs or Kashmiri carpets!

What our clients think:

Previous WF travellers had this to say about the tour:

“High Road to Kashmir, like my previous Wild Frontiers tours, gave a sense of adventure and the chance to visit some of the world's least accessible areas. The Nubra Valley area and the Suru Valley leading to the amazing camp at Rangdum were real highlights. Even waking up to two inches of snow outside the tent at Rangdum wasn't too daunting, especially when it led to some fantastic scenes of big mountains drenched in snow.”  Mike Smith

“The High Road to Kashmir trip is a real mix of adventure. Taking in ancient monasteries, old cities, high road passes, deep valleys and ending with tranquil Dal Lake.”  Ken Norman

“I've wanted to visit this area for years and it did not disappoint. A superb trip of variety, adventure, cultural immersion, and roads to make your bum wibble (at their quality and stunning scenery!)”  Mags Rivett

“The main reason to go on this trip was my desire to go to Kashmir. I have waited 20 years and wasn't disappointed. Your company was one of the few who appears to appeal to an independent traveller like me as it isn't frightened to go where others don't. Ladakh was fabulous and best of all not too many other tourists and tour groups.”  Sheila Jenkins

Find Out More About The High Road to Kashmir Tour

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