Venture into the mountains of Ladakh in search of the elusive snow leopard.

One for the wildlife lovers, this expedition takes you into the high mountain passes of Ladakh in search of the elusive snow leopard. Teaming up with specialist local guides, venture to the remote Uley Valley, back-dropped by jagged cliffs, dramatic snow-capped mountains and the occasional gold-hued gompa (Buddhist monastery); this area that has only recently been developed for viewing these magnificent creatures. Well off the tourist trail, this is prime snow leopard country. There are only 200 living in the region (and only an estimated 6,000 to be living in the wild across the world), so sharp eyes – and binoculars – are essential; other animals likely to be spotted are Ibex, Tibetan antelopes, Blue sheep, Shapo (a type of wild sheep), marmots and the Tibetan Hare. This unique wildlife expedition is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Delhi, India
Finish
Delhi, India
Country
India
Style
Original
Theme
Expedition
Code
HJSN
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 8

Why we love this trip

  • Search for elusive snow leopards in the wilds of Ladakh

  • Explore Leh and immerse yourself in the local culture

  • Visit spectacular local Gompa's and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of Buddhism in the region

  • Live with a local Ladakhi family and learn about folklore, customs and tradition

  • Spot incredible wildlife, such as Ibex, Tibetan Antelope, Blue Sheep, Snow Partridge, Golden Oriole and the magnificent Golden Eagle

Is this trip right for you?

  • This is an expedition trip where each day depends entirely on recent sightings of snow leopards. As such, the itinerary may change daily.

  • Ladakh is at altitude. We will be spending most of the trip above 3,500 metres. It’s important you take it easy in the first few days in order to acclimatise.

  • Winter in Ladakh is harsh and extremely cold. Average temperatures in January range between -7°C and -25°C. Correct winter gear is essential in this climate.

  • Accommodation at the Snow Leopard Lodge is multishare (2 x rooms), with gas heaters, comfortable beds, warm showers and drop toilets.

  • Leh is cut off from the rest of India in winter. Flights are the only available transport in and out of Ladakh.

Itinerary

Welcome to India! Upon arrival at Delhi International Airport, you'll be met and transferred to your hotel. Depending on what time your flight gets in, you may like to explore the city before meeting your group for a welcome meeting at the hotel at 6pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. Afterwards, perhaps head out for a group dinner with your travelling companions.
Accommodation
  • Lemon Tree Aerocity (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
The Hotel Lemon Tree is located in Aerocity. Aerocity is a new hotel development along the perimeter of the airport. Its a great location in order to get to and from the airport but it is around 45 mins into Delhi.
After an early breakfast, make the short transfer to the airport for your flight to Leh. The Ladakh capital is a fascinating labyrinth of winding streets, quaint bazaars and plenty of shops. Leh is very Tibetan; the national dress, 'stove-pipe' hats and felt boots with turned-up toes are very much in evidence as you wander around the airy streets.

Upon arrival at the airport, meet David, your guide. One of Ladakh’s most distinguished residents, David comes from a line of go-getters; his great grandfather was a renowned artist, and his grandfather was Ladakh’s first ordained Moravian priest. It’s this legacy that gives David that extra insight into the history and culture of his Himalayan homeland. Despite his position as the managing trustee of the Snow Leopard Conservancy India and heading up the REWA Society (a group providing physiotherapy to disabled children), David is still able to find time to lead wildlife and birding tours throughout the region.

At 3,500 metres, visitors to Leh may initially exhibit signs of altitude sickness, so be sure to take it easy and allow yourself to acclimitise gently. Finding a sunny spot with a cup of chai to enjoy the view is the perfect way to do this. We spend a few days exploring Leh and surrounds to acclimitise to the altitude.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
Take it easy when you arrive in Leh. Its 3500mtrs above sea level.
This morning, visit the Snow Leopard Conservancy, where you'll see the efforts made by the authorities – with the help of the local community – to conserve the endangered snow leopard. In the afternoon, visit Thiksey Gompa, the most picturesquely situated monastery in Ladakh. Its buildings are arranged at various levels, leading up to the private apartments of the incarnate lamas on the summit, where you get a magnificent view across the Indus Valley. The monastery is home to a rich collection of hundreds of hand-written and painted prayer books; a new temple contains a 15-metre-tall Buddha statue, constructed in 1970 to commemorate a visit to Thiksey by the Dalai Lama. Made of clay and covered with gold paint, it is the largest Buddha figure in Ladakh. The statue represents Maitreya ("compassion" in Sanskrit), the Buddha of the Future; it is said that He will teach compassion to the people of the world.
Accommodation
  • Lotus Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today, drive east towards Taglang La and the villages of Gya, Lhato and Meru. Head away from the valley of the Indus up a subsidiary valley to an extraordinary area, even by Ladakhi standards, that marks the line where the Indian and Asian mainlands collided. It's hardly surprising that the scenery here is particularly dramatic! Keep your eyes peeled for the incredible wildlife of the region, including blue sheep, golden eagles and bearded vultures. Look up to see rafts of red-billed choughs perform synchronized aerobatics, while the fallow fields give you the chance to see the very beautiful Tibetan partridge, and the more common Chukor partridge.
Accommodation
  • Lotus Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Drive west, following the Indus River, as we make our way to snow leopard country. Head north to Likir, the site of one of Ladakh’s famous Buddhist monasteries, where colourful prayer flags adorn a 23-metre-high gold statue of Maitreya. The landscape here is big, open and expansive. Turn off onto a dirt road, and wind up into a narrow valley, following a stream called the Uley Chhu. You’ll notice your guides have their heads craned all the time, scanning the hills and the skyline for any silhouette. Arrive in Uley, an area that has only recently been developed for snow leopard watching, settle in and spend the afternoon acclimitising to the higher altitude.

Your accommodation for the next six days will be in a homestay. Established by a Ladakhi family, the two-bedroom homestay has been built separately from the main house. It contains a dining room and kitchen, and features an assortment of important luxuries: gas heaters, a bathroom with a hot shower, comfortable mattresses and bed linen. The kitchen is stocked with a variety of tea, coffee and snacks, which will help warm your chilly bones after a day spent in the elements. Sharing stories in a warm kitchen – resplendent with brass, copper and silver ornaments – with your friendly hosts and fellow travellers in the depths of winter provides a very special experience.
Accommodation
  • Snow Leopard Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Wake up to superb views across terraced fields towards the valley; you may be lucky enough to spot an Ibex, Tibetan wolves, Himalayan foxes and perhaps even a snow leopard. After breakfast, head out in search of these elusive creatures with Norbu, your experienced tracker. Despite their size and big-cat reputation (sharp teeth, knife-like claws, long furry tails), snow leopards are incredibly shy. They are hunted for their pelts, their bones are still used in Chinese medicine, and cubs are often sold – at very high prices – to zoos; add habitat destruction to the mix and it’s not surprising they keep such a low profile.

Norbu keeps in constant contact with his local network to narrow down likely leopard-spotting sites.
Accommodation
  • Snow Leopard Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
The snow leopards are more active in the hours before dawn, so we’ll head off early with Norbu, either in SUVs or on foot, for another chance at witnessing these big cats in their natural environment.
Accommodation
  • Snow Leopard Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
We don’t need to tell you to rug up; after all, it’s the middle of winter! Temperatures here get very cold – and unlike other situations where you’ve felt the winter chill in your bones, when we’re out looking for leopards you won’t be able to move around, stomp your feet or jump on the spot to warm up. Any sudden movements or sounds can startle the creatures, frightening them enough to run off.
Accommodation
  • Snow Leopard Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
This is excellent country for spotting Ibex; there are few more evocative sights than a magnificently horned male standing vigil on an impossibly narrow outcropping, a few thousand feet over a plunging cliff. Keep your eyes peeled for these wondrous creatures as you venture out today.
Accommodation
  • Snow Leopard Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today is our last full day in search of the snow leopards. Along with learning about conservation initiatives, such as educating farmers on minimising losses to livestock and homestay ecotourism, we’ll also get some insights into local folklore and learn about customs and traditions.
Accommodation
  • Snow Leopard Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After breakfast, we bid our host goodbye and drive back to Leh. En route, visit the Alchi monastery near the small village of Saspol. Built in the 11th century under the orders of King Rin-chen-Izghimpo, it's one of the earliest monasteries in Ladakh. The rambling gompa has six main buildings: the Dukhang or main assembly hall, the Sum-tsek or three-tiered temple, the adjoining Manjusri Lha-khang and Lotsawa Lha-khang temples, the Lha-khang Soma or "New" temple and the Kanjur-Lha-khang, which is closed to the public. The Sum-tsek temple, the oldest in the complex, is surrounded by wooden pillars and Kashmiri-influenced wood carvings of mythological animals. The Dukhang, where lamas gather for religious ceremonies, is adorned with intricate inscriptions and painted murals depicting royal life and religious devotion.
Accommodation
  • Lotus Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
This morning, you will be taken to the airport for your return flight to Delhi, where you'll be transferred to the hotel. How you spend the afternoon is up to you –relax at the hotel, do some last-minute shopping, or catch the metro into into Delhi to explore the city's busy backstreets.
Accommodation
  • Lemon Tree Aerocity (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Our expedition has come to an end. You will be met and transferred to Delhi Airport for your onward flight.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

12 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 10 dinners

Transport

Plane, 4WD, private vehicle

Accommodation

comfortable hotel (6 nights) local lodge (6 nights)

Dates & availability

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There are currently no scheduled departures on our Expedition - In search of the Snow Leopard trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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Important notes

Due to the exploratory nature and the timing of this trip, the itinerary may be affected by factors inlcuding weather conditions and wildlife spotting.
Please see important information regarding what gear you will need.
This trip travels to altitude, please carefully read the altitude information found under medical and health.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.