Stunning people and landscape opportunities at sub-zero temperatures: Ladakh in winter.


Our Ladakh Winter Photography Tour plays out on the high plateaux of the Indian Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, cradled by mountains that soar to 5,000–5,500m (16,000–18,050 ft) and higher. If Ladakh's climate in the summer months is likened to that of Switzerland in July, then for this winter tour you need to be thinking more of Saskatoon or Winnipeg in midwinter.

But as the saying goes, there's no such thing as cold weather — only inadequate protection and preparation. And our Ladakh Winter Photography Tour has one of the best and most experienced ground support teams in the business.

And the attraction? This place in winter is about the light.

Your shots will be flatteringly side-lit by the low-angle sun as it peeks through mountain gaps and ever-present broken cloud. That pure high-altitude light will illuminate wizened nomadic faces as they herd their flocks across cloud-dappled mountainsides and vast valley panoramas. It will uncover trapped bubbles in the blue-frozen ice fields, shimmer on the frozen Indus River, slice dramatically across textured landscapes, and blow a last warm-orange goodnight kiss across the delicate wisps of steam puffing forth from hot springs.

Where summer's Ladakh is about taupe and tawny hues, Ladakh in winter brings icy snowscapes, blue-white frozen rivers and lakes, and crisp white mountainscapes. This then is the colour palette that will help you create some truly remarkable winter landscape and cultural photography images.

Behind the creative insights of this tour is our award-winning Indian Shoot Director, Sankar Sridhar. He's no mere occasional visitor to the region. He's a Ladakh expert, an Himalayan veteran, an ethnographer and photojournalist who has walked, motorbiked and photographed the region for a decade and a half — in all seasons and weathers. His local knowledge and cultural sensitivity is unparalleled: he lectures and writes on the wandering tribes of the high Himalayan country. He knows the people, he speaks their language, he has dandled their babies and midwived their animals and when he takes us into a Changpa nomad's yurt, he’s welcomed as a returning friend rather than a mere visitor. All of this is at your disposal on this tour.

5 January 2018 → 16 January 2018

12 days 11 nights; starts and ends New Delhi, India

£3,400 sharing / £3,950 single

Roughly: US$ 4,358 / 5,063  |  AUD$ 5,854 / 6,801  |  CAD$ 5,866 / 6,815  |  € 3,903 / 4,535. Billed against £ Sterling. Please see Notes for what’s included in these prices.

What's included
  • airport transfer between Delhi airport and hotel
  • air travel Delhi→Leh→Delhi
  • first-night hotel in Delhi
  • A Class hotels in Leh and best available accommodation outside Leh
  • all meals (some meals may be packed picnic style)
  • all ground transport in Ladakh – typically 4-wheel-drive vehicles with just 3 passengers per vehicle
  • entrance fees, camera fees (for one still camera only) and monument fees, where applicable, at all places mentioned in itinerary
  • Inner Line Permits and local taxes as applicable
What's excluded
  • Not included: Airfares between your home city and Delhi
  • Not included: Stuff you consume or do on your own outside planned group activities
  • Not included: Drinks, beverages and snacks
  • Not included: Tips to tour and hotel staff, charges for room service, items of personal nature and incidentals, telephone charges, video-camera fees, mandatory travel insurance, passport and Indian visa fees
  • Not included: All costs incurred should you need unscheduled transportation or evacuation outside the planned group schedule

Special notes for this tour
The Ladakh region of India is a remote destination in the vast Himalayan mountain ranges. Although thousands of tourists travel here each year, the region is different from mainstream tourist destinations and winter conditions pose particular challenges. Travelshooters would like to set your expectations accordingly. Please consider the information below carefully before signing up on this tour. Your tour booking is made and accepted on this basis:  
  • Weather: The itinerary is subject to weather and road conditions. Changes and cancellations to planned visits may be needed. No refund whatsoever is available in this eventuality.
  • Flight cancellations: Weather can close the airport at Leh at short notice. Flights in and out of Leh Airport can get cancelled for consecutive days.
    • Flight from Delhi to Leh: If this flight is cancelled for more than three consecutive days, the tour itself may be entirely (and reluctantly) cancelled: in this eventuality, we will refund the balance of your tour fee after deducting expenses we've unavoidably incurred and non-cancellable commitments made leading up to the cancellation date. We consider this eventuality extremely unlikely.
    • Flight from Leh to Delhi: If this flight is cancelled, then the accommodation and related costs for any extra nights in Leh are your responsibility and must be paid to the hotel by you directly. Also note that your onward travel arrangements from Delhi should be sufficiently flexible to allow for this eventuality and we cannot be responsible for any travel bookings and other arrangements you may have made.
  • Land travel: Tour days include some long road trips. Journeys are on mountain roads that are winding and steep. The region's roads range in quality from good to poor at the best of times, and road journeys can be uncomfortable. Toilet facilities en route in the mountains are very limited and where available are poorly maintained.
  • Accommodation:
    • In the main city, Leh, we choose one of the better hotels offering private, western-style bathrooms, toilets, hot water and heating.
    • Some nights of this tour are out in the wilderness, where the best available accommodation may be a simple guesthouse, private homestay, a winter tent or dormitory-style shared sleeping arrangement; in such places the toilet facilities may be Indian-style and/or communal and/or basic, and hot water available by the bucket on a limited basis.
  • Power and communications: Power cuts are frequent. Electricity may not be available overnight and during certain daytime periods. Internet access will be available only in Leh, and even there will be unreliable and slow. Internet access, should you choose to use it, may cost extra.
  • Night noise: Like much of India, this region has a problem with noisy dogs at night. The authorities are tackling the problem and Travelshooters chooses its hotels with the problem in mind, but you should be aware of this potential annoyance.
  • Altitude and cold: Though we will be well prepared and will brief you on suitable clothing, living and travelling at high altitude and in sub-zero weather (sometimes down to –25°C) may make some people feel unwell or uncomfortable. If you're unlucky enough to be seriously affected, you may have to cut short your trip and return to Delhi. We'll do our best to assist with alternative travel arrangements, professional medical assistance, flight bookings and cancellations etc. but all such arrangements, if necessary, will be at additional cost to you and no refund of your tour fee will be possible. Please check that your travel insurance covers you for these and other risks described here.
  • Your physical condition: Although this tour is designed to keep physical exertion to a minimum (and of course you are free not to participate in any day's excursions if you prefer) a certain basic level of fitness is advised for your own comfort and safety. For example, to be able to walk a kilometre or two in cold conditions.
  • Your safety: The tour is planned by Ladakh winter experts and we take your personal safety seriously. You must at all times follow the cautions and advice we provide. Some shot opportunities may require walking on slippery ice above water. We will brief you on safe walking on ice but you are free to decline these opportunities; continuing with such walks is at your own risk.

Tour highlights


A little bit of everything. No, actually, a lot of everything.

The high-altitude winter light

Combine high altitudes and the pure mountain air with crisp sidelight from a low sun and dappling winter cloud — and you have the best possible illumination for Ladakh's places and faces.

Variety and inspiration

Thinking endless snowy landscapes? Think again. We've planned an itinerary that gives you authentic glimpses of all that winter Ladakh has to offer.

The landscape opportunities

Ladakh magics together mountains, monks and monasteries, nomad encampments, towns and villages, deserts, dunes, verdant valleys, snowy peaks and passes, frozen lakes and rivers, wildlife, camels, farmhouses and yurts.

Fascinating insights

You'll be in one of the most 'different' environments in the world. You'll meet people whose lives are very different to ours, and witness phenomena you may never see elsewhere.

The documentary opportunities

We'll go into monasteries, hang out with the monks and go behind the scenes, free from other tourists. And in the wintry landscapes, stunning up-close encounters with the nomadic groups and herders await.

Outstanding ground support

You come here to shoot, not to slog. So our vehicles and support team expertly whisk you from location to location, letting you choose how far and fast you want to explore on foot.

The photographs


Images and opportunities from our Ladakh winter photography tour.

Tour itinerary


Eat. Sleep. Shoot.

This is our planned itinerary. Your Shoot Director will vary it as he or she sees fit. (So will Mother Nature.)

Delhi-1 night, Leh-4 nights, Nubra Valley-1 night, Pangong Tso-2 nights, Tsomo-Riri-1 night, Tso Kar-1 night, Chumathang-1 night.

Tour features comfortable hotels in Delhi and Leh, and more basic accommodation in the remote shooting locations. See Notes.

Tour starts Delhi – Rendezvous and introductions – Overnight at Delhi hotel

Fly to Leh, Ladakh – Rest and acclimatisation – Tsemo Palace – Shanti Stupa – Overnight at Leh hotel

Monastic horns at dawn – Spending camera time with the monks – Visit Nimoo and Basgo – Overnight at Leh hotel

Drive to Nubra across the high pass at Khardung La – snowscapes – Sumur sand dunes – Overnight Diskit/Hundar in a heated hotel or guest-house.

Sunrise shoot at Hundar dunes – Diskit monastery – The road to Tangtse – Shooting the Shyok valley from up high – Overnight at Tangtse in eco wooden cottage-style rooms.

The Kargyam nomads – Pangong Tso in the afternoon – Night photography on the lake – Overnight at Tangtse in eco wooden cottage-style rooms.

Sunrise shoot at the Pangong – secret spots and scouting on the Pangong – going deep on the Pangong – to Leh across Chang La pass – Overnight at Leh hotel

To Tsomo-Riri – the Indus river in winter – Kyagar Tso – landscapes – Tsomo-Riri – overnight homestay at Tsomo-Riri (shared heated dormitory arrangement)

Sunrise at Tsomo-Riri – life on the other side – on to Puga and Tso Kar – sunset at Tso Kar – Overnight at Tso Kar in eco wooden cottage-style rooms.

Steaming hotsprings at dawn – shooting at Tso Kar lake – candids amongst the Chang Pa nomads – landscapes and wildlife – More time with the Chang Pa – sheep, horses and yak herds – hot thermal vents in the dying light – overnight at Chumathang in huts warmed by the hot springs

Free time for exploration – Shopping in Leh Market – Visit to Cashmere Mill – Optional 2h trek – Overnight Leh

Flight to Delhi – tour end

Stories


Behind the click

Conserving

There's gold in them thar hills: it's the burnt grass in the light of the evening sun. It makes a tempting and easy meal for herbivores, but evolution taught even the yak some tough lessons. Namely, skip the low-hanging fruit: spend your energy while you have plenty of it on digging through snow to get at the hard-to-reach stuff below. Save the easy pickings for when winter's worked its worst and your energy reserves are too slim to support the hard work of digging.

Prospecting

Deciding what to shoot and when to shoot it become more important that the shooting itself. A stormy day and a semi-frozen lake means the chance of finding images that show not just the tumult but also beauty it leaves in its aftermath. Scouring the shallows just as the storm cleared, this setup fell into my lap. The light was perfect. All I had to do was go low and shoot.

Seething

55 million years ago, India and Eurasia collided with a ground-breaking tectonic bang, pushing up the mighty Himalayas as a crumple zone and leaving the area literally seething even today. Here, billowing steam from countless thermal vents offer warmth through the night and create special lighting effects for great shooting opportunities at first light.

Tour map


Click if you'd like to explore this map.