Kashmir: Islamic Srinagar to Buddhist Leh Photo Expedition
A fertile, verdant region enclosed by snow capped mountains, the beauty of Kashmir has been praised for centuries. On this photography intensive tour we will spend much time in in the capital city of Srinagar respectfully photographing the Islamic way of life. With its labyrinth of alleyways, mosques and intricately carved wooden houses we will interact daily with the people who live a traditional lifestyle. Well known for its abundance of superb handicrafts which includes silks, shawls, woodwork, carpets and papier mache boxes, Kashmir and it people are largely uncelebrated. Using a houseboat on Dal Lake as our base our group will rise early in the morning to photograph both the vegetable and flower markets as well as the floating gardens. We will photograph the lush area where India, China and Pakistan meet and work our way towards Buddhist Leh which is the capital of Ladakh. This high altitude desert has moon like scenery and we will photograph ancient monasteries and visit the largest Tibetan refuge camp in the region. Another unique photo opportunity will be when we visit rural Dha-Hanu and shoot these tall, magnificent racially pure Indo - Aryans.
This photography expedition is geared towards the seasoned traveler/photographer who is completely comfortable in a place that does not receive many foreigners with cameras in their hands. This is not a trip for a first time photo trip participant or someone who is not self aware. We will be interacting with traditional Islamic villagers that have had little in person experience with foreigners and cultural sensitivity is of extreme importance. Due to the high altitude of the region above average physical fitness is required. Altitude sickness can effect anyone whether you are fit or not. Being spontaneous, having the ability to go with the flow and being a team player is crucial. You will return home from this trip with exhibition quality images, having improved your photo skills, having broadened your horizons as well as having had many laughs and fun times traveling with some great people.
Day 1: Arrive Delhi
Meeting on arrival and transfer to the hotel. We will be staying near the airport as to cut down on time traveling in congested Delhi. The group will meet for dinner and get a trip overview.
* While in Srinagar we will have a well versed English speaking guide as well as a local fixer. This itinerary is subject to change based on the desires of the group and the photographic possibilities that may spontaneously occur. We will make all attempts to visit and photograph surrounding rural villages.
Day 02 : Delhi-Srinagar flight
Transfer to the airport for the morning flight to Srinagar. On arrival, transfer to our Deluxe/Luxury Houseboat. We will spend the rest of this day slowly acclimatizing and shooting street scenes. Dinner will be on the houseboat.
Day 03 : Srinagar
Today we will photograph the architecturally significant mosques and surrounding street scenes. The Hazratbal mosque is located in a village of the same name on the banks of the Dal. Its pristine white marble elegance is reflected in the waters of the lake. Hazratbal's special significance is derived from the fact that it houses a hair of the prophet Muhammad. Hazratbal is remarkable for being the only domed mosque in Srinagar; the others having distinct pagoda like roofs. The shrine – mosque complex is situated on the western shore of the Dal Lake opposite Nishat Bagh and commands a grand view of the lake and the mountain beyond.
The Hari Parbath fort on Sharika hill was constructed in the 18th century by Atta Mohammed Khan. The original temple atop the Shankaracharya hill is believed to have been built by Ashoka’s son Jaluka around 200 BC, on the site of the Takht-i-Suleiman or the throne of Solomon.
Day 04 : Srinagar
We will have a very early morning Shikara ride on Dal Lake. The lake is dotted with hundreds of houseboats lined-up one after the other. Char Chinar, Nehru Park are picnic spots within the lake. We will photograph the floating food markets, flower markets and small boats coming to do commerce.
In the afternoon we will tour and shoot the old city of Srinagar . Of special interest is the Khanqah of Shah Hamadan situated on the banks of the river Jhelum, between the third and fourth bridge. It is the first mosque ever built in Srinagar.
The Jama Masjid at Nowhatta, in the heart of the old city, is the other important mosque in Srinagar at which thousands of people congregate for the Friday prayers. Of imposing proportions, the mosque is built around a courtyard and is supported by 370 wooden pillars. We will walk the streets of this ancient Islamic inspired city and concentrate on the bazaar area photographing primitive Kashmiri craftsmen as they create handicrafts.
Day 05 : Srinagar
In the morning we will shoot the Mughal gardens. Nishat, the Garden of Bliss built on Dal Lake by Empress Noor Jehan’s is laid over seven terraces and an architectural masterpiece These gardens are perfect examples of the Mugal style with terraced lawns, evergreen cypress trees, flowering bushes and fruit trees.
In the afternoon we will drive to Taelbal which is 17 km from Srinagar and we will photograph the villagers as they conduct their daily lives. A rivulet runs through the village and there are farms on both sides. The water is emerald blue and seems unreal. The locals engage in net fishing and we will photograph the fisherman at work. Afterwards we will walk through the village, where we will see the villagers planting rice and working the lush fields.
Day 06 : Srinagar
Arts and crafts are an integral part of life in Kashmir. We will photograph the shawl-makers, carpet and cloth weavers , potters and calligraphers. In downtown Srinagar where many craftsmen live, we will photograph Kashmiris hunched over hookahs or Kangri. We will shoot them as they are engaged in tracing or hand paintings birds, fruits, flowers and tree branches. Pashmina shawls or even pashmina sarees that were once prized heirloom as dowry gifts amongst affluent Kashmiris will be photographed
In the evening, we will have a Sufi concert on the houseboat.
Day 07 : Srinagar- Sonmarg – Kargil
We will leave early morning and make our way through panoramic villages and reach Sonmarg which is 2,700 meters high in time for lunch. Along the way we will stop at ethnic Pushtan villages to photograph. Kargil should be reached late afternoon after this 7 hour ride through the high mountain ranges.
Day 08 : Kargil-Dha Hanu
After breakfast we will make the drive to Dha Hanu which is approximately 4 hours away. Village stops and landscape photography will be the activities of the day.We will overnight in our tented compound that has been erected for us.
Day 09 : Dha Hanu
We will have a full day photoshoot in the villages of Dha and Hanna. Down the Indus, between Khaltse and the Shyok – Indus confluence, live a people known as Dropk-Pa, Buddhists in name, but racially and culturally distinct from the rest of the Ladakhis. This is a community of no more than one thousand, their features are pure Indo-Aryan, and they appear to have preserved their racial purity down through the centuries. These people are tall, handsome, friendly and extremely photogenic. We will be camping this evening once again.
Day 10 : Dha Hanu – Uletokpo – Alchi
After breakfast we will make the three hour drive to Alchi and immediately check in to our hotel and freshen up after two nights of camping. After lunch we will photograph the monasteries. This small city which is 70 kms short of Leh is on the banks of the Indus, this Gompa dates back a thousand years and is awe inspiring.
Alchi Resort Hotel.
Day 11: Alchi – Likir - Leh
After breakfast we will drive to Leh stopping to photograph the Likir moastery. This monastery dates back to the 18th century and commands a spectacular view. Skilled craftsmen producing excellent earthen pots and carved, folding wooden stools, live in the village and we will photograph them at work. The group will then make the drive to Leh which is in the middle of stark and majestic mountains and gradually merges into an oasis of green fields.With a population of fifteen thousand people, mainly Buddhist, some Argoos (Muslim descendants of Yarkandi traders) and a small Christian community, Leh bears the distinct stamp of its history as the administrative, commercial and cultural capital of Ladakh.
Day 12 : Leh
The group will photograph the Shey and Thikse monasteries.
Shey, 15 km from Leh situated on a hill was once the residence of the royal family. According to tradition, it was the seat of power of the pre-Tibetan kings. A 7.5 metre high copper statue of Buddha, plated with gold, and the largest of its kind is found here. It was erected by King Dalden Namgyal in the mid 17th century.
Thiksey - 19 km from Leh, spectacularly sited, it is one of the largest and architecturally most impressive gompas. The 500 years old monastery has about 100 yellow camp monks. There are several temples in this gompa containing images, stupas and wall paintings of Buddha which are exquisite. On the right of the entrance to the main courtyard a new chapel houses an enormous 15 metre high seated Buddha figure.
Day 13 : Leh
Early morning after breakfast we will photograph Leh Palace, this captivating building rises from the edge of a hill overlooking the town. Built in the 17th century, Leh Palace was occupied by the Ladakhi royal family until the 1830's. Today the palace is deserted and is being restored by UNESCO. We will also photograph the Tsemo Gompa and the Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda). In the afternoon we will visit the Tibetan Refugee Center at Choglamsar, this is the largest self help center of Tibetans in the Ladakh region.
Day 14 : Leh- Delhi
In the morning we will transfer back to the airport to board the flight to Delhi. The group will stay at a central Delhi hotel and spend the afternoon visiting either a photo gallery or relaxing. We will have a farewell dinner in a local restaurant
Day 15 : Leave Delhi
Incredible photographs taken…friends made…another culture explored…
Transportation will be provided to the airport.
Walk the ancient labyrinth of alleyways in Srinagar and shoot the skilled craftsman as they weave, carve, do calligraphy, make papier mache boxes and smoke their hookah pipes.
Spend your nights on a Kishmiri houseboat on magnificent Dal Lake and early mornings photographing the floating markets.
Photograph people in prayer at the numerous ancient mosques found in Islamic Kashmir.
Photograph the rich Buddhist heritage displayed in the Gompas found in Ladakh which is a high altitude desert on the western edge of the Tibetan plateau.
July 7 -July 21, 2015
$5,875 (includes 2 internal flights)
Three meals per day
Single supplement: $800
Couples Discount: $300
The tour fee for the Kashmir: Islamic Srinagar to Buddhist Leh is $5,875. It includes three meals per day and all accommodations on a shared basis. If a single is required it is an additional $800. The flight from Delhi to Srinagar and Leh to Delhi is included. Airport transfers, daly bottled water, local guide and fixer included. All photography and model fees included. All trip participants are required to have travel insurance and be in good health.
The following are not included: Gratuities to guide and fixer, porters, drivers. All alcohol which is nonexistent in Srinagar but available at other locations is on own basis. All gifts, beverages, and items of the personal nature are not included.