India,

In Search of The Snow Leopards Of Ladakh

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Group Tour
14 Days
From £3295
GEOIP Not Available
Big Cat Safari
Off The Beaten Track

Tour Introduction

14 Days from £3295
GEOIP Not Available
per adult. Prices based on flight fares at the time of costing & may vary. Please ask for a definitive quote

The snow leopard, locally known as shan or the grey ghost of the Himalayas, is one of the world’s rarest, least seen and most exciting big cats. Primarily an opportunistic hunter, snow leopards have been known to leap up to 50 feet high and are able to kill and carry up to three times their body weight. They are typically found in the high mountain ranges of Central and South Asia and are an endangered species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They are particularly difficult to see in the wild because of the remote and rugged terrain they live in and their excellently camouflaged coat.

In recent years, the Ladakh region of the Indian Himalayas has emerged as one of the best areas in the world to see this most elusive of big cats, with past trips typically involving camping in the high mountain valleys and searching one locality for the snow leopards. What makes this tour different is that we spread our search over two different snow leopard habitats: The Hemis National Park and the Ulley Valley thus increasing the chance of an encounter. In addition, rather than camping, we use a series of local homestays providing heated rooms, home-cooked food and the opportunity to meet some of Ladakh’s fascinating and friendly people.

The timing of this group trip is crucial because in the bitter cold months of January, February and March, blue sheep, the primary prey of the snow leopard, descend down to the lower valleys where the leopards follow them. The lower valleys have human inhabitants too so their livestock also provides prey for snow leopards at this time. Ladakh is also home to other exciting and hardy species that may if lucky be seen on the tour including the sandy coloured Himalayan wolf, fluffy Tibetan red fox, Eurasian lynx, argali (great Tibetan sheep), bharal (blue sheep), shapu (Ladakhi urial) and Asiatic ibex. There are also some spectacular birds including the peculiar ibisbill, lammergeier (bearded vulture), Himalayan griffon vulture, golden eagle and Himalayan snowcock and Tibetan partridge.

The 2017 group had a very successful trip with 5 different snow leopards seen, almost daily sightings and one extremely rare sighting of a family of four snow leopards together (click to see our 2017 snow leopard tour report). Both the 2018 and 2019 groups were also successful in seeing snow leopards and also had distant sightings of wolves and lynx in 2019. The 2020 group did not run due to Covid-19 but there is a 2021 departure for 31 January.

With such a rare and elusive animal and a reliance on local conditions, luck plays a huge role with sightings, but we know that this group provides one of the best chances of spotting snow leopards in the wild. We hope to welcome you onto the group.

Click here for full tour details

 

Full Itinerary

Price from £3295
GEOIP Not Available
per adult. Based on sharing double / twin rooms
Day 1
Arrive Delhi

Arrival in Delhi. Met on arrival at the airport and transfer to the hotel close to the airport.

Staying at Lemon Tree Hotel. Includes No Meals.

Day 2
Leh

Private transfer to Delhi Airport. Take Air India flight to Leh over stuning Himayalan scenery. Met on arrival in Leh and transfer to hotel.

At an altitude of 3,500m (11,500ft) Leh is the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh and the starting point for much of the trekking done in the Indian Himalayas. You will have the rest of the day free to relax and adjust to the altitude and climate. A visit to a local market will be offered in the evening.

Staying at Grand Dragon Hotel. Includes All Meals.

Day 3
Leh

Another day for acclimatisation and sightseeing. Today visit sites such as the Thiksey Monastery, Stock Place, Hemis Monastery and the village of Shang Shumdo. There will also be a visit to the Indus River Valley to look for ibisbill and white-winged redstarts. There will also be a short (60 minutes) trek with a local birding guide offered where sightings may include the brown accentor, black-throated thrush and solitary snipe.

Staying at Grand Dragon Hotel . Includes All Meals.

Day 4
Ulley Valley

Today, you will have your first attempt at looking for snow leopard as you drive to the small Himalayan valley of Ulley. En route, you can will stop at the frozen river of Chadar which is used by the locals to travel to the remote Zanskari villages. Depending on conditions there may be an opportunity to walk along the froxen river and look for the Ladakh urial sheep. In the afternoon, we will search the Ulley Valley for snow leopards as well as urial and Himalayan wolf.

Staying at Snow Leopard Lodge Ulley. Includes All Meals.

Day 5
Ulley Valley

A full day spent looking for snow leopards and other wildlife in the Ulley Valley. Based on the current survey results there are thought to be between 8 and 10 different snow leopards in this area. Trackers will be out throughout the day searching the mountain ridges and following tracks in search of the cats and other wildlife such as Himalayan wolf and ibex.

Staying at Snow Leopard Lodge Ulley. Includes All Meals.

Day 6
Ulley Valley

Another morning to search the Ulley Valley in search of snow leopards, wolves, ibex and Ladakh urial. In the afternoon transfer back to Leh to enjoy a hot shower back in the hotel.

Staying at Grand Dragon Hotel. Includes All Meals.

Day 7
Hemis National Park

Today, our snow leopard search will begin in earnest as we drive to the village of ZINGCHEN and trek (5-6 hours, elevation 12,400ft, graded easy-moderate) through the HEMIS NATIONAL PARK and the RUMBAK VALLEY looking for snow leopards as we go. The scenery will be stunning, and we will likely see our first herds of blue sheep and pikas along this walk. Overhead golden eagles and enormous Himalayan griffon vultures could be seen.

Staying at Rumbak Homestay. Includes All Meals.

Day 8
Hemis National Park

Today we will trek the RUMBAK VALLEY in search of snow leopards and other wildlife. Snow leopards naturally predate on wild bharal (blue sheep) so the tracking team will concentrate their searches close to these herds. However they have been known to kill domestic animals and are occasionally spotted close to the village. Depending on recent activity, sightings and weather conditions, daily walks could be between 2 - 6km.

Staying at Rumbak Homestay. Includes All Meals.

Day 9
Hemis National Park

Another day searching for snow leopards and other wildlife. Depending on recent sightings we may today head to the TARBUNG VALLEY or HOSING VALLEY, which are both prime places to spot the elusive cat.

Staying at Rumbak Homestay. Includes All Meals.

Day 10
Hemis National Park

Another day searching for snow leopards and other wildlife. Depending on recent sightings we may today head to the TARBUNG VALLEY or HUSING VALLEY, which are both prime places to spot the elusive cat.

Staying at Rumbak Homestay. Includes All Meals.

Day 11
Hemis National

Today we will continue our search for snow leopards by perhaps heading to URUTSE VALLEY (13500ft) and the GANDALA PASS which is also known for its abundant woolly hares and Eurasian lynx sightings.

Staying at Rumbak Homestay. Includes All Meals.

Day 12
Leh

Today we will trek back (approx. five hours) past snow leopard haunts and piles of carved Tibetan prayer stones to ZINGCHEN and drive back to LEH. After a much deserved shower, it is time to relax, order a drink and enjoy the last of the gorgeous and peaceful Himalayan scenery. Farewell dinner and overnight.

Staying at Grand Dragon Hotel. Includes All Meals.

Day 13
Delhi

Transfer to the airport. Take flight back to Delhi. Met on arrival back in Delhi and transfer to hotel. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure or take OPTIONAL excursions in Delhi.

Staying at Lemon Tree Hotel. Includes Breakfast.

Day 14
Depart Delhi

Morning transfer to the internatioanl airport. Depart on your flight home.

Includes Breakfast.

Download the full details of this itinerary and start planning your trip today.

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Tour Accommodation

India Northern India

The Grand Dragon Hotel

Overview

The Grand Dragon Hotel is a stunning accommodation offering the comforts of luxury at 3,500m above sea level in the remote Himalayan town of Leh. Located just a 10 minute walk from the centre of Leh and main market square, this is one the most comfortable and modern hotels in the town.

The hotel has an incredible view towards the impressive Stok mountain range from most floors including the smart and friendly restaurant, which offers a range of local Ladakhi and Tibetan cuisine as well as Chinese and Western dishes. There is also a specialty coffee shop and bakery for light snacks and room service is available 24 hours a day. With magnificent views, the hotel offers 82 rooms including 3 beautiful suites, each of which comes with all modern amenities like an LED TV with entertainment channels, telephone, and Wi-Fi Internet access. Rooms have different views either overlooking the Stok Mountains, Khardung La Pass, Leh Palace or Shanti Stupa.

Other facilities include central heating, Wi-Fi access (although rarely works during the winter), 24-hour heated water supply, generator backup and laundry service. Make the most of the well-appointed travel desk, garden, jogging track, wellness center and enjoy indoor games, cultural shows and a bonfire on demand.

They are now practicing a more sustainable philosophy too, using 95 solar panels for their hot water supply and heating system. The incredible views blended with the traditional interior architecture and smart accommodation creates a unique experience in such a remote location.

Swimming Pool
No
Air Conditioning
Yes
Rooms
82
Facilities

Modern private bathrooms, air-conditioning in the rooms, international restaurant, coffee shop, free Wi-Fi, 24 hour room service, laundry service, wellness centre and jogging track.

Local Wildlife

The Grand Dragon Hotel offers a perfect starting point for trips to Ulley and Hemis National Park to search for snow leopards, Tibetan wolves, blue sheep, Ladakh urial, Asiatic ibex and birdlife including lammergiers, golden eagles, robin and brown accentors, Himalayan snowcocks and more. Nearer to the hotel is the Indus River Valley home to the peculiar ibisbill, elusive solitary snipe, flocks of Tibetan snowfinches and colourful white-winged redstarts.

Optional Activities

Wildlife watching excursions in Ulley and Rumback Valleys, birdwatching in the Indus Valley, trekking, visits to local Buddhist Monasteries and Festivals, white water rafting, cycling and exploring the bazaars of Leh.

India

Rumbak Homestay

Overview

Accommodation is in traditional mud and stone houses with flat roofs and communal living quarters. Each guest will be allocated simple private rooms within different houses in the village to provide and share income to the entire village.

The rooms are carpeted and feature mattresses with thick Ladakhi blankets, pillows and a Bukhara style (wood burning chiminea) heater. Please note that a sleeping bag is also recommended to provide extra comfort against the cold.

Swimming Pool
Yes
Air Conditioning
Yes
Rooms
9
Facilities

Communal living/dining room where all guests join the hosts for dinner. Breakfasts are taken in separate houses. Toilets are shared dry pit Indian style in separate or adjoined buildings which may be outside. A western toilet seat and toilet paper is provided, private bedroom with local wood burner heater. There are no showers but bowls of hot water are provided for washing.

Local Wildlife

The village is close to several snow leopard hotspots and herds of blue sheep are common in the area attracting the predators. Woolly hare, Royale's pika, red fox, Tibetan wolf and Eurasian lynx are also in the area. Birds include lammergier, Himalayan griffon vulture, golden eagle, red-billed and alpine chough, several species of snowfinch and Himalayan snowcock.

India Northern India

Ulley Snow Leopard Trails Homestay

Overview

Accommodation is in a traditional mud and stone building with flat roof and communal living quarters. Each guest will be allocated one of the 5 simple private rooms within. The rooms are carpeted and feature mattresses with thick Ladakhi blankets, pillows and the building has both Kerosene heaters and limited central heating. Please note that the central heating is only on for an hour or so in the evening after which hot water bottles and gas heaters are provided.

There are two simple shared western style toilets. Please note that a sleeping bag is also still recommended to provide extra comfort. Meals will be taken in the communal dining and living room of the house and will feature local home cooked food such as rice and lentils, vegetables, chicken, eggs, dumplings, and soup. Hot tea, coffee and water is always available and hot water bowls for washing or brushing teeth can be provided on request.

Swimming Pool
No
Air Conditioning
No
Rooms
5
Facilities

Communal living/dining room in which all guests join for dinner. There are two shared toilets with simple flush systems and a western toilet seat provided. Guests are allocated one of the five private bedrooms each with a raised bed and lighting, a space for luggage and a gas heater and limited central heating. There are no showers but bowls of hot water are provided for washing.

Local Wildlife

Several snow leopard territories in the area, plus packs of Tibetan wolf, Ladakh urial, Asiastic ibex and red fox. The birdlife includes lammergier, golden eagle, robin accentor, chukar partridge, Tibetan partridge and Himayalan snowcock.

India Northern India

Lemon Tree

Overview

Conveniently located close to Delhi airport, this modern hotel features a pleasant swimming pool, restaurant and gym.

Swimming Pool
Yes
Air Conditioning
Yes
Rooms
280
Facilities

280 stylish rooms and suites, a business center, a conference room, a 24x7 multi-cuisine coffee shop – Citrus Café, a hip recreation bar – Slounge, an eclectic pan-Asian restaurant – Republic of Noodles, the rejuvenating spa – Fresco, a Life Fitness equipped gym and an outdoor swimming pool.

Route Map

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Lemon Tree: 28.552131, 77.120763
Singge Palace: 34.161839, 77.583792
Ulley Snow Leopard Trails Homestay: 34.321466, 77.075476
Rumbak Homestay: 34.054507, 77.431319
The Grand Dragon Hotel: 34.156572, 77.580512

Departure Dates

Tour Dates
Adult Price
Single Supp
31/01/2021
£3295
Price TBC

Travel Information

Are International Flights Included?

No. Please contact us for a quote if required.

Flight Info:

Domestic flights within India are included.

Best Visited:

January to February

Are you ATOL Registered?

Yes. This means we are legally able to book your international flights in conjunction with your ground arrangements so you can book with us with complete confidence. Read more about our ATOL license here.

Jonathan Morris

Area Specialist

If you have any questions regarding this Tour, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965

It was absolutely amazingly fabulous. Wonderful, wonderful sightings of The Ghost. We were so very very fortunate and privileged to have been able to see, not once but each day this amazing cat. Words really cannot describe the trip. I have wanted to do it for so long and not only did it come about but I had spectacular views of the premier Cat. I cannot thank you enough for making a dream come true.

Mrs J H