Arrive in Delhi, where you’ll be met and transferred to your luxury hotel. Receive a traditional garland welcome at the hotel.
Fly to Leh in the dramatic Ladakh region of the Indian Himalaya, bounded by two of the world’s biggest mountain ranges. Spend the afternoon at leisure, acclimatizing to the high elevation. Enjoy an overnight stay at the opulent Grand Dragon Hotel.
Activities are light today as you prepare for the strenuous trek ahead. If desired, take a short walk to the timeless Buddhist temple of Sankar Gompa, residence of the head of the Gelupka (or “Yellow Hat”) Sect. Or visit massive, white-domed Shanti Stupa, set high on a hilltop overlooking Leh. At sunset, we’ll head to the majestic ruins of Leh Palace, where you can photograph Shanti Stupa gleaming in the distance.
Drive to Zingchan to begin your 2-hour trek to Husing, one of the best areas in the region for spotting the ethereal snow leopard. This beautiful walk takes us along icy rivers at the foot of the mountains. Optional visit to Rumbak Village, a tiny but culturally rich hamlet surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Tonight we camp at Husing in spectacularly scenic Hemis National Park, the largest national park in South Asia.
Using Husing as a base, we’ll head out in a different direction each day in search of the “Grey Ghost!” With a population of between 3,500 and 7,000 and occupying highly remote regions of Central Asia, snow leopards are among the most elusive big cats remaining in the world—but this camp boasts maximum sightings, so our chances are good. Three valleys meet here at Husing, and all are used by the snow leopard as they move to lower altitudes following their primary prey, the sure-footed bharal (Himalayan blue sheep). We may see a variety of other species as well, such as yak, ibex, and Tibetan wolf, but we’ll encounter few other travelers. Trekking is around 3 to 5 hours per day, including rest time along the way.
Take a quick downhill trek to Zingchen and drive back to The Grand Dragon hotel in Leh for hot showers and a restful sleep in heated rooms.
Today we drive west along the Indus River to Ulley village. This is excellent ibex country—keep your eyes open for magnificently horned males perched high on the rocky outcroppings. This afternoon, we’ll check into the superbly located Snow Leopard Lodge, run by a local Ladakhi family. Apart from being more comfortable than camping, staying at the lodge puts money directly into local hands, and lets you see inside a traditional Lakakhi home and understand their lifestyle. We provide our own cook and camp staff, along with important luxuries such as warm showers and comfy mattresses
Explore the numerous valleys of the Ulley region by foot and vehicle, tracking the snow leopard with your expert local guide, Norbu. We are almost certain to see Ibex here and if we’re lucky, much other wildlife including wolf, urial sheep, Himalayan snowcock, bearded vulture, and Himalayan fox. Norbu interacts closely with the local people and uses the network of intelligence to narrow down the likely sites for spotting snow leopards. In the process, there will be plenty of opportunity for you to get insights into local folklore and customs as you enjoy a homestay.
Drive back to Leh and overnight at The Grand Dragon hotel. Enjoy a farewell feast of traditional Ladakhi fare.
After breakfast, transfer to the local airport and fly to Delhi. Afternoon is at leisure. We have reserved day rooms at the hotel. This evening, transfer to the airport for your flight home.