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A practiced hand paints a thanka. Photo by Cara Starnbach, North India Program.

Tentative Itinerary: North India 6-week

Hi everyone,

What follows is a tentative itinerary for this year’s North india 6-week summer course in Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. As you’re all aware, this itinerary is subject to change and we will update you with any significant modifications to the course flow once we’re in the field. For now, we hope you take some time to explore the various locales identified in the itinerary below, have fun researching aspects about the region that you find interesting, and refer to your Course Prep Manual for an extensive reading list specific to the North India 6 program.

We will be in the Sierra Nevada mountains attending an all-staff training from June 12-25th, so please excuse any delays in communication. We will be able to respond to questions on the Yak board periodically, but it may take a bit longer than usual. Thank you for your patience in advance.

Finally, without further adieu, your tentative itinerary:

June 28th: Everyone on the group flight will meet at Newark International Airport. Our flight to India leaves at 9:50 p.m. 

June 29th: After traversing oceans and hemispheres, we will arrive in New Delhi International airport at 9:30 p.m. where we will meet with instructors and students not on the group flight. We will take taxis to take us to the Tibetan Settlement in Delhi. Finally our sangha (community) unites!

June 30th: The day will be spent exploring Delhi and getting our bearings in India. In the evening we will make our way back to the Tibetan Settlement, where we will eat dinner and then catch our all-night bus or train to Himachal Pradesh. 

July 1st–4th: Upon our arrival, we will catch jeeps to Tso Pema, our orientation site. The village of Tso Pema (also known as Rewalsar) surrounds a beautiful lake that is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs. We will stay in the Drikung Kagyu Monastary on the lakeside, and spend our time getting to know each-other, learning about India and Tibetan culture, and setting our intentions for the course. 

July 5th–8th: From Tso Pema we will travel to Sahaj organic farm to focus on environmental themes and work alongside villagers both in the fields and helping with livestock like cows and goats. We will also  visit Bir monastery and perhaps even engage in a half day of Tibetan Buddhist teachings at the hallowed Deer Park monastery.

July 9th–15th: During our week based in Dharamsala students will stay with Tibetan refugee host families. We will spend our days meeting with activists, poets, monks, Tibetan doctors, and more. We may also have the chance to volunteer our time for a local NGO called LHA (Institute for Social Learning & Education), visit the Tibetan Government in Exile, and learn some survival Tibetan phrases to better communicate with families in Dharmsala and Ladakh. 

July 16th: We will embark on an iconic Indian train from the verdant foothills of Himachal Pradesh to the arid bustling urban landscape of Delhi, where we will catch our flight to Ladakh the following morning. 

July 17th–21st: On the 17th, we have a morning flight from Delhi to Kushot Bakula Rinpoche Airport in Leh, one of the highest airports in the world! Our first few days in Ladakh will be spent in Phyang Village, a beautiful and peaceful place outside of Leh. We’ll have a chance to explore the surrounding areas, visit the town of Leh and adjust to the altitude (roughly 11,000ft!) and new environment. We will also reflect on our journey thus far in our mid-course process. 

July 21st–26th: From Phyang we will transition to our rural homestay in the village of Taar. Taar is a small, beautiful village and is a great example of traditional Ladakhi culture and architecture. Here we will have a chance to immerse ourselves in the slow pace of village life and help with seasonal fieldwork. 

July 26th–31st: After having ten days in Ladakh to acclimate we are ready to ascend on foot into the the Himalayas. The amazing Ladakhi Women’s Trekking Company, the first female run trekking company in India, will be our guides through the jaw-dropping moonscape of mountains and valleys. Our 6-day Sham Valley trek (pictured above) traverses an incredible diversity of geography and village life, most nights we will stay in people’s homes in the villages and eat traditional Ladakhi food. 

July 31st–August 1st: After our trek we will have a two nights and a transition day in a Leh guesthouse to shower, rest, and reflect. 

August 2nd–5th: To conclude our time in Ladakh, we will have a chance to partake in the seasonal apricot harvest in the village of Likir. Together with villagers, we will pick apricots, process apricots, and make traditional Ladakhi apricot preserves. Simultaneously, we will celebrate the ‘fruits’ of our time in India and prepare to bring this experience home with us. 

August 6th–7th: Our flight back to New Delhi leaves from Leh in the morning of the 6th. We will spend the days of the 6th and 7th in staying in Delhi exploring religious and historical sights. We will bid this colorful country adieu when our flight home leaves Delhi at 11:35 p.m. on the night of the 7th. 

August 8th: We arrive in Newark at 5:10 a.m. 

We look forward to greeting you all in Newark!

Saurabh, Hemant & Laura