High on the Himalayas
In the dizzying heights of the Himalayas, where nature is unconquered, an inescapable sense of aesthetic delight abounds, and heaven dons an earthly form; where natural splendour touches its vertical limit and the landscape talks its own language, uncover the hidden meanings in the high passes.
Discover Ladakh to uncover yourself.
- A 9-day exclusive experience with only three participants in each utility vehicle
- A soul-invigorating adventure and photographic expedition in the heart of the great Himalayan mountain system
- A creatively satisfying time enjoying landscape photography in some of the most scenic environs on the blue planet
- Learning to make panoramas, time-lapse videos, long exposures and star-trails using spectacular foregrounds
- Extensive photography assistance and subject matter learning under the tutelage of accomplished professionals
- Leveraging the wealth of your Skipper’s skill, knowledge and experience to enjoy a variety of new experiences
At India’s northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir, nature’s fearsome brawn meets its unparalleled beauty. The Land of High Passes is also a canvas of amazing contrasts.
Picture-postcard lakes and belief-defying mountains jell seamlessly with a ruthless temperate climate and an unforgiving terrain. Glaciers lay nestled in magnificent valleys, monasteries dot the slopes, clouds flirt with snow-clad hills, and seemingly barren precipitous ridges stand tall under a resplendent sun.
But Ladakh’s flagship feature is the ever-dynamic and nearly ethereal interplay of the indomitable brilliance of light and the irrepressible mystique of shade. And it rolls on ceaselessly.
The azure water of a lake basking in sunlight can turn indigo in the shade sans a moment’s notice; a rock face, just now an icy-cold slab of stone whispering sinister secrets to the featureless sky, can glitter like a vivacious goldmine at the incidence of a ray of the late golden sun. The alchemy is uncanny.
In a celestial show, forms can appear and shapes can disappear as the light changes its angle and intensity, morphing things into vapid or vivacious objects seemingly on whim. Ladakh shows that it is not only the thinness of air but also the caprice of light that can cause breathlessness. And more often than not, it does.
Ladakh is a paradox that strings life with the lifeless. Its scale is astonishing, magnificence humbling and existential fabric positively awe-inspiring because it is a bridge between the earth and the unearthly.
Ladakh may not be a destination for all seasons, but is surely a melting pot for all photographic genres. With sublime landscape, vibrant people, rich culture and exotic wildlife, Ladakh is like a Test match wicket that offers something for everyone and everything for the keen-eyed.
But to do artistic justice to the beauty of Ladakh, you must make more than merely panoramas, time-lapse videos, star-trail images and wildlife photographs. You must embrace its inseparable culture and its people in toto, and be at the right places at the right times of the day, so with a squeeze of the shutter button you send a vignette of the welkin straight into the annals of photographic posterity. And in an exclusive experience with just three participants in each vehicle, this Toehold Tour will help you do all that and more.
At Pangong Tso, you will discover a new scale for size. An international lake that is 134 kilometres long, it stretches to Tibet and has the Line of Actual Control with China running through it. Although said to be bereft of fish, the lake supports a rich population of birds in the summer, and around its water, a number of mammals thrive. In the winter the lake freezes completely but in the summer it gleams with the magnificence of a polished jewel and the serenity of an elegant bride.
At 4,595 metres (15,075 feet), Tso Moriri, the largest of the higher Himalayan lakes that are entirely in India, stands as a paradise for landscape photography with brackish water and a backdrop of whitish mountains. 34 species of birds and many mammals, including the lynx and the Tibetan wild ass favour this area, for it is as much a wildlife haven as the strongest antonym for the word ‘eyesore’.
And finally, the Tso Kar, literally meaning ‘salt lake’, completes the trinity of high-altitude lakes to behold near the roof of the world, with turquoise water set amidst the spectacular ambience of verdant greenery. Apart from the salt concentration around the water, the other noticeable feature is the plentiful wildlife around, including the red fox, tibetan wolf, little owl, brahminy duck, bar-headed goose, pied avocet, and different sandpipers and gulls.
At the sightseeing sites of Leh, Thikse, Stok, Hemis and Shanti Stupa, savour the rich culture and heritage of the region that make Ladakh such a unique place. The monasteries inhabited by lamas and Buddhist paintings and sculptures offer a wealth of opportunities to make images and stories throbbing with cultural intrigue and chromatic richness.
At 5,600 metres (18,368 feet), you will experience the dizzying Khardung La, India’s highest motorable road and possibly the highest pass in India. Historically, its significance is that it lay on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Chinese Central Asia, which around 10,000 horses and camels would use annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder, in the area north of the pass. During the Second World War, there was even an attempt to transfer war material to China through this route.
Overall, with an average altitude of 4,800 metres on the Tour and such abundance of joy on offer, you will likely soon find yourself getting high on the Himalayas.
Please note: This Tour begins and ends at Leh. Participants may choose to reach Leh by either air or road depending on their preference, but such transport is NOT included in the Tour itinerary or cost. However, all required assistance will be duly provided.
Upon arrival, participants are picked up from the Leh airport and checked into the lodge. Those travelling by road will check in to the lodge directly. The rest of the day will be spent in acclimatization to the high altitude and the low temperatures. Later, the Tour Skipper will facilitate a mutual introduction and orient the group to what may be expected on the Tour. And after a scrumptious dinner, we retire for the night.
The capital of the Himalayan kingdom, Leh is now a district along with Kargil, together constituting the famous area called Ladakh, and we spend the day exclusively enjoying the local attractions.
After breakfast, we drive to the famous Hemis and Thikse Monasteries . We return to Leh for lunch and then spend the afternoon at leisure. By around 04:30 p.m., we drive up to Shanti Stupa for a view of Leh and to make some beautiful time-lapse videos.
Starting in the morning, we drive further from Khardung La and descend on the northern side of the pass into the Hunder area famously known as the Nubra Valley. Here, the Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachen River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram ranges. The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000ft. Between Hunder and Diskit lie several kilometres of sand dunes that form a magnificent foreground to the mountainous landscape. We spend the night in Nubra, which is also a great destination to explore night photography and star-trail imagery.
After a relatively unhurried and comfortable morning, we drive back to Leh, crossing the Khardung La pass and descending into the Indus Valley.
Starting after breakfast, we head towards the Chang La pass on our way to the celebrated Pangong Lake, and arrive in the afternoon, stopping to lunch midway and taking breaks at crucial spots on the Chang La Pass to watch wildlife and photograph interesting landscapes.
By mid-afternoon, we are at the renowned Pangong Lake at an altitude of 4,350 metres (14,270 feet). After digesting the initial dose of awe, we learn to shoot panoramic views of the lake and spend ample time practising time-lapse photography. Unlike most tourists who pay only a day-visit, we are in no hurry and can wait for dramatic light and photo opportunities. We end the day around the lake making images in the late evening and well past it into the night, before camping close to the lake.
Enjoying the luxury of witnessing a glorious sunrise around the lake, we breakfast and return to Leh via the Chang La Pass, stopping frequently to capture marvellous vistas. In the evening, the Skipper will chair an entertaining and informative interactive session on photography or natural history before we call it a night in Leh.
Driving approximately 225 kilometres south-east of Leh, and to the west of the Changtang Plateau, we arrive at Tso Moriri in about five hours. Based on our experience, the best times to photograph the landscapes there are the evenings and we hope for a great sky forming the backdrop of this picturesque lake. Staying very close to the lake, the group will have virtually unlimited access to photography sites around it.
A nesting area for the highly endangered black-necked crane, Tso Moriri is also a fantastic destination to photograph the bar-headed goose, the Brahminy duck and other wildlife including wild ass and marmots. One of the highlights of Tso Moriri would be to spot the tiny pika and the woolly hare that feed around here. After a day’s productive photography, we camp overnight in Tso Moriri.
Tso Moriri is a great place for birding in the morning. However, the angle of light at that time is not favourable for photography, so we spend a short time spotting birds before setting off towards Puga, a small village on our way to Tso Kar.
As we are travelling by Tanglang La, we should be able to spend time around this high-altitude pass doing ample landscape photography and also trying to spot lammergeiers and golden eagles.
After shopping in the Leh Market for its famous artefacts, jewellery, paintings and mountain-tourism accessories, we retire for the night.
Checking out in the morning, you will be dropped to the airport depending on your flight times to return home with a bagful of great images and stories to share.
- Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
- Per Couple on Twin Share Accommodation
- Per Person on Twin Share Accommodation
- Twin-sharing accommodation in comfortable hotels and tents
- All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and hot beverages (coffee and tea)
- All transfers in non-A/C Innova or Xylo vehicles with only 3 participants per vehicle
- Permits and photography fees
What’s Not Included?
- All airfare
- Any kind of personal expenses or optional tours, extra meals and beverages ordered
- Insurance, laundry and phone calls
- Bottled water and soft drinks
- Alcoholic drinks
- All applicable taxes
- Anything that is not included in the Inclusions list
- At least 50% of the Tour fee as booking amount (not refundable)
- Remainder of the Tour fee 99 or more days before the Tour
- 50% of the Tour fee 127 or more days before the Tour
- 75% of the Tour fee between 126 and 100 days before the Tour
- 100% of the Tour fee on or after 99 days before the Tour
Please note: The date of written (email) communication of intent to cancel is the date considered for calculation of the cancellation fees.
While Toehold Photo Travel is one of our most popular offerings, we work as a travel agency without bringing the photography guide element in to your travel. In short you would be using our travel experts service to just plan the vacation and execute it.
- Unlike a Photo Travel experience, your Vacation is completely personalised.
- The dates, style of travel, class of hotels and lodges, destinations, everything is tailor-made to suit your custom requirement.
- A Skipper or a photography guide doesn’t travel with you to guide you unless you decide to take our customised and guided photo travel experience.
So take advantage of the immense experience and field knowledge that we bring in to your Vacation’s planning without having to pay for our time and costs. Plus, we don’t charge an additional fee for our time and travel planning services.
What are the requisites to participate in this tour?
Apart from interest in landscape photography, adventure travel or exploration, a minimum level of fitness is essential. If you’re unsure of your fitness or suffer from chronic altitude sickness or a known illness, please consult your physician before signing up for this Tour.
Why is fitness required for this Tour? What will be the climatic conditions?
Although we’re visiting in the summer, the weather will be cold at night with the average temperature around 10-15 ° celsius. The demand for fitness arises from the predominantly high altitudes we will be in, which entail thinness of oxygen and physiological conditions.
I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?
Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold’s eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away! However, in order to make the most of the Tour photographically, we recommend that you be familiar with photography fundamentals. If you’re not, we suggest you join an Art and Science of Photography Workshop before the Tour.
What are the chances of sighting a snow leopard on this Tour?
Although the snow leopard is very much an inhabitant of the regions we will be visiting, a sighting of it is highly unlikely due to the time of the year and the altitudes we will be restricting ourselves to. Also, since this is a landscape and culture photography Tour, our pursuit of wildlife will be minimal, and most wildlife sightings only incidental. Hence, if you wish to go in quest of the snow leopard, you should join our Snow Leopard Tour here.
Who can be a part of this Tour?
Any individual above the age of 18 (unless accompanied by a parent or guardian) who has the requisite fitness to complete the Tour can participate.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
For landscape and architectural photography, a good wide-angle or ultra-wide-angle lens is a must. A short or medium fixed telephoto or zoom lens will help you make ‘compressed landscape’ images, abstracts and do candid people or street photography. You may also bring along a portrait lens, such as a 50mm or 85mm lens, to make high-quality portraiture. A full-frame (35mm) camera with compatible wide-angle and fisheye lenses will allow you to make the most of the opportunities, especially whilst shooting inside the monasteries. Finally, a long telephoto lens (300 to 400mm) will enable images of wildlife. If you do not have appropriate equipment, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras and lenses for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Visit our Rental Store to see what we offer.
How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven’t experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge-sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focused.
It was awesome experience, I really enjoyed all company and the place. It was well planned and executed. One of the best experiences of my life!
On behalf of the group, let me thank you and the Toehold team for organizing the trip so well. Am sure all of us enjoyed each and every moment of the trip.
We had been to Ladakh several times in the past, but this photography trip was interesting for us
It was 10 days of laughter, fun and photography. Though it was very tiring we could never have enough of it.
Fantastic experience and a great photography learning on this tour