Towards the western end of the Himalayas a series of continuous mountain ridges, comprising scores of 6000 metre (20000 foot) peaks, forms an effective barrier between the Indian provinces of Lahaul and Ladakh. Linking these contrasting mountainous regions is a trekking route of Darcha and Nubra Valleys that provide one of the great challenges of the Indian Himalaya. Visit several villages situated higher at Kargyak.
Leh : the main town of the region, is dominated by Sengge Namgyal’s 9-story Palace, a building in the grand tradition of Tibetan architecture, said to have inspired the famous Potola in Lhasa. Down in the bazaar, the main sites to visit are the Jo-Khang, a modern ecumenical Buddhist temple, and the imposing Mosque dating from the late 17th century. For locals and visitors alike a stroll along the main bazaar observing the varied crowd and peering into the curio shops is an entrancing experience.
Phyang: looks like a huge Palace from afar, built by Tashi Namgyal in the later half of the 16th century AD., it belongs to the Red Cap sect of Buddhists. Hundreds of icons of Buddha and other Gods are kept on wooden shelves.
Spituk : Stands prominently on the top of a hillock commanding a panoramic view of the Indus valley for miles. Many icons of Buddha and fine thankas are to be found in this 15th century Gompa. The Gompa also houses a collection of ancient masks, antique arms and an awe inspiring image of mahakal. The face of the Kali image is kept covered and is revealed only at the annual function in January
Samkar Gompa : the seat of the yellow Hat Sect and one of the few Gompa built in the valley bottom, is a 3 km. Pleasant walk through fields. It houses the chief lama of Spituk and 20 others. The newer monks quarters are on three sides of the courtyard with steps leading up to the Du-Khang ( Assembly Hall ). There are a number of gold statues, numerous wall paintings and sculptures including a large one of the 11 headed, 1000-armed Avalokitesvara.
Shanti Stupa : There are good views from the top where a tea room is a welcoming sight after the climb. There is also a jeep able road.
Alchi : On the banks of the Indus is the Alchi Gompa, dating a thousand years back. One of its walls features thousands of miniature-sized pictures of the Buddha. Three large sized images made of clay and painted brightly are its focal attraction. No longer an active religious center, it is looked after by monks from the Likir monastery.
Likir : Founded in the 11th century and rededicated to a different monastic order in the 15th century, its earlier Gompa was destroyed in a fire. The present Gompa dates back to the 18th century. Skilled craftsmen producing excellent thankas, earthen pots and carved folding wooden tables. A magnificent giant juniper tree, one of the few survivors of its species stands in the courtyard.
AGRA : At the time of the Moguls, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Agra was the capital of India, and its superb monuments date from that era. Agra has a
magnificent fort and the building which many people come to India solely to see-the Taj Mahal. Agra became the capital of Sikandar Lodi in 1501, but was soon passed on to the Moguls, and both Babur and Humayun made some early Moghul constructions here. It was under Akbar that Agra first aspired to its height of magnificence.
TAJ MAHAL : If there's a building which represent a country - like the Eiffel Tower for France, the Sydney Opera House for Australia - then it has to be the Taj Mahal for India.
This most famous Moghul monument was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the `lady of the Taj'. It has been described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, for the emperor was heartbroken when Mumtaz, to whom he had been married for 17 years, died in 1629 in childbirth, after producing 14 children.
Construction of the Taj began in 1631 and was not completed until 1653. Workers were recruited not only from all over India but also from central Asia, and in total 20,000 people worked on the building. Experts were even brought from as far away as Europe - the Frenchman Austin of Bordeaux and the Italian Veroneo of Venice had a hand in its decoration. The main architect was Isa Khan, who came from Shiraz in Iran.
The Taj is definitely worth more than a single visit as its character change with the differing lights during the day.
SIKENDRA : The tomb of Akbar lies in the center of a large peaceful garden. The building has three-story minarets at each corner and is built of red sandstone inlaid with white marble polygonal pattern. It is an interesting place to study the gradual evolution in design that culminated in the Taj Mahal.
AGRA FORT : Construction of the massive Agra Fort was begun by Emperor Akbar in 1565, and additions were made up until the time of his grandson, Shah Jahan. While in Akbar's time the fort was principally a military structure by Shah Jahan's time it had become partially a palace. There are many fascinating buildings inside the massive walls which stretch for 2.30 km, surrounded by a moat over 10 meters wide. The fort is on the banks of the Yamuna River.
Some of the importance buildings within the fort include:-
Moti Masjid, Diwan-i-Khas, Octagonal Tower, Jahngir's Palace, Khas Mahal, Shish Mahal, Anguri Bagh, Delhi Gate, Hathi Pol, Hauz-Jehangri, Itimad-ud-daulah.
For this Programme photocopies of the passport and visa must reach Leh at least 10 days before the start of the trek for getting necessary inner line permits.