Ulli’s bucket list of the 10 things you have to do / see in Bhutan

By Ulrike Čokl

Ulli has lived in Bhutan on and off for many years. She has
conducted ethnographic research on traditional hospitality practices,
travelling & gift-exchange in rural communities. Thus she is very
familiar with village livelihoods all over the little kingdom. She loves
developing unique itineraries that offer a glimpse into the rich
cultural traditions and practices of Bhutanese society.

It is truly difficult for me to think of only 10 must-see places and attractions in Bhutan where I have spent so much time over the past 18 years. However, I will try and choose from my long list of things, places and activities that I love, keeping in mind that it is for people who have not been to the Himalayan Kingdom before.

 

1 Taktsang Gonpa

Tigernest monastery

There is no way around it, Tigernest monastery is undoubtedly one of the best known attractions in the Himalayan kingdom and for many first time visitors impossible to skip. I was lucky enough to hike up to Taktsang several times before it became a highly frequented tourist spot during high season. Nevertheless, the first close up glimpse of Taktsang monastery, perched on a steep cliff, never ceases to enchant me. One recommendation though: Try to hike up as early as possible, maybe start around 6 o’clock in the morning or even earlier! That way you will more likely be able to enjoy the place for what it was intended to be: a remote recluse for peaceful and quiet contemplation and meditation.


 

2 Dzongs – Fortresses with ancient history

Punakha Dzong

I love Bhutanese Dzongs, they are great architectural masterpieces, embellishing the landscape. They were built in ancient times without the use of metal nails mainly from wood, stone and mud. Dzongs tower over every one of the 20 districts, some very historic, some rather recent. Landing in Paro and spotting Rinpung Dzong from the plane always makes me feel sentimental. Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, one of my favorites, unfortunately burned down a few years ago. It was a very authentic example of these fortresses and is now under restoration. Visiting Punakha Dzong is also impressive and offers wonderful opportunities for walks in the surrounding areas, such as to the longest suspension bridge and even further to an idyllic homestay amidst the fields and near the river. Jakar Dzong in Bumthang, as well as Lhuentse Dzong and Trashigang Dzong in the East are equally stunning and worth visiting.


 

3 Hike to a mountain pass

Photo: Marina Beck Photography

If you don’t have time to go on a serious trek, there are still plenty of opportunities to hike up to mountain passes from where you can spot the Himalayan snow giants. Most Bhutanese believe that the peaks are the dwelling places of birth and protector deities, the kyelha. Hiking to such passes can take from a few hours to a full day. The passes are often marked by a chorten (Buddhist shrine) decorated with prayer flags, and a latshe (stone pile) where you can offer a twig, flower or leaf to the local deity. When Bhutanese travelers reach a mountain pass, they will shout “lha gyelo” (“the victorious gods” or “may good win over evil”), and offer a cup of ara (local moonshine) to the local deity before drinking some themselves. Along the way you might come across cow herders, mostly the grandparents of village householders whose job it is to look after the cattle. If you are lucky you will be invited for butter tea and snacks in one of their makeshift huts!


 

4 Spending time in a local home

A Bhutanese saying goes: “The guest of one night is like a god.” I am convinced that you have not truly experienced Bhutan without having spent some time in a non-commercialized farmhouse. Enjoying local hospitality in a Bhutanese home is simply fantastic! Furthermore, food in homestays is much better than in the hotels and guesthouses.  You can observe the nangi aum (woman of the house) going about her chores and even join in yourself and learn how to prepare local dishes. Or you can meditate in the choesham (altar room) and have a look around the house and surroundings. Make sure to find a real farmstay and not one that has been meddled with and commercialized for tourists. There are plenty of genuine village homes who occasionally host foreign guests from far away, keeping in line with ancient Bhutanese hospitality traditions.


 

5 A village festival

Masked dances are grand, especially in the Dzongs where they are performed annually at auspicious dates to celebrate the victory of good over evil. They re-enact the story of how the Buddhist dharma was introduced by famous lamas and saints in previous times, leading to the subduing of demons and evil beings. I personally prefer small village festivals where you can get an idea of how such events involve the entire community and shape the relationships of humans in daily life. I know this can be tricky as the village folks often keep festival dates tentative till last minute. However, if you manage to participate in one of the smaller local festivals, you will get insights into how such community festivals reinforce community cohesion and cooperation, a sense of belonging and communal identity. Such important local socio-cultural aspects are vulnerable to a fast changing society where rural-urban migration is a huge issue.

An insider’s tip: Travel to East Bhutan in the winter months (December, January and February) and you will most likely stumble into festivals every now and then. You might also be the first foreigner to ever have witnessed one!


 

6 Trekking in Bhutan

Photo: Marina Beck Photography

It goes without saying that trekking in Bhutan is a stunning experience. The trekking routes are unique and you will not meet many fellow travellers. On ancient footpaths, you will hike through rhododendron and conifer forests, juniper shrubs and bamboo bushes, passing by chortens, mani walls and beautiful gonpas. On some treks you will encounter yak herders whose yaks graze on pastures covered with medicinal plants. Meet with villagers of distant valleys such as the Layaps during Lingshi-Laya-Gasa or Jomolhari treks, and share a cup of tea or ara with them. The flora and fauna are amazing and you will most certainly also come across wild deer and blue sheep. On a final note, in Bhutan, your luggage will be carried by mules, not humans, and overnights will be in tents.


 

7 A Crafts workshop

Photo: Marina Beck Photography

If you have time and visit the right places, take part in a crafts workshop such as bamboo or textile weaving in Central and East Bhutan, and thangka painting in the West, to mention just a few. It is a wonderful way of getting closer to local Bhutanese and you will learn more about the role of handicrafts within communities in the past and present. You will develop an appreciation for the hard work that goes into such crafts. The harvest and collection of the wild or cultivated raw materials and the further processing of the latter are tedious and labor intensive. Imagine for example the raw material for nettle weaving, a thread made of stinging nettle, difficult to harvest and peel. Similarly it takes a while to collect and process bamboo into the raw material needed to weave the beautiful bangchung (woven bowls), famous in Bhutan and available in every souvenir shop in Thimphu.

By participating in such local workshops you benefit the artisans directly. No better way to support them and at the same time immerse in local culture!


 

8 Zhemgang

Photo: Marina Beck Photography

I simply love Zhemgang. It is remote, hardly visited and sub-tropical in the lower parts with opportunities to visit the jungle of the Royal Manas National Park. There is an abundance of birds, which even I can take good pictures of by simply using my cell phone camera – the great hornbill just being one of many! The locals are lovely, reserved but very hospitable, and jolly when the ice has broken. Many houses are still in traditional style, made of bamboo and sitting on stilts. If you are adventurous at heart and not picky when it comes to accommodation, Zhemgang is the perfect place to explore! Visit some of the farmer cooperatives, venture into the jungle for bird watching or enjoy the rafting opportunities. Try the delicious local food, some ingredients come directly from the forest, and visit the bamboo basket weaving community in Bjoka.


 

9 East Bhutan

Photo: Marina Beck Photography

The East is great for those who want to enjoy less touristy places and experience more immersion in local culture and tradition. The valleys are steep and cliffy in some places and the slopes are terraced for rice cultivation. The climate is mild due to the lower altitude. Banana trees and plenty of fruits grow all over the place and throughout the year. In winter the orange tangerines dotting the trees look beautiful among the brownish dry landscape. The East has many local crafts to show, mostly located in remote areas such as Trashiyangtse, Trashigang and Lhuentse. You can use Lingkhar lodge as your “base camp” and periodically venture out to the surrounding villages. Or stay at some of the lovely homes in the region and enjoy local hospitality. In spring and autumn, visit the Brokpa communities in Merak and Sakteng, and in winter observe the Black Necked Cranes in Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary.  There are many places in Bhutan that are still rather unexplored. If you have the mind of a pioneer, you might even enjoy being our “guniea pig”, a pioneer exploring new routes, places and homes!


 

10 Food – picnics and cooking classes

I really like chili and cheese (=ema datshi) but there is so much more to Bhutanese food. Forget about ema datshi; if you travel to remote places at the right time of the year you will get to taste greeneries from the forest and fields, mushrooms and tasty herbs, homemade bread made from buckwheat, wheat rolls stuffed with a mix of garlic leaves, cheese and chili; home grown vegetables and potatoes and very traditional dishes such as “rice-pizza” (only prepared on special occasions), red rice and fried wild fern, the list goes on. Bhutanese cuisine also includes plenty of meat items such as sikam (dried pork), dried yak-meat and beef; beef bone soup and porridge as well as fried chicken, vegetarian sausages and homemade buckwheat noodles. Not to forget the popular momos with a variety of stuffings! Bumthang is a particular culinary hot spot but there are also places in Zhemgang and East Bhutan and wherever you move a bit off the beaten track or where plenty of produce is supplied from the forests.


 

Some final words for Bhutan travelers

My bucket list of highlights in Bhutan can never be complete.  Some aspects are worth mentioning in addition: Gesar Travel can arrange specialized tours where you can choose a particular focus during your travels. This can be anything from remote village visits and farmstays to textiles, pilgrimages, bird watching or traditional medicine, Sowa Rigpa. Let us know what interests you most and lectures and guided tours with experts can be arranged. Admittedly, additional activities may incur extra fees, but you will support local specialists and communities directly and non-bureaucratically.

 

Travelling off the beaten track

In Bhutan there is still a lot to be discovered. Hence it is always good to keep an open mind and remain flexible during your journey. It can be tedious to travel along unpaved roads to reach often times very remote villages. But at the end you encounter interesting activities such as cotton cultivation and cotton weaving in Chimoong, Pemagatshel. Sometimes ad-hoc changes might be necessary due to unforeseeable circumstances but you can consider that to be part of your authentic Bhutanese experience!

 

My insider’s tip:

Last but not least, I will share an insider’s tip with you:  the Monpa communities in Trongsa, along the Nabji-Korphu trek, have incredibly rich local knowledge on medicinal plants and edibles from the forest! From leafs to roots, the selection is vast and very tasty. While normally guests stay in designated camp grounds, we put you up in the homes of the Monpa communities! They are considered the aboriginal people of Bhutan with their own language and customs. Together with a Monpa guide, you will gain insights into the rich ethnobotanical knowledge of these interesting people and at the same time support them in their endeavor to preserve their local knowledge and culture.




By Ulrike Čokl

Ulli has lived in Bhutan on and off for many years. She has
conducted ethnographic research on traditional hospitality practices,
travelling & gift-exchange in rural communities. Thus she is very
familiar with village livelihoods all over the little kingdom. She loves
developing unique itineraries that offer a glimpse into the rich
cultural traditions and practices of Bhutanese society.

Are tourists
to Bhutan restricted by numbers?

Since the number of tourists
allowed to enter Bhutan is not limited by the government, tourism is instead
restricted through a daily tariff system. So, the good news is that you
can visit Bhutan anytime as an individual or in a group.

When you book a tour with a
travel agent in your country who partners with a licensed tour operator in Bhutan,
they will broker this tariff on your behalf. The tariff amounts to a minimum of
250 USD in high season and 200 USD in low season, per person per night (not per
day, actually!)[1].
This fee covers all your basic expenses, including standard 3-star hotels,
entry fees and necessary permits, as well as transport, a driver, an English
speaking guide, and three meals a day. Special activities such as river
rafting, weaving classes, cooking classes, hot stone baths and saunas, thangka
painting or meditation classes, and specialist guides e.g. for textile tours,
birding or music tours, will likely incur additional fees. Furthermore, the
tariff does not include alcohol, tips, or donations.

Please beware that any agent that offers to charge less than these minimum fees is likely undercutting the mandatory tariff, which is not only unethical, but also means they are not adequately paying local Bhutanese providers for their services. This results in substandard services in Bhutan, such as subpar accommodations, less knowledgeable and unqualified guides, and cookie-cutter itineraries that herd guests on busses from one site to the next.  The key to a successful trip is to have a reliable and ethical local partner to work with. We pride ourselves on our ability to both customize trips to our guests’ interests while respecting and adequately paying the skilled Bhutanese hosts and providers with whom we work.

Photo: Marina Beck Photography

Why the
tariff system?

Bhutanese tour industry insiders
say that the daily tariff prevents mass tourism and mitigates the negative
impacts tourism poses to the local culture and environment.

The tourism industry in Bhutan began in 1974 after the coronation of the fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuk. During that time, some of the first guesthouses were built for foreign dignitaries who were invited as guests to the event. In order to make use of this new infrastructure, the government decided to allow the first tourists to visit the kingdom to generate revenue, to publicize the country’s unique culture and traditions to the outside world, and to stimulate socio-economic development. From the beginning a “middle path” approach has been the ideological and strategic foundation to development in Bhutan. The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) states that the tourism industry in Bhutan is founded on the principles of sustainability, meaning that tourism must be environmentally and ecologically friendly, socially and culturally acceptable, and economically viable. Low budget backpackers did not seem to fit these criteria and were considered to be a threat to such principles. The Bhutanese government also worries about what sort of influence uncontrolled travelers might have on local culture and traditions. The central slogan of the Bhutanese approach to tourism became “High Value, Low Impact”.

Issues and
Controversies

There is a lot to be said about why the tariff system is a good strategy and general effects are positive, although some aspects of the foundation are flawed. One aspect emerges in the contemporary situation of major economic transformations in the wider region: Tourists from India, Bangladesh and Maledives are exempt from the daily tariff. Because it is more affordable, in the last 10 years, these regional guests now constitute the majority of tourists, exceeding tariff paying guests, especially during low season. Whilst the tariff system is largely supported by Bhutanese, this development begets the question: are regional, often times low budget tourists considered less “damaging” to the local culture and environment than other foreigners? The Bhutanese government is in the process of developing solutions to this paradox.

Why the
tariff system works

Despite these caveats, the
daily tariff system has many benefits. The government deducts a Sustainable
Development Fee (SDF)
of $ 65 from the daily tariff which is used for
social welfare of the country. Basic healthcare, for example, is free for
Bhutanese citizens and long-term residents, meaning that whenever they go to
the hospital for a check-up, they will be treated at no cost. This also applies
to people like me who reside in Bhutan over longer periods of time! Also, the
tariff empowers small scale Bhutanese tour agents, whose guests look for
quality, immersion and ethics in traveling rather than the cheapest option. Such
small companies would otherwise hardly survive in a harsh competitive
liberalized setting. Ultimately the Bhutanese themselves decide which direction
tourism shall go in the kingdom. It is up to them whether to take their own
cultural and traditional repertoire and people seriously, and to work as
ethically and sustainably as possible by including approaches that distribute
tourist revenues fairly to rural folks without exploiting them. One of such
approaches is to occasionally host interested tourists in farm/homestays. There
is no better way to experience local hospitality than in a Bhutanese home.

Bhutan is a fantastic place to
visit and it is distinct from other places, also thanks to the tariff system. Unless
you have booked a standard cookie cutter tour, you will most likely not bump
into other travelers all the time. Hence you will enjoy some real quality time
with local folks in the villages and towns. There are many Bhutanese tour
operators working to provide just this, and we at Gesar travel make sure to
cooperate with them.


[1] Tourists travelling in a group of two (2) persons
or less are subject to a surcharge, in addition to the minimum daily
package rates.




Why the East of Bhutan is a “Hidden Gem” for Travelers


By Ulrike Čokl
Ulli has lived in Bhutan on and off for many years. She has conducted ethnographic research on traditional hospitality practices, travelling & gift-exchange in rural communities. Thus she is very familiar with village livelihoods all over the little kingdom. She loves developing unique itineraries that offer a glimpse into the rich cultural traditions and practices of Bhutanese society.

 

Why East

Have you been to Bhutan before and want to return for an off the beaten track tour? Or is this your first visit but you want to book a trip that is not cookie cutter just to tick off the usual sights? If yes to either, then Eastern Bhutan is perfect for you. It is an insider’s tip if you know where to go. The East offers stunning nature and day-hikes, traditional homestays, immersion in everyday village life and charming encounters with local Bhutanese, including traditional artisans. For the adventurous, traveling in the East can have pioneering character when you attend remote village festivals where you might very well be the first foreign guest ever to have participated. Oh, and not to be forgotten, in 2018 the Bhutanese government reduced the daily tariffs for visitors to the East to support local village communities who are often overlooked by many tourists. This means you can now affordably travel to this part of the kingdom, especially in the mild winter months during low season. The weather is chilly in the evenings and mornings, but warm during the usually clear and sunny daytimes.

 

 

Which Counties Delineate East Bhutan

East Bhutan refers to Samdrup Jongkhar, Pemagatshel, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Mongar and Lhuentse regions. It is possible to enter and exit by land through Samdrup Jongkhar. From there, you will ascend through a subtropical climate—with its bamboo, banana and broad-leaf trees—to higher areas in Trashigang. All the while you will be rewarded with great views of the Indian plains and Bhutanese foothills that you leave behind. The sightseeing possibilities include Dzongs, monasteries and temples, most notably, Gom Kora, Chorten Kora, Drametse and Mukazor. However, the real charm of the East lies in its natural beauty and the remote village culture, local hospitality, community festivals, and of course meeting with all sorts of Bhutanese locals and artisans.

 

Traveling while Supporting Local Communities

There is an interesting traditional crafts school in Yangtse that is worth a stop, but why not also spend a few days at an artisan’s home and participate in a workshop? Eastern Bhutan boasts a concentration of a number of traditional Bhutanese crafts (zorig chusum), including paper making (dezo) and wood turning (shagzo) in Trashiyangtse; weaving (thagzo), pottery (jinzo) and wood carving (parzo) in Pemagatsel, Trashigang and Lhuentse; and carpentry (shingzo) throughout the region.

In your homestays, your hosts will treat you to organic home cookedmeals. If you are adventuresome, a tshogchang can be arranged—a truly authentic welcome ritual in which  villagers come to greet a guest with alcohol and snacks, and song and dance, all in return for a monetary gift (soerat) from the visitor. While visiting the East, you support villagers directly and help countering rural-urban migration, a big issue in Bhutan, through sustainable and ethical tourism.

 

Foto: Marina Beck Photography

 What to Do Where

Let me inspire you with some glimpses into the East: In Pemagatshel, the women of remote Chimoon village cultivate and process cotton into thread which they weave into beautiful textiles! Further to the north in Kangpara, a very remote region in Trashigang, you will find sleepy villages nestled amidst of rice fields. Here, some of the best quality bangchung (woven bowls) and baskets are made and you can join a bamboo weaving workshop. Later, enjoy a cup of ara (local moonshine) and a homecooked meal with your host family. In Trashigang, hike through fairy tale forests to remote hermitages that belong to hereditary religious lineages and dine with the families. Specialized trips allow for deeper immersion in the life of the Brokpa, semi-nomadic yak herders of Merak and Sakteng. From milking and butter churning, to wool production, spinning and weaving, the life of the Brokpa is fascinating! The beautiful Lingkhar lodge offers a perfect “base camp” to those who like amenities after an adventurous day, whilst others can thrive in traditional homestays. Day excursions are possible to places such as Trashigang town with Trashigang Dzong (fortress), Rhadi village, the ‘rice bowl of the East,’ with its raw silk weavers (bura), Rangjung monastery, and Rangshikhar, a charming village with a great heritage homestay and a little gonpa on top of the mountain. Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in Trashiyangtse offers ample opportunity for nature lovers to pioneer hikes and short treks. Here you will also come across the black necked cranes in winter. They gather in the fields just waiting to be photographed.

My personal favorite is Lhuentse valley. Perhaps you may have heard of Khoma, the famous kishutara weavers’ village. Pilgrims can hike to hidden hermitages and enjoy some contemplation near the meditation huts of the monks, conversing with the head lama. The Guru Rinpoche statue at Takila is impressive and Tangmachu offers scenic hikes in the vicinity. A daytrip away, in Ney village, you will find women processing nettle into thread, a tedious job that results in gorgeous nettle weavings! The little pottery in Gangzur is one of the last where the traditional earthen pots are produced. The famous national dish, ema datshi (chili and cheese), is supposed to taste best if cooked in one of those pots. In Lhuentse you can also participate in weaving and wood carving workshops and if you don’t mind homestays, it is a great place to explore for a few days.

 

Get Ready…

Feeling inspired? I have only scratched the surface! If you want to discover more of the hidden gems in East Bhutan, please get in touch with us. And check out our very special East-Bhutan-Tour.

 

 




Wherever you travel, there are local rules and customs that you should research and know in advance. At least rudimentary. It is not necessary to become an expert in the local culture. But striving for correct behavior is something that should be in the list of priorities when traveling. Of course, small faux pas can always happen, but the Mongols are a hospitable people and are quick to overlook unintentional mistakes.

18 for Mongolia

 

  • Give presents with both hands. It is considered polite to use both hands when handing over or accepting gifts, money or anything else.
  • Always climb on a horse from the left side.
  • Do not step onto the threshold. Always step over it and to the other side. This applies to monasteries, houses and gers (yurts).

  • Never whistle when inside houses and gers.
  • Always accept offered drink and food. Even if you are not hungry or thirsty at the time, accept it and at least taste it.
  • Throw no milk, no water and no garbage into the fire. The fire is sacred to the Mongols.

  • Never touch the head of a person. Not even a child’s. Patting children’s heads is a widespread custom in the Western World, but it is not welcome in Mongolia.
  • Never point at someone with an outstretched forefinger, and especially not at a Buddha statue or an altar. If needed, you can use the entire palm to point to something.
  • Never urinate in water (streams, rivers, lakes). For Mongols, water is sacred and alive.

  • Never pour milk nor milk products into rivers, streams or lakes.
  • Even if you think it is important, do not ask drivers and locals about driving, riding and in general traveling times. Doing this is to bring misfortune and put the journey in danger. Alternatively you can ask your travel guide. They are already familiar with this western “bad habit”. 😉
  • Always move around a stupa in a clockwise manner.
  • Take off your shoes when entering a yurt or a house. This is especially true for monasteries.
  • Never step over the outstretched legs of a Mongol.
  • Never stretch your legs in the direction of people, altars or Buddha statues.

  • When eating, use your right hand or both hands.
  • Never turn your back on an altar or a Buddha statue.
  • Never go in front of an older person.

 

 




Foreign countries, foreign customs. Whenever you travel, always try to research in advance about the local customs at your destination. This will help you avoid awkward or unpleasant situations, and make friends quickly. Kyrgyzstan is no exception, and it has a few rules worth knowing. Of course, small faux pas and unintentional mistakes can happen, but the hospitable Kyrgyz are quick to forgive them. So don’t worry too much.

1o Rules for Kyrgyzstan

1 Gifts make friends

If you are invited to a Kyrgyz house, it is a nice touch to bring a small gift. Fruits and/or sweets from your home country are always well received.

2 Proper handling of bread

Bread is the most important food for the nomads. Never put it upside down on the table; that is especially disliked. Bread is preferably hand-torn, not cut with a knife, and it is usually put on the center of the table so it can be shared among all diners. Above all, do not throw bread away! If you are satisfied or consider it no longer edible, at least give it to the animals. There is an ominous saying whenever bread is thrown away: “kesir bolot”, which means “famine comes”.

3 Accepting and tasting

If you are invited to dinner with a Kyrgyz family, try tasting a little bit of everything. This shows that you appreciate their hospitality. Besides the bread, the butter is especially important. So try them (if you can). Often, a family member will offer you something from his or her own plate. Take it. It would be rude to refuse. This is especially true when coming from the elders, because it is a sign of affection.

4 Eating with the right hand

Even though nowadays cutlery is widely used, many Kyrgyz still eat with their hands. It is important to eat only with the right one!

5 Empty plates are refilled

If you eat everything on your plate, your Kyrgyz host will give you more food. So, if you’re satisfied and don’t want anything else to eat, it’s good to leave something on your plate.

6 Shoes off!

In Kyrgyzstan you take off your shoes before entering a house. Take them off, put them nicely next to each other and never with the soles up! Superstitious Kyrgyz assume that upside down shoes bring bad luck into the house.

7 Spit

Sometimes an elderly woman will greet you with a bowl of water and ask you to spit in it. Then she’ll move the bowl over your head and empty it or put it in front of the house. Water has a purifying effect and when you spit into it, evil spirits and their negative aura are chased away and dissipated. This is a custom in Kyrgyzstan with people who come from a long journey.

8 Alcohol

The Kyrgyz people like to drink. A lot. As a guest, this is also expected of you. The most common drinks served are vodka and Kymyz (fermented mare’s milk). If you don’t want to drink, it’s better to say so from the beginning and not accept a single glass. As soon as you accept a shot, it will become harder to refuse the following. A “no” coming from a woman will be easier to accept than the denial of a man. And if you are the one serving, always fill the others’ glasses first, before pouring yourself something.

9 Toasts

When Kyrgyz people sit together to drink, they also toast. The longer the toast, the more respected the speaker. It signals the desire to express big, deep wishes. So try to come up with a long speech!

10 Offer and insist

If you offer food to Kyrgyz people, they will usually politely refuse at first, even if they really feel like tasting what you have to offer. If so, insist. Only then will they accept it and enjoy it.




We proudly present our two new promotional videos showing what our trekking tours in Ladakh looks like.

Videos by Patrick Haderer 

 

This is trekking in Ladakh

 

When you step out of the plane in Leh, you already are at 3500 m of altitude. That’s no small thing. The plane is (hopefully!) pressurized to around sea level values, so regardless if you came down from the sky or drove up from a lower area, your body has to first get used to the thin air of Ladakh. Not for nothing we take great care to start slow, giving you time to adapt before carrying on with the trip program. After arriving, put your feet up and take a deep breath. The flight (or drive) is usually quite exhausting, the altitude makes it worse, and you usually need some time to shed the stress of the trip. On the first day, therefore, we typically do nothing but rest. The day after that we start slowly, get to know Leh, stroll around and take the city in. There is a lot to see in the colorful and chaotic capital of Ladakh. The following day we focus on its cultural highlights, visiting some of the most beautiful Buddhist monasteries, listening to the vibrant voices of the monks while they sing Buddhist prayers, marveling at the extraordinary sounds of Tibetan musical instruments, delving into the mystical Tibetan Buddhist mythology and wandering around a bit. The body has now finally caught up and we have regained our strength. Breathing is still a bit harder than what we are used to at home, but we can manage. We get accustomed to the slowness of this place in the Himalayas, and learn to appreciate it.

This is how your first days in Ladakh can look like:

 

 

But the day comes when it is time to leave. Off to the mountains, out into freedom, into happiness, into the silence. Where we can become one with nature, find the essence of our being. Discover a simpler, slower way of living. In walking, the most basic form of locomotion, we return to ourselves. We leave behind the complexity of everyday life. The head is free of polluting thought-clouds. Breathing and walking become one single action, the mind placidly and unobtrusively tags along. It’s not always easy to climb a mountain pass. It’s exhausting, it’s demanding, it makes us think about giving up, we quarrel with each other, with ourselves: why are you doing this when you could be lying on a floating bed on the Adriatic instead… But then you’re up there, among the colorful prayer flags, looking at the majestic, otherworldly expanse of the Tibetan plateau and realize that it was worth the effort. Pushing to the limit, stepping out of our comfort zone lets us discover new worlds, new meanings, new aspects of ourselves. They are worth it. Absolutely. And they stay with us. Forever.

And this is how this journey of self discovery can look like:

 

 

Eager Feet?

 

Would you like to know more about this tour? Patrick Haderer and his friends took part in our popular trekking tour “Classic Tsomoriri Trek”.

This impressive journey leads across the Tibetan Plateau, past the Salt Lake Tsokar, through traditional nomadic summer camps and to the deep blue shimmering waters of Lake Tsomoriri.

High mountain passes, wide plains and breathtaking panoramas determine the character of this tour. We find wild donkeys, rare black-necked cranes, and huge herds of yak and sheep. Walking under the seemingly endless horizon acts as a balm for stress-laden souls.

 

>>To the tour>>




Monastery festivals and buddhist celebrations in Ladakh

The dates 2019

Colorful robes, scary masks, unusual musical sounds for western ears, never seen dance steps, these are monastery festivals in Ladakh, where monks in incredible dance performances try to impart stories and philosophies of Tibetan Buddhism. If you feel like it, plan your trip so that you can include one (or two) in the program. Incidentally, we’re happy to help you, so that the rest of the program fits perfectly as well 😉

 

Need an example? This is a short video of Matho-Nagrang

 


3-4. January Spituk Gustor in Spituk


2.-3. February Dosmoche in Leh und Likir


14.-15. February Stok Guru Tsechu in Stok


18.-19. February Matho Ngagrang in Matho


17. June Saka Dawa in whole of Ladakh


29.-30. June Yuru Kabgyad in Lamayuru


11.-12. July Hemis Tsechu in Hemis


19.-20. July Shachukul Gustor in Shachukul


20.-21. July Stongde Gustor in Stongde/Zanskar


30.-31. July Karsha Gustor in Karsha/Zanskar


30.-31. July Phyang Tserup in Phyang


3.-4. August Korzok Gustor in Korzok


10.-11. August Thakthok Tsechu in Sakti


14.-15. August Sani Naro Nasjal in Sani/Zanskar


26.-27. October Diskit Gustor in Diskit/Nubra


15.-16. November Thiksey Gustor in Thiksey


24.-25. November Chemde Angchok in Chemde


21. December Galdan Namchot in whole of Ladakh


27. December Losar (New Year) in whole of Ladakh




Sain bain-uu?

Сайн байна уу?

Learning a few words in Mongolian makes it easier for you to get in touch with the people of Mongolia while traveling. Even though the younger Mongolians speak English quite well today and the older generation mostly speak Russian and even some German, you can still make friends faster with a few phrases in the local language. Mongolian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet in Mongolia, which has to do with the long association with the former Soviet Union, but there has been a revival of Mongolian script since independence.

 

The Mongolian script was created in 1208 by the Uighur writer Tatar-Tonga. He was captured by the Mongols during a campaign, and commissioned by Genghis Khan to write a script for the Mongolian language. For this purpose, he adapted the Uighur alphabet to the new requirements. Its greatest feature is the writing direction, which runs vertically from top to bottom and column by column from left to right (all other vertical fonts go from right to left).

 

 

Especially with people on countryside you get in contact with people faster, if you speak und understand a few words Mongolian. Photo: Roland Amon

Greeting

Sain bainuu? – Hello [lit. meaning “are you being well?”]

Sain uu? – Hi

Tanii bie sainuu? – How are you?

Bi sain. – I am fine.

Ugluunii mend! – Good morning!

Udriin mend! – Good afternoon!

Oroin mend! – Good evening!

Saihan amraarai! – Good night!

Bayartai! – Goodbye!

 

Helpful words

Uuchlaarai! – Sorry!

Bayarlalaa – Thank you

Zugeer! – You’re welcome

tiim – yes

ugui – no

za – ok

 

Questions

Yamar unetei ve? – How much is it?

Ta hen be? – Who are you?

Ene yu ve? – What is it?

Heden tsag bolj baina? – What time is it?

Bid hezee yawah ve? – When will we go?

Tanai geriinhen sainuu? – How is your family?

 

Introduction

Tanii ner hen be? – What is your name?

Minii ner … – My name is

Ta heden nastai ve? – How old are you?

Bi … nastai. – I am … years old.

Ta heden huuhedtei ve? – How many children do you have?

Bi … huuhedtei. – I have … children.

Ta haanaas irsen be? – Where are you from?

Bi … -aas irsen. – I am from …

Amerik – America

German – Germany

Franz – France

Golland – Netherlands

Avstr – Austria

Ital – Italy

Spani – Spain

Oros – Russia

Hytad – China

Yopon – Japan

 

Numbers

0 teg

1 neg

2 hoyor

3 gurav

4 duruv

5 tav

6 zurgaa

7 doloo

8 naim

9 yus

10 arav

11 arvan neg

12 arvan hoyor

20 gori

30 guch

40 duch

50 tavi

60 jar

70 dal

80 naya

90 yer

100 tsuu

200 hoyor tsuu

1000 myanga

 

Weekdays

Monday – Davaa garig

Tuesday – Myagmar garig

Wednesday – Lkhagva garig

Thursday – Purev garig

Friday – Baasan garig

Saturday – Byamba garig

Sunday – Nyam garig

 




When traveling, you can’t and you shouldn’t try to completely behave as a local, but you should check out the customs and rules of your destination before each trip. This saves you and the locals many uncomfortable moments. The people in Sri Lanka are very friendly and you are always welcome as a traveler, but if you want to make friends, here are some important things to keep in mind.

 

 

Sri Lankan etiquette: what to avoid

 

1 No Selfies in front of Buddha statues

For many travelers, selfies come almost automatically – they naturally want to be part of each captured memory, and share every new sight, landscape, building or event with their friends via social media. BUT please take care when taking pictures of Buddha statues: turning your back to a Buddha statue is a sign of disrespect. Better yet, keep your distance and save (and savor) the moment in your heart and your mind.

 

Photos – also selfies – are of course ok. Just not in front of Buddha statues.

2 Dress properly on beaches

Sri Lanka has many wonderful beaches perfect for sunbathing. But keep something on! Full nudity or even topless bathing is not a welcome practice and can turn problematic. Back on the streets, or anywhere that is not a bathing place, try to wear more modest clothes: ideally, shoulders and knees should be covered! However, you will find that many young Sri Lankans, especially in larger cities, are already a bit more liberal. It is not that important anymore. But try to adhere to this rule always anyway, and especially when travelling through rural areas.

 

3 Correct clothes in the temple

When visiting a temple, you should take off your shoes and keep your shoulders and legs covered. In many Buddhist temples, it would be nice if you also can wear white (or at least light-colored) clothes – for example, in the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy or in Anuradhapura. You will also see that most locals done their whitest clothes! Many temples can have stricter or additional rules and check at the entrance whether one dresses correctly.

 

White clothes are the perfect choice when visiting Buddhist temples!

4 No public display of affection

Traveling with a loved partner is wonderful, but not all countries like to see couples kissing in public. Dial back a bit and save it for later: kisses, hugs and other gestures of romantic affection are better left for private moments behind locked doors! Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka homosexuality is still a punishable offense… therefore same-sex couples should for their own good be especially careful and avoid public displays of affection.

 

5 Greeting properly

In Sri Lanka one traditionally greets with folded hands at about chin height and a slightly bowed head. The Sinhalese greet each other with the word Ayubowan, and the Tamils with the word Vanakkam. Young men greet each other with the usual western handshake, but women are a bit more reserved still.

 

6 Legs away from Buddha

While not as rigorous as Thailand or other Buddhist countries, it would be nice if you could avoid putting your legs pointing at a Buddha statue. Whenever sitting in front of a Buddha statue, if possible, sit cross-legged or in a position where your feet don’t point towards the statue.

 

7 Stay polite

Western concepts of privacy are not well understood or appreciated in Sri Lanka. In effect, one is often suddenly asked by complete strangers personal questions like “Where are you going?”, “Where do you come from?” or “What’s your name?” This may annoy you after a while, but please try to stay polite! A smile and short answers are more than enough.

 

The people or Sri Lanka are usually polite and curious.

 

8 Asking before taking a picture

Most people in Sri Lanka like to be photographed. But out of politeness and because you wouldn’t want it for yourself, we recommend you to get an OK in advance (especially for close-ups). A bit of body language, facial expressions and a friendly smile are often enough.

 

9 Keep a right hand or use both hands

Sri Lankans use no cutlery and eat with the right hand (the left one is considered unclean). You do not have to do without cutlery (which is offered almost everywhere), but you should avoid using your left hand when handshaking or handing over things or money. If you want to do it correctly, hand over money and smaller objects with the right hand while touching the right forearm with your left hand.

 

10 Don’t make a big deal of it

The Sri Lankans are very welcoming hosts. If a faux pas happens to you, apologize but don’t worry, people aren’t going to get mad over a candid mistake.

 

Hast du Lust auf Sri Lanka bekommen? Weitere Infos zu Sri Lanka findest du hier: Destination Sri Lanka

Gerne arbeiten wir an deiner maßgeschneiderten Traumreise nach Sri Lanka. Ein Mail genügt.




To know a few phrases when going to a foreign country is always useful. There are more than just one language that are spoken in Sri Lanka but most of the Srilankan know Sinhala (only in the north where mostly Tamils live it might get tougher with only Sinhala). We think you should know these 21 phrases in Sinhala, the language of the Singhalese people of Sri Lanka.  

 

Helpful phrases in Sinhala

 

Meet & Greet

How are you?

My name is [Daniela].

What is your name?

Where are you from?

Ko-ho-ma-dha?

Ma-gé na-ma [Daniela].

O-yaa-gé na-ma mo-kak-dha?

O-yaa ko-hén-dha?

 

Foods and Drinks

I am hungry.

I want/need water.

Ma-ta ba-da gi-ni.

Ma-ta va-thu-ra o-né.

 

Important words

Yes

No

This

That

owu

nae

mé-ka

é-ka

 

Health & Emergency

I’m not feeling fine.

I need a doctor.

Help me!

Where is the toilet?

Ma-ta sa-ni-pa nae.

Ma-ta dhos-tha-ra ké-nék-va o-né.

Ma-ta u-dhauw ka-ran-na!

Vae-si-ki-li-ya thi-yén-né ko-hé-dha?

 

Language related

Do you speak english?

I don’t understand.

O-yaa in-gri-si ka-thaa ka-ra-na-vadha?

Ma-ta thé-rén-né nae.

 

Shopping

How much?

(It’s) too expensive.

Ki-ya-dha?

Ga-nang vae-di.

 

Traveling

Let’s go!

I want to go here!

Are there any rooms available?

Ya-mu?

Ma-ta mé-hé-ta yan-na o-né.

Kaa-ma-ra thi-yé-na-va-dha?

 

Polite Expressions

Please

Sorry / Excuse me

Thank you (very much)

No, thank you

kar-ru-naa ka-ra-la

sa-maa vén-na

bo-ho-ma-is-thu-thi

é-paa, bo-ho-ma-is-thu-thi

 

Special Expressions

Happy Birthday!

I love you!

Su-ba u-pan dhi-na-yak vé-va!

Ma-ma o-yaa-ta aa-dha-réyi.

 

If you want to learn how to pronounce these Phrases check out Dilshan’s great Youtube-Video:

 

 

Would you like to visit Sri Lanka? You can find additional information about Sri Lanka here: Destination Sri Lanka

We can also prepare a personalized trip adapted to your needs and wishes. Just write us: Mail

 




Sri Lanka is an ideal destination that you can visit almost all year round. All you have to know is where and when will it be raining, and adjust your trip accordingly. The rain moves from west to east; when the rainclouds sweep the west coast, you should focus on the east of the island, and vice versa. This is the only way to stay dry (more or less, of course… regarding the weather nothing can ever be 100% guaranteed).

 

 

When is the best time to travel to Sri Lanka?

 

In a nutshell …

…you can generally follow these rules:

  1. The best time to visit the west and south coasts are the months from December to April.
  2. The best time to travel along the east and north coasts are the months from April to September.
  3. You should avoid traveling during the months of October and November, which usually bring bad weather to the entire island.

 

 

In focus: The East

The beaches on Sri Lanka’s east shore are just as wonderful and breathtaking as the ones on the west and south coasts, but they are somewhat less known and visited. Surfers in particular should definitely visit the beach of Arugambay. You should avoid the eastern side of Sri Lanka during its rainy season, from October to January. Between February and September the weather is rather warm and dry.

+:         April May June July August September
~:         February March
-:          October November December January

 

The Skyline of Colombo.

In focus: The West

The capital of the island, Colombo, and more than a few very nice beaches and fascinating villages are located in the western half of Sri Lanka. The average temperature in this region is 25 degrees Celsius, making it a very attractive destination. The rainy season lasts from May to November, with a curious exception: September, which is usually a bit drier.

+:         December January February March
~:         April September
-:          May June July August October November

 

In focus: The North

The north of Sri Lanka is different to the rest of the island: the Tamils are the predominant ethnic group in this area, and the language and culinary traditions are two of the most obvious aspects where the contrast with the Sinhalese regions can be noticed. Just a handful of tourists have discovered the north so far, which is surprising, considering the astonishing beauty of the Jaffna peninsula and surrounding land. The rains are most intense during the Northeast Monsoon, which lasts from October to January.

+:         April May June July August September
~:         February March
-:          October November December January

 

The library of Jaffna

 

In focus: The South

The south of Sri Lanka attracts mainly diving, surfing and bathing enthusiasts. But also animal-lovers come here to visit the beautiful (and enormous) Yala National Park. From a cultural-historical perspective the old town of Galle is particularly interesting. To get your money’s worth here, remember that the monsoon season extends from May to August, and the months of October and November can be also very stormy.

+:         December January February March
~:         April September
-:          May June July August October November

 

In focus: The Highlands – Cultural Triangle and the Mountains

Kandy is the center of the highlands, and also the cultural and spiritual capital of the Sinhalese portion of the island. In these fertile regions you can visit and marvel at tea plantations, forest reserves and national parks, hike extensively and even climb mountains. For the more culturally-inclined the interior of the island also has much to offer: old royal cities and former capitals, ruins, countless temples and sanctuaries. An absolute must is the visit of the Cultural Triangle formed by Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. You should however stay away from May to August and in the months of October and November, to avoid the heavy rains.

+:         December January February March
~:         April September
-:          May June July August October November

 

Rock Sigiriya

 

Would you like to visit Sri Lanka? You can find additional information about Sri Lanka here: Destination Sri Lanka

We can also prepare a personalized trip adapted to your needs and wishes. Just write us: Mail




A trip needs planning, especially when the destination is a remote and exotic country, like for example Sri Lanka. The two most relevant questions are of course: do you need a visa? And do you need special vaccinations? Here you will find the most important information to consider before your trip to the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.

 

You should prepare some things before enjoying the beaches of Sri Lanka. But don’t worry, it’s nothing complicated …

 

Before flying to Sri Lanka:

Health and entry requirements

Entry & Visa

Citizens of the European Union, Switzerland and Canada planning a trip to Sri Lanka need evidently a passport valid for at least 6 months. A classic travel visa is not required to enter Sri Lanka, but you must apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), which in effect is almost the same. The online application is short and simple, and you can find it here: https://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/. All you have to do is fill out the form in the website and pay 35 USD with a credit card (Visa, Mastercard or American Express). Within 24 hours you will receive a confirmation email with the approval of your ETA for Sri Lanka. This visa-like permit is valid for 30 days, starting from the date of arrival in Sri Lanka.

If you forgot your ETA at home and land in Sri Lanka without it, don’t panic! You can also apply for it directly at the airport. It just costs a few dollars more than before. You must of course also have a valid return ticket. If you enjoy your holidays in Sri Lanka so much that you want to extend your stay, once you have reached the 30-day deadline, then this is also possible: you will need to go to the Immigration Office, located in Colombo. There you can get a permit for up to 90 days. But beware: you have to go to the office at least eight days before the end of your ETA.

 

 

Health & Vaccinations

There are no compulsory vaccinations required by law (as long as you are not arriving from a yellow fever endemic country). However, we would recommend you to at least consider vaccinating against hepatitis A + B, diphtheria and tetanus. For people in a risk group additional vaccinations against typhoid fever, rabies, measles and Japanese encephalitis might be recommended. It is always a good idea to get direct advice from a doctor or ask at your local Institute of Tropical Medicine.

 

 

The annoying mosquitoes: Malaria & Dengue

Sri Lanka is officially malaria free since 2016, so you don’t have to worry about that. However, mosquitoes can also transmit dengue fever. Therefore, you should try to protect yourself from mosquito bites with repellents and mosquito nets.

Other important health rules

Those who travel far and away and find themselves trying exotic new dishes and spices should always pay close attention to their reactions and digestion, especially in tropical climates. Those with sensitive stomachs should be especially careful when eating, and drink only water from safe sources or that has been cooked.

New food colors, shapes and aromas can be very seductive, but you shouldn’t eat everything you see!

 

Therefore:

  • Drink only bottled mineral water with an intact cap, or boiled, filtered or otherwise sterilized water
  • No ice cubes!
  • Observe a basic rule: cook it, fry it, peel it… or forget it!

 

HIV / AIDS is common in Sri Lanka. As you know, it can be transmitted through blood contact and sexual intercourse, so please always make sure to use condoms and sterile disposable syringes and needles.

 

The sun shines intensely in Sri Lanka. Take care of your eyes and skin: use good quality sunglasses and sunscreen with an appropriate protection factor.

 

 

Would you like to visit Sri Lanka? You can find additional information about Sri Lanka here: Destination Sri Lanka

We can also prepare a personalized trip adapted to your needs and wishes. Just write us: Mail

 

 




Despite its name, the Ladakhi “Baby trek” is not a trail on which you can see little diaper-wearing babies hiking with miniature backpacks, quenching their thirst by drinking milk from feeding bottles, sitting by cozy streams and talking about the beauty of the Himalayas. But then, how the hell did this popular short trek in Sham come to be called like this? Well, let us tell you.

 

The Baby Trek in Ladakh

Reasons for its Name

1. Short daily walking distances

The daily stages are quite a good fit for people with average physical condition. Most hikers go from Likir to Tingmosgang or Ang (or vice versa) in 3 days time. The leg from Likir to Yangthang takes about 4 hours, depending on where you start. The next day is up to Hemis Shukpachan and the hike is 3 hours long at the most. The last stretch to Ang takes another 4 hours. Of course, there are many options to make the trip longer if you want: continue to Balukhar, near Khaltse, or hike up to Ulley or Saspotse, or walk to Ridzong from Hemis Shukpachan or Yangthang. All these choices are more or less baby-friendly, right?

2. “Low” passes

The mountain passes in this trail are relatively low. For Ladakh, that is. In fact, they are of course higher than most mountains in Europe. Between Likir and Yangthang, the trek crosses the two “baby” passes of Phobe La and Chagatse La – at barely 3,600 m of altitude each. A day after, the Tsermänchen La with its record-breaking 3,750 vertical meters stands ahead. And then on the last day two more passes to conquer for the already experienced Baby Trekker: first the Hemis Shukpachan, hardly noticeable due to a very gentle ascent, and then a final pass at “just” 3,720 m.

3. Logistically simple

In principle, you can walk the Baby trek alone. There are more or less nice homestays along the way, meaning that there’s no need for heavy tents and provisions to carry along. Wearing little and light also makes things easier. The trail is usually easy to spot. Only in winter, when the snow covers the paths, you can get lost. That happened already to this writer, who instead of reaching Ang ended up in a military camp, completely confused and facing many comically surprised soldiers just out of laundry duty. Tip: Book the homestays in advance, especially if you are traveling in the high season.

4. Easy to quit

Those who feel that the trek is too much to deal with and want to quit earlier can easily do so. The nearest road is always within reach. There is a continuous road from Likir to Hemis Shukpachan (although traffic is scarce and you don’t have to walk on it anyway, since there are still many old trails to hike on).

5. Gentle acclimatization

This hike is an ideal preparation for anybody planning a bigger trek (one that includes “adult” mountain passes over 4,000 m). On the Baby trek you can play it safe and acclimatize properly.

Honestly, the Baby trek does not really deserve its name. Any height above 3,000 m can be challenging for people not acclimatized. This trail includes several points over that altitude. You will feel it. Every single step up to the Baby Passes.

Now if you paid attention, you probably noticed that we haven’t answered the second question in the title: why aren’t babies hiking the Baby trek? Well, by definition, a baby is a child in the 1st year of life… There’s not much going on at such an age, not to mention hiking. Granted, the joke could have been better. 😉

(c) Josef Reifenauer

By the way, there is one way in which you can see (or even bring!) a baby in this trek: inside a baby carrier!




Top 10 Places and activities in Delhi

Delhi is huge, noisy, and for many people also a bit scary. But Delhi is more than just the ever-growing and always busy capital of India, constantly threatening with bursting from its seams. Indeed, there are countless charming and exciting facets to discover here: monuments and forts that tell sad and adventurous stories, and speak of the tragic fate of many heroes and heroines; vibrant places full of joy and color, where the old and the modern go hand in hand; and people (so many people!) from all the corners of India and the whole world. Delhi is and offers so much, that it can be overwhelming in its complexity.

We chose 10 of our most favorite places and activities to make it easier for you to chose which place is right for you.

1. Humayun’s Tomb

The Humayun’s tomb is one of the most interesting sites of the Mogul’s time. The construction of Delhi’s first Mogul’s grave was begun in 1564 after the death of the second Mughal ruler. Haji Begum, Humayun’s widow and mother of Akbar (1542-1605), kept a watchful eye on the works and even moved to its vicinity to better manage its construction. It served as a refuge for the last emperor, Bahadur Shah II (1775-1862), whom the British captured here in 1857. Due to its elegant Persian style, the grave is considered one of the most magnificent historical buildings in Delhi.


2. Qutab Minar

The first buildings of Muslim India are known today as the Qutb Complex. They were built on the ruins of Lal Kot, a fortress built in the 8th century by the Tomara Rajputs and expanded further in the 12th century by the Chauhans. Today one of Delhi’s most famous landmarks is found here: the pointed red sandstone tower of the Qutb Minar. A dominating presence amidst the ruins, the over-70-meters-high Qutb Minar is decorated with beautiful ornaments and verses of the Quran. The minaret was built in 1199 as a siege tower in conjunction with the ancient mosque of Qutb-ud-Din Aibak (1150-1210), founder of the Sultanate of Delhi. This marked the beginning of the Muslim supremacy over Delhi and a large part of the Indian subcontinent.


3. Hauz Khas Complex

The Hauz Khas complex in the south of Delhi encompassed a water reservoir, a mosque, a mausoleum and several pavilions around an urbanized medieval village with a story dating back to the 13th century of the Sultanate of Delhi. It was part of Siri, the second medieval city of India in the Sultanate of the Allauddin Dhilji Dynasty. The name Hauz Khas is Farsi in origin and means “royal water tank” or “royal lake”. The reservoir was built by Khilji to supply the inhabitants of Siri with water. In the time of Firuz Shah Tughlaq, the tank was decontaminated. Various religious buildings surround and guard the lake. Today’s Hauz Khas complex also includes a modern area with galleries, boutiques and restaurants.


4. Akshardam Temple Complex

The Akshardam Temple, also called Swamirayan Temple, is the world’s largest Hindu temple complex. It is one of the most recent temples of Delhi – the opening took place in 2005 – and in many ways it reminds of a religious theme park. A visit to this contemporary architectural wonder is undoubtedly recommended, but you have to remember to save enough time for it. One can spend easily a whole day in the complex.


5. Lotus Temple

The Lotus Temple is the newest of the world’s seven Bahá’í temples. The name derives from the shape of the building, which is reminiscent of a lotus flower. The building was opened on December 24, 1986, and since then has won numerous architectural awards and has been pictured in countless magazines and newspapers. The sacred building is one of the most famous of the Bahá’í faith and is visited annually by about three million people. The building is an outstanding example of modern architecture in India.


6. Chhatarpur Temple

The Chhatarpur Temple – or Shri Aadya Katyayani Shakti Peetham – is also located in South Delhi. It is considered the second largest temple in India, and third in the world, and is dedicated to the goddess Katyayani. The temple was founded in 1974 by Baba Sant Nagpal Ji, who died in 1998. This temple is totally constructed with marble in what is classified as a Vessara style of architecture.


7. Dilli Haat

Dilli Haat is THE market by definition: an open-air food-and-handicrafts market in southern Delhi. Merchants from all over India sell their products here: wood carvings, textiles, jewelry, pearls, metalwork, silk, clay works, paintings… in short, everything that makes the heart of a souvenir hunter beat faster. The dealers change every 15 days, so it is important to try and seize as much of Dilli Haat’s diversity as possible. If you get hungry while shopping here, there is no need to leave the area: there are many excellent restaurants and food stands next to the selling booths and huts.


8. Janpath Markt

The Janpath Market has a long history. It takes its name from the street that connects Connaught Place to Lodhi Road, and along which the market extends from beginning to end. The Janpath market is particularly popular with those who like to buy cheap – and this doesn’t only apply to tourists, but it’s true especially among the inhabitants of the big city. From the trendy to the modern to the classic and exotic, everything can be found here, making this market a frantic paradise for bargain hunters of all sorts.


9. Fab India

Fab India is an Indian shopping chain focused on textiles, furniture and fair trade products. All goods are made by craftsmen and artists from rural India. The first shop was opened in 1976 in Delhi. Today, there are more than 250 branches throughout India and abroad. The products of Fab India are especially great, because a part of the earnings are destined to improve the village infrastructures and support the development of the countryside. A total of more than 40,000 artists and craftsmen distribute their goods through Fab India.


10. Eat like a Mughal Emporer

Sightseeing can be as interesting as exhausting, so either between visits or at the end of the tour we will need to recover our energies with a meal in a restaurant. In this case, one that serves typical Mughlai-Food. The cuisine of the Moguls has strongly influenced the North Indian cuisine. It includes both very mild and spicy dishes, with a distinctive aroma and the taste of grated and whole spices. Debashree will take you to a Mughlai restaurant and enjoy lunch (or early dinner) with you.


 

If you want to discover Delhi in a special way, you can do this with our great Debashree.

Debashree is actually a journalist, but she’s grateful for every chance to leave the desk and show her city with fervent enthusiasm.

The tours with Debashree may be slightly more expensive than regular sightseeing tours in Delhi, but they are absolutely worth it because you get to see the city through her eyes. Nothing could be more personal and authentic!

 

Our tours in Delhi with Debashree


The historic Delhi
Meet the Moguls
The Moguls have influenced Delhi in many ways. Discover their history with Debashree and visit the Lodhi Gardens, the Tomb of Humayun, the Qutab Minar, the Hauz Khas Village and Purana Qila. Lunch is served in a Mogul restaurant.
Best Time: October-April (but can be taken all year-round)

from 58 EUR


The religious Delhi
The Temple Path
This tour focuses on the spiritual side of Delhi and includes visits to a selection of the following temples: Iskcon, Lotus, Jagannath, Chhatarpur and Askhardham. Lunch is served in a vegetarian restaurant.
Best Time: Oktober-April (but can be taken all year-round)

from 38 EUR


Shopping in Delhi
Trading and Bargaining
Wanna go on a hunt for souvenirs? Debashree takes you to the best markets and helps you deal with the (in)famous and persistent Indian haggling culture: Janpath Market, Lajpat Market, Dilli Haat and / or Paharganj Market. No commission!
Best Time: October-April (but can be taken all year-round)

from 35 EUR


Shopping without Sweating
Shopping with Air Conditioning
During the (pre) monsoon season, especially between May and September, shopping is considerably more pleasant in AC-equipped shops and malls. Debashree takes you to the shops at the Khan Market, the Hauz Khas Village, the Greater Kailash Market and the Janpath Emporium.
Best Time: all year long

from 32 EUR


 




We are often asked by our guests whether they should bring small (or sometimes larger) presents with them on their journeys, and if so what would be the best kind of gift. This isn’t a question with a simple answer, so we have written this post to look at the most important aspects.

 

Should you give presents to people in the host country?

We don’t think that arbitrarily giving stuff away is such a good idea. Of course, the intention is good, but receiving a present from an unknown, non-related person, almost as if it were a blessing from heaven, can seem and feel more than a bit strange. It is a loaded gesture that reminds of the patriarchal “rich white”, who acts as a savior and helps the “poor” while at the same time denies them the chance to help themselves.

Carelessly giving things to children has a negative effect!

No matter how good the intentions, random gifts – especially among children – often have the effect of inducing them to beg. Too frequently, even in remote mountain villages, one can hear little kids of preschool age asking for “one pen”, “one chocolate”, “one rupee” or “one bonbon”. Obviously someone in the past (maybe even the very recent past), passed through the region giving away pens, chocolate and other sweets (or simply money) to the children along the way, inadvertently sending the wrong message. In the short term sure, the children are happy, but in the long term this may not have a positive learning effect on the youngsters. On the contrary, their motto becomes a sad one: “I just have to look cute and beg a bit, then I will get presents.” (Not to mention the fact that many children barely brush their teeth, and too many sweets are not exactly beneficial for their dental health… but this is another issue.)

So… no presents?

Well, not necessarily. Gifts are ok, and a very nice gesture to show gratitude. So why not? When we are invited to someone’s house back in our home country, we usually also bring something for the host, or at least something to share with them. You can also do this abroad. Traveling in India often results in spontaneous invitations to tea, dinner or even a big feast. When this happens, one usually has already established some kind of relationship with the host, and so a small gift feels natural. A visit to a school is another appropriate ocassion for this: you can give for example crayons or football balls as a thank you.

Spontaneous invitations while traveling are memorable experiences. A small gift for the host is a nice gesture, but there are no expectations.

In the course of a trip, our guests often develop feelings of camaraderie and gratitude for the team members who support them, and many want to thank them in the end with something more than the customary tip. This is all totally ok, and will certainly bring joy to all parties involved. No need to worry about making a faux pas!

 

But what present to give?

This is a difficult question, because the answer always depends a lot on who you want to give the present to. In most cases you don’t know in advance who you will meet on the way – many encounters are spontaneous  and unplanned. But it is not necessary to bring something all the way from home: in case of need, you can also quickly get small gifts on the spot. This has the extra benefit of strengthening the local economy, and on the other hand it is usually much cheaper than in the home country. In situ, you will know more about what might happen the next day, and your guide will be happy to help you deciding what you could give to the hosts. If you are invited, for example, to a meal with a nomad family, he will advise you to get some fresh fruits and vegetables, as the nomads don’t have easy access to such foods.

As far as children’s gifts are concerned, we find balls, coloring pens, puzzles or other games and far more sensible than sweets. But if the idea is to give something typical from the home country, things like the Mozartkugeln from Austria or Finnish licorice are two good examples. Not only the children but also the parents will be happy to taste them!

 

A ball is a better and more lasting gift for children than chocolate and other sweets.

If you don’t want to bring certain things back home at the end of a trip, you can leave them in the host country too, especially if you think this will make someone happy. A good pair of sunglasses, which you would rather change for a new one, can be given for example to a horse handler in Ladakh, who often suffers from eye irritation due to the intense sun exposure. An old used (but not broken) fleece jacket or hiking pants may also find a very happy new owner. Such gifts are usually extremely well received, because high-quality trekking equipment is, in general, more expensive and harder to get in the host country.

And now the big BUT

Do not worry now about the big gift questions: What should I bring? How much should I bring? Should I plan in advance? There is absolutely no need to worry about it. Planning a trip is in itself already exhausting enough. Gifts are not a must and are usually not expected. If something spontaneous happens and there’s no material token available to give away, a well-intentioned thank-you with a sincere smile is worth at least as much. Because:

The best things about traveling are the unplanned experiences and unexpected situations, and finding new friendships that are not based on gifts and convenience.

The best things about traveling are unexpected, spontaneous encounters. Gifts and presents for the new friends are not necessary.

The best things about traveling are unexpected, spontaneous encounters. Gifts and presents for the new friends are not necessary.




3 changes for the Online-Visa for India

 

The indian government has further liberalised its visa regime aimed at bringing more tourists and business travellers to the country. The new changes came to effect on 1st April 2017. No it is not an april fool 😉 Here are the 3 most important changes regarding the Online-Visa.

 

With the e-Visa it is even easier getting to see the Taj.

 

1. 2 new Visa-categories for travelers

With effect from April 1, e-visa has been sub-divided into 3 categories: e-tourist visa, e-business visa and e-medical visa. Till now, e-visa was only for tourists

 

2. More nationalities & more (air-)ports

E-visa facility has been extended to nationals of 161 countries for entry through 24 airports (Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Chandigarh,Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum & Varanasi). and three ports: Cochin, Goa and Mangalore.

 

3. More time for application & longer duration

The window for application under e-visa scheme has been increased from 30 days to 120 days and duration of stay on e-visa has been increased from 30 days to 60 days with double entry on e-tourist and e-business visa and triple entry on e-medical visa.

 

So what’s keeping you from going to India? Now it is even easier. Go to application for your e-visa: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html




Bhutan has a lot of monastery and not-religious festivals to offer. It is difficult to choose among them all. Our advice: If you have the time/possibility, visit festivals in the off-season. They are very special because they have less foreign visitors. Also travelling in off-season is more cheap than in high season. If you want to travel in high season be prepared to book early as flights and hotelrooms are quickly sold out during that time. Anyhow: The monastery festivals are a special highlight and if you go to Bhutan you should see at least one. 

Bhutan Monastery Festival

Overview: Festivals in Bhutan 2018

 

22.-24. February 2018
Punkha Drubchen in Punakha


25.-27. February 2018
Punakha Tshechu in Punakha


2.-17. March 2018
Chhorten Kora
in Trashiyangtshe


24.-26. March 2018
Gomphukora 
in Trashigang


27.-31. March 2018
Paro Tshechu 
in Paro


27.-29. April 2018
Ura Yakchoe
in Ura (Bumthang)


21.-23. June 2018
Nimalung Tshechu
in Chumey (Bumthang)


23. June 2018
Kurjey Tshechu 
in Choekhor (Bumthang)


15.-18. September 2018
Thimphu Drubchen
in Thimphu


17.-19. September 2018
Wangdue Tshechu in Wangdue Phodrang


19.-21. September 2018
Tamshing Phala Chhoepa in Choekhor (Bumthang)


19.-21. September 2018
Thimphu Tshechu in Thimphu


23.-25. September 2018
Thangbi Mani in Choekhor (Bumthang)


17.-19. October 2018
Chhukha Tshechu in Chhukha


24.-27. October 2018
Jambay Lhakhang Drup in Choekhor (Bumthang)


25.-27. October 2018
Prakhar Duchhoed in Chummey (Bumthang)


11. November 2018
Black Necked Crane Festival in Phobjikha


16.-18. November 2018
Monggar Tshechu in Monggar


16-18. November 2018
Pemagatshel Tshechu in Pemagatshel


6.-9. November 2018
Shingkhar Rabney in Bumthang


7.-9. November 2018
Chhukha Tshechu in Chhukha


17.-19. November 2018
Trashigang Tshechu in Trashigang


23.-25. November 2018
Nalakhar Tshechu in Choekhor (Bumthang)


13. December 2018
Druk Wangyel Tshechu at Dochu La, Thimphu


15.-17. December 2018
Trongsa Tshechu in Trongsa


15.-17. December 2018
Lhuentse Tshechu
in Lhuentse


 

Attention: Please reconfirm all dates – these dates are still tentative!




Monastery festival dates for 2018 in Ladakh

These are the dates for monastery and other festivals/important happenings in Ladakh in the year 2018.
Subject to Change.

January 2018

Spituk Gustor

14,-15. January 2018 in Spituk


February 2018

Dosmochey

13.-14. February 2018 in Leh and Likir


Yargon Tungshak

19.-20. February 2018 in Yarma (Nubra)


Stok Guru Tsechu

24.-25. February 2018 in Stok


March 2018

Matho Nagrang

1.-2. March 2018 in Matho


May 2018

Saka Dawa*

29. May 2018 all over Ladakh


June 2018

Yuru Kabgyad

11-12. June 2018 in Lamayuru


Hemis Tseschu

23.-24. June 2018 in Hemis


Shachukul Gustor

30. June- 01. July 2018 in Shachukul


July 2018

Stonge Gustor

1.-2. July 2018 in Stongde (Zanskar)


Karsha Gustor

11-12. July 2018 in Karsha (Zanskar)


Phyang Tserup

11.-12. July 2018 in  Phyang


Korzok Gustor

15.-16. July 2018 in Korzok (Tsomoriri)


Thakthok Tseschu

22.-23. July 2018 in Sakti


Sani Naro Nasjal

26.-27. July 2018 in Sani (Zanskar)


October 2018

Diskit Gustor

7.-8. October 2018 in Diskit (Nubra)


Thiksey Gustor

27.-28 October 2018 in Thiksey


November 2018

Chemde Angchok

5.-6. November 2018 in Chemde


December 2018

Galdan Namchot**

2. December all over Ladakh


Losar***

8. December all over Ladakh


* Saka Dawa is the most important Tibetan Buddhist festival day – celebrating Shakyamuni Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinirvana!

** Galdan Namchot is celebrated to commemorate Tsongkhapa, a famous teacher of Tibetan Buddhism whose activities led to the formation of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Galdan Namchot also marks the beginning of the new year celebrations in Ladakh.

*** Losar is the New Year. Note that in Ladakh there is a different date for Losar than in Tibet and other tibetan societies.





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To lead a healthier and happier life, one doesn’t necessarily have to visit a therapist or a doctor. According to Ayurveda, there are a few very simple practices that can help you improve your life. You don’t even have to know what your ayurvedic constitution is. If you follow these rules, you will soon notice a massive improvement in your life’s quality.

 

By Daniela Luschin-Wangail

 

10 simple Ayurvedic tips for a better life

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1 Start the day with oil and water

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The first thing you should do after getting up: oil pulling. What is that? Put some oil in your mouth and swill it back and forth for about 10-20 minutes. 20 minutes would be ideal, but modern life sometimes makes this a bit difficult. So simply do it for as long as you can. Then spit it out. The oil removes toxins from the body. You can use different oils: sesame, sunflower or olive oil are all good choices. I personally prefer coconut oil.

While you are oil-rinsing your mouth, you can boil some water and let it cool down. Drink a large cup of boiled, warm water every morning! This helps in two ways: boiled water cleans the body, and it also helps to stimulate the digestive fire. People who have difficulties with a good digestion should especially take this practice to heart.

 

 

2 No snacks between meals

Many people believe that it is better to eat several small meals than a few large ones. The Ayurvedic tradition says otherwise. The Agni (digestive fire) plays a very important role in Ayurveda and it is crucial in a healthy life. The Agni can only burn properly if it doesn’t have to work unceasingly. Give it time enough after every meal to fulfill its task, and don’t put it constantly to test. This means that you should consider a resting/digesting time of about 4 hours after each meal. You’ll be pretty hungry again afterwards. Many people find this very difficult, but practice and routine will make it something natural. If you can’t avoid it, eat something very light, small, such as some nuts, or even better, drink a sweetened tea or milk.

 

3 Fresh, warm & cooked

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Ayurveda is no fan of raw food, because everything that isn’t cooked is usually harder to digest. Many raw food aficionados suffer eventually difficulties with their digestion and are often victims of constipation (those who don’t have a really strong Agni). Especially people who have problems with bowel movements should pay attention to this point and eat as little raw food as possible. In Ayurveda you eat warm, fresh and cooked. Optimally, this should apply to all three meals of the day: a warm porridge for breakfast, for lunch a good satisfying meal made with fresh ingredients, and in the evening something light and warm, for example a soup. The freshness also plays an important role. Ayurveda doesn’t have anything to do with frozen food and microwaves. Use fresh ingredients – preferably seasonal, and from the region, because they’re easier to digest!

 

4 Don’t eat too late

Don’t feed your body too late in the evening. You should take the last meal 3 hours before sleeping. Forget the salad in the evening, which is low on calories but difficult to digest since it’s raw. Also pizza is less than ideal at this time: it is too heavy for the stomach. The best options are soups and light stews! Do not use the following foods in the evening: cheese, yoghurt and sour foods!

 

5 Don’t go too late to bed, and wake up early!

It would be ideal to be in bed by 10 pm at the latest, and depending on how much sleep you need, to get back up 6-8 hours later. According to the Ayurvedic doctrine  the body regenerates itself best between 22 and 2 o’clock in the morning. The sooner we get up, the fresher we start the day! Sleeping too long makes you sluggish, so you shouldn’t exaggerate.

 

6 Savor milk like an expert

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In the western world, milk has recently been put aside or even vilified as the cause of many stomach problems, but in Ayurveda it is still considered a precious nutrient. One needs only to know how to use it and combine it properly, since milk is incompatible with many foods! In many other cultures, not just the Indian one, tradition dictates that milk shouldn’t be mixed with certain other foods. The following foods are not intended to be used together with milk (and milk products):

Fish, meat, salt, leaf vegetables, legumes/beans, fruits, eggs, garlic, mustard.

Think about how many meals we have in which milk (or milk products) are combined with these foods! Pancakes, muesli, fruit yoghurts, banana milkshake, several sauces… the list goes on. And maybe many people who suffer from lactose intolerances owe their intestinal problems to these unfavorable connections only!?

 

7 The right amount

The amount of food you should take depends also on your constitution, but in general it can be said that you should find a good middle ground. Too little can be as bad as too much. Often one speaks of two handfuls as a right quantity. So not really that much.

 

8 Take your time

This applies to many aspects of life, but it plays an important role here: eat in a quiet and pleasant atmosphere. Not standing, and not in a rush! Chew slowly and concentrate on the food. Don’t play on your mobile phone, don’t read the newspaper! Also in everyday life: give yourself time to rest. Moments to do nothing. Just sit down and look around, contemplate. Or go out into the fresh air and just walk and enjoy.

 

9 Treat yourself to a massage

You don’t have to necessarily look for someone else. You can do it yourself. Take a lot of good, slightly warm oil and massage your body and your head (even your hair, do it well). Do not be frugal with the oil, and take plenty of time to do it! Finish it with a shower or take a pleasant bath! You’ll see how good it is for both your body and your soul.

 

10 Meditation

The best time to meditate is usually in the morning, but of course it also works in the evening. Meditate daily – or at least as often as possible. This is time for you, time to disconnect. You don’t have to be a meditation expert. Just sit down, close your eyes, focus on your breathing and nothing else. 20 minutes would be ideal, but every single minute counts.

 

You may not be able to apply all 10 rules to your life right now, but the regular practice of even just a few of them will improve your life quite a lot. Try it!

 

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villageMore Ayurveda?

If you are interested in a more comprehensive Ayurvedic experience, we can fully recommend you a stay in one of our Ayurveda-Resorts in Southern India! There you will learn a lot about yourself and your Ayurvedic constitution, about what is good for you and what isn’t! As an entry into Ayurveda or as a next logical step to improve your life: To the Resorts

 


 




More and more often, parents are daring to travel to Ladakh with their children. And why not? The country has also plenty to offer to small guests. Children actually usually adapt better to the height than their parents – probably because the kids are not thinking about it.

Here are some things that you should do with your children in Ladakh.

 

Our son Emil, just over one year old, on the mountain pass before Lingshed in Zanskar.

Things you should absolutely do when visiting Ladakh with children

Visit the Donkey Sanctuary in Leh

Buy some carrots at the bazaar of Leh and take them with you to the city’s Stray Donkeys home. The animals are always looking forward to children visiting. But a warning: some donkeys can be a bit… boisterous. 😉


Children are like doors into the hearts of people.

Live with farmers

You should absolutely spend at least a few nights in a farm. In the first place, the Ladakhi’s love and care for children is unmatched, and secondly, the kids themselves can romp about the farm and have a really great time!


Get out into nature!

Hiking and exploring

In Ladakh you should always take your children to the mountains and the high plains, let them marvel at the raw nature of this remote land. For children unaccustomed to long walks (or just lazy), you can also rent a pony or a donkey – an adventure in itself!


Even if Ladakh is rather dry, there is enough water to play with (and in)!

Picnic by the water

Always plan some time by the water. Ladakh can be quite hot in the summer, and a few hours next to the water (whether lake, river or small brook doesn’t matter) can do a lot of good both to child and parents: the former can splash and play while the latter rest and relax.


Camping!

Sleeping in a tent

Be sure to go camping for a night or two. Kids love it! Play outdoors during the day and watch the stars at night before sleeping.


Meet and interact with people. Here our son Luis visits the Munsel School – a school for children with mental disabilities.

Discover the world of local children

Children are curious and unbiased. Show them how children live in Ladakh by visiting a local school, a kindergarten or simply a family house.


 

Contact us
Your family trip to Ladakh

We would like to help you arrange your own personalized family trip to Ladakh. As parents of three children (who were already in Ladakh with just a few months of age), we have a lot of experience and suggestions about what to do with kids and what things are better to leave out of the program.




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If you are planning to take a trekking tour for more than a few days in the Himalayan Ladakh, you should carefully consider a couple of things. Choosing the right maps, knowing how to deal with the local people, and even the proper way to do business with horsemen are some of the more specific details you should pay attention to … A logistical challenge that requires proper planning.

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Trekking in Ladakh

When trekking in Ladakh, a good plan is a must. Photo: Martina Scherer / Simon Kraus

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Trekking in Ladakh

If you want to go trekking ON YOUR OWN, consider this:

 

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1 Good maps are hard to find

There are lots of maps of Ladakh (at least in Ladakh itself), but only a few are good enough to use as reference material when trekking. The maps of Editions Olizane are not bad, but they do have their flaws: towns, mountains and rivers are often wrongly named and/or depicted, and so you shouldn’t completely rely on them. In general though, they can be very helpful.

The maps come in three volumes and are quite detailed, which is an advantage for the orientation, but they can be a bit uncomfortable to handle, since you will frequently have to change between the different booklets.

 

 

olizane-nord

Ladakh North


olizane-center

Ladakh Center


olizane-sud

Ladakh South

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2 Backpacks or beasts of burden?

Carrying it all oneself is not a problem for very well trained and equipped people, but for most people it is not easy to do so at such high altitudes. You will rarely hike under 3.500m, and often over 5.000m. This is already a big difference when compared to even weeks-long hikes in the Alps, where the air never becomes so thin. Pack animals can be a great support.

 

horses Ladakh

Getting horses to help with the transport of the luggage is certainly an advantage, but not always a simple task.

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3 Business with horsemen can be complicated

Since demand and supply are mutually dependent, it is often very difficult to get horses (or even donkeys) in the high season (July and August). Many horsemen don’t go under a minimum of 4 horses during this time, because after all they are paid per horse, and don’t get a fixed daily wage for themselves. If the trip really requires just one or two horses, the horseman will increase the price per horse accordingly. The price to be paid is per horse per trekking day, plus an extra for the so-called “return days” of the horseman and his animals. How high the price per horse and per day will be is difficult to say, as this depends highly on (a) both your and the handler’s own negotiating skills, and (b) the total number of horses. Donkeys are cheaper, but also quite stubborn and can cause some problems on the way. In addition to this, every year there are fewer and fewer horse dealers, their work less and less necessary with every new kilometer of motorized route laid, and so they barely make money enough to subsist (especially employment through army falls apart who gave them work throughout the year). By the way, the pony handlers are not greedy or ruthless because they insist on a minimum number of animals during the high season. The season is extremely short and the men try to earn as much as possible while they can, so they can support their families the rest of the year! Please always keep this in mind.

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4 Plan some time for the preparation

If you are thinking to simply fly to Ladakh and arrange everything on the spot, please remember to save the necessary time to properly plan your trip. Just looking for a ponyman can take several days. Even if you’d rather lay the finding of horses into the hands of a local agent, finding them on a short notice may take a long time, especially during the high season.

 

Zelt Ladakh

Tent or homestays? Photo: Markus Brixle

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5 Homestays or tent?

Ladakh is not Nepal: here there are no fully equipped lodges to be found. However, there are plenty of Homestays in the Markha Valley and the Sham Trek, and between Lamayuru and Chilling. It’s possible to find them also in some – but not all – places in Zanskar. It is usually the farmers that provide a few rooms for the travelers. Research and decide yourself well beforehand if you need a tent or not. A camping tent’s weight is something to consider carefully. At the same time, Homestays provide not only a roof, but also food.

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6 Eating on the trail

If you carry your own food, there is a lot more to plan. You will have to get the supplies mainly in Leh, since there is not much of a choice outside the capital. Most places in Ladakh have smaller shops, but in these you can often find only what their owners can’t produce themselves… That means no fresh vegetables or fruits, no flour but salt, sugar, chips, soft drinks, etc.

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7 Don’t count on what the locals tell you

It is naturally a good idea to ask locals about the right way or the distance yet to walk. But please keep in mind that many Ladakhi understand little or no English at all. It is also very common that people here would rather say anything before admitting that they don’t know the answer or did not understand you. And as far as walking time is concerned: a local’s “30 minutes” can turn out to be as much as 2 hours. Play safe and ask 2 or 3 people before you leave, just to be sure.

 

Women Markha Ladakh

The great hospitality of the Ladakhi is part of their culture. Please be fair and don’t take advantage of them!

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8 Be fair and respectful

Time and again we read in trekking blogposts and forums comments how people boast about how little money they spent on their hiking trip from A to B. That they slept and ate for free in some farmer’s house; that they brought their own food and didn’t spend one single rupee; that they did this or that tour and it was all so cheap…  We doubt that this counts as a great achievement. Truth is, on the one hand, that most often these “cheap-hikers” are taking advantage of the hospitality of the locals, a trait that plays an important cultural role due to the remoteness and hardship of the country, and as more and more guests arrive and (maybe unknowingly) exploit this friendliness, the system will soon change. On the other hand, one must also bear in mind that Ladakh does not generate large agricultural yields. That means that if a large number of unannounced travelers make unconcerned use of the locals’ reserves, they will have many difficulties during the long winter… even more when they aren’t even paid and can’t buy new food to replace the one offered to the guests. Tradition dictates that many Ladakhi will always politely reject any payment at first…  regardless, it is considered polite to insist on giving something.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you should refuse the hospitality and invitations of the locals, nor that you can’t benefit from their knowledge, help and general good disposition. Just please be thoughtful, considerate and above all fair to them!

 

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Conclusion


Hiking on your own through the Ladakhi territories, in combination with the rustic authenticity of its homestays, can be a quite charming experience. However, if you are traveling with camping equipment and supplies, and especially without the help of horses or donkeys, the trek will also require a lot of strength and a very good physical condition. We know a few people who have done it, and we admire them very much. But not everyone is made for such a challenge, and you should think carefully while making a decision.

For those who prefer a bit more comfort and/or don’t have enough time to plan a trekking tour on their own, we are at your disposal. Of course 😉

 

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Hinduism is the most important religion in India and the third-largest religion in the world, with around 1 billion adherents. Since Hinduism, with its many traditions and interpretations, countless deities and grandiose philosophies can be overwhelming for both believers and non-Hindus, we have tried to sum up here the most important aspects of the religion.

 

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What Hindus believe

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Hinduism is not an organized religion nor does it have a rigid systematic approach to its doctrine and core values. Unlike the 10 commandments of the Christian Old Testament, Hindus do not have a simple set of rules that they must all follow. Local, regional and caste-related practices also create a myriad of interpretations within the Hindu faith.

Nevertheless, all Hindus are connected by their shared belief in a Supreme Being and the principles of truth, dharma and karma. In all Hindu schools of thought the Vedas – the sacred writings – are the foundation upon which the religion is built, although the scriptures are interpreted in many different ways.

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6 universal principles of Hinduism

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Truth is eternal

Hindus assume that there is such a thing as an eternally valid truth to be followed. According to the Vedas (the Holy Scriptures), there is a universal, eternal truth; however, this one truth can be expressed in different ways.

spaceromBrahman is real and the truth

Hinduism’s Supreme Being is called Brahman and is formless, endless, all-embracing and eternal. Nevertheless, Brahman is not an abstract concept but a real unity of all that exists in the universe (both visible and invisible). So actually Hinduism is not a polytheist religion as believed in the west: Brahman stands above all other Hindu gods!

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The Vedas are the ultimate authority

The Vedas are the scriptures on which Hinduism is based, and contain the revelations of great saints and wise men. Hindus believe that the Vedas have no beginning nor end: even though everything else in the universe will be destroyed in time, the Vedas will remain.

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omEveryone should strive to achieve Dharma

The concept of Dharma is indispensable to understand Hinduism. However, there is no simple word in English to explain it succinctly. Dharma can be described as correct behavior, justice, moral law, and duty.

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The individual sould is immortal

A Hindu believes that the soul of an individual (atman) is neither created nor destroyed: it was, is and will always be. The actions of a soul, while inhabiting a body, will affect their next lives in new bodies. The process by which one individual soul transitions from one body to the next is called transmigration. The new body that a soul receives depends on karma (i.e. their actions during previous lives).

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The goal of an individual soul is Moksha

Moksha is the liberation and the declared goal of an individual soul: the freeing of the soul from the cycle of death and rebirth (aka samsara) by understanding its true nature, and the reunion with Brahman. There are different paths leading to the discovery of truth and thus to the merging with Brahman: the path of duty, the path of knowledge and the path of unconditional devotion.

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…and then sometimes a great idea just falls right into your lap. A few months ago, two Graphic Design students came to us with a special proposition. We were enthusiastic right from the beginning, and so we decided to implement together a somewhat different “photographic journey” within one of our Markha trekking tours.

 

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Who wouldn’t like to bring home beautiful pictures from a trip?

Photo-tours, but not really

by Jakob Spulak and Andreas Felber

Even as ambitious hobby photographers, we were enthusiastic about traveling to distant countries and learning about foreign cultures. That’s the reason we asked ourselves: how come we have never fused our passions and gone on a photo-tour?

The answer to our question was in fact very simple: the main focus of all the previous offers we had checked was (unequally) the photography. Instead of fully enjoying every new impression, one rushes from photoshoot to photoshoot and tries to capture the moments in film (or drive). That’s not why we travel. When we are away in a different country, it is before all to experience its culture and its people.

That’s why we want to offer a kind of photo-tour in which we take part as photographers, and we can directly share our knowledge of photography in a more personal way. We want to move away from the classic photo-workshop style and into one where experience, application and learning adjust and adapt the needs of the individual.

With our own pictures, we will document the journey and capture the experience in all its facets.

In this way the travelers, especially those who have no photographic ambitions, will be able to fully concentrate on the trip and still, after returning home, revisit their impressions alone or share them with friends, by way of unique, professional photos.

We see ourselves as travel companions who would like to share their enthusiasm for photography and who are always happy to help you both with advice and deed to discover and/or develop your own skills. To achieve this goal, nothing is better than a shared adventure.

We look forward to an exciting trip together!

Jakob and Andreas

 

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The country and its people, not the photography, are the main focus

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Practical implementation

How does all this look in practice? In 2017 we want to test the project. Jakob and Andreas will join us for our Markha trek in June. If necessary, they will provide the guests with practical tips, take pictures of the journey and create a photo book that all travel participants will get after the trip. There will be no daily workshops; as we’ve already said, photography is not the focus, but the journey itself. Whoever is especially interested can speak directly with Jakob and Andreas and ask them general or specific questions about composition, exposure time, image resolution and everything else (of course, you can also simply chat with them about life, the weather, the trip… ;)). If on the other hand you are not so interested in taking photos, you can simply consider them fellow travelers and enjoy their beautiful shots, which of course will be available to everyone at the end of the trip. Who else has the opportunity to come back home with professional photos of his travel experiences?

And the best of all: there will be no additional costs for the pilot project in July 2017. Jakob and Andreas fly at their own expense, and because we are so enthusiastic about the idea, we cover their costs once in Ladakh. So what are you waiting for?

 

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The men with the idea

Jakob Spulak

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Since I got my first single-lens reflex camera from my father, when I was about 15 years old, I have been taking pictures with great enthusiasm. After several years working as a nurse and a three-month trip through the remotest regions of Western Nepal, I finally decided to focus on photography and travel. Since September 2015, I have been attending the Photography Class of “Die Graphische” in Vienna.

Within the framework of the photo festival “Horizonte” in Zingst in 2016, I was chosen as one of the Young Professionals and selected to exhibit some of my works.

 

 

Andreas Felber

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Photography has been by my side me all my life. I got my first camera when I was 8. At 15, I began to take pictures of sports and travels with my mother’s old analogue reflex camera. In 2015, after I completed my education as a chemist, I decided to apply to the graphic arts institute “Die Graphische” in Vienna and become a professional photographer.

I have been working with Bettina Plach for some time and in 2015 I was second place in the Photocontest organized by Wiener Linien. This year, I was selected to exhibit a reportage series at the Photovienna 2016 in the MAK (Museum of Applied Art).

 

 

 

graphische_logoWe met in “Die Graphische” and found out that we have the same interests in photography. Above all, it is reportage photography and the traveling itself that appeal to us. Using pictures to capture and convey the impressions and experiences of a journey is one of the most exciting tasks for a photographer. That is why we chose travel photography when implementing our final project.

 

The trip


Markha-Valley-Trekking & Culture
Ladakh
Classic and varied trekking tour in the famous Hemis National Park. Before the trek itself, we’ll discover and marvel at the ancient culture, meet the locals and visit the most beautiful monasteries. Minimum 4 persons.
Date: 30 June to 15 July 2017
Price: 1.290 EUR


 




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Trekking in the Markha Valley is one of the most popular activities in Ladakh. The trail is wonderfully varied in the charms it hides, and can be dealt with in many different ways. We have compiled a few facts you should know before putting your hiking boots on.

 

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8 Facts about Trekking in the Markha Valley

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1 Location

The Markha Trek runs through the Hemis National Park, which is a more or less protected area due to the rare plants and animals that can be found in it. Its most famous inhabitant is the snow leopard, but you will not be able to see it in summer. The chances would be quite good in winter though.

The Markha River gives the trek its name. On the classic route, the 2 most important mountain passes are the Ganda La (4.900m) and the Kongmaru La (4.950m). The Stok mountain range is the defining geological landmark of the park. Around the Nimaling plateau several 6k peaks invite and await to be climbed. In the Markha Valley there are several small villages not yet connected to the road, although there are plans to grant them such access in the near future.

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The Markha trekking route is located in this region. Section from: Trekking in Ladakh. Map by Sonam Tsetan and Henk Thoma.

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2 Variants

The classic route leads from Spituk to Hemis or Martsellang. But we have not hiked this route for a long time, because it is not really interesting since new roads have been constructed. It now leads from Spituk to Zhingchen, and after a break it continues again in Shang Sumdo. Therefore we recommend a shortened version that goes from Zhingchen to Shang Sumdo. Of course, there are many alternatives. It is possible to start in Chilling, which means you can avoid the abrupt increase in altitude at the Ganda La mountain pass, and acclimatise more comfortably. When starting from Stok, it is also possible to extend the trekking slightly adding another mountain pass (Namlung La or Stok La). The end may also vary: some will continue via Matho Phu and Shang Phu and end their trek in Stok; others can decide to turn to Hangkar and hike across the Zalung Karpo La to the land of the nomads; and others still will walk all the way to Zanskar along the Zhunglam variant. This is just to mention a few of the many possible trails available.

The orange dots correspond to the classic route; the blue ones are some of the variants.

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3 Homestay or tent?

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Homestays are a good opportunity to get to know and share with the locals.

The Markha Trek is one of the few treks in Ladakh which allows to spend the nights in homestays. This is particularly recommended for those with a smaller budget, single travelers and/or all those who want to have as much contact as possible with the local people. In any case, it is a special experience that will be remembered. The homestays are not comparable to the lodges in Nepal, which are usually very comfortable. The homestays in the Markha Valley are simple and authentic: houses of real farmers who reserve a few rooms for guests. Therefore – and this can deeply disturb some people – it can sometimes happen that one is bitten by a flea or even a bedbug. Farmers’ lives are closely interwoven with those of their animals, so it’s not surprising that some pests find their way into the house. Showers or even just proper bathrooms are also a very rare commodity. On the Markha Trek, there is a rotation principle among the homestays, that is, you can’t choose your accommodation yourself: you are assigned one according to a fair system.

Homestays are not recommendable for people who give great importance to cleanliness and hygiene, nor for large groups, since only a few homestays are big enough to accommodate them. Also notice that homestays are only available along the classic route.

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4 Best time

The high season at the Markha Trek spans the summer months of July and August. Many people complain nowadays that the routes are somehow overcrowded, but that depends a bit on the where and when you start. On some occasions, many large groups start at the same time and in the same place as you; some other days, you can be one between just a few travelers. On the trail itself things are different, because every person has a different hiking speed and not everyone walks the same route or spends the night in the same camp. Nevertheless, we can recommend the Markha Trek especially for the months of June and September; during this time there are fewer people on the road. In any case, the trek is wonderfully charming the whole year… we love especially September and the mesmerizing changing colors of the fields and trees. There is always the possibility to go the Markha Trek outside the months June-September. You simply have to pack something warmer.

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5 Horses, porters or alone?

Which option is the best depends of course of each individual traveler. Most people need help when transporting their luggage while trekking in Ladakh, since walking at such high altitudes is considerably harder than at home, even with a very light backpack. Therefore, these people will need horses or porters. But if you are confident and, for example, choose to spend the nights at a Homestay instead of camping, you may be able to carry your luggage yourself. It is naturally more difficult if you have a tent and provisions. Then you will probably need some help. Horses are recommended for proper trekking tours, in particular if the party includes a cook. Since it is hardly possible to find a horse handler who agrees to go on a trek with less than 4 horses*, this option can be too much for people traveling without crew or people sleeping in homestays. For such travelers, the better option is to hire porters.

*To be clear: horse handlers charge per horse and per trekking day, so going on a trip with just one horse is usually not good business… understandably, since they have to earn enough during the short summer months to maintain their families in winter. It has nothing to do with being greedy.

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6 Markha for climbers

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Dzo Jongo West

The region around the Nimaling plateau, blessed with several imposing 6k peaks, can be considered a paradise for mountaineers. Many of these mountains are also well-suited for the less experienced climbers: Dzo Jongo, Tasken Ri, Regoni Mallai Ri and, of course, the prominent Kangyatse, are probably the most famous. You can find more information about ascents in the Nimaling region on the homepage of Harmut Bielefeldt (this website is only available in german), who visited us in 2014 in company of his wife, child and friends, and has already conquered numerous summits.

For those who have the Stok Kangri in their sights, the Markha Trek is recommended as an acclimatization tour. The increase in altitude can also be achieved steadily and without interruptions via Shang Phu and Matho Phu.

 

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7 Physical condition

We have classified this trekking tour as moderate. In any case the high altitude is an important factor to consider, because walking at such heights can be particularly exhausting. At an appropriate pace, however, it shouldn’t represent a problem for anyone in good physical condition. You should be able to walk between 4 and 8 hours a day. However, the stages can also be adapted to the conditions of the individual hikers, and we have even undertaken trekking tours in the Markha Valley with children.

If you are looking for something more challenging, you can for example start with the Markha Valley classic trail and then turn towards Changthang or Zanskar. There are also alternative and harder routes that will require more from you, or you can simply plan longer stages according to your own stamina.

 

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8 The right contact for your trekking tour in the Markha Valley

Well, of course we won’t lose the opportunity to promote ourselves a bit. We have already done so many trekking tours that start, end or run inside the Hemis National Park, that there’s not much we couldn’t tell you. As a summer or a winter trip; as a homestay tour or a fully equipped camping one; for lone travelers or large groups; with or without expeditions; along the classic route or off the beaten path… We know what we’re talking about, trust us. You can contact us anytime, no matter if you have basic questions or have already decided to take the Markha Valley tour: Contact

 

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Our affordable and popular Markha Trek

Markha Valley Trek & Culture Feeling
Ladakh

Classic and diverse Trekkingtour in the famous Hemis National Park.
Group Trip: between 4 and 10 participants.
Individual Trip: starting from 1 person, on date request.

 

Several dates available. Also possible to arrange dates individually.

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Some people consider it madness. For others, its call is irresistible. The Ladakh Marathon is the ultimate challenge for runners. At such altitudes, achieving the same level of performance as one is used to back home is not an easy task. But with the proper preparation the task is both quite feasible and an unforgettable experience.

 

 

 

The highest marathon in the world

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The Ladakh Marathon is one of the highest and toughest marathons in the world and represents a particular challenge for even experienced runners. The still relatively young Ladakh Marathon is since 2015 a full member of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), and it is also slowly becoming a usual guest in international sports magazines. The Ladakh Marathon is certainly one of the most beautiful and impressive runs in the world.

Overall, the Ladakh Marathon includes 4 runs:

 

7km RUN: LADAKH FOR FUN

Although it is the shortest run, running 7 km at an altitude of 3.500 m can be quite demanding for anyone that hasn’t acclimatized properly. Of all four events, this one has the highest number of participants: many Ladakhi children, older people, military personnel stationed in Leh, and curious tourists take part in the race.

 

HALF MARATHON

The half marathon runs through Leh and its surroundings. It starts at the beautiful Shanti Stupa, from where one has a beautiful view over the whole industrial area. The goal is located in the Ladakh Public School. For all those runners who are taking part of the event for the first time, and must therefore get used to the altitude, the street layout and other details, maybe this is the best option, leaving the full marathon for the following year.

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MARATHON

The Ladakh Marathon is the highest AIMS certified marathon in the world. It starts and ends in Leh, but it leaves the city and leads out into the Indus Valley, also crossing the river several times. This race is a special challenge for long-distance runners, which will remember it for a long time. With the appropriate acclimatization in advance, good results can also be achieved.

 

KHARDUNG LA CHALLENGE

If you’re looking for an even more challenging race, the Khardung La Challenge is your Ultramarathon. A crazy track for elite runners who want to test their stamina, it starts in the village of Khardong in Nubra at 3.900 m of altitude. From there you run uphill to the Khardung La mountain pass (5.360 m!), and then back downhill to Leh (3.500 m), where the race ends after 71.12 km.

If that doesn’t scare you 😉 and you want a detailed description from someone that already took part in the Khardung La Challenge, you can read this blogpost by Edmund Bitterli, from Switzerland.

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Good preparation is key

Taking part in the Ladakh Marathon, however, makes sense only if you are really adjusted to the altitude. If you go to Leh (3.500 m) just one day in advance, and expect to run the following one, you’ll be lucky to even get to the start line. The longer you adjust to the altitude in advance, the more likely the chances to enjoy the experience and achieve a good performance, or at least to simply end the run. As a matter of fact, our body needs about 3 weeks to be fully acclimatized. Obviously, not many people have so much time, but the point is: every day counts.

You can prepare in advance: trekking tours, planned ascents and descents to optimally prepare the body, mountain climbing, test runs, etc. If you need help arranging and organizing a proper training program, we are at your disposal. Contact us: daniela@gesar-travel.com

 




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When hearing the word Ayurveda, many people automatically think about relaxing oil massages and traditional sitar and tabla sounds in the background. Something soul-cleansing, the touch of expert hands and soothing music caressing a tired body and a stress-riddled mind. No one thinks of enemas, strict diets or full-time schedules and long lists of rules. That’s certainly not as romantic, but Ayurveda is so much more than just a wellness program. It is a guide for life. A whole philosophy.

ayurveda-script

Ayurveda is a composite term formed by combining two Sanskrit words: Ayus and Veda. Ayus means and accounts for life, while Veda represents knowledge. Ayurveda then can be translated as “the science of life”, and it is a method and a way to live happily and healthy. Ayurveda is much more than just a few oily strokes on a tense back: it is a complex and detailed program that leads to a better and healthier lifestyle.

Ayurveda is also not an esoteric humbug made up just to trick a few euros out of gullible purses, but one of the oldest sciences in the world, fully dedicated to pursue human health and both understand and eradicate disease. Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to health, and comprises all the many aspects of human well-being:  physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

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Kapha . Pitta . Vata

3 Principles of Life

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Man is defined by three doshas (life principles). These three doshas are organized in a personalized way for each individual human being. Usually one or two doshas are more dominant or pronounced, but sometimes all three may be influential in approximately the same manner. The human being is healthy when the three doshas are in balance. This equilibrium, however, does not mean that all three are equally strong: each person has his or her own Prakriti – a natural constitution or state, a personal balance – which must be maintained. If one or more doshas become unbalanced, the person becomes ill, and one speaks of the Vikriti – a state of disease – which is to be treated.

The three doshas are called Kapha, Pitta and Vata and each is characterized by different properties and principles. They are also determined by the 5 elements.

• Kapha: principle of stability/structure; Elements: earth + water
• Pitta: principle of fire/mutability; Elements: water + fire
• Vata: principle of motion; Elements: air + ether

To determine the constitution of an individual is a very complicated matter, which requires a very precise and long anamnesis, and one should therefore turn to an experienced person. Nevertheless, it is possible to find several “ayurvedic” questionnaires on the internet that claim accuracy despite comprising just a few generic questions. The results of such online tests are at the very least questionable, but sometimes it can be fun to play …

 

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Diet: Food is medicine

In Ayurveda, the diet plays a very important role. “You are what you eat” is one of its highest principles. Through our diet we are able to keep our doshas balanced, and when the diet is inappropriate the equilibrium between them is lost and we become ill. For example, a Pitta personality, which is basically a person very much determined by the element fire, will get eventually problems if she regularly eats very spicy food.

All food can be described and categorized according to the 6 fundamental tastes (rasas):

•sweet
•salty
•sour
•astringent
•bitter
•pungent/spicy

Kapha should focus on astringent, bitter, and spicy foods and omit sweet, salty and sour ones.

Pitta should swerve away from salty, sour, and spicy foods, and focus on those sweet, bitter and astringent.

Vata in turn can eat sweet, sour and salty without problems, and should minimize consumption of the other three.

But since we are often also mixed types, it is not always so simple, and we need help from an expert. Or you have to learn to properly listen to your own body. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten how to do that.

 

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Quick tips for a better life

Although Ayurveda advises against generalizations, there are a few commonplace rules that can do a lot of good:

•eat with a plan, not randomly
•eat again only after the last meal has been properly digested (approx. 4 hours)
•lunch should be the most important meal of the day, since the digestive tract works at its best at this time
•eat calmly and focus your mind on the food
•do not eat more than two handfuls
•warm, cooked, fresh food is always preferable to cold, raw food
•drink boiled, lukewarm water (do not drink cold water)
•never eat too late (at least 2-3 hours before going to bed)
•the dinner should be light and easily digestible (no raw food in the evening)
•do not go to sleep too late – the body recovers better between 22:00 and 2:00 o’clock in the morning
•no daytime sleep (resting is ok)

We would like to continue giving you some ayurvedic tips in the next few blog posts. So check back often, or follow us on Facebook, where you can be instantly notified whenever we publish a new tip! Follow us on Facebook!

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More Ayurveda & Yoga

ai7a4800Take a look at our Ayurveda and Yoga resorts, where you can get professional support on your way to a healthier and happier life. These are not mere wellness temples, but well-run resorts with authentic Ayurveda treatments and Yoga classes. You can be confident you will be in good hands.

To our Ayurveda- & Yoga-Resorts




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It is time for planning your holiday for 2017. If you always wanted to go to Bhutan, you can think about that as well. To visit a monastery festival is a must for many travellers to Bhutan, so it is important to know the dates of those festivals. Here you find a list of the monastery festivals 2017 in Bhutan, as well as some special events and festivals outside of monasteries. 

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Monastery festivals in Bhutan 2017

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Punakha Drubchen: 4.-6. March 2017

Punakha Dzong, Punakha


Punakha Tshechu: 7.-9. March 2017

Punakha Dzong, Punakha


Tharpaling Thongdrol: 12. March 2017

Tharpaling Lhakhang, Chummi, Bumthang


Chhorten Kora: 11. + 26. April 2017

Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtshe


Gomphukora Gom: 4.-6. April 2017

Kora Lhakhang, Trashigang


Talo Tshechu: 4.-6. April 2017

Talo Gonpa, Punakha 4th –6th April


Gasa Tshechu: 3.-6. April 2017

Gasa Dzong, Gasa


Zhemgang Tshechu: 4.-7. April 2017

Zhemgang Dzong, Zhemgang


Paro Tshechu: 7.-11. April 2017

Rinpung Dzong, Paro


Chhukha Tshechu: 9.-11. April 2017

Chhukha Dzong, Chhukha


Rhododendron Festival: 14.-16. April 2017

Lamperi Botanical Garden, Dochula, Thimphu


Domkhar Tshechu: 5.-7. May 2017

Domkhar, Chummi, Bumthang


Ura Yakchoe: 7.-10 May 2017

Ura Lhakhang, Bumthang


Nimalung Tshechu: 1.-3. July 2017

Nimalung Dratshang, Chummi, Bumthang


Kurjey Tshechu: 3. July 2017

Kurjey Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang


Haa Summer Festival: 5. July 2017

Haa


Mushroom Festiva: 15.-16. August 2017

Genekha, Thimphu


Masutaki Mushroom Festival: 23.-14. August 2017

Ura, Bumthang


Tour Of The Dragon (Radrennen): 2. September 2017

Bumthang nach Thimphu


Thimphu Drubchen: 26.-29. September

Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu


Wangdue Tshechu: 29. September-2. October 2017

Tencholing Army Ground, Wangduephodrang


Gangtey Tshechu: 3.-5. October 2017

Gangtey Gonpa, Phobjikha, Wangduephodrang


Tamshing Phala Chhoepa: 29. September-01. October 2017

Tamshing Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang


Thimphu Tshechu: 30. September – 2. October 2017

Tashi Chhodzong, Thimphu


Thangbi Mani: 4.-6. October 2017

Tangbi Lhakhang, Choekor, Bumthang


Jumolhari Mountain Festival: 14.-15. October 2017

Dangochong, Thimphu


Jakar Tshechu: 29.-31. October 2017

Jakar Dzong, Choekhor, Bumthang


Dechenphu Tshechu: 30. October 2017

Dechenphu Lhakhang, Thimphu


Jambay Lhakhang Drup: 3.-7. November 2017

Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang


Prakhar Duchhoe: 4.-6. November 2017

Prakar Lhakhang, Chummi, Bumthang


Black Necked Crane Festiva: 11. November 2017

Gangtey Gonpa, Phobjikha, Wangduephodrang


Mongar Tshechu: 26.-28. November 2017

Mongar Dzong, Mongar


Pemagatshel Tshechu: 26.-28.November 2017

Pemagatshel Dzong, Pemagatshel


Trashigang Tshechu: 27.-29. November 2017

Trashigang Dzong, Trashigang


Jambay Lakhang Singye Cham: 3. December 2017

Jambay Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang


Nalakhar Tshechu: 3.-5. December 2017

Ngaa Lhakhang, Choekhor, Bumthang


Druk Wangyel Tshechu: 13. December 2017

Dochula, Thimphu


Trongsa Tshechu: 26.-28. December 2017

Trongsa Dzong, Trongsa


Lhuentse Tshechu: 26.-28. December 2017

Lhuentse Dzong, Lhuentse


Nabji Lhakhang Drup: 2.-4. January 2018

Nabji Lhakhang, Nabji, Trongsa


 

This tour might be interesting for you

DSC_4939Bhutan: Culture & Hiking with monastery festivals

An impressive journey with a lot of cultural insight, inclusive of Paro monastery festival and many wonderful day hikes. But you will stay each night in a hotel; no camps; max. 10 pax.

Programme not yet available in english!
Date: 08.-22. April 2017
Price: 3.390 EUR

 




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Anyone who speaks a few words in the language of the traveler’s destination, will be warmly welcomed. Of course this is also true for Bhutan. It will take some time to learn a few words in Dzongkha – the national language of Bhutan – and maybe some pronounciations will be difficult for foreign tongues but we guarantee it is worth it. And at the end we “torment” you with only 20 phrases 😉

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The 20 most important phrases in Dzongkha

Kuzuzangpola.
Hello!


Kadrinchhey.
Thank you.


Me Zhu.
No thank you!


Zhey!
Please eat/drink.


Tashi Delek.
Good luck!


Zhimbay.
It is delicious.

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For bhutanese it is especially “zhimbay” if the meal contains a lot of chillies.


Na gi tshen gachi mo?
What is your name?


Nge gi ming … ein.
My name is … .


Chhoe gatey ley mo?
From where are you?


Nga … ley ein.
I am from … .


Log jaygay!
Good bye!


Lam gatey jo mo?
Where is this way leading to?

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Es ist immer gut zu wissen, wohin der Weg am Ende führt.


Tharingsa inna?
Is it far?


Gaday bay zhui?
How are you?


Legshom.
I am fine.


Nga nau mey.
I am sick.


Chhabsa gatey mo?
Where is the toilet?


Ani ga chi mo?
What is it?

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The people of Bhutan are extremely hospitable. And talking a few words in their mother tongue will make them happy.


Ani gadem chi mo?
How much is it?


Nga Druk gai.
I like Bhutan.


 

 

 




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It is always good to speak a few words in the language of your host’s country. Ladakhi – the language of the people of Ladakh – isn’t that easy to learn, but on the other hand you do not have to know it perfectly. It is enough to speak a few words and you will quickly make friends. Also you show by speaking a few words in Ladakhi that you appreciate the host’s culture. 

 

The 20 most important words and phrases in Ladakhi

 

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Especially Ladakhi, who do not know English, really appreciate if someone knows a few words in Ladakhi.

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JULLEY  [dschu-leh]
The most powerful word of the ladakhi language. It is so much more than one word in english. It means:
HELLO, BYE, THANK YOU, PLEASE.  A simple, yet strong word to build friendships. 


KHAMSANG-IN-A-LEY? [or short: khamsang-ley?]
How are you? Note: The suffix “ley” at the end of a sentence makes everything sound a bit more polite. You can use it as often as you like! You can not do anything wrong with it!


KHAMSANG-LEY!
I am fine.


DON-LEY!
Please eat/take! Especially when invited by ladakhi families you will hear this term very often. It is part of the ladakhi etiquette to “force” their guests to eat/drink.

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The Ladakhi are great hosts and like to spoil their guests.


MAN-LEY.
No, thanks!


D(r)IK-LEY.
It is enough!


DANGS-LEY.
I am full.


O-LEY.
Yes, please.


TSAPIK-LEY.
A little bit, please.


SHIMPO RAK-LEY!
It is delicious.

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Many dishes in Ladakh are “ma shimpo” – very delicious. Photo: Preparing of Momos.


NYERANGI-MING CHI IN-LEY?
What is your name?


NGE-MING … IN-LEY.
My name is …


NYERANG KANE IN-LEY?
From where are you?


NGA Germany/Austria/Switzerland-NE IN-LEY.
I am from Germany/Austria/Switzerland.


KULE-KULE!
Slowly-slowly!

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Especially during treks it is important to walk “kule-kule”.


NGA GO-A ZUMO RAK.
I have headache.


NGA TODPA-A ZUMO RAK.
I have tummy ache.


NGA TUTU-A ZUMO RAK.
I have throat pain.


LAM (place)-A KANE INOK-LEY?
Where is the way to (place)?


(LADAKH)MAA LDEMO DUK-LEY.
(Ladakh) it is beautiful.

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It is not diffult to use the phrase “demo duk-ley”, as Ladakh is at many places very beautiful.


 




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When entering a Tibetan Buddhist monastery for the first time, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed by the incredible variety of Buddhas, bodhisattvas and deities – some angry, some peaceful, and all almost always very colorful. But who is who and how can we distinguish the individual personalities from each other? There are usually some very clear attributes, symbols and colors that help identify the Buddha or deity in front of us. We’ll tell you here how to recognize the 10 most significant figures of Tibetan Buddhism.

 

(c) Roland Amon

The painting of Buddhist figures is subject to strict formal rules. Artistic freedom is in this case virtually inexistent. © Roland Amon

 

10 Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and deities

We have made a selection of Tibetan Buddhism figures which can be found in almost all Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and temples, no matter if in Tibet, Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan or Nepal. Some play a greater role in a specific school of Tibetan Buddhism, while others share a similar importance in all schools. They all have in common, though, that they are relatively easy to identify.

 

1. Buddha Shakyamuni – the historical Buddha

shakyamuni

Who is this? Buddha Shakyamuni is the historical Buddha, who lived around 600 BC and is considered the founder of the Buddhist religion.

How can I tell? Buddha Shakyamuni’s representations are usually scarcely decorated and show him scantily dressed. The hair is typically blue and the head is surrounded by an enlightenment aura. He is depicted in meditation posture (Dhyanasana) and holding a begging bowl in his left hand. The right hand touches the ground (a mudra called Bhumisparsa or “calling the earth to witness” = Buddha has called the earth as a witness of his inexorable path to enlightenment). His two favorite students flank him on his right and left side

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2. Buddha Maitreya – the future Buddha

Maitreya

Who is this? Buddha Maitreya is the future Buddha. In Buddhism there are 5 “earthly” Buddhas, each associated with one of the 5 ages (Kala) of the world. Buddha Shakyamuni is the earthly Buddha of the fourth and present age. Buddha Maitreya is the final earthly Buddha, expected to appear during the 5th Kala. In his function as great teacher of mankind, he will supposedly lead humanity back to Buddhism.

How can I tell? Maitreya is easy recognizable by his posture from – he sits in “European posture”, with both feet on the ground. From this position one can quickly stand up and rise – a symbol of what is to come. In some occasions he is also represented standing up, waiting his time. Additionally, he usually wears a crown and is entwined with flowers. The associated mudra (hand gesture) is the Dharmacakra – the gesture which stands for the turning of the wheel of knowledge (in Buddhism, the wheel is also a symbol for teaching).

 

 

 3. Avalokiteshvara – Bodhisattva of compassion

Avalokiteshvara

Who is this? Avalokiteshavara (Tibetan: Chenrezig) is the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who out of compassion don’t go into Nirvana, but instead stay back and help others to find salvation. The Dalai Lama is regarded as a manifestation of Avalokithesvara.

How can I tell? There are 108 (this is a sacred number in Tibetan Buddhism) different manifestations of Avalokiteshvara. However, the most common mode of representation is the shown above, with 11 heads and 1000 arms. On the palms of each of the 1000 hands you can see the eye of compassion. Its main distinguishing feature is Amitabha Buddha, pictured in his crown or as the last face at the top of the highest of his 11 heads.

 

 

4. Manjushri – Boddhisattva of wisdom

Manjushri

Who is this? Manjushri is the bodhisattva of wisdom and literature. As expected then, he holds great significance for scholars and students, who call and pray to him requesting gifts of knowledge and memory.

How to recognize him? The Bodhisattva is very easy to recognize thanks to his sword. The sword is a symbol of wisdom: with it, the ties of ignorance are cut. Another important symbol is the book by his side, resting on a lotus flower.

 

 

5. Mahakala – the guardian

mahakala

Who is this? Mahakala is among the Dharmapalas or “Defenders of the doctrine”. These are actually ghosts, demons and deities belonging to the old Tibetan tradition that have been converted or adapted from Padmasambhava (see below) to Buddhism. You can recognize them by their wrathful representations. Mahakala tantamounts to the Hindu deity Shiva.

How can you tell? Well, this is not always easy, since there are 75 different manifestations of Mahakala. He is, however, usually standing up. In the front left hand he holds a skull cup and in the right one the Vajra cleaver, with which he cuts through all the negative, materialistic attitudes. In the two back hands he carries a tricorn and a goad. He wears a tiger skin and a belt made of heads, and stands on two outstretched smaller versions of himself. Mahakala has three eyes and carries a 5-skull crown that represents the transformation of the mental poisons of hatred, greed, pride, envy and ignorance. These gruesome attributes symbolize his tireless determination to redeem himself.

 

 

6. Tara – female deity

Green_Tara

Green Tara

 

 

white-tara

White Tara

Who is this? Tara (Tibetan: Dolma) is a female Bodhisattva. There are five variations of her: green, white, blue, red and yellow. She is considered a great protector that guards people against the eight major dangers in life: pride, delusion, anger, jealousy, wrong views, greed, desire and doubt.

How do you recognize her? The Taras differ primarily by their different foot placement. For example, while the white Tara sits in meditation posture, the green Tara’s right foot rests on a small lotus flower. Also, in the white Tara, we can see the open eye of compassion on her forehead, her palms and her soles. Another symbols that we can find are the full-blown white lotus (representing the day) or the blue closed lotus (representing the night). The hands, both with their palms outwards, point in opposite directions: the right one down (a giving, conceding gesture), and the left one up (a gesture that grants protection).

 

 7. Padamsambhava – Guru Rinpoche

gururinpoche

Who is this? Padmasambhava (the lotus born), also called Guru Rinpoche, is the historically tangible founder of Tibetan Buddhism. He is considered the founder of the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma school, but is nevertheless of great importance for all the other schools too.

How do you recognize him? There are eight different forms, the most common of them being fairly easy to recognize: he is depicted sitting with a special hat with upturned ear flaps and a spring at the top. As hardly anyone else in Tibetan iconography, Guru Rinpoche is pictured with a beard. In his left hand he holds a blood-filled skull-cup and in the right the Vajra (Sanskrit: thunderbolt and/or diamond). With his left elbow he holds a magic wand, which tip is usually a flaming trident.

 

8. Palden Lhamo – female guardian

paldenlhamo

Who is this? Palden Lhamo is an old Tibetan female guardian deity. She is the only female deity of the 8 Dharmapalas. She is worshiped in particular by the yellow hat monks of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, and is considered the patron saint of Lhasa and the Dalai Lama. She is the wrathful manifestation of Tara.

How can you tell? Palden Lhamo is pictured riding on a mule through a sea of blood. She is black and blue, with sagging breasts, flaming eyebrows and a mustache (not very feminine J). In her hand she carries a cup made of her child’s skull, who was the product of an incestuous act. She is also surrounded by the loops of a string made with 15 severed heads. In her navel we can see a bright sun disc.

 

9. Tsongkhapa – founder of religion

tsongkhapa

Who is this? Tsongkhapa is also a documented historical figure. He is the founder of the last of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism: Gelug.

How can you tell? Tsongkhapa is very easy to recognize – he wears the yellow hat reserved for the Gelugpa, his hands make the gesture of Dharmacakra-Mudra (The Turning Wheel of Doctrine), and on his right and left sides we can find, respectively, the sword (a symbol of wisdom) and the book, supported by two lotus flowers.

 

10. Vajrapani – Bodhisattva of power

vajrapan

Who is this? Vajrapani is the Bodhisattva of power, one of the three main protective deities surrounding the Buddha, and is often represented in conjunction with the other two: Avalokiteshvara (compassion) and Manjushri (wisdom).

How can you tell? Vajrapani is usually depicted as a wrathful Dharmapala. He wears a crown and a tiger skin, and has a lasso in his left hand with which he captures and ties the adversaries of Buddhism. In his right hand he carries the Vajra (Tibetan: Dorje). His figure is surrounded by flames.

 

 

These tours with focus on buddhism might be interesting for you


lamayuru

Basics of Ladakh
Cultural trips with dayhikes
Our starter’s travel for those who do not know Ladakh and would like to visit the classic highlights and some insider spots within a relatively short time. Impressive dayhikes put the little extra to this marvelous tour.
On date request also possible for single persons
Best time: June-October


Mystic Ladakh
A travel to the spiritual roots
During this tour you are not only visiting monasteries but also special spiritual places and people like oracles, shamans and healers, who have a deep connection to their religion and important functions.
On date request also possible for single persons
Best time: June-October


Culture & Hiking in Sikkim
Cultural tour with dayhikes
This travel is ideal to get to know the former kingdom of Sikkim and the colonial town Darjeeling. Beautiful accomodations combines with impressive cultural sites and memorable day hikes.
On date request also possible for single persons
Best time: March-May & October-December