Kashmir Photography Tour 001: CAPTURING THE HIMALAYAN VALE
Paradise On Earth photo tour is set in the beautiful mountainous area of India, set deep within the Himalayan mountains on its frontier with Pakistan, China and Tibet. The landscape is spectacular, with snow-capped mountains surrounding the Dal lake, on which houseboats are now floating hotels. The people of Kashmir are traders, artists and carpet-makers of great skill, creating intricate tapestry and fabrics. The floating city of Srinagar is the tour base, from which we will set forth by small boats to photograph the scenery and the snow capped mountains. We will explore the markets, meet the people of Kashmir and journey to the nearby villages, vales and mountain passes. This objective of this photo tour is to help serious & amateur photographers, with an interest in photojournalism and documentary photography and to refine their skills with an increased commitment to photography, visual storytelling and to documenting Kashmir through their lens.
What the itinerary doesn’t tell you is the time you will spend together as a team. What makes us distinct from other tours is our small group size and emphasis on relationships. Everyone comes to a tour like this with different experiences, different needs, and different learning styles. During the week our time spent in Kashmir will involve extensive fieldwork shooting stories in Srinagar (and beyond), one on one portfolio reviews, panel discussions, and working dinners. Our photo expert travels with you, shoot with you, and remain accessible the entire time you’re together to answer questions and meet your specific needs as you learn your craft.
Our initial days in Srinagar will be spent on its Islamic character, such as the Sufi centers of Shahi Hamdan & Hazratbal, as well as the remnants of the Zain-Al-Abidin Sultanate, such as the Juma Masjid.
» Day 01: Arrive in Srinagar
On your arrival in Srinagar, you will be transferred to the houseboats. The day will be spent in complete leisure as you take on to the breathtaking views of the surroundings. All meals and overnight stay at houseboats.
» Day 02: Local photo tour: Hazratbal market, Jama Masjid and Shrine of Shah – Hamdan
After a hearty breakfast, we will paddle across the lake to board our vehicles and drive to the famous Islamic centers of Srinagar city. We first visit the magnificent Hazratbal shrine, which has a superb view of the lake as well as the mountains looking at you. The shrine is the most sacred place for muslims all over the state as it houses a relic of the Holy Prophet. We can photograph the bazaar adjoining to the shrine which is quite mesmerizing due to its daily businesses. Later we will drive to visit the great Jama Masjid located at the center of the old city. Built in the early 15th century by the local kings of Kashmir, the mosque is a great example of pre-Islamic architecture. The reason being that when the state of Kashmir was converted into a muslim majority, the first great mosque did not get the idea of a dome structure and hence was built very much like the Hindu and Christian styled religious structures. Next in line is the great shrine of Shah-Hamdan who came to the valley in 14th century from Persia (Present day Iran). Shah-Hamdan also known in Kashmir as Amir-E-Kabir locally was the person from whom the entire population got converted to Islam and as such holds a special reverence to even the commonest peasant. The shrine is painted in green and inside has a special place where the great saint sat and worshipped. The shrine is located on the banks of the Jehlum River which gives a great variety of photo options. Our tour will be wrapped with a drive through the old city, before arriving to our houseboats for a warm cup of evening tea. Dinner and overnight in houseboats.
» Day 03: Hike to Shankaracharya & Pari Mahal & Mughal Gardens
Today we will begin with a drive to the famous Shankaracharya temple. The drive uphill goes through a dense forest, and has some clearences between trees, which gives us an immense area of photo ops. Later we will visit the temple and then drive to the other famous landmark known as Pari Mahal. The ruined palace, built by erstwhile Mughal dynasty, is perched on a small hill overlooking the lake and the world famous Royal Springs golf course. The last leg of today’s trip will take you to the famous Mughal gardens known as Nishat and Shalimar. Both the gardens are associated with Emperor Jehangir and offer a wide variety of natural topography such as: well laid flower gardens, huge trees, water channels, mountain backdrops and front side lake views. After a day of well spent photo tour we will drive back to the houseboats.
» Day 04: Srinagar street photography
We will drive to Zainakadal today. The street of Zainakadal lies in the old part of the city and is famous for its old houses, markets and local life. The houses here are more then five hundred years old and have an interesting architecture mixed with strong foundations. Special at Zainakadal is the spice market where more then 100 herbs and spices are sold in huge numbers everyday. As you walk in the narrow lanes, you will experience local people buying and selling various things such as: spices, wedding trousseaus, , shawls, shoes, and what not. The area, even more so than the rest of the city, is very congested. This is also a good area for window shopping. It is also known for authentic kashmiri food particularly the local delicacies known as wazwan, which mostly comprises of Non vegertarian foods.
After we explore the old part of street sightseeing, we will drive back to the houseboats. After lunch, we will take a shikara ride to the backwaters of the lake. The backwaters of the Dal lake has a number of canals, and intricate water ways from where a good number of photographs can be taken. Birdlife in the lake includes: kingfishers, white geese, eagles, ducks, partridges etc. After a well-spent 2 or 3 hrs of boat safari you will paddle back to the boats. Overnight in houseboats.
» Day 05: Day trip to Naranag and Kullan overnight. (66 km / one side)
After breakfast in the morning, we will drive to the famous temple complex of Naranag situated at a distance of 50 km from the city center. The temple complex called Naranag evokes awe and is a photographer’s delight. The temple complex was built earlier in the 08th century and added over the following centuries by many Hindu kings who visited it. The place has a commanding view over the whole valley. The complex is dedicated to Lord Shiva, but you can also see a temple dedicated to Bhairva. The temples are built of grayish granite found in abundance in the neighborhood and their different architectural entities as evidently prove that they are of a different era. These temples are built of grayish granite found in abundance in neighborhood and their different architectural entities as evidently prove that they are of a different era. The first group consists of seven temples, the largest temple of the group has two entrances opposite to each other in north-east and south-west direction. The temple is built of huge rectangular stones laid in dry masonry with inter locking system. The interior is square and ceiling is domical built of horizontal kanjur stones and the apex stone crowned by a full blown lotus. After we explore the temple complex, we will drive to our overnight camp at Kullan, just below Sonamarg. The camp landscape provides a wonderful scene of photo options. Evening at leisure. Dinner and overnight in camp.
» Day 06: Drive back to Srinagar: (145 km)
After breakfast in the morning, we will drive to Sonamarg for some last day photography in this lovely mountain resort. The landscape resembles closely to Ladakh, with only the difference of lush green forests making it a mix of both Kashmir and Ladakh. This valley is quite unique because it gives a wide choice of photo ops as well as the untouched virgin feel to a visitor. After we explore the area, we will drive back to Srinagar. In Srinagar, you can opt to stay at the boats or take a walk down the boulevard to do some more photo sessions on the road. Dinner and overnight in houseboats.
» Day 07: Depart Srinagar
After breakfast, you will paddle across and board your vehicles for the airport.
Geographic Photo Tour – A journey to your deeper senses!
Jeep Safari in Himalayas
This is the best and the most arduous of our Indian journeys, this Expedition is equally rich in spectacular opportunities for landscape and people photography The journey begins from the little quintessential town of Manali and heads towards the Himalayan passes of Ladakh. Ladakh is a mysterious land shrouded in legend. Much of its ancient history is known only from mythology. It has been known for centuries as the "land of passes" (La = pass; Dakh = land). Although national boundaries have carved the area into many criss-crossing borders, the geographic, cultural, and historical boundaries make this Tibet, not India or China. As it has not been decimated and reformulated by the Chinese, it is actually a more authentic vision of Tibet than the country that still bears that name. The Land of Passes is the essence of Tibet. Besides photographing magnificent Himalayan scenery, we will be attending at least one traditional masked-dance festival. Once a year, from all over the Himalayan high plateau and nearby valleys, nomads, dancers, tradesmen, tribesmen, people of unimaginable variety come together to celebrate the mystic of this land. If people-photography in exotic locales is important to you, this is one tour you do not want to miss. Its remoteness also means accommodations and roadways are basic, that walking and being able to carry your own camera equipment is a necessity.
In addition to the Leh, we will explore several other hidden valleys and less well known gompas and monasteries where ancient traditions are maintained and life has changed very little over the centuries. This will truly be the opportunity to travel back in time.
The complex geology of the region makes for excellent opportunities for landscape photography and during the Expedition, we photograph two ranges of strikingly different appearance;the granite Ladakh range, and the Great Himalaya, which is made of base material from the Indian plate. Our route takes us from Manali and onto Leh, the ancient capital of Ladakh that once ranked amongst the busiest market towns on the Silk Route. Here we will have a chance to witness and photograph the oracle of Matho. One of the other highlights of this Expedition is the tour around Tso Moriri, the largest high-altitude lake in India; along its banks, Korzok monastery is said to be one of the oldest settlements in the world. The main objective of this trip is to explore the wonders of this hermit land – Ladakh! The stunning landscapes, high altitude beautiful lakes, wonderful wildlife and the Buddhist way of living – everything you can get at its best! We will take the Manali – Leh drive which has breath-taking landscapes at each corner. We will reach at the right locations at right time to get the golden light of early morning & evening which will help you to make stunning images every time!
A journey along the trans-himalayas takes you through some awesome countryside. The lush verdant hillsides with picturesque waterfalls around Manali, through a gorge where every bend on the road gives you eye-catching intricate patterns on the rocky escarpments, majestic rocky mountains of changing colors from that of brown burnt toast to various shades of purple depending on the sunlight, snow-capped peaks in the horizon and over some of the world’s highest motorable passes – all this unfolds before you as you progress along the route. This journey of more then 470 km’s takes you to some of the most myriad places on earth. The first major pass on this road, the Rohtang pass (13,000 ft / 3,978m) that is crossed soon after departure from Manali, cuts through the Pir Panjal Range of the Great Himalayas. After crossing Rohtang Pass one enters the Lahoul district, which has a typically trans-Himalayan landscape and provides a perfect contrast for photography. We will also cross great passes higher then the previous ones on this two day trip to Leh. Driving through grand, dramatic scenery you arrive at Leh, the capital of Ladakh. At Leh, you will be spending your time sightseeing in the Indus Valley. There will be time to interact with local people, take photographs and experience village life in the Himalayas. Your trip culminates with a visit to the Tsomoriri lake, a place where once caravans passing to Greater Tibet used to rest. The final highlight is the flight back to Delhi right over the top of the Himalayas. On a clear day you can pick out K2, also known as Mount Goodwin Austin, the world’s second highest mountain, and the vast sea of peaks stretching in every direction give you some idea of the scale of the greatest mountain range on earth.
» Day: 01: Arrive in Manali
On your arrival in Manali, you will be transferred to a quite and comfortable hotel. Manali, which is 1896 m above sea level and situated at the northern end of the Kullu valley is a picturesque little town bustling with activity, Manali is the most popular place in Himachal Pradesh during the summer season. Around Manali, nature has lavished the region with forests, waterfalls, green slopes, rivulets and soaring snow covered mountain peaks. Manali also boasts of a Mountaineering Institute, which imparts training in mountaineering, skiing and other adventure activities. Overnight stay in hotel.
» Day: 02: Manali – Jespa (147km / 6-7 hrs drive)
After an early breakfast drive to Jespa a small village in the Lahaul region. En route cross Rohtang Pass (3980 M) and visit Keylong village. The lofty Shingri Glacier is seen in all its grandeur, and makes a grand site for photography. The people of these valleys have an intense love for their home culture; their songs and dances are as chaste and pure as the snow that clouds the mountains around. Spiti Valley is famous for Yaks and Choru. Overnight in hotel.
(Best sites for Photography: Rohtang Pass / Keylong village / Shingri glacier view and Jespa)
» Day: 03: Jespa – Sarchu: (98 km, / 5-6 hrs drive)
We leave today for Sarchu that is located beyond Jespa, the regions main town, the road follows the Bhaga River up towards its source. It hairpins up to the Baralacha-La (16050 ft/4,892m), a pass that is perhaps unique in its being a tri-junction, with a trail from Spiti coming in from the southeast. Overnight in camp.
(Best sites for photography: The road leading to the Bagha River / The Baralacha-la pass & the plains of Sarchu).
» Day 04: Sarchu to Korzok: (118 km / 7/8 hrs)
After breakfast drive to Pang. En-route we will drive across the Morey plains for around 60 km till the base of Tanglangla (5400m). At the base we will take a right turn towards our camp at Karzok village which will be our home for the next two days. En-route we will visit the small gompa at the Tsokar lake. This brackish water lake has large swampy areas and is known for its salted minerals. Late in the evening we will arrive at Korzok and turn into our camp.
(Best sites for photography: The Gatta Loops / Morey plains / Tsokar Lake & Korzok village)
» Day 05: In Korzok
We will take a day excursion to visit the Tsomoriri lake. The lake is situated at an altitude of 4573m and is shaped as a pearl and contains large mineral deposits. The circumference of the lake is around 36 km. After exploring the Tsomoriri lake we will drive back to Korzok village. Evening will be at leisure for explorations to the gompa that is quite unique owing to its resident women nuns. The women and nuns here often spend their day making beautiful garments for themselves. The gompa was built in about 1850 replacing an old one that was destroyed during the Dogra invasion. Overnight at camp.
(Best sites of photography: Korzok Gompa / wildlife and scenery of Tsomoriri Lake)
» Day 06: Korzok to Leh: (220 km / 6/7 hrs)
Today we will drive across the remaining two passes of the Zanskar range. The two passes, known as La Chung-La (5,059m) and the Tanglang La (5,325m) are one of the most serene and majestic on this route.after a few minutes of photography at each pass we will drive towards Leh. Leh is rapidly spreading in all directions from its original position beneath the long abandoned Namgyal Palace. While the town has come a long way from the days when polo was played on its main street, Leh still remains a pleasant, traditional Himalayan town. Overnight in hotel.
(Best sites of photography: Lachlang-La Pass / Tanglangla pass / Indus River road and Leh streets).
» Day 07: Leh to Alchi & Uletopko: (67 km / 2-3 hrs drive)
Today we will travel on the Indus river route to visit the lovely oasis situated in the outer Zanskar valley. We will travel past hillside monasteries and fruit orchards, to arrive in the Alchi village. Alchi is a small village near about 67 km from Leh. The village is famous for existence of one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh, mainly known for its wall paintings of the 11th century. The great translator “Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo” built the monastery. The wall paintings in Alchi Monastery are some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladkah and reflect artistic and spiritual details of both Buddhism and Hindu kings of that time in Kashmir. After visiting the Alchi monastery we proceed to Uleytokpo. Upon arrival in Uleytokpo a short trek of 30 minutes takes you to visit the monastery at Rizong, the school where young lamas are taught Buddhism. Later we will drive back to Leh. Overnight at the Hotel.
(Best sites for photography: Basgo – World Heritage Site / Alchi village & Rizong monastery / Confluence of Indus & Zanskar rivers)
» Day 08: Local sightseeing in Leh
We visit the ancient monasteries of Shey, with its enormous statue of the Buddha and Thikse Monastery, known as one of the most important Gompas known in Central Ladakh. The monastery has some beautiful paintings and gilded statues of the Buddha. In the afternoon we drive down to the most wealth and famous monastery known locally as Hemis. Built in the 17th century, the monastery is tucked away in a secluded grove of poplars and is known for its interesting architecture and wall studded murals.. Afterwards, we drive to visit the Tibetan children’s village and the mosaic of Ladakhi culture. Overnight at your hotel.
(Best sites for photography: Monasteries of Shey, Thikse & Hemis / Tibetan Children’s Village, Choglamsar village)
» Day 09: In Leh
This day is the highlight of this tour. We will after breakfast drive to visit the famous oracle of Matho. Matho, 27-km south of Leh , straddles a spur at the mouth of an idyllic side valley that runs deep into the heart of the Stok Kangri massif. Though no less interesting or scenically situated than its neighbours, the Gompa, the only representative in Ladakh of the Sakyapa sect that held political power in 13th century Tibet, sees comparatively few visitors. Despite its collection of four hundred year old Thangkas, the monastery is best known for its Oracle Festival Matho Nagran, held on the 25th and 26th day of the second Tibetan month. Two oracles, known as "Rongzam", are elected by lot every three years from among the sixty or so resident lamas. During the run up to the big days, the pair fast and meditate in readliness for the moment when they are possessed by the spirit of the deity. Watched by crowds of rapt onlookers, they then perform all manner of death defying stunts that include leaping blindfold around the Gompa's precipitous parapets while slurping kettle full of Chang, and slashing themselves with razor sharp 'Sabres' without drawing blood. The events are rounded off with colourful Chaam dances in the monastery courtyard, and a question and answer session in which the Rongzam, still under the influence of the deity, make prophecies about the coming year. The best things to be clicked here are the costumes and masks worn by the monks during the festivals in Matho's small museum, tucked away behind the Du-khang. Men are also permitted to visit the eerie Gon-khang on the roof (strictly no photography), where the oracles weapons and ritual garb are stored. The floor of the tiny temple lies under a deep layer of barley brought as harvest offerings by local villagers. After spending the day here, we will drive back to the hotel. Rest of the day at leisure. Overnight at hotel.
» Day 10: Depart Leh
After an early breakfast or just tea, you will be transferred to the waiting jeeps and driven to the airport for your flight back to Delhi.