Pilgrimage to Ladakh

with Jakob Leschly & Tricycle‘s James Shaheen June 9–19, 2017

Trip at a Glance

  • June 9–19, 2017
  • Daily practice with Jakob Leschly
  • Accompanied by Tricycle: The Buddhist Review publisher and editor, James Shaheen
  • Escorted by BJ & Lauren of RetreaTours
  • Explore the ancient Kingdom of Ladakh, nestled high in the Tibetan Plateau
  • Limited to 12 guests
  • Early bird price of $4899 (USD) per person (based on double occupancy)
  • After March 12, 2017, price is $5199 (USD) (based on double occupancy)

Journey Highlights

  • Daily meditation, teaching, and Tantric sadhana
  • Meditation lessons and morning puja with Tibetan Buddhist monks
  • Volunteer (seva) at Thiksey Monastery
  • Share meals with the monks in their homes and in the Monastery dining hall
  • Explore Thiksey Village and surrounding area
  • Pilgrimages to monasteries from various Tibetan Buddhism sects
  • Hear the Tibetan horns—or dharma trumpets—being blown in the pre-dawn hours
  • Receive a blessing from the head Lama of the monastery (contingent on his travel schedule)

Why Travel to Ladakh?

A bit about this magical region

Why Travel to Ladakh?

A bit about this magical region

About Ladakh

Nestled high in the Himalayas on India’s Tibetan Plateau, Ladakh is truly a hidden gem. This high altitude desert landscape provides a stunning backdrop for such rich and colorful Buddhist traditions. Ladakh provides one of the last glimpses into traditional Tibetan culture available in the world. In fact, at times Ladakh was part of Tibet. Ladakh & Tibet had a number of conflicts over centuries until the 13th century when they developed friendly relations. Ladakh remained an independent kingdom until 1834, and it is currently a district within the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Ladakh only opened to tourism in 1974, and 30,000 foreign tourists visit Ladakh each year. 

Want to know more about Ladakh? We recommend reading Helena Norberg-Hodge’s book Ancient Futures to get a better understanding of this beautiful culture and the challenges it faces.

About Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Monastery was founded in the mid-1400’s along the banks of the Indus River. The monastery’s temples, halls, and living quarters span over 12 stories on a picturesque hill, earning it the nickname “Mini Potala” for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Thiksey is affiliated with the Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat, school of Tibetan Buddhism, and there are 2 additional monasteries, a nunnery, and 12 temples that operate under Thiksey’s care. The monastery’s head lama, Ngawang Jamyang Jampa Stanzin Rinpoche (or, Thiksey Rinpoche for short), is a well-respected, influential, and progressive voice within the Ladakhi community. He has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Ladakhi lamas (monks) and laypeople since his narrow escape from Tibet during the Chinese invasion.

bj and dalai lamaWhy Travel With Us?

RetreaTours has a very special relationship with Thiksey Monastery. BJ Graf has been visiting since 1995 and has fostered extremely close ties and friendships with the lamas. This intimate personal connection allows us to reach deeper into the culture and community, breaking bread with monks in their homes. We have been bringing guests to Ladakh since 2006, and in 2015, we created the first yoga retreat ever hosted at Thiksey Monastery. With our unprecedented access to ancient prayer halls and intimate friendships with Thiksey’s monks and their families in the village, our Ladakh guests always come away inspired, moved, and uplifted.

BJ was invited to serve as Thiksey Monastery’s official photographer in 2010 and 2016 for two very special Thiksey-sponsored events with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In addition to capturing these moments in photos, BJ enjoyed some conversation, good-natured ribbing, and a good luck head rub by the Dalai Lama himself.  

Butter Tea

A Ladakhi staple, gurgur cha is made with tea leaves, salt and butter in wooden churns.

A Natural High

Ladakh’s highest point reaches 25,171 ft (7,676 m) and its lowest point a “mere” 9,000 ft (2740 m).

Western Archaic Tibetan

Another name for the Ladakhi language, which has 130,000 speakers in the world.

High and Dry

Ladakh is a high-altitude desert that receives an average of 4″ (10 cm) of rain annually.

Don't be Dense

Ladakh’s population density is just 3 people per sq mi—that’s .01% of New York City’s.

Jullay-redThe Ladakhi Aloha

If you learn one word of Ladakhi, let it be “Jullay.” This all-purpose phrase means hello, goodbye, please, and thank you. There is even a song about the word “jullay” which says “The good word that brings friends closer is jullay / The good word that make strangers friends is jullay.”

39 hours

That’s the amount of time you save when you fly from Delhi to Leh (1 hour) rather than drive.

Don't be Dense

Ladakh’s population density is just 8 people per sq mi—that’s less than .03% of New York City’s.

39 hours

That’s the amount of time you save when you fly from Delhi to Leh (1 hour) rather than drive.

Jullay-redThe Ladakhi Aloha

If you learn one word of Ladakhi, let it be “Jullay.” This all-purpose phrase means hello, goodbye, please, and thank you. There is even a song about the word “jullay” which says “The good word that brings friends closer is jullay / The good word that make strangers friends is jullay.”

One of the gems of Thiksey is the figure of Maitreya, the Future Buddha, which was consecrated in 1983 by the Dalai Lama. This 49′ tall statue has a two-story temple built around it, surrounded with vivid wall paintings depicting the life of the Buddha. Upon seeing the Maitreya, the Dalai Lama said,

Rinpoche, you are very lucky. This Maitreya is very beautiful. Even if you see this Maitreya again and again, you will never see it enough; you will always want to see it more–you will never be satisfied. I have seen many statues, but this Maitreya is very special for me. I have never seen a Maitreya like this before.”

Your Daily Practice in Ladakh

We’ll remain blissfully flexible, taking into account the special activities of the monks and their families and the needs of the group. However, there will be a rhythm to our practice as outlined below:

Morning

  • Sitting Meditation in the early morning, pre-breakfast  – creating a foundation of peace early in the morning. We can combine this with the daily morning puja in the monastery, if the group wishes. 
  • Riwo Sangchö – Purifying Incense Offering – an outdoor offering practice common all across the Tibetan cultural sphere which usually involves offering clouds of fragrant smoke together with common chanting. 

Daytime

  • Pilgrimage – Many days we’ll take day trips to tour sacred locations with an interactive component. Please see the itinerary below for details.

Evening

  • Teaching and Q&A  – We’ll present the perspectives relevant to what we are seeing and engage in lively discussions. 
  • Tantric Sadhana – For those who wish, we will engage in a simple Vajrayana practice of the mantra om mani padme hum.

Journey to Ladakh Itinerary

This is intended as a brief outline for our activities while in Ladakh, beyond daily practice with Jakob Leschly. As we will be a small group, we are blissfully flexible, fluid, and will base each day’s activities on the wishes of the group and the schedule of the monks and their families. You’ll be met at the New Delhi airport on the evening of June 9th and you’ll be staying at a nearby 5-star hotel in order to rest up before your gorgeous flight on the morning of the 10th. The flight from Delhi to Leh is only 50 minutes long, but it’s one of the most picturesque flights on the planet. It will take you directly over the Himalayas, allowing you a rare, lofty perspective on this part of the world. Upon arrival in Leh, you’ll take a short but beautiful drive to Thiksey Monastery to get settled. We’ll spend this day acclimating to the altitude and leisurely exploring some of the magnificent grounds. We will stay at Thiksey’s monastery’s guesthouse for the duration of our trip, with the exception of two nights that we’ll stay directly on the Indus River in Uleytokpo. Uleytokpo is an ideal home base to explore monasteries that are west of Leh and to experience Ladakh’s famous “moonscape.” Some of our activities during the rest of our journey include:

  • A thorough exploration of Thiksey Monastery, one of the most beautiful and influential monasteries in Ladakh. We’ll attend special pujas in the Protector Temple, as well as morning pujas in the Prayer Hall. We’ll see the old nunnery and its ancient paintings, as well as the old library and its clothbound volumes
  • If his schedule permits, we’ll have a private audience with the head lama, Rinpoche Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin.
  • Dialogue with the monks about Tibetan Buddhism & Philosophy.
  • Fun, informal cooking and cultural lessons with the families of the monks.
  • Walks around Thiksey monastery and surrounding areas.
  • An informative photo tour around Thiksey monastery with BJ Graf.

There are scores of monasteries in Ladakh, and we will pay a visit to some of our favorites, time permitting, including:

  • Lamayuru Monastery is Ladakh’s oldest monastery, set in a stunning “lunar landscape” and affiliated with the Drikung Kagyu school of Buddhism. Here you can visit a meditation cave used by Naropa.
  • Hemis Monastery, Ladakh’s largest monastery, tucked away in a picturesque gorge.
  • Likir Monastery, with its beautiful 3D mandala and 75′ tall Maitreya statue.
  • Stakna Monastery, situated on a hill overlooking the Indus river. Stakna, a Drukpa monastery, is renowned for its beautiful, vivid murals.
  • Matho Monastery, the only Sakyapa Buddhist monastery in the area. This monastery, beautiful in its own right, also provides stunning vistas across the Indus Valley.
  • Shey Monastery and Shey Palace, which houses a beautiful 3-story Shakyamuni Buddha statue. At one time, Shey was the capital of the Ladakh region.
  • Alchi Monastery, a Gelugpa monastery directly along the Indus River which houses some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh.
  • Takthok Monastery, the only monastery of the Nyingma tradition in Ladakh
  • Rizong, Monastery, a very special and very strict monastery belonging to the Gelugpa order.
  • Stok Monastery and Stok Palace, which is still the summer home for Ladakh’s former royal family

On the morning of June 19th, you’ll fly from Leh to Delhi (one more chance to see that gorgeous vista!)  We can help arrange further travels in the region or you can head back home to reflect, process, and practice all you’ve experienced.

Our Accommodation in Thiksey

We will be staying at Thiksey Monastery’s guesthouse, with a gorgeous view of the monastery itself.  In fact, this is where the Dalai Lama stayed during his August 2016 visit to Thiksey (we’ll let you know if you stay in his room!) Although the monastery’s guesthouse is simple, it is clean, and each room has ensuite bathrooms and hot water. Wifi is sporadic, due to our very remote location, but available whenever possible. Our guesthouse has an on-site restaurant, featuring Tibetan specialties & northern Indian classics (including the best dal makhani ever!)  Most importantly, we are an extremely short walk to the monastery, which is beneficial for early morning pujas and class time. Pictured here: A view from inside one of the 2nd floor guest rooms towards Thiksey Monastery. 

Our Accommodation in Uleytokpo

For two nights we’ll make Uletokpo’s Ule Ethnic Resort our home, in order to explore the monasteries of Lamayuru, Likir, Alchi, Rizong & more. We’ll perch directly above the Indus in our cottages, with gorgeous meeting spaces for our classes and meditations. This quaint riverside resort even has a spa, if you want to get a massage on the Rooftop of the World!  

Extend your stay–let us help!

If you’d like to extend your journey before or after this RetreaTour, we would be more than happy to help you plan your stay!  We can advise you on hotels, flights, and itineraries, whether you want to arrive in India early or stay on afterwards (or both!) We can also set you up for a tour of beautiful Bhutan, Nepal, or anywhere else in South or Southeast Asia. We offer our RetreaTour™ guests free travel consulting, a $300 value. Some ideas:

  • Side-trip to beautiful Bhutan: all-inclusive & fully guided!
  • Explore more of India–perhaps the Taj Mahal, Varanasi, or Rishikesh, just to start!
  • Pokhara, Nepal (hiking in and around the Annapurna range)
  • Anywhere else in South or Southeast Asia that your heart desires!

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This 11 day/10 night all-inclusive journey is $4899 (USD) per person (double occupancy) before March 12, 2017. After that date the price is $5199 (USD).

If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $350 and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.

A $1000 deposit holds your space.  The second installment of $1800 is due by February 9, 2017 (120 days before start of trip) and the balance is due by April 10, 2017 (60 days before start of trip).  Single supplement ($350) is due along with the last installment.

Price Includes:

  • Roundtrip airfare from Delhi to Leh
  • Daily practice with Jakob Leschly
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • All site fees
  • Donation to Thiksey Monastery

Price does not include:

  • International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
  • Indian visa fee (e-Tourist visa is about $60USD; we can advise on other types on visas)
  • Travel insurance (required)
We’ll remain blissfully flexible, taking into account the special activities of the monks and their families and the needs of the group. However, there will be a rhythm to our practice as outlined below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning

  • Sitting Meditation in the early morning, pre-breakfast  – creating a foundation of peace early in the morning. We can combine this with the daily morning puja in the monastery, if the group wishes. 
  • Riwo Sangchö – Purifying Incense Offering – an outdoor offering practice common all across the Tibetan cultural sphere which usually involves offering clouds of fragrant smoke together with common chanting. 

Daytime

  • Pilgrimage – Many days we’ll take day trips to tour sacred locations with an interactive component. Please see the itinerary above for details.

Evening

  • Teaching and Q&A  – We’ll present the perspectives relevant to what we are seeing and engage in lively discussions. 
  • Tantric Sadhana – For those who wish, we will engage in a simple Vajrayana practice of the mantra om mani padme hum.

Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.

We accept payments via check (which we prefer!) and credit card (via PayPal). For our international guests, we can accept wires, which we find is the most economical solution for everyone; please contact us for wire details.

  • Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to Insight Travels, LLC and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
  • Paying by Credit Card or PayPal balance: You can pay with credit card or PayPal balance through the following the red buttons below.  Please click the appropriate amount to be taken to PayPal’s homepage to complete your transaction. All PayPal transactions must be in USD.  Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance.

Final installment due on April 10, 2017. We’ll provide you the amount and invoice well before the due date.

Click here to pay the $1000 deposit by credit card (via PayPal)

Click here to pay the $1800 installment by credit card (via PayPal) [due by February 9, 2017] 

Please scroll down within this tan box to reach the end of the questionnaire and contract. At the end of the contract, you will see a “submit” box—please hit that button.  If you are having difficulty completing it on this website, you can go directly to the form here

Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions and contract on the website.

Please click here to download to view and download PDF of the contract for your records. 

 

 

PASSPORT/VISA

  • What do I need to know about the visa?    

First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip (that is, January 16, 2018), and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section).  You will need to arrange an Indian visa before you arrive. Please read this section carefully! On this itinerary, you will only be entering India once, making you eligible for a Visa on Arrival. (Please click here to make sure your country is eligible for a Visa on Arrival).  You can apply for a Visa on Arrival 4 to 30 days in advance of your arrival on this website. If you plan on staying in India longer than 30 days, you can apply through Cox & Kings Global Services, but you must allow more time for this process (start at least 3 to 4 months before the start of the trip).

FOOD

  • I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?

Vegetarians should have no problem anywhere on our travels. The only thing that might prove difficult is veganism in India. Although meat is entirely avoidable, India is the world’s largest consumer of butter, and it is almost unavoidable in most of their curries, stews, and even breads. Many vegans that I have known to travel through India adopt what is locally referred to as a “pure veg” diet: no meat, no eggs, but it allows for dairy consumption.  (It is worth nothing that some of the reasons for avoiding dairy consumption in the west is slightly mitigated here, as there is less factory farming and antibiotic use in livestock.) Milk can be avoided by not consuming creamy dishes or milk tea. Gluten is also avoidable in India by choosing rice over chapatis and other local breads. Celiactravel.com has GREAT printable cards in local language to present to restaurants and hotels about your intolerance of gluten. Click here for the Hindi version.  If you have multiple dietary needs, it may be worth your while to check out these specialty cards, available in 60 different languages.When you register for a trip, you will answer a set of questions, including a question about food allergies. We’ll take a look at your answers and let you know if we have any suggestions or concerns! Click here for our very own Indian Food Primer!

  • Can I drink the water?

In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it.  Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water.

HEALTH

  • What vaccines do I need?

None are required to enter India, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you.  You can read the CDC’s recommendations here and the Scottish NHS recommendations here.

  • What about the altitude?

Our home base at Thiksey Monastery rests at a lofty 11,500 ft (3350 m).  We plan our first few days very lightly, to allow you to acclimatize. However, there are things you can do before and during your trip to help your body adjust to the altitude.

Click here to read BJ’s take on how to prevent altitude sickness, as someone who has traveled extensively at high altitudes and never had ill effect and is an avid reader on the subject.

http://www.travelconsultants.biz/prevent-altitude-sickness/

Click here to read Lauren’s suggestions to natural therapies to begin before your trip. Lauren is a Board-certified Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine with a speciality in the world of dietary supplements.

How to Stay Healthy while Traveling…Naturally!

 *All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from your licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical health care provider.

  • What about malaria? 

Malaria is not a risk in Ladakh, but again, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information.

  • What are the physical requirements for this trip?

Participants should be able to comfortably climb stairs, slowly but in a stable fashion. Our guesthouse is at the bottom of the hill Thiksey is built on, and the prayer hall and upper temples are 8-10 stone staircase flights above.

  • Do I need travel insurance?

We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense.  It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind!  When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We also recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances. We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the one that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll have to use a different company. We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance 60 days before your departure. Please click here to get a quote. We love the services of these companies so much that we became affiliates, so we would ask that if you do choose to purchase these policies, you do it through our links.

MONEY

  • How much money should I bring?

That is entirely up to you and how much shopping you want to do in Leh.  All of your meals and transportation is covered, so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras!

  • How do I get the local currency?

You can either exchange cash in India (although not at the airport, the rate is terrible!) or use a local ATM (which we prefer). Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in India, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world.

HOTELS

  • What kind of hotels will we be staying at?

We will be staying at the Monastery’s guesthouse (with a gorgeous view of the monastery), and although it is simple, it is clean, has hot water, and the occasional wifi (just being honest!) Most importantly, we are an extremely short walk to the monastery, which is beneficial for early morning pujas and class time.

  • Will I be able to charge my electronics (phone, iPad, etc)?

Yes, just be sure to bring along a 2-pin European style converter. Better yet, grab a Universal Travel Adaptor that can go with you anywhere in the world!

COMMUNICATION

  • How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?

Even if you have an international plan, chances are you will not get cell coverage in remote Ladakh. Before the trip begins we will give you a contact for our hotel; in addition, we will give you our Ladakhi phone numbers ahead of time, as well as an American number good for text messages and voicemails. This is a very isolated part of the world, up high in the Himalayas, but we will do our best to ensure you are as connected as you want to be. MORE TO COME!

Based on historical averages and 2016’s temperatures, the typical temperature while we are in Leh will be 50 degrees to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and although rain is not likely, it is possible. It can feel quite hot in the sun and chilly in the shade, so layers are going to be your best friend on this trip!

 

 

Click here to see the current weather in Leh, Ladakh

Note: the weight limit on your internal flights (from Delhi to Leh and return) will be 44 lbs (20 kg), not the 50 lbs that you may be used to domestically in the USA.  If you prefer to only bring a carry-on, you’re welcome to do that, as well.

One more tip: Using packing cubes may make your life easier.BJ and Lauren swear by them, and they’ve been living out of their suitcases since the beginning of 2013!

Clothing

Although more and more Indians are adopting Western wear, traditional clothing is very prevalent and modesty is the name of the game (particularly around the monastery!)  Please do not wear clothes that are tight, transparent or show too much skin or underarms. This means no tank tops or mid-riff baring tops (even for your yoga gear). We also discourage wearing form-fitting “skinny” jeans and shorts/skirts above the knee. Instead, we recommend wear loose fitting clothing such as long skirts, pants, capri-length pants, and blouses or Indian kurtas.

  • 8+ pairs undergarments; you can always have them washed or wash them yourself in your bathroom.
  • 3-5 pair pants or long skirts.  You may want to bring leggings or long johns (2 or 3 pair) to wear under your long kurtas, tunics, skirts or pants on chilly mornings or evenings (again—it’s all about the layers!) Fleece pants might be nice, and good to sleep in (remember, the nights are going to be in the 40’s to 50’s)
  • 4-5 cotton t-shirts, blouses, or long sleeve shirts.
  • A thicker sweater or jacket for cold Ladakh mornings and evenings. A windbreaker or shell might prove useful if your jacket doesn’t protect you from the wind or rain.
  • A warm hat and scarf for chilly mornings and evenings.
  • 2-3 pairs of socks. Wool (like SmartWool) or tech socks work very well, but whatever socks you have will be just fine.
  • Warm sleeping attire
  • Comfortable walking shoes. Boots aren’t necessary and can be cumbersome when going in and out of monasteries and temples. Sneakers or comfortable slip-ons will suffice.
  • Walking sandals (such as Teva’s, Chaco’s, or Merrell’s) also work very well here.
  • A hat with a brim is a very good idea for our daytime adventures.

Accessories

  • Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better and recover from jet lag more quickly. BJ swears by thisclick here to read an article he wrote on the topic.
  • Good sunscreen is CRITICAL at this altitude.  Lauren prefers mineral-based ones: good for you, good for the environment. How do you know if it’s mineral based? If the active ingredient is either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—that’s it. MyChelle and Devita make good ones.
  • Daypack or camera bag. (If you need a recommendation on a camera, BJ would be happy to help, depending on what type of photography you like, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to carry around.)
  • If you do bring your camera, don’t forget extra batteries or your charging cord. You may want to think about an extra memory card, too.
  • Toiletries (including shampoo and conditioner, if required)
  • People tend to think they need to bring toilet paper to India—not true! However, bringing a few packs of travel tissues is a good idea, to keep on you for public restrooms.
  • Wet wipes or hand sanitizer.
  • Any necessary feminine hygiene products.
  • Plug adaptor for electronics: you’ll need a 2 pin adaptor common across Europe. Here’s a nice example of a great universal adapter and here’s one with USB ports, as well.
  • An external battery charger, such as this one, may be useful for USB-powered objects. Given the remote location of this retreat, electricity can be finicky, so it is best to have a secondary way to charge your phone or camera.
  • VERY IMPORTANT!  A print out of your RETURN airline ticket itinerary; you’ll need this to enter the airport to get home. You can also have a copy (we recommend a screenshot) on your phone.
  • Photocopy of your passport and your visa, just in case you need them.
  • A small travel umbrella is a must. It can work for rain OR as a parasol
  • Notebook and pen for journaling purposes
  • Enough of any prescription drugs you need, as well as over-the-counter needs.  We recommend Imodium (anti-diarrheal), a probiotic (Lauren is a BIG fan of Jarrodophilus EPS), as well as melatonin and Benadryl for jet lag purposes.
  • The guesthouse at the monastery in Ladakh has Internet, but outages are not uncommon (all over Ladakh). Nevertheless, we encourage you to bring your smartphone or tablet, and please don’t forget your chargers! We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave.

We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense.  It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind for very little cost. When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We also recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances. We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the one that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll have to use a different company (we can advise you if you like). We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance before your departure.

Travel Insurance. Simple & Flexible.

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    Altitude Sickness Prevention

    Our home base at Thiksey Monastery rests at a lofty 11,500 ft (3350 m).  We plan our first few days very lightly, to allow you to acclimatize. However, there are things you can do before and during your trip to help your body adjust to the altitude.

    Click here to read BJ’s take on how to prevent altitude sickness, as someone who has traveled extensively at high altitudes and never had ill effect and is an avid reader on the subject.

    http://www.travelconsultants.biz/prevent-altitude-sickness/

    Click here to read Lauren’s suggestions to natural therapies to begin before your trip. Lauren is a Board-certified Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine with a speciality in the world of dietary supplements.

    How to Stay Healthy while Traveling…Naturally!

     *All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical health care provider.

    About Jakob Leschly
    Jakob Leschly Ladakh meditation retreat

    Photo by Catherine Acin

    Jakob Leschly has studied and practiced Buddhism for over 40 years, and has taught for the last 20 at the request of his teachers. Born in Denmark, he has lived all over, and is at home with a variety of cultures and languages. His Buddhist background is the Tibetan Nyingma tradition, primarily as a student of the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Buddhist teacher and film-maker Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. He is resident teacher for the latter’s Dharma organisation Siddhartha’s Intent in Australia, and before that for Siddhartha’s Intenton the US Westcoast. Completing a three year retreat in 1984, his path has ever since been to integrate and present the Buddhist view and practice in the modern world. He has worked on numerous translations, including published works like Shabkar – the Autobiography of Tibetan Yogin (SUNY) and Wondrous Dance of Illusion (Shambhala). He has lead Dharma programs and retreats in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Nepal, and Bhutan. He has written for Tricycle, for the Rubin Museum’s Treasury of Lives biographical website, as well as blogs like the Chronicles Project, Gentle Voice, and Buddhist Door. Jakob enjoys making the Buddhist science of wisdom and compassion accessible and applicable. He is a practitioner of Vajrayana, but promotes the simplicity of sitting meditation as the universal ground for natural insight and compassionate action. His language is straightforward and inclusive. He encourages critical enquiry, and overall delights in the fruitful encounter between East and West.

    About James Shaheen

    James ShaheenJames Shaheen is editor and publisher of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, an international quarterly magazine devoted to making Buddhist teachings and practices accessible to the general public. James joined Tricycle in 1996 and in recent years has focused on developing new programs to bring Buddhist teachings to a Western audience. James also currently serves as executive director of the Tricycle Foundation, the not-for-profit that publishes Tricycle.

    About Tricycle

    Tricycle logoEstablished in 1990 as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization, The Tricycle Foundation is dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available. In 1991 the Foundation launched Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the first magazine intended to present Buddhist perspectives to a Western readership. Tricycle soon became the leading independent journal of Buddhism in the West, where it continues to be the most inclusive and widely read vehicle for the dissemination of Buddhist views and values. Our readership includes longtime practitioners, those who are curious about Buddhism or meditation, and those who do not identify as Buddhist but value the teachings of wisdom and compassion that Buddhism has to offer. By remaining unaffiliated with any particular teacher, sect or lineage, Tricycle provides a unique and independent public forum for exploring Buddhism, establishing a dialogue between Buddhism and the broader culture, and introducing Buddhist thinking to Western disciplines. This approach has enabled Tricycle to successfully attract readers from all walks of life, many of whom desire to enrich their lives through a deeper knowledge of Buddhist traditions. Tricycle has been recognized with the prestigious Folio Award for Best Spiritual Magazine three times, and has twice garnered the Utne Media Award, most recently in 2013. As part of our commitment to our readers who are seeking to implement or sustain Buddhist values and practices, Tricycle accepts advertising only from teachers, programs, centers, and businesses whose offerings we believe will support those aims. Because of this selective policy, we depend on donations to support ever-rising printing and production costs, content updates to our website, and life-enriching programs. The Foundation also hosts occasional pilgrimages that provide opportunities for new and experienced practitioners to explore sites of importance to Buddhist history and practice.

    Mission Statement

    The mission of The Tricycle Foundation is to create forums for exploring contemporary and historic Buddhist activity, examine the impact of its new context in the democratic traditions of the West, and introduce fresh views and attainable methods for enlightened living to the culture at large. At the core of the Foundation’s mission is the alleviation of suffering that Buddhist teachings are meant bring about. Tricycle is an independent foundation unaffiliated with any one lineage or sect.

    Why “Tricycle?”

    A three-wheeled vehicle aptly evokes the fundamental components of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism itself is often referred to as the “vehicle to enlightenment,” and the tricycle’s three wheels allude to the three treasures: The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, or the enlightened teacher, the teachings, and the community. The wheels also relate to the turning of the wheel of dharma, or skillfully using the teachings of the Buddha to face the challenges that the circle of life presents.

    About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours

    Lauren & BJ with their dears friends Chamba (L) and Stanzin (R).

    RetreaTours is perfectly suited to facilitate your time in Ladakh. BJ Graf has been traveling to Ladakh and Thiksey Monastery since 1995. He was invited as Thiksey Monastery’s official photographer for the Dalai Lama’s Summer 2010 visit to Nubra Valley and again for HHDL’s August 2016 Thiksey Monastery visit. In addition, one of BJ’s portraits of Thiksey’s head lama, Rinpoche Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin, graces the cover of his recent biography.

    Having developed deep and personal connections to many lamas (monks) at Thiksey, BJ and Lauren have secured access to sacred prayer halls otherwise unaccessible to the public.  In addition, you’ll experience a warm welcome into the homes of the monks and their families in the village for tea, dinner, and thought-provoking discussions about Tibetan Buddhism.

    BJ & Lauren created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding.  In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable and transformative retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours™!)

    BJ and HHDL 2

    HHDL & BJ at Thiksey, July 2016

    BJ & Lauren take great pride in the itineraries they plan, as they can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart.  Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime. The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.

    In addition, as a guest, you receive free travel consulting services (normally a $200 value) should you choose to extend your travels. As one of their most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, BJ & Lauren make everything easy for you. Once you arrive in your destination city, your trip is all-inclusive—your meals, transportation, lodging, site fees, donations, and tips are all taken care of.  The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you!  So….let’s get going!

    Perhaps the most important lesson of Ladakh has to do with happiness. Only after many years of peeling away layers of preconceptions did I begin to see the joy and laughter of the Ladakhis for what it really was: a genuine and unhindered appreciation of life itself. In Ladakh I have known a people who regard peace of mind and joie de vivre as their unquestioned birthright.

    ~Helena Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures

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